Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
Sponsoring Kurdish Guerilla Attacks Inside Iran
We speak with independent
journalist Reese Erlich about his report on Iranian
Kurdish guerillas based among their Kurdish bretheren
in northern Iraq.
Erlich writes, "Kurdish and American sources say
the United States has been
supporting guerilla raids against Iran, channeling the money through
organizations in Iraqi Kurdistan." [rush
Iran's capture of the 15 British sailors and marines took place
as the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of further sanctions
for its refusal to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. The economic
sanctions target Iran's
arms exports, state bank, and its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Iranian
government denounced the sanctions package as illegal and announced it would
limit cooperation with UN nuclear watchdog agency.
- Reese Erlich, an independent radio producer and
journalist. He reports on Iran
in the latest issue of Mother Jones and is author of the forthcoming book
"The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East
AMY GOODMAN: We are
going to turn now to Reese Erlich, an independent
radio producer and journalist, who reports on Iran, in the latest issue of Mother
Jones, and is the author of the forth-coming book The Iran Agenda: the
Real Story of U.S. Policy in the Middle East Crisis. I spoke with him
yesterday in San Francisco and asked what effect
the Security Council sanctions will have on Iran.
REESE ERLICH: I think
the newest U.N. sanctions were clearly sponsored and passed only because of U.S. pressure.
They don't do a lot to actually effectively impact Iran that much. They increase the
freezing of some Iranian individuals' assets, a few other things. They also, it
might be noted, reiterate the U.N. call to make all of the Middle East nuclear
free and that includes Israel.
And I'm sure that's not something the Bush administration is going to trumpet
when it talks about those latest U.N. sanctions. Again, I think in the wider
context, the sanctions that passed by the U.N. are part of an escalating effort
to pressure Iran to
basically toe the line for U.S.
interests in the area.
AMY GOODMAN: In the
latest edition of Mother Jones, you have a piece where you talk about the
Iranian/Kurdish guerrillas. Explain who and where they are.
REESE ERLICH: In Northern Iraq there are three Iranian Kurdish groups that
operate and that have compounds and do political organizing. Keep in mind that
the Kurdish people of Iran
face a great deal of oppression, they're not allowed to learn in their own
language in the schools. They face discrimination. They're a great deal poorer
than the rest of Iran.
So the Kurdish people have very legitimate grievances against the government in
Tehran. The U.S. has taken
advantage of that.
In the case of one group, the P.K.K. or the Kurdistan
Workers Party and they are along with Israel
sponsoring them to carry out guerrilla raids inside Iran
and its part of a much wider plan by the United
States to foment discontent and actual terrorist
activities by ethnic Iranians in various parts of Iran. And when I was in northern Iraq, I was able to determine that that kind of
activity is going on from Iraqi soil under the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq, into Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: How did
you get to the guerrilla camp?
REESE ERLICH: Well,
it's quite interesting, two cell phone calls and a drive up into the mountains.
One of the arguments by the Kurdish regional government of Iraq and of the United States is that they can't
find these guerrillas because it's so inhospitable territory that no one can
find them. They're operating from secret bases, et cetera. But all I did was
drive up into the closest Iraqi village and asked the local driver and they say
oh, yeah, which of the guerrilla camp do you want to see and we'll take you
right up to them. So they are very easy to find.
AMY GOODMAN: So now,
explain the difference. Explain the P.K.K. and the P.J.A.K.
REESE ERLICH: The P.K.K.
is the mother organization if you will. It was founded by Oshelan,
the Turkish Kurd who is now in jail, charged with terrorism. The P.K.K.
by the way, is listed on the United States State
Department List of Terrorist Organizations. The P.J.A.K., the Party for Free
Life of Kurdistan is the Iranian
affiliate. The P.K.K., about two years ago split into four parties in
each of the countries where is the Kurds live. In Syria, Iraq, Turkey
So the P.J.A.K. is the Iranian affiliate. Basically they're still part
of the same organization. In order to get to the P.J.A.K. interviews
that I did, you had to go through two P.K.K. based camps with
walkie-talkies and soldiers and guerillas and so on. For all intents and
purposes they're the same thing.
AMY GOODMAN: And can
you explain the U.S.
relationship with these organizations?
REESE ERLICH: Well,
it's very complicated. Because on the one hand, the United
States is very much opposes to the P.K.K.'s
actions in Turkey.
On the other hand they're supporting P.K.K.'s
attack on Iran.
This is kind of typical of the clandestine efforts by the United States when we saw the U.S. support for the Mujahadeen
against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
They sided with some pretty nefarious characters who
ended up forming al Qaeda and bombing New
So once again, the U.S. is allying with one faction of this
party, but not with the other, playing a very dangerous game and they're
playing a very similar game with the Mujahadeen al-Halb, another Iranian group and with groups in Baluchestan which is near the Pakistan Iranian boarder
where some revolutionary guard buses were blown up. It's a very very dangerous, duplicitous game that the United States
AMY GOODMAN: You
talked about how Ochelanís political organization,
Radical Kurdistanís Workers Party, P.K.K. is classified as a terrorist
organization by the U.S. State Department. And then P.J.A.K.ís
relationship with the party supposed to be at arms length. You had to pass
through two P.K.K. checkpoints on your way to the guerrilla camps each
of them relaying information up the line via walkie-talkie?
