by Ariel Ben Solomon
August 26, 2014
Iranians have been present in Kurdistan and pushing for their interests for a long time, says expert.
Kuridsh Peshmerga fighters walk at Mosul Dam in northern Iraq.Photo: REUTERS
Iran has supplied weapons and ammunition to Iraqi Kurdish forces, Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani said Tuesday at a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.
The direct arming of Kurdish forces is a contentious issue because some Iraqi politicians have said they suspect Kurdish leaders have aspirations to break away from the central government completely.
The move could also be seen by some as a prelude to Iran taking a more direct role in broader Iraqi conflict.
“We asked for weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us with weapons and ammunition,” Barzani said.
Insurgents from the Islamic State have clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in recent weeks and taken control of some areas on the periphery of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mordechai Zaken, an Israeli expert of minorities in the Middle East and a former Arab affairs adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the Iranians have been present in Kurdistan and pushing for their interests for a long time.
Zaken pointed out that there are many Kurdish Iranian refugees and fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan due to longterm tensions and fighting with the Iranian government.
However, the Kurdish rebellion against the Iranian government has stopped for now.
Iran does not want to use its soldiers to fight the Islamic State so it prefers to send weapons to the Kurds to help do the job, he added.
Zarif met on Sunday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the highest ranking Kurdish minister, who is also the uncle of Kurdistan president Barzani, Zaken said. This meeting probably facilitated the current deal, he added.
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