When it comes to contemporary world affairs, two countries that are unlikely to alter their antagonistic relations are Iran and the United States. However, if there is anything the two have in common, it is a shared animosity for one another. While these two powers brawl to secure their regional interest in the Middle East, opposition groups like the Kurds of Iran are often the ones who end up bearing most of the brunt.
Since the recent Basra protests and the burning of the Iranian consulate by Iraqi protesters, tensions between Iran and the US regarding Iraq have heightened to alarming levels as Tehran has accused Washington and its allies of enticing the protests and Iranian opposition to act against it. Weeks later, the US shut down its consulate in Basra citing threats from Iran and the militias it backs in Iraq.
Furthermore, a Kurdish opposition party, The Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDP-I), reported on Oct. 1 that Iranian drones had attacked its bases in Kodo Mountain and wounded one of their fighters. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also fired seven missiles on the bases of Kurdish opposition parties located in the Kurdistan Region, killing at least 15 and injuring dozens more on Sept. 8, 2018. The act was strongly condemned by the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, in a speech at the UN. In response, Iran also received harsh words from President Donald Trump during his UN address, and a warning from the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, that “there would be hell to pay” if Iran continued to cross America and its allies.
Many analysts interpreted the intensified aggression against the Kurds as Iran’s flexing of its military muscles to test the resolve of its foes in Iraq and the rest of the region. This comes at a time of hard US sanctions and pressure on Iran to halt its involvement and sponsorship of mostly Shia and anti-western proxies such as Hamas, the Houthi’s, Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, Bahrain’s Shia, Assad, and Hezbollah.
Interpreting the attack on the Kurds as a mere by-product of the regional conflict between the US and Iran is dismissive of the repressive history of the Iranian government against the Kurds. Since its inception, the Islamic regime has been suppressing radical dissidents domestically and even on foreign soil. Tensions with Washington, Riyadh, and Jerusalem have provided the regime with the same pretext that the Iran-Iraq war provided its founder Khomeini to sanction the aggressive crackdown and execution of thousands of opposition members from both Kurdish and other anti-regime groups.
When the Islamic Republic seized power in 1979, it began tracking down and executing opposition groups such as the remnants and supporters of the Shah, the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MKO), and members of Kurdish political parties.
According to a report by Amnesty International, the regime executed en masse around 4,500 to 5,000 political prisoners in the bloody summer of 1988, a year before assassinating the secretary general of the PDKI Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou at the tables of negotiation in Vienna. In 1992, regime death squads also killed Ghassemlou’s successor, Sharafkandi, while meeting with Iranian opposition figures in the Berlin Mykonos restaurant. Court testimony and documents implicated officials at the highest level of the regime. Since the revolution, the regime has executed hundreds of Kurdish prisoners of conscious with impunity. Most recently, it put to death Kurdish activists Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zanyar Moradi, and Loghman Moradi, which were widely condemned by a general strike across the Kurdish region of Iran.
What is even more disconcerting about the regime’s purge of opposition is that it has been able to effectively hunt down and assassinate opposition figures in many parts of the world and get away with it despite international regimes and laws to prevent such extrajudicial killings.
Thus, it is not inaccurate to view the Islamic regime’s aggression against the Kurds as part of the war posturing against the US and its allies. Nevertheless, it is essential to consider how the regime manipulates American antagonism as a pretext for striking the Kurds and other Iranian opposition even though the Kurds have been struggling for their national and democratic rights long before the revolution that brought the Islamic regime and its anti-western ideology to power. In essence, the aggressive behavior that the regime demonstrates is not confined to its foreign policy but is, in fact, a reflection of its repressive domestic policy that is dismissive of the economic and political grievances of not only the Kurds but also many discontent Iranians who have risen to demand meaningful change.
Halmat Palani is an English teacher and political science graduate from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany