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Source: IranWire

Jun 26, 2023

Why Revolutionary Guards Are Shelling Iranian Kurdistan


Independent sources told IranWire that fighting between the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the East Kurdistan Defense Units (YRK), the military affiliate of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) in the highlands of Kusalan in the county of Marivan in Iranian Kurdistan has intensified.

An IRGC member was killed and two others were severely injured following a clash between the IRGC and YRK in the evening of June 16 in the villages of Darreh Tefi and Sardush, according to information obtained by IranWire.

In the morning of June 17, the public relations office of the IRGC’s Hamzeh Seyyed Al-Shohada Base in West Azerbaijan confirmed the casualties and identified its killed member as Rezgar Tabireh.

According to reports by Kurdish media outlets, the IRGC dispatched a military convoy to the west of Kurdistan province and started shelling Kusalan highland on June 12. Senior IRGC commanders have announced that these operations will continue until the area is wiped clean of “armed counter-revolutionary groups.”

What do residents of Kusalan say about the goals of these military operations in their area?


Is Kusalan a Strategic Area for the IRGC?

The ecologically protected area of Kusalan highlands overlooks the mountainous areas of Avroman, Chel-Cheshmeh and Shaho in the border areas of Kurdistan and Kermanshah province. The region leads to the highlands of Surin and Shalir in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In the past week, the IRGC’s operations against the YRK have centered on Marivan’s Kusalan highlands, with the area being shelled with artillery.

Does IRGC Have Other Goals in Kusalan?

Senior IRGC commanders have announced that the goal of these military operations is to clear the area of the forces of opposition Kurdish parties, but villagers around Kusalan, based on their own observations, believe that the IRGC’s objective is wider.

A resident of the village Degagah on the slopes of Mount Kusalan who has witnessed the movements of the IRGC forces in the area tells IranWire: “In the past six days, besides dispatching heavy military equipment, shelling Kusalan highlands with mortars, Katyusha rocket launchers and artillery, and burning the vegetation in this protected area, the IRGC is building a new road toward Kusalan highlands using excavators, bulldozers and loaders.”

A Missile Base in Kusalan?

“The IRGC does not specifically name PJAK and only says that it wants to clear the area of counter-revolutionary forces,” says this source. “However, it seems that by continuously sending excavators, bulldozers and loaders to Kusalan highlands and by dispatching new forces to the areas under its control, it wants to build a new missile base, not an ordinary military base.”

According to this source, in the past years there have been sporadic and small-scale clashes between IRGC forces and PJAK guerrillas, but the ongoing operations are unprecedented.

“If this missile base becomes operational, the IRGC can easily target the military bases and the camps of opposition Kurdish parties deep inside Iraqi Kurdistan from Kusalan highlands,” he says.

After the outbreak of 2022 nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police, the Islamic Republic accused the opposition Kurdish parties based in Iraqi Kurdistan of fomenting the unrest and of using Iraqi Kurdistan against Iran.

Since then, the IRGC has repeatedly targeted the main positions of these parties deep inside Iraqi Kurdistan with missiles and has urged Iraqi officials to disarm them and dismantle their camps.

“In addition to IRGC senior commanders, artillery personnel and supply units, more than 400 members of the IRGC, most of whom are Kurdish mercenaries who know the area’s geography well, are participating in these operations,” says this source.

Does the IRGC Want to Force Out Villagers Around Kusalan?

This local source points to the intensity of the IRGC’s artillery fire in Kusalan highlands and the serious damage done to the vegetation of this protected area and says: “Most villagers around Kusalan feel that one of the other main goals of the IRGC is to force them to migrate and leave the area.”

“With the sinister aim of forcing out the villagers around Kusalan, the IRGC has deliberately concentrated its artillery fire on the pastures of villages of Dal, Daleh Marz, Degagah, Kani Hoseynbag and Julandey and inflicted serious damage on the livelihood of these villagers who are mostly engaged in animal husbandry, beekeeping and horticulture.”

What Does PJAK Say?

The IRGC says it has inflicted heavy casualties on YRK guerrillas, but Ahun Chiako, member of the Kurdistan Free Life Party’s parliament, rejects this claim in an interview with IranWire. Referring to the latest statement by the East Kurdistan Defense Units, he said that no YRK member has been killed in recent clashes.

Chiako says the Islamic Republic has placed the militarization of Kurdistan on its agenda following the bankruptcy of its ideology, especially after the start of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protest movement.

“It is clear that the popular and social base of the Islamic Republic’s regime has weakene

d and that it’s even gradually losing the trust of its own forces, so it is trying to hold on its power by a show of force with such operations,” Chiako says.

“It’s also trying, in various ways, to turn the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ revolution into a purely security and political issue in Kurdistan. Sometimes it even takes actions that aim at provoking opposition Kurdish parties and pushing them into ill-advised actions that opens the door to even more violent suppression.”

Besides the intentional destruction of the Kusalan region’s ecology, says Chiako, one of the other goals of the Islamic Republic is to empty out mountainous areas of Kurdistan and to deploy the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, which are supported by the Islamic Republic, to guard the Iran-Iraq border and keep Kurdish opposition parties out of Iranian soil.

Chiako emphasizes that PJAK has no intention of attacking Revolutionary Guards’ forces, saying it is more focused on teaching and organizing the people in Kurdistan. However, he adds, it will defend itself if the IRGC continues its attacks. He also rules out any withdrawal of PJAK forces from the border areas between Iran and Iraq.

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