Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war in Tehran.
(photo credit: MORTEZA NIKOUBAZI/ REUTERS)
Three members of the Hamza Saiyid al-Shohada, a local force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were killed near Piranshahr, just a few kilometers from the Iraqi border in northwest Iran. This is a serious incident, and although no group initially claimed responsibility, focus will likely shift toward Kurdish dissident groups that operate in the Kurdish regions of northwest Iran.
Last fall, the IRGC fired ballistic missiles at Koya in northern Iraq, targeting Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. This led to a cessation of attacks by several Kurdish groups, including PJAK, KDP and PKK, all of which oppose Iran’s regime and had been alleged to be behind several attacks in the summer of 2018.
Iran’s Tansim News Agency said that the IRGC members were attacked at the entrance to the city by “terrorists,” who Iran claimed were “affiliated with the arrogance of the world,” a generalization that likely means Tehran sees US or Western hands behind the attack. The names of two of the killed were released on Tuesday night. The IRGC said that it would continue its intelligence work and search for “terrorists” in the area.
Kurdistan24, a Kurdish news network, said the attack comes as clashes have increased in Kurdish areas of Iran, where a variety of opposition groups exist. The attack, the most serious in almost a year, will likely lead to an increased Iranian security presence in the border areas and could mean that Iran will demand that Iraq crack down on any Iranian dissident groups that operate in Iraq.
In the past, there have been discussions about cooperation between Turkey and Iran against Kurdish groups, particularly the PKK, which Ankara is fighting in northern Iraq. However, complex regional politics play into Iran’s relations with Kurdish groups in the region, because Iran enjoys close relations with the Syrian regime, which in the past has had amicable relations with left-leaning Kurdish groups. In addition, Iran has large trade interests in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and does not want any unrest in the border area.
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