Iran Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq

Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.

“The main agreement was not their displacement but rather their complete disarmament.”

Kurdish separatist groups in Iran and neighboring countries have been a scourge to Iran for decades.[i] However, over the past two years, the Iranian government has become much more assertive in demanding that Iraqi Kurdish authorities dismantle Iranian Kurdish bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan.[ii] In a series of recent meetings, Iranian officials have demanded that Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities completely disarm and relocate Iranian Kurdish separatist groups away from the Iranian border. In the excerpted article from the Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Bagheri, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general who serves as the Iranian military’s chief-of-staff, argues  for  a complete elimination of Kurdish safe havens inside Iraq. Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities suggest that Turkey’s establishment of a de facto buffer zone against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along the Iraq-Turkish frontier, combined with Turkey’s frequent bombing of alleged PKK targets in both Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish territory, motivated Iran to request similar privileges along Iraq’s eastern frontier. It is unclear if Iraq will act on Iran’s demands, but the possible creation of dual Turkish and Iranian buffer zones raises the prospect of the two countries fighting by proxy inside Iraq.


“Bagheri: Iraq Bayad Tajziyeh Taliban ra Tabegh Tavafegh ba Iran Haleh Saleh Konad” (Bagheri: Iraq Should Disarm the Separatists According to its Agreement with Iran),” Mehr News Agency (semi-official news agency owned by Iranian government’s Islamic Development Organization), 7 October 2023.

[Mohammad] Bagheri [chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces] continued, “The countries of Southwest Asia, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, are exceptional and unique due to having strategic and political geography, sitting astride the world’s communication highway and the strategic strait [of Hormuz]. They have rich mineral resources and fossil fuel resources, are home to the great heavenly religions, including the existence of the Qibla [in Mecca] and the shrine of the holy Imams of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and various other factors.”

He emphasized that the rich resources of the West Asian region and the special place of this region have always been coveted by the powers; our region is constantly witnessing foreign interference and discord among nations and governments.

He said, “We see that the enemies are always trying to create differences between countries in the region between ethnicities, tribes and religions and by weakening the legal sovereignty of countries, they constantly engage the region so that they can justify their aggressive presence due to the they create. A clear example of this was the creation of the Islamic State, which even to the leaders of the oppressive American state admitted was created by them….”He said, “The problem of the borders of Iran and our neighbors and the insecurities we have on our borders is an investigative and extremely important issue.” Referring to the movements of terrorists from across the borders of Sistan and Baluchestan [with Pakistan] and the [Iraqi] Kurdistan Region, Bagheri said, “What does it mean for Iranian separatist groups to be based in Iraqi Kurdistan and carry out all kinds of terrorist acts in our country? And we have to keep a lot of forces at the border. Iraqi officials also confirm that this issue must be resolved definitively. Last month, an agreement was reached between the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and the national security advisor of Iraq to complete disarmament within six months. In recent weeks, the Iraqi government and all the dear officials who are trying there have made some efforts. They have moved these groups from bases near our border, The main agreement was not their displacement of separatist forces but rather their complete disarmament.


[i] Iranian Kurdish insurgency predates Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Kurdish tribal revolts spanned the Ottoman-Persian frontier in the late 19th century. In the wake of both World War I and World War II, Iranian Kurds sought to assert local autonomy to fill the vacuum left by weak central government. This culminated in the 1946 establishment of the Mahabad Republic. In the years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, Kurds again rose in revolt, upset not only by traditional Persian ethnic condescension, but also by the Shi’ite Islamist regime’s new layer of sectarian discrimination against the largely Sunni minority. For background into these Kurdish tribal revolts, movements, and secessionist groups, see: Michael Rubin, Kurdistan Rising? Washington: AEI Press, 2016.

[ii] For previous discussion of Iranian impatience with Iraqi Kurdistan providing a safe-haven for Iranian Kurdish dissidents, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Vows Action Against Iraqi Kurdistan-Based Insurgents,” OE Watch, November 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.
Attribution: Islamic Republic News Agency

UN Assesses Core of Islamic State Stagnating, While Some Global Affiliates Thrive

Flag of the Islamic State.

“Despite significant attrition of the Da’esh leadership and a reduction in activity in the core conflict zone, the risk of resurgence remain[s].”

The United Nations Monitoring Team has released a new report on the status of the Islamic State (IS) around the world. The report details member states’ efforts to combat the group’s core presence as well as the activities of IS affiliate branches around the world.

