Missiles and executions mark Iran’s escalation of conflict with Kurds

The victims may be Iranian Kurds but the message is meant for all Iranians regardless of ethnicity, religion or political belief.
Sunday 16/09/2018
A wounded Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga member of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-I) walks after a rocket attack in Koysinjaq, on September 8. (AFP)
New tactics. A wounded Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga member of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-I) walks after a rocket attack in Koysinjaq, on September 8. (AFP)

On September 8, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched seven surface-to-surface missiles at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I). The headquarters, in Koysinjaq in Iraqi Kurdistan, was badly damaged; at least one-quarter of the building went up in smoke.

On the same day as the missile strike, the Islamic Republic prison administration executed Zanyar and Loqman Moradi, both of whom were members of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

The incidents mark an escalation in the conflict between the Tehran regime and the Kurds. It may also herald a generally harder line in the IRGC’s policy towards dissidents, both in Iran and abroad.

The IRGC claimed responsibility for the missile attack on the KDP-I headquarters. In a statement September 9, the IRGC expressed its resolve to “defend the borders and the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The statement uncharacteristically thanked “the unknown soldiers of the Imam of the Era,” a reference to agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

It also contained a thinly veiled warning to Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government “from which we expect greater care and control of shared borders.”

Simultaneously, the Islamic Republic of Iran Voice and Vision aired footage of mobile missile launchers and imagery collected by drones, which identified Fateh 110 as the model of missiles used in the attack and showed the weapons’ accuracy. One missile was said to hit the room where the KDP-I’s leadership usually had its meeting.

Mashregh News, an outlet close to the IRGC, reported that MOIS provided intelligence about the meeting’s scheduled time. Mashregh claimed that 16 party members, including some of the leadership cadre, were killed in the missile attack.

In contrast to the IRGC’s meticulously planned and executed attack, the legal proceedings prior to the Komala members’ execution were anything but accurate. They were arrested August 2, 2009, on charges of assassinating the son and nephew of the Friday prayer imam of Marivan and their driver. Zanyar and Loqman Moradi initially confessed to the killings on camera. They later withdrew the confessions, alleging they were extracted after severe beatings and the threat of rape in prison.

At the time of their execution, legal proceedings on the assassination charges had not concluded. However, they were condemned to death on the separate and equally unsubstantiated charge of engaging in armed struggle — moharebeh — against Iran. The family never received the bodies of the executed prisoners, which the dead men’s attorney said confirmed suspicions of torture.

The incidents indicate a new trend in IRGC behaviour. It seems minded to take a harder line towards dissidents, Kurds and non-Kurds, in Iran and abroad. More than demonstrating the might of the IRGC, the incidents illustrate the regime’s inherent insecurity. There is deep concern within the IRGC leadership as the country faces new and re-imposed US-led sanctions, the severe depreciation of the rial and waves of small, yet recurrent, political protests and social unrest all over Iran.

Fearing instability, the IRGC has chosen a policy of the iron fist. It seems resolved to punish select groups to terrorise the public into submission. The victims may be Iranian Kurds but the message is meant for all Iranians regardless of ethnicity, religion or political belief.

Such tactics may work for a time but are not likely to bring about lasting stability. After all, jobs and hopes for a brighter future make loyal citizens, not missiles, torture and executions.

15