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Analysis

Iran’s Kurdish opposition reacts to latest US moves against Tehran

By Ahmed Y. Hamza 20/5/2018
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Iran’s Kurdish opposition reacts to latest US moves against Tehran
Leaders of the new coalition of Kurdish parties (front row from right) Qader Wrya, Saleh Sharifi, Muhammad Nazif Qaderi, Reza Kaabi, Kamil Nurani, Sohaila Qadri. Photo: Qader Wrya / Facebook
With US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has launched a bid to keep the accord alive with the support of European signatories. But how are these new developments viewed by Iran’s Kurdish opposition parties?

The Trump administration withdrew from the deal in early May arguing the arrangement failed to deter Iran from its adventurism in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. 

Inside Iran, the new US policy, which includes fresh sanctions and the assembly of a global coalition against Tehran, will likely have a substantial impact on the struggle of Iranians for freedom and better living conditions. 

Iran’s Kurdish opposition parties, despite their shortcomings and historical disunity, are among the most organized and influential players who could stand to gain from the new situation. 

In January 2018, a new coalition was formed between five Kurdish opposition parties, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I), the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KPIK), the Komala Party of Kurdistan (KPK), and Xabat. 

The Kurdistan Free Life Party has been excluded from the coalition, accused of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a named terrorist group. The Komala-Communist Party of Iran (KCPI) has not joined yet, calling for an open coalition that includes all parties of Iranian Kurdistan. 

All of Iran’s Kurdish opposition parties, except KCPI, appear to have softened their leftist ideologies. The KCPI, meanwhile, maintains its pessimism towards the US.  

“The best US policy is to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of Iran in conflict between Iranians with the regime,” Ebrahim Alizadeh, general secretary of KCPI, told Rudaw English. 

“For about 40 years the US has tried different policies against Iran and the result is that it has helped the Iranian regime to remain,” he added. 

Other parties have tried to soften such stringent criticism and have invited international support for the cause of Kurdish nationalism in Iran. Asso Hassan Zadeh, deputy-secretary general of KDP-I, welcomes the US move. 

“Given that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a decision taken in relation to a regime that we are fighting against, the most natural position for us is to welcome this decision,” he told Rudaw English.

This marks a major transformation, as many of these parties have long called for the overthrow of capitalism and the US order.  

Although US sanctions cause harm to Iranian citizens, many of these Kurdish parties think the Iranian regime is the cause of this suffering. As they see it, even the 2015 deal didn’t lead the Iranian government to provide better economic conditions, and its adventurism in the region only increased. 

“They – the Iranian regime – received huge sums of money after the nuclear deal, but spent it to further their proxy wars in the region, on ballistic missiles, and so on,” Abdullah Mohtadi, KPIK secretary, told Rudaw English. 

In December 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani submitted the Persian New Year budget bill devoting hundreds of million dollars to religious institutions and increasing the military budget by 90 percent. Meanwhile he cut subsidies for the poor. 

The Iranian regime has not been able to translate the 2015 nuclear deal into better living conditions for its people. Loghman H. Ahmedi, a member of the KDPI’s executive board, told Rudaw English: “With or without economic sanctions, ordinary people’s economic situation is terrible because the clerical regime mishandles the country’s economy and wealth.”

Influential voices believe the Trump administration should include Iran’s ethnic minorities, particularly Kurds, in the new US policy against Iran. 

On August 28, 2017, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, published a piece in the National Review outlining how to withdraw from the Iran deal and how to act afterwards. 

Bolton suggested a new US policy that provides support and assistance to the Iranian democratic opposition, including Iranian Kurds, with the ultimate aim of democratizing Iran. 

Mohtadi, referring to widespread protests that swept Iran in March, said: “The Iranian people should decide about regime change … and what they need is the support of the international community for their cause.” 

Elizadeh meanwhile wants Europeans to stop excusing human rights violations and “stop hoping for reforms within the regime.” 

The west has lately focused exclusively on Iran’s nuclear program. But for many Iranians, being democratic and internationally responsible are intrinsically linked. Calling for unity between the US and Europe against the Islamic Republic, Hassan Zadeh concludes: “We will have an internationally responsible regime only if this regime is accountable to its own citizens.”

Besides international support, it seems clear Iran’s Kurdish opposition parties need to establish a more inclusive coalition including all parties. This includes offering citizens the right to decide whether they support the Kurdistan Free Life Party as a party of Iranian Kurds in a free and fair election. 

It would also appear the coalition of Kurdish parties need to agree on a united platform for the US and European leaders if they want to count on their support in future. 

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