Iran Guards confirm missile strikes on Kurd rebels in Iraq

The IRGC says it was behind missile attack on Iraq-based Kurdish dissidents. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 September 2018
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Iran Guards confirm missile strikes on Kurd rebels in Iraq

  • Iran attacked the base of an Iranian Kurdish armed opposition group in northern Iraq on Saturday
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired seven missiles in an attack on Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish dissidents that killed at least 11 people

TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed Sunday they had launched deadly missile strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq the previous day.
“The terrorists’ headquarters... was successfully struck by seven surface-to-surface rockets on Saturday by the missile department of the Guards’ aerospace force,” it said on its Sepah News website.
The statement added that their drone division was also involved.
Fifteen people were killed in the rare cross-border attack on the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, which is blacklisted as a “terrorist” group by Tehran, a KDPI spokesman, Soran Louri, told AFP on Sunday.
Around 30 others were injured, according to local medical sources.
Iranian state television showed images of the missiles being launched and drone footage of the impact.
“The punishment of transgressors was planned following the recent months’ wicked acts by terrorists from the Kurdistan realm against the Islamic republic’s borders,” the Guards’ statement said.
It cited incursions by numerous “terrorist teams” into Iran’s West Azarbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces bordering Iraq.
The KDPI had recently clashed with Revolutionary Guards forces in the towns of Marivan and Kamyaran in Iran’s own Kurdistan region, the statement added.
The Kurdish group was holding a meeting at the time of the missile strikes, and the party’s secretary general and his predecessor were injured, according to one of its officials.
The headquarters is in Koysinjaq, around 60 kilometers (35 miles) east of Irbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Iraq’s foreign ministry denounced the Iranian missile strike.
“Iraq protects the security of its neighbors and does not allow its territory to be used to threaten these countries,” spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub said in a statement.
“But it categorically rejects the violation of its territorial sovereignty by strikes against certain targets on its territory with previous coordination,” he added.
The KDPI is Iran’s oldest Kurdish movement and has seen several of its leaders assassinated by Tehran in the past.


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 23 September 2018
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Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.