ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Senior Iranian Kurdish officials say ballistic rockets that targeted Iranian Kurdish opposition groups and killed 18 last Saturday is a message to the Trump administration.
An official of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and several Peshmerga fighters on Sunday showed Kurdistan 24 the damage the rockets created, pointing to large craters in the ground in which a Peshmerga fighter could easily stand.
On Saturday morning, Iranian rockets targeted the headquarters of two Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDP-I) and the PDKI, as well as a refugee camp for Iranian Kurds in the Kurdistan Region’s Koya town.
The attack reportedly killed 18 people, and injured another 49. So far, 15 were buried.
Iranian Kurdish officials claimed the attack was an indirect message to Trump.
“It was Iran’s way of showing the world that they can do whatever they want in the region without fearing any consequences,” Loghman Ahmedi, a senior PDKI official, told Kurdistan 24.
“If the world does not have prompt and decisive answer to this brutal violation of international law, we will see Iran become even more aggressive than they are now,” he added.
One of the seven missiles launched directly hit the KDP-I’s building during a leaders meeting.
“Trump earlier warned about Iranian missiles, and now Iran is using them,” one official angrily stated, condemning international silence.
Hassan Jazaeer-Chi, a KDPI member, informed Kurdistan 24 that the US has a large base near Koya, some-45 minutes away from where the missiles struck.
The base was reportedly set up within the framework of the fight against the Islamic State (IS), near the Kirkuk province, where helicopters are often seen.
“The ground and the air [here in the Kurdistan Region] is supposedly under the US’ protection. There are large US centers here. The attack is a message to [Washington] that Iran can pose a threat to a region where the US has a presence, attacking their interests,” Jazaeer-Chi told Kurdistan 24.
“The message could be for the US, for the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] or even for neighboring countries, as well as a serious message to Israel and Saudi Arabia. If they can attack here, then they can attack other places,” he added.
The KDP-I official claimed Iranian drones were used to gather intelligence. “Two Iranians drones were in the skies today, flying over the Haibat Sultan mountain, observing the funeral process. We were even expecting new strikes today,” he said.
“Ahead of the missile strike, drones flew over us, twice,” he added.
Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist based in Washington, agreed the attack was a display of power by Iran.
“This is the first time I can think of that the regime has used such missiles to target Kurdish groups in Iraq,” he said, adding that the missiles seem to have been relatively accurate.
“These missiles can be used to target US and allied bases near Iran which the regime has threatened to attack for years. But I also think that the regime is deeply worried about instability in Kurdish inhabited areas of Iran as it faces major unrest throughout the country,” he said.
“The missiles attacks and the execution of [three] Iranian Kurdish activists is a message to the regime’s internal and external enemies: don’t mess with us,” he concluded.
“This was a message to the US, Israel, and the coalition. Iran may not dare to confront the Western axis but it does and is able to strike Western allies on the ground. Devastatingly,” Ceng Sagnic, Coordinator of the Kurdish Studies Program at the Moshe Dayan Center in Israel, told Kurdistan 24.
One KDP-I official, Reza (56), claimed the US army visited the PDK-I after the attack to investigate the strike. “I don’t know if our party contacted them or not,” he said. However, another official said he was not aware of any official US visit.
Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council (KRSC), Masrour Barzani, on Saturday discussed the Koya attack with senior coalition officials in Erbil.
Back in June, Mustafa Hijri, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), and Abdullah Mohtadi, head of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, completed an extended visit to Washington. At the time, Arash Saleh, KDPI representative in Washington, told Kurdistan 24 that the Iranian Kurdish leaders had been very satisfied with their visit.
“The current policy of the US toward Iran, which is to put more pressure on the regime, is the right path,” they believe.
Saleh emphasized they were not asking for “US boots on the ground,” but “what we want is for the US to see and hear the Iranian people, who are asking for the overthrow of this regime.”
There were also reports that the US would give more support to Iranian Kurds, including through the newly appointed Iran expert, US Consul Steven Fagin. However, diplomatic sources say the appointment was a coincidence.
“They say we have support from Saudi Arabia, Israel, or the US, but we don’t have support from anyone,” PDKI official Ahmedi said.
Those on the ground said they hope for more support from US President Donald Trump in the aftermath of Iran’s missile attack. Earlier this summer, Saleh had argued Kurds could “strongly contribute to the new approach of the US in containing Iran.”
“We would like to have support, but we haven’t seen any from anyone,” Ahmedi lamented.
Editing by Nadia Riva