ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— US political experts, Michael Knights and David Pollock, have been informed by a Kurdish official that there are approximately 700 Iranian secret houses in Kurdistan’s second largest city, Sulaimaniyah.
Last week, the Washington Institute hosted a policy forum luncheon, where Knights and Pollock provided information gathered during their recent visit to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The forum, “The Kurdish Crescent: New Trends in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran”, gave an insight into the Kurdish question in the Middle East.According to the Washington Institute, Kurdish-populated regions have become a geopolitical keystone, connecting the many parts of the Near East that dominate today’s headlines, from Syria to Iraq to Turkey and Iran.
David Pollock, a Kaufman Fellow at the Institute, said that “Iran’s influence in Iraqi Kurdistan has made Kurdish officials worried and alarmed.”
Pollock explained that Iran is working below the surface to influence Kurds at all levels and Kurds have no alternative but to accept a certain degree of Iranian influence. The safe houses have three main aims, said Pollock: controlling Iranian Kurdish opposition parties, putting pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) so they cannot harm Iran’s interests and more specifically, maintaining Iranian interests in Syria.
Deputy head of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), Hussein Yazdanpanah, told Basnews that Kurdistan’s geographical proximity to Iran allows the Iranians to easily spy on the Kurdish region’s institutions. “Furthermore, Iran’s Quds Force have had a role in the terrorist attacks within the KRG and Iraq,” according to Yazdanpanah. Last October the independent Kurdish Hawlati newspaper highlighted a leaked diplomatic cable—citing a conversation between KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and a senior US diplomat. The cable said that Barzani feared Iranian influence in areas under the influence of the PUK, particularly Sulaimaniyah province, following Talabani’s death.