The report notes that despite the international cooperation against the Islamic State, its core group, based in Iraq and Syria, still has an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 fighters. The report notes IS attacks have slowed from the previous reporting period (the second half of 2022), though the group maintains a low-level insurgency, particularly taking advantage of the security vacuums along the Kurdistan border in Iraq. The report also underscores that IS core’s reserves of $25 to $50 million have dwindled significantly, though it continues to raise funds, most commonly via kidnapping for ransom. Notably, the report relays that continued counterterror pressure from states around the world has led IS to adopt an increasingly decentralized model of governance extending to IS’s global provinces. While no evidence exists to demonstrate these provinces are being commanded and controlled by IS central, “reporting shows that financial, propaganda and other connections remain.” The satellite provinces of the Islamic State remain a concern. The report assesses the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) to be “the most serious terrorist threat in Afghanistan and the wider region.” With fighters and their family members estimated at between 4,000 and 6,000 individuals, the report notes that IS-K has adopted increasingly sophisticated tactics aimed at demonstrating the Taliban’s inability to ensure security.[i] The IS continued to demonstrate its staying power in Africa,[ii] the world region most beset by jihadist terror.[iii] In the Sahel,[iv] the report notes that the IS-Sahel province, “had become increasingly autonomous and had played a significant role in the escalation of violence in the region,” though curiously, the report makes no mention of the largest IS branch in Africa, the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP). The report notes that an estimated 300 to 500 fighters still exist in southern Libya, and that UN member states have grown concerned about the presence of a strengthening IS presence in Sudan considering the country’s recent political turmoil.


United Nations Security Council, “Seventeenth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat,” United Nations Security Council, 31 July 2023.

During the first half of 2023, the threat posed to international peace and security by Da’esh and its affiliates remained mostly high in conflict zones and low in non-conflict areas. However, the overall situation is dynamic, with notable subregional variation in activity. Leadership attrition, as well as counter-terrorism efforts by Member States in certain regions, continue to have an impact on Da’esh activities. Multilateral cooperation has remained essential to effectively responding to the threat, including through an integrated and balanced implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy…

Despite significant attrition of the Da’esh leadership and a reduction in activity in the core conflict zone, the risk of resurgence remained. The group has adapted its strategy, embedding itself with local populations, and has exercised caution in choosing battles that are likely to result in limited losses, while rebuilding and recruiting from camps in the north-east of the Syrian Arab Republic and from vulnerable communities, including in neighbouring countries…

The trend of counter-terrorist pressure prompting Da’esh to adopt less hierarchical and more networked, decentralized structures has continued, with operational autonomy in the affiliated groups. Member States have little evidence that the core leadership is exercising command and control of regional affiliates, although reporting shows that financial, propaganda and other connections remain…The group’s media apparatus leverages the operations of Da’esh affiliates in conflict zones in its propaganda efforts, reaching a wide audience, with the aim of radicalizing potential recruits, gaining support and inspiring attacks beyond conflict zones. While its previously well-developed external operations capability remained diminished and largely constrained, the ambition to reconstitute is clear. The situation in Afghanistan has become more complex, with increasing Member State concerns about the ability of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) (QDe.161) to project a threat both in the region and further afield…


[i] For more on the UN’s critiques of the Taliban, see: Jason Warner, “Taliban Responds to UN Reports Claiming Taliban Rule Aids Terrorist Expansion,” OE Watch,07-2023.

[ii] For more on the status of the Islamic State in Africa, see: Jason Warner, “UN Warns About Islamic State Surging in Africa and Afghanistan,” OE Watch,03-2023.

[iii] For more on Africa as the new epicenter of global terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “Global Terrorism Declined Slightly in 2022, With the Sahel as the New Epicenter,” OE Watch, 05-2023.; Jason Warner, “African Leaders, UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[iv] For more on the status of Al-Qaeda in the Sahel and Sahara, see: Jason Warner, “Leader of Al-Qaeda’s Sahelian Branch, JNIM, Explains His Group’s Goals,” OE Watch,05-2023.; Jason Warner, “Al-Qaeda Leader in Maghreb Celebrates French Departure, Claims No Plans To Attack French Homeland,” OE Watch,04-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Flag of the Islamic State. 
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0

Iran Unveils Updated Yasin Training Jet With Possible Close Combat Applications

The Yasin training jet, 11 March 2023.

