Kurdish Peshmerga Units Battle Regime Forces in Iran – By Ryan Mauro

Successful resistance by the Kurds could spark uprisings by other oppressed minorities in Iran who account for about half of Iran’s population. The protests of the Green Revolution in Iran may no longer be on our television screens, but that doesn’t mean resistance to the Iranian regime has disappeared. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) has confirmed that six of its fighters were killed in a battle with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime’s elite security force and terrorism-sponsoring outfit.

The PDKI claims that their Peshmerga forces were fired upon first in the town of Shno in northwestern Iran. The regime also confirmed the fighting, describing the PDKI fighters as “terrorists.”  The Kurds say they killed a dozen Revolutionary Guards and injured 14.

The Kurdish party was founded in 1945 and is currently led by Mustafa Hijri, who says their objective is for Iranian Kurdistan to “become a beacon of democracy for the region.” The PDKI follows a secular-democratic ideology and has an estimated 2,000 fighters in the border area.

Qarani Qadiri, a political analyst from Iranian Kurdistan, believes that the clashes mark the “beginning of a new model of armed struggle” by the Kurds against the regime’s forces in cities, in addition to the mountains where clashes normally happen.

The Kurds comprise only about 15% (some sources put it at 10%) of the population of Iran but they are concentrated along the western border (known as East Kurdistan by the population), giving them a demographic advantage over unpopular regime forces in the area.

Successful resistance by the Kurds could spark uprisings by other oppressed minorities in Iran who account for about half of the country’s population. This includes the Azeris (15-25% of the population), who reside in the West and East Azerbaijan Provinces. Many Azeris desire unification with the country of Azerbaijan.

Similarly, the Ahvazi Arab minority is only about 2% of the population but they constitute a majority in the Khuzestan Province, where around 90% of Iranian oil production is located.

The Baluch, like the Arabs, constitute only about 2% of the population, but their strength is magnified by having a majority in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province in the eastern part of the country. A 2009 U.S. embassy cable reported that Baluchi attacks on regime forces were increasing. One source said that “the Iranian security forces may be losing effective control over growing areas in the countryside.”

What about the Persian population that still makes up a slight majority of the country? Recall that the focal point of the massive Green Revolution demonstrations was in and around Tehran. They don’t care much for the regime, either, though their response to violent uprisings by minorities with separatist leanings is an unknown variable.

The bottom line is that Iran is not as unified as it would appear to be when compared to the civil strife in neighboring countries. The proverbial Jenga tower could begin tumbling with the swiping of a single block.Additional Iranian forces are expected to arrive in the area where the clashes with the Kurds happened. Stay tuned.

Ryan Mauro is’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.