Iran Warns Iraq's Kurds: You Better Not Seek Saudi Funding, Weapons
by COUNTER JIHAD
November 8, 2016
Though the fight for Mosul and Syria are still going hot, Iran is making moves to cement its control over the whole region in the long term. There are three things standing in Iran's way, and only one of them is a long-term problem for Iran. The first short term problem are militant groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS), al Qaeda's elements in Iraq and Syria, and Syrian regime opponents generally. Iran has managed to unify the Syrian, Iraqi, and Russian governments behind its campaign to crush these groups. Militarily they will eventually succeed, and then will begin suppressing the ethnic groups that give rise to these militants with the same brutality that they have long exercised at home.
The second short term problem is the United States of America, which has deployed a brigade of paratroopers as advisers as well as numerous special operations forces in the region. It is also providing air support. For the moment, however, the United States is objectively functioning as an Iranian ally in Iraq. While American forces will presumably act as a brake on Iran's suppression of the ethnic groups following the victory, for now American forces are acting alongside Iranian proxies to bring about Iran's victory in the region. The United States has no certain supply lines into Iraq with the defection of Turkey following the attempted coup there; the only other choice is to try to bring supplies in from the south, through Kuwait or Basra, along very long land corridors populated by Shia majorities where Iran has plenty of proxy militia forces. It is unlikely the United States can stay long past the moment of victory for Iran without committing to a much larger deployment that would enable the defense of these long supply lines. There is no evidence of such preparation, nor is it clear that the incoming President - whomever that is - will want to become tied down to another large land war in Iraq.
There is one remaining, long-term problem for Iran in its plan to dominate the northern Middle East, and that is the Kurds. The Kurds are not going anywhere. They exist throughout the disputed region, and are currently among the most effective and hardened fighting forces in both Iraq and Syria. They will probably end up functionally in control of much of Iraq and Syria after the fall of Mosul and Raqqa. However, they are surrounded by enemies: Iran itself has long fought them, as have the Turks and the rest of Iraq's population.
Into this strategic picture comes a Saudi effort to establish an embassy with the Kurds, one that would offer de facto recognition of their independence and possibly also funding and weapons to the Kurdish forces. Iran is moving sharply to try to forestall that eventuality, without actually opening a new front before mopping up ISIS. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a special adviser to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, warned the Kurdish government this week not to take any help from the Saudis or else risk having Iran's hand turned against them in Baghdad. He also suggested that Kurds might do well to transfer their loyalty to a Kurdish clan with whom Iran feels it has better relationships.
The former Iranian army commander said that the Barzani family, which holds de-facto leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party, should "know that they owe Iran," claiming that Kurds traced their ethnic lineage back to Iran.
"They should know that if they enter this political game, it will not be clear if Iran will help them anymore," Safavi further cautioned the Iraqi Kurds.
The Iranian official also delved into inter-Kurdish rivalries in northern Iraq, saying the Talabani family-which exerts strong authority over eastern regions of the autonomous region-enjoys "good relations with Iran."
Another top official accused the Saudi government of using this embassy as an attempt to destabilize Iran itself. He warned that Kurdish groups faced "annihilation" if they aligned themselves with the Saudis.
Mohsen Rezai, head of the Expediency Discernment Council, an influential consultative body appointed by Iran's Supreme Leader, said Riyadh had "set up military bases" in the Kurdistan Region and Pakistan in order to "destabilize" the Islamic Republic.
Speaking to Iranian state television, the former presidential candidate and ex-chief of elite troops warned if Erbil failed to contain the movements of armed Iranian Kurdish groups in the Kurdistan Region, Tehran would "carry out military actions" against the groups and "the training base" backed by the Saudi Arabia in the area.
"The Saudi consulate in Erbil has set up a training base there and established two offices near our borders," Rezai told Iranian state television on a Saturday evening program and warned if officials in the Kurdistan Region did not "take necessary measures", the Islamic Republic would "soon carry out [military] annihilation actions against them [Iranian Kurdish groups] and Mr. Barzani would be the one to blame," Rezai said, referring to Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani.
The Saudis, for their part, have definitely established ties with Kurdish militants. Turki al-Faisal, formerly a top Saudi intelligence official, attended a "Free Iran" meeting recently led by a Kurdish opposition party. He also attended the annual meeting of Mojahedin-e -Khalq, a Kurdish militant group that opposes Iran's government. Iranian "government in exile" the National Council of Resistance - Iran has recently begun re-broadcasting Saudi propaganda, accusing Iran of backing terrorist groups (which it certainly does) including al Qaeda (which is backed far more strongly by Saudi money than Iranian cash).
The Saudi government has reason to oppose the suppression of the Sunnis in the northern Middle East, and the two nations have been involved in an increasingly bold proxy war in Yemen. They are also engaged in a takfiri dispute, each side claiming that the other's version of Islam is false.
The CounterJihad is a movement of American citizen-activists dedicated to safeguarding the country from the danger posed by Islamic Supremacists. @CounterjihadUS