REESE ERLICH: That's
exactly right. No among other Kurdish groups that I spoke to, no one thinks
that the P.K.K. and the P.J.A.K. are really separate
organizations. At a minimum they very clearly coordinate their activities, get
funding, weapons, et cetera. But I think in practice, their function is one
AMY GOODMAN: And the Kurdish organizing in the University of Sulamani?
REESE ERLICH: Well,
thatís very interesting. The political parties in northern Iraq, the Iranian
Kurdish political parties include the K.D.P.I. which is the Iranian
Kurdish -- it's a Kurdish party of Iran Ė letís try that again, K.D.P.I. is
the Democratic Kurdish Party of Iran, and Komala,
are two long standing organizations, they carry out political organizing among
Iranian Kurds. As I mentioned, the situation is very difficult for Kurds living
They cross over into the border into Iraq sometimes. It's very easy to
get across the smugglers trails. So those two parties have Peshmurga
guerrilla groups, but they are not engaged in armed activity against the United States.
So when you go to the University in Sulamani, the
different Kurdish parties have their supporters and they organize house
meetings and various kinds of political activities to support their demands
within Iranian Kurdistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Reese Erlich, the Guardian newspaper recently reported
that the Bush administration is scrambling to prevent Turkey from attacking Kurdish controlled areas
in Northern Iraq. U.S.
officials fear such an attack would open up a third front in the battle to save
from disintegration. Turkish sources said special forces
operations have already begun in northern Iraq to target fighters connected
to the P.K.K. the Kurdish Workerís Party.
This would not be the first time Turkeyís
invaded Northern Iraq 10 years ago. Turkey sent 40,000 troops into Iraq. But there
has been no large scale Turkish interventions since
invasion. The U.S. Has vowed to crack down on the P.K.K., but Turkey accuses the U.S.
for playing a double game in Northern Iraq.
Officials say the C.I.A. is covertly funding and arming the P.K.K.
sister organization the Iran
based Kurdistan Free Life Party to destabilize the Iranian government.
REESE ERLICH: That's
exactly what I was alluding to earlier which is, the U.S. plays a very, very
dangerous game by supporting some in the ethnic communities who have legitimate
grievances against Iran. So the Turks know exactly what's going on, they don't
believe the disclaimers issued by the United States. They have their own
agenda to pursue. The Kurds of Turkey face a great deal of oppression, probably
even worse than inside Iran.
There have been horrendous crimes committed by the Turkish government against
the Kurdish population and for some, the P.K.K.
is seen as a legitimate resistance organization. The problem of course is it's
more or less a cult formed around Oshelan and you've
got two, the Turkish government on the one hand and the P.K.K. on the
other, neither which offer a real alternative for the Kurdish people.
has indeed invaded Northern Iraq in the 1990's
in an attempt to wipe out the P.K.K. which was unsuccessful. At a time
when the U.S. is escalating
the war in Baghdad, threatening to attack Iran, suddenly Turkey
could get involved in clashes with the Kurdish regional government in Iraq. So what
is now a mess, will become an incredibly bigger mess.
AMY GOODMAN: And
finally Reese Erlich, the relationship of Britain and Israel, both U.S. Allies with these
REESE ERLICH: Israel is backing various Kurdish groups. Both
among the Iraqi Kurds as well as the P.J.A.K. among the Iranian Kurds.
For Israel that have a long history of supporting non-Arab countries in an
effort to divide the Arab world so they supported the Shah of Iran, Hali Salasi in Ethiopia.
Turkey, they were allied in Turkey for many
years and they see trying to use the Kurds in the same way. You have Israeli
security officials training the guards at the Arabial Airport
in northern Iraq.
You have training of special anti-terrorism squads. I think they're working
with P.J.A.K. although this is all denied by P.J.A.K. and the
Israelis are also playing a very dangerous game because they are intervening in
the affairs of Iraq and causing a great deal of trouble both for Iran and now
they're outs with Turkey who was their long-time ally.
AMY GOODMAN: You
described in your forth coming book about Israel
participating actively in -- with Mossad agents
posing as businessmen setting up shop in the K.R.G. soon after the 2003 U.S. invasion,
in B.B.C. TV, discovering Israeli former special
forces soldiers training Kurdish security at the airport. Say more about
REESE ERLICH: Yeah,
exactly. The B.B.C. did a very good television special in which they
interviewed these former Israeli intelligence agents who are now allegedly
working as private contractors, much like the C.I.A. does with it's agents
around the world. So it was on TV and when I asked the Iran -- the
Iraqi officials about this, they denied everything, even though they had been
on TV and an obviously reputable news organization. I had talked to various
people who had met with supposed Israeli businessmen who were much more
interested in arms trades and intelligence and that sort of thing.
So the Israelis have significantly stepped up their
activities in northern Iraq.
I think if ultimately the Iraq war goes very badly for the United States, as
all indications are that it will, eventually Iraq will split into three
different countries including an independent Kurdistan on the north and the
Israelis hope to benefit from that by having a beachhead against the Sunni and
the Shiia and Arab parts of Iraq and as well as the
other neighboring Arab countries. That's a long time goal of the Israelis.
AMY GOODMAN: Reese Erlich is an independent radio producer and journalist, he
reports on Iran
on the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine. He is the author of the
forth coming book The Iran Agenda: The Real Story
of U.S. Policy in the Middle East Crisis. I spoke to him in San Francisco.