More than two weeks after the September 25 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran has yet to take any meaningful action against the Kurdish region despite its rhetoric, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s labeling of the plebiscite as treason and a threat to the region, Al-Monitor reports.
“America is interested in having a pressure card at its disposal against Iran and Turkey; therefore, there can be no trust in the Americans and Europeans and their positions,” Khamenei said, stressing that Israel and the United States are the main beneficiaries of an independent Kurdistan.
While Iranian officials don’t hide their anger and frustration at the way the Iraqi Kurdish leadership handled the referendum, they appear to be weary of a possible U.S. plan to change the borders of the region in favor of the Kurds. Indeed, the line that Washington has a secret plan for the Middle East has been echoed by various former and also the current head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
“We believe that the creation of … a new state in the region is the wish of the system of domination headed by the Americans and the Zionists,” said former IRGC commander and current senior military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, Yahya Rahim Safavi , on October 4.
Safavi believes that the U.S. wants constant tension around Iran’s borders with Iraq and Turkey, and also Syria, as an excuse to keep a foothold in the vicinity.
“Changes in the region’s geopolitical borders mean constant tension and a drawn-out war between the four countries with the supposed future [Kurdish] state that is intended to be established, and this insecurity and tension is what the Zionist regime and Americans want in order to have a permanent presence in the region.”
Despite these claims by Iranian officials, Washington has been clear about its policy of preferring a united, federal and democratic Iraq.
But the situation is rendered further complex by the expected designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization which infuriated Tehran, with some IRGC officials going as far as calling for the targeting of the U.S. military across the region and the world. This could further complicate the situation for Iraqi Kurdistan given the large presence of U.S. forces within the region, with some as close as 60 kilometers to the Iranian border.
While the official task of these forces is to fight ISIS, some in Tehran are concerned that Washington is there for the long haul to keep a close eye on Iran. But some top Iranian officials believe that Tehran should tread carefully and see Trump as a dangerous president who should not be provoked.
“The fact that we should not provoke Trump is an accurate statement,but we also cannot give him space to come and play in our court either” former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei said April 27 in response to a question about whether Trump is after war with Iran.
While Iran may not be happy with the way the Kurds decided to go ahead with the referendum, it has come around to living with the result so long as the Kurds do not take further steps toward independence.