By Sherezad Sheikhani
Arbil, Asharq Al-Awsat- Currently, various Iraqi political circles are citing the role of the Kurdish bloc as one of the key factors enabling Iraqi blocs to further the formation of the upcoming Iraqi Government. However, the increasing Kurdish role, in alleviating Iraq’s current crisis, has been negatively received by the Iranians.
Iran has launched an organized, widespread media campaign against leading Kurdish figures. The aim of this campaign, according to Kurdish leaders and sources, is to “terminate the Kurdish role in Baghdad”. At the same time, other sources point out that Iran has several goals behind this campaign, including a plan to “undermine the democratic experiment in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
The recent security statements issued by the Kurdish Intelligence Agency, warning against the renewal of terrorist operations in the province, have not been ignored by some sources, who stress: “Iran is currently training terrorist groups in order to send them to Iraqi Kurdistan, to carry out acts of sabotage, thus disrupting the security and stability of the province.”
In recent developments, Khabat newspaper, affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] led by Iraqi Kurdistan President Masud Barzani, published an editorial on its front page, describing the Iranian media campaign. The editorial states “the campaign initiated by official Iranian news network [Khabar], against leading Kurdish figures, at the forefront of whom was the late leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani, leader of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iraqi Kurdistan, and one of the historic symbols of the Kurdish people. The campaign also accuses Mullah Mustafa Barzani of having previous relations with Israel”.
In the same article, the newspaper goes on to question “the rationale behind raising old issues, and renewing false accusations against Kurdish leaders, given that those leaders have repeatedly responded to these accusations on various occasions.”
The newspaper concludes: “If Iran, which suffers from international isolation, and whose people suffer domestically from difficult living conditions and grave human rights violations, wants to secure the friendship of the new Iraq; it should not disregard the Kurdish people who are one of the nation’s fundamental constituents”. The article further commented “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”
The Iranian media campaign has drawn severe reactions within the political and media circles of Iraqi Kurdistan. This prompted Asharq Al-Awsat to contact numerous Kurdish sources, in order to clarify the aims of this campaign. These sources include the prominent leading member of the Kurdistan Alliance, Mahmud Othman, who accompanied the leader of the Kurdish revolution during the 1960s and 1970s.
Othman stresses: “Iran, as the occupying country of Iranian Kurdistan, is trying by all means to distort the reputation of the Kurdish leadership, especially under current circumstances, given that the Kurdish political role is increasing in Baghdad. The renewal of these accusations, to which the Kurdish leadership had previously replied, is due to Iran’s fear of a developing Kurdistan Province, and the advancement of the Kurdish role in Baghdad. The Iranians, on the one hand, are afraid of the impact of democratic and economic progress in Iraqi Kurdistan, and how this will reflect upon the Iranian Kurds who have been deprived of all their democratic and constitutional rights. On the other hand, Iran is afraid of the growth of the Kurdish political role in Baghdad. This role is a major concern for the Iranians, especially after the Kurds have become a deciding factor in the formation of the upcoming Iraqi Government.”
Othman points out: “Iran is doing its utmost to reduce the Kurdish role in the Iraqi political arena. On the basis of the warning statements issued by the Kurdish Intelligence Agency a few days ago, I believe that Tehran is behind the threats to the Kurdistan Province. Iran is now preparing a group of terrorists to send to Kurdistan, and the disputed regions, in order to carry out terrorist operations there.”
Hasan Yasin, a researcher into the affairs of Kurdish Islamic groups at the Kurdistan Center for Strategic Studies, believes: “The Kurds are an important political constituent in Iraq. Today Iraq is going through a major crisis, especially due to delays in the formation of the upcoming government, which have been ongoing for more than seven months. Therefore, there is talk now about the decisive Kurdish role in putting an end to this crisis. Naturally, the Kurds can achieve this; for if they support either of the two blocs currently competing to form the next government, this will tip the balance in favor of that bloc. Iran is afraid that the Kurds will be in favor of the Iraqiya coalition, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, rather than the State of Law coalition, led by outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Therefore, Iran through this campaign and other attempts, is trying to weaken the Kurdish political role and its stature in Iraq.”
Zana Sa’id Rostani, leading member of the Kurdish Islamic Group, believes: “The development of the Iranian stance, towards the Kurdish leadership, is the result of specific aims. This development is due to a premeditated Iranian scheme, despite the good economic relations that link Tehran to Kurdistan Province. Under these circumstances, Iran greatly needs the province, especially as it is currently suffering from the consequences of a comprehensive international siege. Nevertheless, Iran is trying to exert pressure on the Kurdish leadership, by undermining Kurdish symbols, especially the great leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani, and implementing schemes and objectives that are not in the interest of bilateral relations between Iran and the Kurdish people.”
For his part, Romeo Hikari, a leading member of the Kurdish National Coalition, refers to Iran’s efforts to harm Kurdistan Province; telling Asharq Al-Awsat: “For a long time, the Iranian leadership has adopted a policy that was hostile to Kurdistan Province. Previously, Iran has shelled villages and territories of Iraqi Kurdistan using artillery, on the pretext that Iranian opposition forces were based there. However, all evidence and investigations proved this pretext to be unjustified. Today, Iran is exploiting the critical situation in Iraq, and delaying the formation of the Iraqi Government, so it can continue to interfere. Despite Iran publicly announcing its policy of accepting any candidate to form the upcoming government, it is secretly working to tip the balance in favor of the Shiites. Iran, like most regional powers, interferes blatantly in Iraqi affairs, and tries to impose its agenda upon the Iraqis. However, this in no way justifies attacking historical Kurdish figures.”