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WASHINGTON – Iran has been currying favor with Kurds in northern Iraq and that could make a difference with members of the ethnic group who are becoming increasingly disgruntled in Turkey, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
It is that nation that is helping lead the charge to oust the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a Shi’ite Alawite in alliance with the Islamic republic.
Tehran has begun to focus its attention on Iraqi Kurdistan which is close to Iraq’s government in Baghdad, which is led by Iranian-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Turkey has sought to build links to the northern Iraqi Kurds in an effort to set up military bases as a means to gather intelligence and launch Special Operations raids on strongholds in northern Iraq of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK.
At the same time, Turkey has seen its focus on ousting Syria’s al-Assad as a potential threat, since the embattled Syrian president basically has unleashed the Kurds in the northern part of his country to fight Syrian opposition members who are coming in from Turkey to attack Syrian government strongholds.
For their part, the Kurds see the best opportunity in years to seek an independent Kurdistan, which would include territories of southern Turkey, and the northern portions of Syria, Iraq and Iran, given the turmoil throughout the Middle East.
Turkey, however, sees the idea of a Kurdish uprising as a direct threat, and has begun to stand down from any confrontation with the al-Assad regime and even has suggested, as WND/G2Bulletin previously reported, that a settlement of the Syrian crisis would not first require the removal of al-Assad.
Given Turkey’s competition in areas over which Iran also has exerted historical influence, Turkey is attempting a more conciliatory approach with the Iraqi Kurds, although Iran has close ties with them.
Iran has an “excellent” relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan, according to Nathim al-Dabbagh, who is Iraqi Kurdistan’s representative in Iran. His office in Iraq represents the two competing Kurdish parties of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK which is headed by Jalal Talabani, who is the president of Iraq.
In turn, Iran has set up two consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan. Local observers say that Iran for years has had influence in what is referred to as the “green sector” of Iraqi Kurdistan, which emerged following battles between the KDP and PUK in the 1990s and represent a basic division of their respective influences in the region.
During that period, Iran backed the PUK and Turkey supported the KDP. With the two now working together, the balance tends to tip toward Iran given Turkey’s competing influence in northern Iraq.
In addition, Qasim Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Qods force of the Iranian army, also paid a visit to the region. The Iranian Qods had provided military assistance when the Kurds were fighting deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Soleimani reportedly was in the region to convince Kurds there not to help Syrian rebels fighting against Syria’s al-Assad government. Indeed, separate reporting shows that Syrian Kurds are actively involved in battling Syrian opposition forces.
“Iran is having problems with the West, so it’s trying to maintain good relations with the Kurdistan region,” said PUK member Arez Abdullah. “It doesn’t want to create another problematic front for itself. Iran has a right to have a close relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan.”
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