Iran starts new attack on Kurds: Tehran launches offensive inside Iraq

FOR THE second time in a month, Iranian forces have been attacking targets in Iraqi Kurdistan, clashing with both Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces and dissident Iranian Kurds who have bases in northern Iraq.

According to Kurdish sources in London, the Iranian offensive began on Wednesday with an incursion by ground forces in Sulaymaniyah province. They attacked positions held by the Iranian Kurds around Chwarta, 10km inside Iraq. Another column of Iranian revolutionary guards crossed near Kanarwo. On Thursday, Iranian warplanes attacked positions of two Iranian Kurdish groups: the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran and the Komala, the leftist Iranian Kurdish party founded in the Forties. The area was south of the 36th parallel, and therefore outside the no-fly zone declared by the United Nations in northern Iraq. The Iranians are also said to have massed troops near Penjwin.

The Iranian offensive took the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq by surprise. The Iraqi Kurds had been holding talks about the position of the Iranian Kurdish bases with Iranian security officials, who had demanded that the Iraqi Kurds curb the political activity of the Iranian Kurds. The discussions ended inconclusively. The Iraqi Kurds said they could not accede to this request, and pointed out that the Iranian Kurdish groups had not engaged in any cross-border operations.

The Iranians have never made any secret of their desire to eliminate signs of Kurdish nationalism within their Kurdish areas. The three countries with substantial Kurdish minorities - Syria, Turkey and Iran - regularly meet at a high level to discuss the Kurdish problem, and how to avoid the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. For their part, the Iranians also give some limited support to the very small Islamic groups operating in Iraqi Kurdistan.