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BorderWatch:Iran
Archive: August 2007
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ON THE BRINK?
Maliki Demands Iran Explain Recent Attacks, Refrain From More
08/27/2007 6:46 PM ET
KURTAK, IRAQ: A PKK guerilla carries supplies as he heads to a base in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.
David Furst/AFP/Getty
KURTAK, IRAQ: A PKK guerilla carries supplies as he heads to a base in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

An onslaught of artillery fell on northern Iraqi villages Monday, beginning a second week of bombardment just as Prime Minister Maliki reportedly had an official note of protest delivered to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, demanding clarification for the reasons behind the attacks.

The spike in border activity began last week with helicopters dropping leaflets over border villages, warning locals to leave the area or face Iranian attack. The leaflets were printed in Kurdish, with the words "The Islamic Republic of Iran" across the top and bottom.

Tehren blames Iraq for sheltering Kurdish fighters who train in Kurdistan to attack across the border inside Iran--tensions that occasionally escalate into mini-flares of cross-border activity. Iran has denied dropping the leaflets, but Kurdish media has reported repeated Iranian shelling throughout the past week.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that the government was looking into the reports, but questioned their accuracy. "Validity of the news is under scrutiny. But what we are witnessing is that insecurity in Iraq has made Iran's border provinces insecure for several times," Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said.

Though Hosseini did not confirm reports of the attacks, he did appear to deliberately justify them, saying, “The terrorists and drug smugglers are still active in the border areas. Many weapons have been imported to Iran and many Iranian policemen have sacrificed their lives fighting against terrorists and drug smugglers on the Iran-Iraq border.”

Turkey has occasionally launched its own volley of mortars into northern Iraq, and Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul voiced support for Iran's reported offensive last week.

"Unfortunately, terrorists have the ability to operate in Iraq's north due to a power vacuum in Iraq," Gül said, adding "Every country has the right to defend its borders and take legitimate measures for its own security."

Prime Minister Maliki, who recently visited both countries and made strengthening ties and improving security cooperation a major focus of his regional diplomacy efforts, struck back at his neighbors on Monday.

Maliki informed a press conference: "The bombardments by Iran and Turkey are violations of Iraq's sovereignty. We will not allow these violations, but this must come through diplomatic channels."

Maliki said Iraq's foreign ministry would "ask the two countries to refrain from these actions."

Iran Factor
Iranian Defense Minister Opens Production Line, Denounces US and Sanctions
08/26/2007 10:15 AM ET
Here's the report today from the Iranian official Fars news agency:
TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar here on Sunday inaugurated production lines for manufacturing 2000-pound guided bombs and small caliber arsenals, which have both been developed by the country's experts. Speaking to reporters, the General underlined that both lines of production have been established by Iranian experts, and described the move as a crushing response to the sanctions imposed on Iran by the world arrogance, specially the US.

"Qased is an air-to-surface, long-range, guided bomb which has been designed through utilizing the most advanced technologies," he said, adding that once Qased is deployed, the Iranian fighter jets can destroy enemy targets by this high-precision bomb without coming into the range of enemy fire.

Reiterating the home-grown nature of the bomb, he said Qased was designed in accordance with the needs of the Iranian air force to strategic arsenals and bombs.

Meantime, Najjar reminded that even the needed machineries for the production of the 2000-pound bomb have been designed and manufactured by Iranian experts.

The Iranian defense minister further said that production of such new and strategic bombs, missiles and weapons by Iran aims to deter enemies from invading the country, reiterating that Iran's military productions are a means of deterrence and not threat.

"These equipment and instruments are meant to reinvigorate sustainable peace, stability and security in the region," he stressed, adding, "The production line of the small caliber arsenals with high penetration power was actually inaugurated in line with the country's defense doctrine which underlines deterrence and all-out defense."

He also reiterated the home-grown nature of the second production line, and said that even the needed machineries for the manufacture of small caliber arsenals have been designed and manufactured by Iranian experts, and continued, "75% of the machineries have been manufactured by the Defense Ministry forces and 25% by the private sector."

Najjar reminded that the machineries of the said two production lines could not be imported from other countries due to the West's sanctions on the Islamic Republic, adding, "And this is a teeth-breaking response to the sanctions of the world arrogance.... Sanctions made our experts decisive to end Iran's dependence and promote the country's military potentials."

Backgrounder
Kurdish Insurgency Tests Iranian Conventional Military Power
By ALI KOKNAR 08/24/2007 10:16 AM ET
There is much speculation in Washington these days about whether Iran will respond to a preemptive strike by the United States and/or Israel in order to damage or destroy its nuclear weapons program. The deficiencies in the human intelligence collection and analysis capability of the United States resulting in the confusion about Iran’s war fighting ability is a major factor in this current speculation. American experts are finding it hard to gauge Iran’s military strength and effectiveness. One way to measure Iran’s might with some degree of accuracy is to study how it has been fighting recently. Iran has not fought a conventional campaign since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, almost two decades ago. Since then, Iran’s military industrial complex and manpower evolved significantly. Some of this new technology and training has been put into action by the Tehran regime in a limited extent at Iran’s periphery, which offers a window to peek at the Iranian military under actual combat conditions. Except for the two proxy campaigns in Lebanon and Iraq which Iranian military and intelligence are engaged in, Iran’s only direct military action on its enemies has materialized in the form of a few surface-to-surface missile attacks on Mojahedin-e-Khalq camps in Iraq in the late 1990s and its ongoing conflict with the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK (Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan-Workers’ Party of Kurdistan) inside Iran and in Northern Iraq at present, which this analysis is about.

Starting in 1979, the Islamic regime continued the Shah’s policy of attacking the armed ethnic Kurds (as represented by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and Komala, the Marxists) with conventional military forces. These clashes continued during the Iran-Iraq War, until the mid 1990s and resulted in the deaths of around 10 thousand Kurdish insurgents, 50 thousand Kurdish civilians and thousands of troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-Pasdaran). A de facto cease-fire came into effect in 1995. Paradoxically, the Islamic regime in Tehran harbored and supported the Maoist PKK against Turkey in the 1980s but especially after the removal of PKK’s leader from Syria in 1998. The Iranian intelligence service (Ettelaat-SAVAMA) managed the PKK presence inside Iran and the infiltration of PKK terrorists into Turkey. Interestingly enough, during the same period of time Ettelaat supported the activities of the Islamist Turkish Hezbollah, an ethnically Kurdish organization which organized itself in the 1980s to oppose the PKK in southeast Turkey. In fact, the Turkish intelligence services believe that the Ettelaat engineered a truce between the PKK and the Turkish-Kurdish Hezbollah in the late 1990s. At the peak of its relations with the Iranian regime in 1995, the PKK maintained about 1,200 of its members at around 50 locations in Iran. The Ettelaat even used the PKK against other Kurdish groups in Iran such as Komala, eight leaders of which the PKK ambushed and killed in June 1998. Fed up with Iran’s harboring the PKK, Turkey sent a direct message to Tehran in July 1999, when Turkish F16s attacking a PKK camp in Iran, accidentally bombed a Pasdaran base, killing a Pasdar officer and four Pasdaran troops and wounding ten. A new Turkish government elected at the end of 2002, developed a détente with Tehran in 2003, making it possible for Ankara to press Tehran into cutting off its support to the PKK.

