On August 30, 2018, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian sent a clear message to Iran regarding its missile program and its negative role in the Middle East.
“Iran must respect the fundamentals of the JCPOA [nuclear deal] and I think that is the case, but Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us,” Le Drian said, “including ballistic missile programs or meddling in conflicts in the Middle East, if it wants Europe to uphold the nuclear deal.”
However, Iran replied by firing missiles into Iraqi Kurdistan, targeting refugee camps and Iranian Kurdish opposition groups’ bases. Iran also executed six Iranian Kurdish political prisoners despite Europeans’ naïve assumption that the human rights situation in Iran would improve under Rouhani’s presidency; in reality, it has worsened.
Both Baghdad government and Kurdistan Regional Government, as well as former Prime Minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, condemned Iran’s hostility and its bombardments on Iraqi soil. Iran’s recent activities indicate that Europeans were misguided in believing that Iran would change its regionally destabilizing behavior or its human rights violations after signing the nuclear deal, even prior to US President Donald Trump taking office.
The reasons behind firing missiles into Iraqi Kurdistan are mostly related to domestic pressures Tehran is presently facing. Indeed, in the past few weeks, since Israel announced that the IDF has targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) bases in Syria more than 200 times, Iranians at home and abroad have been mocking the IRGC.
Furthermore, it has become clear that Tehran’s slogans about ‘destroying Israel’ [which Iran has been pumping since 1979] are untrue and the regime consequently seems extremely weak in the eyes of people. This was most definitely one of the reasons behind the recent attack on Iraqi Kurdistan. Furthermore, the attack took place after executing three Kurdish political prisoners. Tehran knew that if they did not attack Kurdish opposition groups then its forces would be targeted inside the country as a reaction by the Kurdish parties.
AS A RESULT, after the executions, the Iranian regime targeted Iranian Kurdish opposition groups inside Iraqi Kurdistan, and PJAK (Kurdistan Free Life Party) forces in Kamyaran (Iranian Kurdistan). These attacks have not only shocked Kurdish people and other Iranians, but they have also shocked Kurdish opposition groups so profoundly that they have not managed to respond to the IRGC attacks and executions.
Moreover, the current pressures being imposed on Tehran by the Iranian people are another reason for the attacks. Indeed, attacking Kurdish opposition groups and executing Kurds have been used as a tactic to get Persian nationalists’ support for decades. But the current situation inside Iran has made it difficult for the regime to gain the same support as before when targeting Kurdish populations. Tehran has therefore failed to use the Kurds to unite the central part of Iran behind the regime.
The fourth reason is to send a message to the international community that Iran is preparing for war through its belligerent behavior. Hassan Rouhani has been the one promoting the idea that “Iran is fighting a war and therefore everyone has to be revolutionary and take part in this fight” against what he calls the “enemies” of the Islamic revolution. IRGC missile attacks therefore highlight the need for the USA and European countries to work together on confronting Tehran’s hostile activities, including its missile program.
In the past few days, Iranian state media has been parading the regime’s missiles, similarly to North Korean propaganda, as well as a map showing Israeli, European and American bases in the region which can be targeted.
Moreover, this is a regime which has been spreading its missiles all over the region which has allowed certain terrorist organizations, such as Ansarullah in Yemen, to have access to them. This is a threat which [after IRGC missile attacks on the KRG] should lead, even Europeans, to realize that Iran is not willing to end its hostility in the region. Hence, why firing short-range missiles into Iraq without agreeing so with the Kurdistan Regional Government or Baghdad, has demonstrated that Iran continues its destabilizing role in the region.
FINALLY, THE failure of the Tehran Summit is another reason which has pushed Tehran to increase its hostility. Iran is seeking Russia and Turkey’s approval to launch an offensive on Syria’s Idlib. In return for Turkey’s approval, Iran is trying to use its attack on Kurds to obtain Turkey’s silence in Idlib, as the Kurds have always been Turkey’s first priority in its domestic and foreign policies. However, Russia and Turkey have agreed to pause the offensive, which is seen a blow to the IRI.
So far the international community has been silent on the Iranian regime’s recent activities. Nevertheless, the best reaction to these attacks has been brought by Iranian Kurdish opposition groups’ uniting message. They all have promised to unite against Tehran which is unique and new. This was demonstrated in the collective strike that occurred in all Iranian Kurdish cities in an act of unprecedented united civil disobedience and resistance.
In sum, these missile attacks prove that the US and Europe should work in tandem to overcome the threat posed by Iran, failing which, its behavior in the region could bring further destabilization. Current EU-US tensions over Iran only benefit Iran and both sides should be aware of this.
Moreover, a senior military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader announced that “Tehran will target any individuals and parties who don’t agree with Islamic republic of Iran, not just in the Middle East, but also in the West.” This should raise serious concerns among European countries as Iran has always targeted Iranian opposition groups exiled in Europe.
For example, the French government has just announced it will not be replacing its ambassador to Iran until information is provided regarding the terrorist plot targeting an Iranian opposition group in Paris, which Iranian diplomats were involved in.
Therefore, Europe and the US need to work together to confront Iran not only as a regional threat but as a global one. Tehran is under domestic pressure, it fears its people [at home and abroad] and the Islamic regime of Iran thus thinks more chaos in the region may serve Tehran well. Increased Iranian military activities suggests that Iran may lash out at every possible country to stay in power. Gulf countries in the region are also becoming extremely impatient because of Iran’s narrative and negative role in the region. In such cases new proxy wars could emerge which would benefit neither Europe nor America.
The author is a commentator on Iranian affairs.
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