Kurdistan Referendum puts Iran at Crossroads

In August 2014, when the Islamic State (IS) invaded Iraqi Kurdistan, the Iranians were again the first to assist the Kurds. “I think all Kurds should always be grateful to the Iranians, even though they had their own interests too,” a peshmerga captain who dealt with the Iranians at the time near Erbil told Al-Monitor. In this vein, apart from security considerations, it should be noted that Iran’s annual trade with Iraqi Kurdistan is almost $8 billion.

Thus, given Iran’s relationship with its own Kurdish community as well as its long history of assistance to Iraqi Kurds and their political parties, it is in a relatively strong position vis-a-vis Ankara and Baghdad.

With the crumbling of IS, the future looks even bleaker as new rivalries spring up. Turkey is at war with its Kurdish community and vehemently opposes the Kurdish administration in northern Syria. Syria remains mired in chaos, with the central government unable to control a large chunk of its territory — perhaps permanently. Meanwhile, Iran is relatively stable and has deployed thousands of troops to Syria and Iraq to fight jihadists and shore up the defenses of its allies in Damascus and Baghdad.

Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that if they do not fight jihadists in Aleppo and Anbar, they would have to fight them on their own soil. Given the Kurdish background of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Tehran on June 7, it appears that the one area where the security of Iran could be most threatened is the Kurdish region.

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