With its charismatic leader, Abdullah Ocalan captured by Turkey in 1999, the PKK withdrew about 3,000 of its 4,000 field cadres from Turkey and Iran to its dozen or so camps strewn along the Qandil mountain range which straddles the Iran-Iraq border across from Turkey. The PKK used the period between 1999 and 2003 to reorganize its command structure, recruit new members and especially after Saddam’s quick defeat in April 2003, to acquire ex-Iraqi Army weapons and explosives. They also set up a front, Partîya Jîyane Azadîya Kurdistan (Kurdistan Free Life Party-PJAK) in Iran (heretofore referred to as simply “PKK” for practicality). Despite sporting its own leader, Haji Ahmedi, its operations are conducted under orders from PKK’s strongman, Murat Karayilan, and like other PKK teams operating in Turkey, its armed cadres are ethnic Kurds recruited from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The PKK operates camps housing about 500 of these on Mount Asos, which is on the Iranian side of the Qandil Range. In 2004, from their Asos bases the PKK terrorist started operating in northwestern Iran, near the Iranian towns of Selmas, Mahabad, Serdest, Bane, Pîranshahr, Merîwan, Sine, and Hewraman. By July that year, the Pasdaran started mounting battalion-level operations in the area against the PKK, to total about eight such operations by the end of the year. In 2004, the PKK claimed killing about 20 Pasdaran troops, but did not admit its own casualties as a result of a brigade-level Pasdaran operation near Xoye/Urumiyeh in October, during which the Pasdaran deployed Katyusha artillery rockets.

A Pasdaran brigade, accompanied by hundreds of Basej paramilitaries, conducted sweep operations in the sector between the Iraqi border and the town of Piranshahr in late May and early June 2005 using AH-1J Cobra attack helicopters, but did not report any PKK terrorists killed or captured. As they did in Turkey, the PKK made attempts to foment a Kurdish uprising in Iran in 2005 to affect the outcome of the presidential elections. As if in response to the Pasdaran/Basej sweep a month earlier, in July, these attempts materialized in the ethnically Kurdish populated Mahabad and clashes between armed PKK terrorists, their civilian Kurdish supporters and the Pasdaran and Basej resulted in the declaration of martial law and curfew. The PKK claimed that they had killed 16 Pasdaran and Basej for a loss of four of their own during the July clashes.

The seasonal nature of contacts between the PKK and Iranian security forces was somewhat altered in 2006 as the PKK mounted attacks in Iran during the snowy winter months just as they did inside Turkey. In February, there were about a dozen PKK and Pasdaran on each side killed in action and at least a dozen wounded. In March the Pasdaran staged heliborne assaults killing at least 2 PKK terrorists. The PKK claimed they killed seven Pasdaran. As the weather improved in April, the Pasdaran launched a division-level operation against the PKK for the first time, deploying towed howitzers. The PKK also claimed that the Iranian Air Force fighters bombed one of its camps near Xinira next to the Haji Umran Iran-Iraq border crossing. The Pasdaran also hit a PKK camp near Sidakan, about 50 miles north of the Iraqi city of Arbil and about 6 miles from the Iranian border, with Katyusha artillery rockets. These attacks killed at least three PKK terrorists (as admitted by them) and probably up to a dozen more. The PKK claimed that they engaged the Pasdaran along the border and killed six and wounded eight, which the Pasdaran did not admit. The Pasdaran did admit however, that they lost 100 troops between 2003 and 2006 in contacts with the PKK. The PKK admits losing no less than 50 terrorists in contacts with the Pasdaran between July 2005 and March 2006.

The cyclical nature of the PKK operations to date in Iran suggest that the coming months will bring more contacts with Iranian security forces. Based on the escalation of the conflict in the last three years, it is plausible that the size of the Iranian troop movements will be large (from battalion-level in 2004 to division-level in 2006) and will involve heavy weapons such as artillery pieces and may also be conducted as combined-arms operations with the participation of regular Iranian Army units in addition to the Pasdaran. These developments will offer a unique opportunity to observe the Iranian military in action using its inventory against a real enemy, as opposed to the recent war games they conducted in the Persian Gulf during which reverse-engineered Russian weapons systems were showcased. Iran’s success or failure against an insurgent force of no more than a battalion or two will be indicative of its conventional warfighting ability against a larger opposing force, such as the United States Army or Marines.

Ali M. Koknar, a private security consultant in Washington, DC, specializing in counterterrorism and international organized crime, is an Associate of the Terrorism Research Center. His e-mail is akoknar@aol.com.

