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April 3, 2006
Iranian Kurds Take On Teheran

The Kurds of Iraq have enjoyed their taste of freedom so much that they wish to extend it to their cousins across the border. The Washington Times reports on the efforts of a secular, Western-sympathetic band of insurgents that have targeted the Iranian military in a region of the Islamic Republic that has four million Kurds living under the mullahcracy's thumb:

A little-known organization based in the mountains of Iraq's Kurdish north is emerging as a serious threat to the Iranian government, staging cross-border attacks and claiming tens of thousands of supporters among Iran's 4 million Kurds.

The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, better known by the local acronym PEJAK or PJAK, claims to have killed 24 Iranian soldiers in three raids against army bases last month, all staged in retaliation for the killing of 10 Iranian Kurds during a peaceful demonstration in the city of Maku.

Three more soldiers from Iran's elite Republican Guard were killed last week in a gunbattle near the Iraqi border, Iran's official news agency reported.

But the greater threat to the Tehran regime may come from the group's underground effort to promote a sense of identity among Iranian Kurds, who make up 7 percent of that country's population. PEJAK leaders say the effort is spreading quickly among students, intellectuals and businessmen.

"The Iranian government's plan to create a global Islamic state is destroying our people's culture and values," said Akif Zagros, 28, a graduate in Persian literature who was interviewed in a simple stone hut at the group's headquarters. "So we fight back. But our aim is not just to bring freedom to Kurds, but to liberate all the peoples of Iran."

It's amazing that the Kurds remain so pro-Western, considering the raw deal that the West has given them since Winston Churchill started dividing up Southwest Asia. I greatly admire Churchill, but when he was wrong, he was wrong big. He opted for the early 20th century version of realpolitik in denying the Kurds their own nation, instead splitting them up across four or five other countries and ensuring their minority status in each one. Churchill decided that making the Arabs happy was more important than giving the Kurds their own homeland in order to pursue freedom on their own terms.

After that kind of betrayal, one might expect the Kurds to reject Western thought, but they have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the West in the region. Given the opportunity, they have embraced democracy, secular government, free markets, and fought Islamist terror on our behalf. We may have done better supporting an independent Kurdistan in the long run; the results would have been more obvious, if more costly in relations with the Turks and the Shi'ites.

Even now we still don't give them the support they desire. James Brandon notes that the PJAK sees no Western support, especially in terms of money or weapons. Yet they continue with their mission, treating men and women with equality in the ranks and fighting side by side to free not just the Kurds but all of Iran from the grip of Islamist tyranny. If the US wants to see the mullahcracy gone, at some point they may want to consider the Kurds as an agent of change.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 3, 2006 6:59 AM

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