Tanks and artillery controlled by the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq have moved into the Assos Mountains north of Sulaymaniyah, within striking distance of rebel bases controlled by the Free Life Party of Iranian Kurdistan, known as PJAK.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is scheduled to travel to Tehran this weekend for a two-day conference hosted by the Iranian government dubbed “Campaign Against Terrorism.”
Iranian leaders have been urging Talabani to convince the Kurdish government to take military steps against the PJAK camps in meetings in Tehran in February and March of this year, Kurdish sources told Newsmax.
“If the KRG refuses to take these steps, then Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki is threatening to send in the Iraqi army, just as he did against the Mujahedin-e Khalq [MEK] base at Camp Ashraf,” Soran Kedri, a PJAK spokesperson in Europe told Newsmax. Malaki is widely seen as a close ally of Tehran.
Iran has been complaining about the MEK presence in Iraq for years. But unlike PJAK, which remains popular with many Iraqi Kurds, the MEK was widely despised since it was used by Saddam Hussein to launch attacks on the Kurds.
When Kurdish Prime Minister Barham Salih traveled to Tehran in January, Iranian National Security General Secretary Saeed Jalili asked him to use the Kurdish militia to crack down on the PJAK camps, which were being used as launching pads for guerilla incursions across the border into Iran.
“Protecting the border and ensuring stability and security are a concern for both sides,” Salih told Iran’s Fars News Agency right after meeting Jalili. “We are hopeful that greater efforts will be made to protect the prevailing stability and security.”
PJAK leaders are also warning that Iran is planning to carry out a series of terror attacks inside Iran in the coming weeks, and blame the attacks on PJAK guerillas.
Iran has trained squads of Kurdish commandos to carry out the terror attacks with assistance from the Turkish military and Turkish military, PJAK leaders told Newsmax during a trip to their bases in Northern Iraq in February.
“We have eyewitness reports from our people inside the Iranian security apparatus who have seen Turkish generals coming to discuss this in Iran,” said Amir Karimi, a member of the PJAK Coordinating Committee, the group’s executive body.
“We also have eyewitness reports of people saying they were trained in Turkey to carry out terrorist attacks in Iranian Kurdistan and blame them on PJAK,” he added. PJAK sources inside the Revolutionary Guards in Iran have described a series of specific attacks now under preparation that Iran plans to blame on PJAK.
“Iran has hired lackeys to blow up a Kurdish Shiite mosque in Kermanshah, assassinate a Sunni cleric in Pavah city, and carry out a bank robbery during which they plan to kill all bank employees and customers inside,” PJAK spokesman Soran Khedri told Newsmax.
“They are then planning to blame this attacks on PJAK, as part of their effort to get the European Union to go along with the United States and list PJAK as a terrorist organization,” he added.
PJAK believes Turkey provided weapons to Iran, and that Iran gave them to the agents as a way of providing “proof” that PJAK is receiving military assistance from the United States.
On Feb. 4, 2009, the U.S. Treasury designated PJAK as an international terrorist organization as part of President Barack Obama’s much-touted new strategy of “reaching out” to the government in Tehran.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by PJAK’s U.S. attorney, Morton Sklar, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control released a heavily-redacted memorandum showing that the sole basis for the Treasury’s action against the group was an allegation that they are “controlled by the KGK” — another name for the PKK.
The PKK is the much-maligned Turkish group that has used spectacular and bloody terror attacks to gain recognition of the rights of Turkish Kurds, but that in recent years has advocated political dialogue with the Turkish government
Both Iran and Turkey have stated publicly that PJAK is the Iranian “branch” of the PKK, but have never presented any evidence to back up the allegation.
The U.S. designation of PJAK as a terrorist organization has had a chilling effect on the group’s ability to interact with other Iranian opposition groups, who fear guilt by association. “Some groups won’t deal with us because of this,” another member of PJAK’s political leadership, Sherzad Kamangar, said.
The Iranian authorities have arrested hundreds of PJAK activists who took part in post-election protests in June 2009, and has executed scores of them.
The Iranian regime is so worried about PJAK’s effectiveness that it recently sent three hired killers to German in an attempt to assassinate PJAK secretary general, Rahman Haji Ahmadi.
“The German police called on Ahmadi this past week to warn him that three Iranian hired killers, using Turkish passports, had moved into a flat near to where he lives,” said PJAK spokesman Kedri. “They warned him to be careful, but offered him no protection.”
After the group was designated by the Treasury Department as a terrorist organization in February 2009, they called a unilateral halt to all armed attacks on Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases, to show that the group is primarily a political organization, not a militia.
“Despite this, the Islamic Republic continues its security operations against us and against the Kurdish people, hanging them for political activities,” said Karimi.
Karimi and other PJAK leaders are frustrated at the actions of the Obama administration. “The United States is now saying that it supports the protest movement in Tehran, but at the same time they are labeling the protest movement in Iranian Kurdistan a terrorist group,” Karimi said.