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Rudaw

Interview

With nuclear deal on life support, what does Iran’s Kurdish opposition want?

By Ahmed Y. Hamza 28/5/2018
KDP-Iran members take part in a routine military exercise in Koye, Kurdistan Region, on August 23, 2017. Photo: Safin Hamed | AFP
KDP-Iran members take part in a routine military exercise in Koye, Kurdistan Region, on August 23, 2017. Photo: Safin Hamed | AFP

For decades, Kurdish parties in Iran have struggled against the Iranian regime and to gain greater rights for the Kurds. 

With the nuclear deal on life support and the world’s eyes trained on Iran, Rudaw contacted four of these parties to hear their perspective on US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, how a new hardline American stance on Iran will affect their activities, and what they want to see Europe doing. 

Asso Hassan Zadeh is the deputy secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I), Loghman H. Ahmed is a member of the executive board of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), Ebrahim Alizadeh is the general secretary of the Komala-Communist Party of Iran (KCPI) and Abdullah Mohtadi is the secretary of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala).



Rudaw: What do you think of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal?

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I): Each nation assesses the good or bad character of an international fact or decision according to its own interests. Given that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a decision taken in relation to a regime that we are fighting

 

  We warned about the negative implications a nuclear deal with Iran would have before the deal was reached.  

against, the most natural position for us is to welcome this decision. However, instead of considering this decision from a moral or even political point of view, I prefer to consider it from a legal point of view. Contrary to the view that considers the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement as illegal under international law, I personally believe that this decision is a logical consequence of Iran’s own behavior. Every state is expected to implement international agreements in good faith, i.e. to do nothing that goes against the purpose and spirit of the agreement. If we keep in mind that the nuclear weapon is a weapon of mass destruction and a means of political and military expansionism of the States, we cannot on the one hand engage in a process of denuclearization and develop a program of ballistic missiles or continue to intervene in the countries of the region on the other. While these issues were not included in the nuclear agreement, they only further undermined the trust that was the basic condition for the successful implementation of the nuclear agreement.

Loghman H. Ahmed (PDKI): We warned about the negative implications a nuclear deal with Iran would have before the deal was reached. For example we warned that Iran would see the deal as a tool to continue and its destructive interference in the internal affairs of regional countries and beyond, and at the same time increase its support for terrorism, war and suppression of all forms of dissent inside Iran. The regime in Iran assessed that the international community would not react due to the fear that Iran might

 

  The Iranian regime missed the best opportunity it was given by the Obama administration. Contrary to what many in the West wished, Iran didn’t open up to the world, didn’t change its rhetoric and didn’t even soften its domestic policies.  

withdraw from the deal. Moreover, we feared that the deal and the ambition to integrate Iran into the international community would only give the theocratic regime regional legitimacy, and hence Iran would become an example for other regional states that have malignant ambitions on how to behave and act in order to get concessions internationally. All of these issues that we warned both US and European officials and diplomats about are a reality in the current state of affairs in the Middle East, and the nuclear deal is partly responsible for this tragic situation. Therefore we believe that it was a right decision by the current US administration to withdraw from the deal.

Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): The deal had some unwritten lines that were discussed by members of the agreement to limit the involvement of Iran in places like Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. The Islamic Republic of Iran has not been committed to limiting its regional activities and not breaching the nuclear deal. The US views Iran’s regional activities as extreme and against its interest. Of course we should be aware that the US wants to limit Iran’s hegemonic attitude in the region and not totally eliminate Iran’s regional role. The US government is well aware that regardless of the type of regime, Iran based on its geopolitical status has to have a regional role. This is the same for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. But the US tries to divide regional roles based on its own strategic interest. The nuclear deal did not serve this purpose as Iran spent its freed-up money to develop its regional role. Trump, with the withdrawal from the deal, wants to cut the financial capability of Iran to limit the regional role of this country. With the US withdrawal, the deal is dead in practice. Although the stance of Europeans is different from the US, each plays its role. The purpose of different stances of the US and Europe is to maintain dialogue with Iran. The Islamic Republic is trying to show that the deal will remain even with the departure of the US. That deal, for which there were days of discussions for every single line, now a main part of it against Iran is broken while Iran is pretending that the deal is there as before.

