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Iran Is Using Mass Protests To Make Moves On Kurdistan

Iran is seeking to gain a more secure foothold in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), and the protests spreading across Iran present a good justification for Tehran to take action, as well as being a key venue for suppressing the protests.

Iran’s relationship with the Iraqi Kurds has changed much over the past decades, particularly since 2003 when the U.S. invasion of Iraq led to the creation of the official KRI, complete with its own oil - ostensibly. When the KRI launched a failed referendum for independence from Baghdad in 2017, the Iranians started to become more active. Tehran’s natural ally in Iraqi Kurdistan is the PUK party, which is no longer the dominant party. The dominant party, the KDP, is closer to Turkey, but its position is also weak - and getting weaker, with Iran happy to fill in the cracks.

Since the Kurdish referendum failed, militant Iraqi Kurdish groups have deployed to the Iraq-Iran border, causing significant anxiety in Tehran. These groups, who join the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) in this border region now, are using this move for extra funding (smuggling) and as preparation to pounce should the situation between the U.S. and Iran escalate into a military move by Washington. Or, in an unforeseen development, should nationwide protests create massive instability in Iran, giving the Kurds an open window to make their move (like they did in Syria).

From this perspective, Iran’s attacks this week on Iraqi Kurdish…

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