Abdel Hamid Zebari, AFP
Last updated: 19 July, 2011

Iraq and Iran issue border demands after clashes

Iran must respect its borders with Iraq, authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan said on Tuesday, after Tehran’s forces clashed with Iranian Kurdish rebels leaving several people dead.

Iranian security officials, however, fired back by demanding that Iraq prevent the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) from attacking Iran from bases located within Iraq.

The rhetoric on all sides has heated up in recent days, barely a week after Iranian officials stated that they reserved the right to attack PJAK bases in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

“We demand Iran respect the sovereignty of the Kurdistan region as part of the sovereignty of Iraq,” regional government spokesman Qawa Mahmud told AFP, a day after Iran said it had taken “full control” of three PJAK camps on Iraqi soil.

“There was Iranian infiltration along the Iraqi border,” Mahmud added. “If there is any border problem, the best way to resolve it is through negotiations and peace, not by bombing civilians.”

In Tehran, a senior officer in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards demanded on Tuesday that the Baghdad government and Kurdish authorities in Iraq prevent Kurdish rebels from attacking Iran from Iraqi territory.

“We are waiting for the Iraqi government and the Kurdish authorities in Iraq to stick to their commitments and prevent PJAK rebels from acting against Iran from Iraqi territory,” General Mohammad Pakpour said during an interview with Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam.

The fighting, which began on Saturday and appears to have ceased, left at least one Revolutionary Guards member dead and three wounded, according to security officials in Tehran.

PJAK, meanwhile, says two of its fighters were killed and four wounded.

“Over the past 72 hours, the rebels have taken heavy losses in the Al-Watan region,” said General Pakpour, head of the guards’ ground forces. He added that “PJAK camps in the region of Jassukan had been destroyed and that journalists could go there to see.”

He also denied any shelling of Kurdish villagers, saying that the target area “is uninhabited.”

Saeed Khan, from PJAK’s political office, said the rebel movement would not back down in the aftermath of the clashes, telling AFP: “Iran must know that it cannot defeat PJAK — this is the truth.”

“We will continue fighting Iran until the last man left standing.”

On July 11, Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted a senior Iranian army official as saying Tehran reserves the right to attack PJAK bases within Iraq.

“The terrorists will not be allowed to take sanctuary in Iraq’s territory and attack Iran with the support of America and the Zionist regime,” the official said. “Action will be taken against these terrorists.”

Iranian forces regularly shell border districts of Iraq’s Kurdish region, targeting PJAK bases.