Iranian Kurds vow to fight for regime change

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In return for helping take on Mr. Ahmedinejad, the Kurds of Iran would want the same prize that the United States delivered to Iraqi Kurds after the fall of Mr. Hussein: effective autonomy in the provinces of northwestern Iran where Kurds are the majority. Neither the Kurds of Iraq nor those of Iran have given up the dream of eventually forming a greater Kurdistan stretching across parts of what are now Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.Iranian Kurds vow to fight for regime change

MARK MACKINNON

ZARKUS, IRAQ — Abdulla Mohtadi stares at the distant mountains of his homeland, and plans for the day when he and his men can return to help overthrow the ayatollahs of Iran.

After 24 years in exile, Mr. Mohtadi thinks that the moment he has been waiting for is getting closer. The leader of an Iranian-Kurdish guerrilla movement called Komala, he believes the United States is getting ready to push for regime change in Tehran.

When that moment comes, Mr. Mohtadi says the Kurds of Iran will be ready to help bring down Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, just as Iraq’s Kurds helped the Americans in ousting Saddam Hussein. Komala rebels already stage occasional cross-border raids into Iran, prompting Iranian forces to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan three times during the 1990s.

In an interview at the Komala compound, which is tucked into the hills of northern Iraq about 50 kilometres from the Iranian border, Mr. Mohtadi said the collapse of Mr. Ahmedinejad’s regime is now inevitable. “It will definitely happen,” he said. “People are counting on it. So many people in Iran are waiting for the explosion, for a chance to act.”

The resources Mr. Mohtadi has at his disposal appear limited. He says Komala has about 800 men and women under arms in northern Iraq, and no heavy weaponry. He claims, however, that in a crisis he can count on the majority of Iran’s 4.8 million Kurds. “The support is there. What you see is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, waving his hand at the khaki-clad men carrying Kalashnikovs through the compound.

Iranian Kurds actually took part in the 1979 uprising against the Shah that brought about the Islamic Republic, but soon fell out with the hard-line Shia regime. Most Kurds are secular Sunni Muslims.

Mr. Mohtadi flew to Washington last year to meet with U.S. officials, as well as other members of the fractious Iranian opposition. Seven Iranian groups, including Komala’s traditional rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, later signed a co-operation pact.

In return for helping take on Mr. Ahmedinejad, the Kurds of Iran would want the same prize that the United States delivered to Iraqi Kurds after the fall of Mr. Hussein: effective autonomy in the provinces of northwestern Iran where Kurds are the majority. Neither the Kurds of Iraq nor those of Iran have given up the dream of eventually forming a greater Kurdistan stretching across parts of what are now Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

Mr. Mohtadi said he thinks popular uprising would be more effective than foreign military strikes. But he admitted even that would require outside help.

“We believe the future of Iran is in political change,” he said. “But we cannot remove this government on our own.”

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