Iran is deploying armored and special units along its western border to prevent the infiltration of Kurdish opposition groups based in Iraq, a top commander of the Revolutionary Guard said Friday, exacerbating the risk of a wider military conflict in the volatile area.
The deployment follows an intensification of Tehran’s response to protests sweeping the country, particularly in the Kurdish border areas, which have experienced some of the most consistent antigovernment rallies. Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody in mid-September sparked the unrest, was born in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan could suffer more violence if Tehran amplifies its military confrontations with Kurdish groups on both sides of the border.
Brig. Gen. Sardar Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s ground forces, said the guard was strengthening forces in the area, “following activities of evil and separatist anti-Iranian terrorist groups.” He accused the groups of destabilizing the northwest of the country, according to Iranian news agencies.
Kurdish areas on both sides of the border are home to separatist groups that Iran has labeled as terrorists, but separatist slogans have largely been absent from recent protests. Since the demonstrations began, Iran has repeatedly attacked northern Iraq with missiles and drones, most recently earlier this week, targeting Kurdish groups that it alleges are fomenting unrest in the Islamic Republic.
More than 400 people have been killed since the protests broke out in mid-September, including about 60 children, according to human-rights organizations. Several protesters have been sentenced to death and more than 1,000 face indictments. [Continue reading…]