Iran-Iraq Agreement: Addressing Kurdish Militant Threats

In a new agreement between Iran and Iraq, the latter country has promised to disarm Iranian-Kurdish militant groups in the northern part of the country as well as to relocate them. Established in an autonomous northern region in Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) has been accused of sponsoring “terrorist” government opposition groups, and Tehran has also accused the K.R.G. of using its border with Iraq as a base to launch an attack against its territory. Thus, Iran has placed extreme importance on the accord, giving Iraq until mid-September to accomplish its share of the bargain.

If Baghdad fails to “meet its commitments,” Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanani, warned, “the Iranian government will assume its responsibility, in order to ensure the country’s security.”

The Kurds are a Middle Eastern ethnic group that originated in present-day southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, northern Iraq, northwest Iran, and southwestern Armenia. Estimates say there are around 25 to 35 million Kurds living in these regions of the world. Despite these numbers, they have never been able to establish an independent Kurdish state to peacefully settle and rule. Historically, movements attempting to establish a Kurdish state have powerfully been struck down. Thus, there have been constant clashes between the Kurds and the aforementioned countries, as they attempt to distinguish themselves from others through language, culture, and race.

The tension between Iranians and Kurds stems from religious differences. While most of Iran’s population identifies itself as Shia Muslim, Kurds largely identify as Sunni Muslims. Despite sharing a racial heritage, religion is one of the factors that make these groups perceive each other as different.

It is worth recognizing both established countries’ efforts to resolve their disputes diplomatically and peacefully. As a sovereign state, Iran has the right to defend its territory from outside sources it perceives as enemies. Still, to avoid the possibility of confrontation, the international community should make sure that Iraq completes its part of the agreement to ensure that Iran does not carry out its promise to remove the Kurdish militant groups along the border itself. Because the K.R.G. is established in the northern part of Iraq, taking into account Baghdad’s historically tense relationship with Tehran, it would not be unreasonable for Iran to suspect that Iraq and the K.R.G. are working together to destabilize their neighbour.

Time will tell if Iraq completes its part of the agreement. In the meantime, the international community must stay attentive to the protection of Iran’s national sovereignty and bilateral agreements.