The Yasin training jet, 11 March 2023.

“The Yasin will be able to be used… for close air support.”

In 2019 the Iranian military unveiled its new Yasin Training Jet [GRLCUT(1] to great fanfare. In March 2023, Iran announced the final prototype and Yasin production line, according to the excerpted article from the semi-official, pro-government Iranian Students’ News Agency. The latest variation of the training aircraft is said to include many upgrades, including new ejection seats, avionics, engine, and landing gear. An Iran-produced airborne weather radar has also been fitted into the Yasin. According to the article, since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, pilot training was put “on the agenda” of the Armed Forces, but Iran has continued to suffer from an aging fleet and untrained pilots.[i] The article suggests that pilot training is paramount in the development of the Yasin,[ii] but there is also speculation that Iran may fit the aircraft with weaponry, allowing it to become a low-cost, easy-to-operate, multi-role fighter with a focus on close air support. If Iran can produce the Yasin at scale, not only would it be a valuable training platform, but it could also be deployed to many of the conflict zones in which Iran has previously relied on drones for air support—namely Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The introduction of the Yasin, or any Iranian manned aircraft, into any of these conflicts would risk escalating these proxy wars further.


“Ravanma-ye az Namuneh Ma’yar Tawlid-e Jet-e Amuzesh-e ‘Yasin’ (Unveiling of the Training Jet Prototype ‘Yasin’),” Iranian Students’ News Agency (semi-official student-run news agency that promotes the Iranian government’s line), 11 March 2023.

The Yasin’s training jet production prototype was unveiled in the presence of the Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, while the mass production line of this training jet was also inaugurated…. Pilot training is one of the most advanced and complex training regimens that any country can do. The Islamic Republic of Iran has succeeded in applying world-class education in the fields of science and technology, and training pilots is no exception.

After the end of the [Iran-Iraq] war, the necessity for pilot training was put on the agenda of the Armed Forces. From that time, with the input of veterans and professors, faculties for training pilots were created….

So, how does the Islamic Republic of Iran train pilots and what is the role of Yassin training jet?

The training of the fighter aircraft pilot is fundamentally different from the civilian pilot. For military pilots, training is done in three stages: First, basic training for learning flight basics. Second, training for flight skills, regulations and maneuver. And, third, advanced training for tactical flight ability with advanced fighters. An important feature of advanced training jets is that pilots from operational bases continue to exploit them, and pilots become familiar with air combat and ground combat tactics and techniques, and learn the use of various weapons. All of these advantages and features have been the reason for…the Ministry of Defense to design and build this aircraft.

Does the aircraft also have combat capability?

Since combat training is in many cases carried out with real weapons and in simulated battle environments, it is natural that Yasin jet has the capability to conduct combat missions as well. In the development plan, it will be able to be used as a light combat aircraft and for close air support.


[i] For background on efforts within Iran to re-equip its air force, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran-China Air Force Cooperation on Horizon?” OE Watch, December 2015. See also: Michael Rubin, “Iranian F-14 Crash Highlights Iran’s Need for New Fighter Contract,” OE Watch, August 2022.

[ii] While a potentially positive step for the Iranian Air Force, the Yasin is not the bridge trainer required for Iran’s recent purchase of the Su-35 multi-role fighters from Russia. The Su-35 is far too complex and would necessitate a more advanced trainer. It is more likely that Russian pilots will train Iranian pilots to fly the Su-35.

Image Information:

Image: The Yasin training jet, 11 March 2023.
Attribution: Iranian Students’ News Agency

Degrading Environmental Conditions in Iraq Providing Cover for Terrorism

U.S. Soldiers walk from the dining facility during a sandstorm at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, July 4 (2009).

U.S. Soldiers walk from the dining facility during a sandstorm at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, July 4 (2009).

“…the number of dusty days increased from 243 days to 272 days per year over the past two decades, and is expected to reach 300 dusty days per year in 2050.”

