PUK raids Iran; Tehran shells Kurds

Just as the PUK shows signs of losing control of its stronghold in northern Iraq, it launches attacks across the border in Iran—with doubtless US (and likely Israeli) assistance and direction. Iran, of course, replies by bombing Kurdish civilians, which will only inflame things. Also note the role of the PKK in Iranian Kurdistan. This indicates that the PUK raids serve a dual purpose: not only to help destabilize Iran, but to steal the separatist thunder from the PKK-backed guerillas. From AP, May 2:

BAGHDAD — Iranian forces shelled a border area used by Iranian Kurdish rebels, forcing some families to flee their homes Monday but causing no casualties, a Kurdish official said.

Mustafa Qader, a member of the political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, said the shelling began about 9 a.m. Sunday and continued until 5:30 a.m. Monday.

“It was so heavy that it forced families in these villages to flee the area to find shelter with their relatives,” Qader said from Sulaimaniyah, which is 160 miles northeast of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, Iraq’s central government could not immediately confirm Monday’s attack. The Patriotic Union, led by President Jalal Talabani, controls the area where the shelling reportedly occurred.

Rebels seeking self-rule in Kurdish areas of Iran operate from Iraqi territory and have been active recently, mounting attacks against Iranian army and Revolutionary Guard posts.

Iran says the rebels, known as Pejak, are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a 22-year insurgency against Turkey for self-rule in that country’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

On Sunday, Iranian artillery fired more than 180 shells into the same area of northern Iraq, also targeting Kurdish rebel bases but causing no casualties, the Iraqi government said. Those shells landed near the Iraqi village of Haj Omran, which is about 3 miles inside the Iraq-Iran border, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said.

Iranian forces launched a similar artillery attack April 21.

See our last posts on the Iran crisis and the Kurdish struggle.