Monday, June 23, 2008

PJAK and the U.S.

Iran accuses the United States of supporting PJAK, a Kurdish nationalist terrorist organization:
"In an apparent escalation in its insurgency, however, PJAK forces are reported to have attacked the Command Headquarters of the Iranian Air Force in the capital of Tehran. This attack represents the first time Kurdish insurgents have used violence in the capital (Rooz, June 5). This move may signify a strategic escalation of PJAK’s campaign to include striking at targets outside of Iranian Kurdistan. Kurdish and Iranian assessments of casualties sustained by both sides differ dramatically. PJAK sources claim to have killed over 90 members of the Iranian security forces [1]. Official Iranian sources, however, report far fewer casualties (Fars, June 5).

"Although ethnic Kurdish dissident groups have a history of political activism and violence in Iran, Tehran accuses PJAK and Komeleh of acting at the behest of foreign interests seeking to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Furthermore, Iran implicates the United States in allowing PJAK to operate from Iraq, where it is alleged to be enjoying support from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As a group engaged in its own violent nationalist struggle against Turkey, the PKK is widely regarded as PJAK’s ideological inspiration and its operational partner—a claim PJAK denies. Unlike PJAK, however, the PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. In fact, many observers believe that the creation of PJAK represents an effort to circumvent the restrictions on the PKK due to its designation as a terrorist organization (see Terrorism Monitor, May 15).

"Tehran considers the low-key visit of exiled PJAK leader Abdul Rahman Haji-Ahmadi to Washington in 2007 as proof of a U.S. hand in PJAK’s armed struggle (Iran Daily, September 12, 2007). Iranian concerns about foreign meddling in its internal affairs are exacerbated by the belief that vocal American elements advocating violent regime change in Iran see groups such as PJAK as leverage over the Islamic Republic, possibly in the run-up to a future military campaign. Ironically, in a May 7 press release, PJAK criticized the United States for providing Turkey with intelligence used to attack PJAK positions during missions targeting PKK positions in northern Iraq. The statement went as far as to threaten retaliatory strikes against the United States for its support for Turkey [2]. The group later denied making what was apparently an unauthorized statement (see Terrorism Monitor, May 15; Today’s Zaman, May 5)."

I'd actually be interested in finding out what this PJAK leader did on that visit to Washington. The United States hasn't really figured out what to do with the Kurds, who have been our one dependable ally in Iraq, but whose demands alienate Turkey and may hinder a nationwide settlement. I also suspect some elements in the Bush administration want to use PJAK against Iran even as others want to restrain the organization in support of our other alliances.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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