Abdullah Mohtadi (Komala): The Iranian regime missed the best opportunity it was given by the Obama administration. Contrary to what many in the West wished, Iran didn’t open up to the world, didn’t change its rhetoric and didn’t even soften its domestic policies. Instead, it adopted a more aggressive policy toward its neighbours, became more hostile to the US, and intensified its ballistic missile program. We should wait and see how the new policy ends up.

Do you think that US foreign policy under Barack Obama that resulted in the nuclear deal was the right strategy?

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I): In general terms, the events of recent years in the Middle East have shown that disengagement and leaving this region to itself are not the best strategy to pursue. As far as the nuclear deal is concerned, at the time it was concluded we saw it as a positive development provided that it really limits Iran’s margin of malicious action and that the nuclear issue ceases to

 

  In reality the policy of neither Obama or Trump has been in the long term interest of the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom and a better life. Yet, overall during Obama administration, the world was less worried about Iran’s role.   

attract the whole attention of the international community at the expense of the issue of the rights and freedoms of the peoples of Iran. The fundamental flaw of JCPOA was that, unlike its name, it was not comprehensive and related only to the nuclear program. I know the opposition of the hard wing of the regime to include other issues in the scope of the negotiations. But by leaving the Iranian regime free to use the funds released through the agreement to further its disruptive regional policies, the implementation of the agreement was inevitably doomed to failure.

Loghman H. Ahmedi (PDKI): It clearly was a wrong strategy, because it only strengthened Iran and empowered the theocratic regime in Tehran to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions more actively and at the same time oppress the people inside Iran more brutally. People also tend to forget that according to the deal, the arms embargo on Iran would be lifted in 2020, and the embargo on components of ballistic missiles would
end in 2023, end to cap on active centrifuges and controls on the acquisition of sensitive nuclear materials in 2025. If these aspects of the deal would have been fulfilled it would have given Iran even more leeway to rage havoc and destruction inside Iran and in the region.

Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): In reality the policy of neither Obama or Trump has been in the long term interest of the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom and a better life. Yet, overall during Obama administration, the world was less worried about Iran’s role. Today under the Trump administration, the danger of war and conflict among world powers, regional powers, and the start of another cold war are dominant. The US in both Trump and Obama administrations on one hand has tried to limit the hegemonic role of Iran in the region. On the other hand it has used the danger of Iran over its neighbors to increase arms in the region in the benefit of the US economy. Trump, as his administration has announced, does not pursue regime change in Iran, but wants to force the Islamic Republic to somehow cope with US interests.

Abdullah Mohtadi (Komala): President Obama’s Middle East policy was in fact disastrous for the region and harmful for US interests in the Middle East. I am not against the nuclear deal per se, the problem was that it emboldened the Islamic Republic of Iran and resulted in more domestic suppression and more foreign adventurism by the Iranian regime. Appeasement didn’t work.

Economic sanctions will harm Iranian citizens too. What is your comment on this?

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I): Nobody can deny the fact that economic sanctions first harm the population, especially the most vulnerable layers of the population. But who is to blame? Undoubtedly the Iranian regime. It is sad to see the people of a rich country like Iran taken hostage by the government of this country. It must also be remembered that the lifting of sanctions through the nuclear deal had not at all improved the lives of people in Iran. Its shows that the problem lies elsewhere. Moreover, as we have seen in recent months, the pressure felt by the Iranian citizens leads them to rise up and to take charge of their own destiny, which is not bad.

Loghman H. Ahmedi (PDKI): The sanction relief and economic opportunities that the nuclear deal gave Iran did not benefit ordinary people because the regime spent the money on its wars and different terrorist organizations. With or without economic sanctions, ordinary people’s economic situation is terrible because the clerical regime mishandles the country’s economy and wealth. Hence, economic sanctions would, first and foremost, hinder the regime from being able to pursue its dangerous and destructive policies.

Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): Without a doubt, economic sanctions will create more unemployment, hunger, and poverty, which are

 

  While much has changed with President Trump, we are still far from a clear strategy that inspires the hope and confidence of the Iranian people and the pro-change forces in Iran.  

not suitable conditions for revolution. If hunger and poverty could create suitable conditions for revolution, we should have many revolutions in Africa, Asia, and other areas around the world. The Islamic Republic through legal or illegal activities will find enough financial resources to maintain itself. Those who will not only get no benefit from economic sanctions, but will become poorer are most of the Iranian people.

Abdullah Mohtadi (Komala): Of course they will, but I blame the irresponsible and adventurous policies of the Iranian regime for that. They received huge sums of money after the nuclear deal but spent them to further their proxy wars in the region, ballistic missiles, and so on. These policies are harmful for Iranian citizens and provided reason to president Trump’s administration to leave the deal and restore sanctions. President
Rouhani’s new budget, which was adopted before US withdrawal, shows how little they care about their people.

The Trump administration has said they are not looking to bring about regime change in Iran. So will you support imposing sanctions? 

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I): As I mentioned before, neither the nuclear agreement nor the end of it and the related sanctions are

 

  Sanctions are a tool to weaken the regime. Our struggle is not linked to a particular US administration’s policy toward Iran.  

not options that we would have asked for or for which we would be consulted. For us, these are facts which we assess from the standpoint of their political impact. What we are saying is that sanctions alone are not enough. They should be placed within the framework of a more coherent and overall strategy. Americans lack such a strategy both in the region and vis-à-vis Iran. While much has changed with President Trump, we are still far from a clear strategy that inspires the hope and confidence of the Iranian people and the pro-change forces in Iran. The fact that the
international community or the Americans leave the regime change to the Iranians themselves is not necessarily bad. But without concrete measures against the disruptive policies of the regime in the region and without mechanisms of effective solidarity with the population against the regime’s repressive behavior, neither the region will experience peace and stability nor the Iranian population will reach freedom and prosperity.

Loghman H. Ahmedi (PDKI): Sanctions are a tool to weaken the regime. Our struggle is not linked to a particular US administration’s policy toward Iran. We fought for Kurdish rights when Iran, under the rule of the Shah, was a US ally. However, we

 

  The sanctions alone will not change much in the conditions of our struggle.   

have underlined to different stakeholders that their interests and regional stability and peace are closely tied to Iran’s political and military activities. Therefore, it would be in both our interests and different stakeholders interests to work toward bringing about regime change in Iran.

Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): We do not support imposing economic sanctions on Iran since we believe it will create unsuitable conditions for a fight against the Iranian regime. Economic sanctions will make people poorer and make it easier for the Iranian regime to deceive its people.

Abdullah Mohtadi (Komala):

I do believe that Iran badly needs a thorough regime change. It will be in the best interest of the Iranian people as well as the interests of the peoples of the region and the world. But regime change is something that the Iranian people should decide about. The recent developments in the country have convincingly shown the deep desire for a democratic change in the society. While striving for democracy has a history of more than a century, but, in my opinion, the Iranian society has never been so ripe and ready for it. It’s up to the Iranian people to bring about this democratic change. What they need is the support of the international community for their cause.


How will a new US policy on Iran affect your struggle? 

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I):
We are conducting a struggle that continues regardless of the state of relations of the Islamic Republic with the outside world. But we don’t neglect the fact that more international pressure on the Iranian regime is beneficial to

 

  The best strategy for the Americans towards Iran is to get out of the dilemma of choosing between maintaining the status quo forever and a military intervention that nobody knows when and how it will happen.  

our fight. That said, the sanctions alone will not change much in the conditions of our struggle. If, as we hope, the aspirations of the peoples of Iran are really taken into account in a global international strategy towards the Iranian regime, then we think that through our struggle background and our ability to mobilize the Kurdish population, we can be a privileged interlocutor. In any case, in the period ahead, although we attach particular importance to the mobilization of civil society, we do not exclude any legitimate form of struggle against this regime. We are preparing for the moment when both the international conjecture and the internal conditions will help put an end to the Islamic Republic.

Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): The return of the US economic sanctions will make our task more difficult. We consider ourselves part of the Iranian people, so it is normal for us to be against being poorer. Also this idea that a foreign super power from Europe and America will come and free the Iranian people is an illusion and will discourage a real struggle of the people inside Iran. This idea will cause people to rely on and wait for a foreign power, so we should seriously work on this new condition. The Islamic Republic will use the increase of its tensions with the US and Europe to spread fear among Iranians that what happened in Syria and Libya might happen in Iran.

In your perspective, what is the best US foreign policy? What do you want the European Union do in relation with Iran?

Asso Hassan Zadeh (KDP-I):
The best strategy for the Americans towards Iran is to get out of the dilemma of choosing between maintaining the status quo forever and a military intervention that nobody knows when and how it will happen. I think there is a third

 

  The best US policy is to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of Iran in conflict between Iranians with the regime.  

way to explore. It consists of effectively associating the forces that are for change in Iran and ensuring that the regime can no longer repress the peaceful movement of the population in the blood. To do this, we are ready to assist Americans in imagining legally and politically acceptable measures that are appropriate to the current and future realities of the Iranian society. But you are right to mention Europeans. The Iranian regime has always benefited from the difference of view between the United States and the European Union. Currently, Europeans seek to protect their companies dealing with Iran while admitting that a new comprehensive agreement involving the United States should be reached. It is rather contradictory. Without a unity of position between Europe and the United States, no international policy towards Iran is likely to succeed (unless one accepts the repetition
of the Iraqi scenario in Iran). It is time for Europeans to consider their interests in the longer term. We will have an internationally responsible regime only if this regime is accountable to its own citizens.

Loghman H. Ahmedi (PDKI): We believe that the international community, and especially democratic states that have an interest in bringing about peace and stability in the Middle East and Iran, need to empower and support the democratic opposition in Iran in order to bring about a new system of government that is inclusive, decentralized in the form of federalism, secular and democratic. A democratic, secular and federal Iran in which all nations have a real stake in the politics and economy of the country would not pose a threat to its neighbors or regional stability and peace.


Ebrahim Alizadeh (KCPI): The best US policy is to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of Iran in conflict between Iranians with the regime. It is for about 40 years that the US has tried different policies against Iran and the result is that it has helped the Iranian regime to persist. Europeans can close all embassies, cultural and intelligence centers of Iran in Europe. Europeans can bar Iranian diplomats and officials from traveling to European countries. Also they can stop selling guns and oppressive tools to the Islamic Republic. Plus Europeans can allow and encourage its media outlets to emphasize more human rights issues in Iran. Europeans have to stop hoping for reform within the regime. It was a shame for the all-women Swedish committee, who wore hijabs when they visited Iran. These policies that I mentioned will have much greater impact than economic sanctions that will harm Iranians first and foremost.

Abdullah Mohtadi (Komala): We appreciate the legitimate concerns of the Europe, the United States and the whole region about Iran’s nuclear program, as well as their concerns about the Iranian regime’s interventionist policies and its sponsorship of terrorism, but the best and lasting solution for all these concerns is to help bring about a democratic Iran. Let me add that the new democratic Iran should be a pluralist one where the rights of Kurds and other nationalities are respected and safeguarded by the constitution.

Comments

 
It should be clear to everyone | 28/5/2018
The only thing every real free Kurdistani ants is independence. We demand the right to control our own lands!
HansiOmerian | 28/5/2018
This is the road-map that the Rojhelat should follow: 1- Disband all of your ideological driven military structures immediately 2- Gather all your forces under a single banner and call it "The Army of East Kurdistan" 3- Prepare and organise your civil societies 4- Build governmental departments and structures 5- Get/stay in touch closely with the other West and South Kurdistan's institutions as well as the international community (+Diaspora) 6- Work closely with the International Coalition (militarily) and the Iranian organisations (secular, liberal) that don't oppose to a Kurdish autonomy. You have to be fast and punctual with your moves, it is no time to have internal ideological conflicts (you will have all the time in the world for that after the mergence of greater Kurdistan) but right now, everything that is Kurdish is at stake. "Eger hûn nebin yek, Hûn ê herin yek bi yek" -Cegerxwîn
Deathfortraitors | 29/5/2018
They want to be played by americans again. Lets be clear, separatism means death penalty.
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