Iran to invade Northern Iraq?

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Everyone is trying to predict when Turkey will invade Northern Iraq for harboring PKK terrorists. But many are overlooking Iraqi Kurdistan’s eastern neighbor, Iran, which is home to an estimated 4 million Kurds. Reuters reported on Tuesday that leaflets were mysteriously appearing throughout Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq, warning inhabitants of an imminent ...

599863_070822_pkk_05.jpg
599863_070822_pkk_05.jpg

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty

Everyone is trying to predict when Turkey will invade Northern Iraq for harboring PKK terrorists. But many are overlooking Iraqi Kurdistan's eastern neighbor, Iran, which is home to an estimated 4 million Kurds. Reuters reported on Tuesday that leaflets were mysteriously appearing throughout Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq, warning inhabitants of an imminent Iranian military offensive. While the authenticity of these leaflets is still in question—it's not that hard to type "The Islamic Republic of Iran" across the top of the page and press "print"—the Iran-Iraq border is definitely heating up. An Iranian helicopter crash last Friday sparked speculation over Iran's military intentions and since then, Iran's shelling of Kurdish villages in Iraq's mountainous northeast (a strong base for Kurdish insurgency groups like the PKK and its Iranian offshoot, the PJAK) has only added to the unease. It's no surprise, then, that hundreds of Kurdish villagers obviously found the leaflets credible enough to flee their homes.

Turkey and Iran haven't always seen eye-to-eye on the Kurdish issue. During the 1990s, Turkey accused Iran of providing a safe haven for the same PKK militants it was trying to fight. But since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran has been cracking down on the PJAK and sending out stern messages to insurgents. And Kurdish fighters have stepped up their resistance accordingly: The Guardian reports that the PJAK is the fastest growing armed resistance group in Iran, with tens of thousands of followers in secret cells in Iranian Kurdistan.

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty

Everyone is trying to predict when Turkey will invade Northern Iraq for harboring PKK terrorists. But many are overlooking Iraqi Kurdistan’s eastern neighbor, Iran, which is home to an estimated 4 million Kurds. Reuters reported on Tuesday that leaflets were mysteriously appearing throughout Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq, warning inhabitants of an imminent Iranian military offensive. While the authenticity of these leaflets is still in question—it’s not that hard to type “The Islamic Republic of Iran” across the top of the page and press “print”—the Iran-Iraq border is definitely heating up. An Iranian helicopter crash last Friday sparked speculation over Iran’s military intentions and since then, Iran’s shelling of Kurdish villages in Iraq’s mountainous northeast (a strong base for Kurdish insurgency groups like the PKK and its Iranian offshoot, the PJAK) has only added to the unease. It’s no surprise, then, that hundreds of Kurdish villagers obviously found the leaflets credible enough to flee their homes.

Turkey and Iran haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on the Kurdish issue. During the 1990s, Turkey accused Iran of providing a safe haven for the same PKK militants it was trying to fight. But since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran has been cracking down on the PJAK and sending out stern messages to insurgents. And Kurdish fighters have stepped up their resistance accordingly: The Guardian reports that the PJAK is the fastest growing armed resistance group in Iran, with tens of thousands of followers in secret cells in Iranian Kurdistan.

Relations between Iran and Turkey have been warming of late, and a shared interest in wiping out the Kurdish insurgency might just nudge the two even closer together. Much to Washington’s dismay, Iran and Turkey recently pressed forward with an energy cooperation deal, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triumphantly claiming that there were no limits to where Tehran’s relationship with Ankara could go. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean the two countries will go, hand in hand, straight into Northern Iraq.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.