Over a three-week span in April and May, the Iraqi news agency Shafaq News reported at least three separate attacks in which ISIS fighters took advantage of dust storms to attack Iraqi positions.  The attacks themselves are not novel, as ISIS and other rebel groups have used dust storms and sandstorms to conceal their movements during attacks in both Syria and Iraq for years.  Nor were the attacks particularly impactful, relegated to brief reports in local media.  The frequency and breadth of this year’s dust storms, however, have drawn substantial media attention.  As detailed in the accompanying excerpt from the influential Qatari outlet al-Jazeera, the number of annual “dusty days” is expected to reach 300 by the year 2050, up from 243 at the start of the millennium and 272 at present.  A major reason for this is Iraq’s accumulating environmental problems, which include ongoing drought, expanding desertification, extreme summer heat, and decreased water flows in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  Iraq’s dysfunctional political parties are unlikely to muster sustainable responses to these challenges, allowing the spiraling cycle to continue.  Those frustrated at the negative social impacts caused by environmental degradation are likely to channel this against authorities, giving ISIS and other insurgent groups an opening to continue recruiting among the increasingly disaffected population.


“بالتزامن مع عاصفة ترابية.. داعش يهاجم الجيش في الموصل والحشد يدخل الإنذار

(ISIS attacks the army in Mosul during dust storm, as PMF goes on alert),” Shafaq News (Iraqi news agency), 6 April 2022.

On Wednesday, ISIS militants attacked Iraqi army units in the city of Mosul, the center of Nineveh Governorate. A statement of the 44th Brigade in the Popular Mobilization (Ansar al-Marja’iya) stated that… “a very dense dust storm hit the city of Mosul at the time of the attack by ISIS.”


“جرحى بهجوم لداعش في الانبار مستغلا عاصفة ترابية تضرب المحافظة

(Injuries in ISIS attack in Anbar taking advantage of dust storm in the province),” Shafaq News (Iraqi news agency), 19 April 2022.

Imad Al-Dulaimi, the mayor of Al-Rutba district, western Iraq, revealed on Tuesday that six soldiers and civilians were wounded by ISIS militants who took advantage of a dust storm that hit the area.


“مسؤول حكومي: هجوم “البو طراز” خارج حدود ديالى وداعش استغل العاصفة

(Government official: Albu Tiraz attack outside of Diyala’s borders, as ISIS takes advantage of storm),” Shafaq News (Iraqi news agency), 2 May 2022.

Eyewitnesses in the village of Albu Tiraz revealed that ISIS militants took advantage of the dust storm and lack of vision to carry out the attack, as visibility did not exceed 10 meters.


“العواصف الترابية تضرب مدن وقرى العراق طوال السنة.. تعرف على الأسباب

(Reasons why dust storms hit Iraqi cities and villages throughout the year),” al-Jazeera (influential Qatari news outlet), 19 April 2022.

…according to the statistics recorded by the General Meteorological Authority, the number of dusty days increased from 243 days to 272 days per year over the past two decades, and is expected to reach 300 dusty days per year in 2050. About 70% of agricultural land in Iraq is degraded or threatened with deterioration, as a result of climate change and the loss of vegetation cover, which is the main factor for soil stabilization…

Image Information:

Image:  U.S. Soldiers walk from the dining facility during a sandstorm at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, July 4 (2009).
Attribution: Public Domain

ISIS Ramps Up Attacks in Iraq’s “Disputed Territories”

Disputed areas in Iraq.

Disputed areas in Iraq.

“… there is a 100% likelihood that ISIS will launch more attacks on the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army in the coming period…”

Recent ISIS attacks in northern Iraq’s “disputed territories” have raised concerns that the group is ramping up disruptive activities and seeking to re-emerge as a key player in the country.  The “disputed territories” lie at the edge of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and control over them is contested by the Erbil-based KRG and the Baghdad-based central government.  When it comes to these territories, the absence of effective security coordination between the two parties has created a security vacuum that ISIS fighters are exploiting, according to several media reports.

The attacks, which have mostly targeted Kurdish villages and Peshmerga checkpoints, have prompted high-level meetings and promises of better coordination between the KRG and the central government.  Kurdish leaders have criticized central government forces for failing to provide them with proper support and equipment, most notably surveillance drones, as noted in the accompanying excerpt from the Saudi news website Independent Arabia.  A second article from Independent Arabia details how the attacks have exposed fissures between the KRG’s two main political factions, one based in Erbil and the other in Sulaymaniyah.  Further entrenching the security vacuum, as explained in the accompanying excerpt from the pan-Arab daily al-Quds, is the likelihood of Shiite factions linked to Iran obstructing central government-KRG coordination, for reasons of their own.  Meanwhile, a Peshmerga official, cited in the excerpted article from the Kurdish media outlet Rudaw, claimed that ISIS is receiving unspecified “financial and logistical support from abroad” and that 200 militants had recently entered Iraq from Syria to carry out attacks on the group’s behalf.