ON THE BRINK?
Notes Warn Locals of Forthcoming Onslaught, Some Shelling Reported
08/22/2007 11:41 AM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.

Hundreds of villagers living in northern Iraqi villages have reportedly fled in fear after helicopters dropped leaflets Monday evening warning of a forthcoming Iranian attack within 48 hours. The Kurdish regional government is investigating the leaflets, and local officials have reported increased shelling coming from their Iranian neighbors in recent days.

Iran occasionally shells border areas of northern Iraq, targeting elements of the PEJAK--the anti-Iranian version of the PKK Kurdish rebel group--but leaflets are something new.

Villagers near Qandil and Haji Omaran reported the leaflets were thrown from helicopters Monday evening, warning local residents to flee the area to avoid coming under Iranian fire. The leaflets were printed in Kurdish, with the words "The Islamic Republic of Iran" across the top and bottom.

"They do not carry an official stamp of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iranian Defense Ministry," said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional Kurdish government. "These leaflets caused many people leave their homes," he added.

The leaflets said the offensive would take place around the villages of Qandil, Haji Omaran, Isaw and the town of Qal'at Dizah, 325 kilometers north of Baghdad. Two women have been wounded, livestock killed, farms and orchards set ablaze and homes damaged in the shelling near small villages across a front of about 50 kilometers in the past three days, local officials have said.

PUKmedia.org, the news outlet of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also reported both Iranian and Turkish troops--with tanks, artillery, and military vehicles--deploying in areas along the border, and cutting off electricity during the night in order to move in darkness.

The increase in activity may result from Iran's loss of a helicopter and a number of troops in border operations this past weekend.

On Saturday, the official Iranian news agency (IRNA) said five elements from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed and six others wounded when a military helicopter crashed near Qandil mount near the borders with Iraq.

"The crash was due to bad weather circumstances in the area," IRNA quoted a military source as saying.

VOI reports, however, that an opposition group claimed success in shooting down the helicopter.

In a separate Iran-Iraq border development, on Wednesday, Iran announced it had uncovered a separatist group with a cache of weapons and ill intents in Khuzestan, which is located at the southern end of the two countries' shared border. Iranian media reported security forces had arrested a number of suspected members.

Iran Factor
Claim 2,000-Pound Bomb with Guidance System can be Fired from Jets
08/22/2007 10:08 AM ET
From the Iranian official Fars News Agency:
Iran to Start Production of Intelligent Bombs in Days

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- The production line for manufacturing an Iran-made intelligent bomb called 'Ghased' will launch operation next week. The Iranian defense ministry said that it will start production lines for manufacturing other military tools and arsenals next week on the occasion of the Week of Government.

The 2000-pound bomb, equipped with an intelligent guiding system, is produced by few countries due to the advanced technical know-how required for its production and Iran is the last in the chain of countries which have succeeded in developing the technology.

Ghased has been successfully test fired by such fighter jets as F4 and F5.

Iran Factor
First Meeting of Newly-Formed US-Iranian Security Committee
08/05/2007 1:34 PM ET
Baghdad, Aug 4, (VOI)- A meeting on the experts level is scheduled on Monday between U.S. and Iran in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a media source from the Iranian embassy to Baghdad said on Saturday.

"Experts from U.S. and Iran are to meet on Monday in Baghdad to discuss setting up a trilateral security committee (on Iraq)," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The source added "the committee is to be formed upon an Iranian proposal that was made during the second round of U.S.-Iranian talks held in Baghdad on July 24."

The meeting, the source pointed put, "is expected to define the jurisdiction of the proposed committee which will also include Iraq in addition to U.S. and Iran."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged both U.S. and Iran to help Iraq regain security and warned that the armed groups like Qaeda might move into other countries' soil after it had been considerably hit in Iraq.

"We are seeking the support from U.S. and Iran to regain stability in Iraq as we are keen on non interfering in others' internal affairs as much as we reject others' interference in ours," Maliki told the opening session of the second round of talks between U.S. and Iran in July.

Last May saw the first round of talks between Iran and U.S.

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