These events are unfolding as Iraq’s political factions continue to squabble over the results of the recent, low-turnout parliamentary election and as the US-led anti-ISIS coalition completed its transition from a combat to an advisory role at the end of 2021.  The uptick in ISIS activities also coincides with the four-year anniversary of what may prove to be a premature declaration of victory over ISIS in Iraq, made by then-president Haidar al-Abadi in December 2017.


“داعش يصعد هجماته ضد الأكراد 

(ISIS Increases Attacks Against Kurds),” Independent Arabia (Saudi news website), 2 December 2021.

Peshmerga Minister Shorsh Ismail…criticized the performance of the federal army, saying that “its very slowness in taking measures gave ISIS an opportunity to reorganize itself. The army is unable to fill this vacuum, and the Peshmerga alone is unable to uproot ISIS, as it lacks aerial surveillance capabilities to monitor the group’s movements and the federal state will not provide us with the drones that we have been requesting for a long time, nor will the United States due to the federal government’s rejection.”


انقسام كردي حول أسباب خسائر البيشمركة أمام هجمات “داعش”

(Kurdish Divisions on Peshmerga Losses from ISIS Attacks),” Independent Arabia (Saudi news website), 7 December 2021.

Representatives and officials from the two parties that govern the semi-autonomous region, the “Democratic” party led by Massoud Barzani and the “Patriotic Union” led by the late President Jalal Talabani, disagreed on the nature of the problem in military coordination and different decisions, due to conflicting political orientations. The commander of the Patriotic Union Party organizations in the Qarachogh area of Makhmour district accused Barzani’s party of openly “cooperating with ISIS” by “publicly providing supplies to its gunmen,” as he put it, noting that “there are federal forces in Qarachogh Mountain and about a brigade of the Peshmerga led by Sirwan Barzani at the top of the mountain. This prevents any other force from coming to the area. ISIS fighters can be seen comfortably roaming around, and they go to the surrounding villages, despite the presence of 35 mounds held by the brigade there. When the attack occurred, they did not respond, or provide assistance, except for the regiment consisting of locals”… For years, Washington has been leading mediation efforts to unify the divided Peshmerga forces between the two parties, who had concluded an agreement in 2006 to unify the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah administrations, after they fought a civil war, and are still facing difficulties in implementing the terms of the agreement…

According to Kurdish leaders, ISIS militants have recently begun to change their fighting methods and expanded the scope and type of their attacks, moving beyond the stage of just planting explosive devices, killing individuals and displacing others, and now engaging in military operations aimed at asserting their presence, following the recent arrival of a group of fighters coming from Syria, calling themselves “Jund Allah,” which swore allegiance to ISIS.


“معلومات استخبارية: 200 مسلح لداعش تسللوا إلى الأراضي العراقية قادمين من سوريا

(Intelligence: 200 ISIS militants infiltrated Iraqi territory from Syria),” Rudaw (Kurdish media outlet), 30 November 2021.

The official of the Qarah Tapah – Hamrin II axis of the Peshmerga forces, Major General Mardan Jawshin, announced that they had received intelligence information that a force calling itself “Guardians of Religion,” consisting of 200 militants, “has pledged allegiance to ISIS and infiltrated into Iraqi territory coming from Syria”… regarding the recent increase in ISIS activities… he said that that ISIS is reorganizing its ranks and did not hide his belief that the organization “receives financial and logistical support from abroad,” referring to information that says that “the organization pays salaries to its militants and also pays salaries to the families of its dead…”  Major General Jawshin pointed to the security vacuum between the Iraqi army and the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces as “the reason for the increase in ISIS attacks”… He noted that the ISIS threat had reached a very high level, especially after the arrival of the aforementioned 200 militants from Syria, and said that there is a 100% likelihood that ISIS will launch more attacks on the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army in the coming period.


“تعاون بغداد وأربيل ضد «داعش» بين الضرورة وفقدان الثقة

(Baghdad-Erbil Cooperation Against ISIS Between Cooperation and Loss of Trust),” al-Quds (pan-Arab daily), 11 December 2021.

On the fourth anniversary of Baghdad’s declaration of the elimination of ISIS in 2017, Iraqis are following with concern the resurgence of attacks in many Iraqi provinces, despite all the security campaigns to hunt down the group’s remnants… observers fear that the state Shiite forces, which thwarted the Baghdad and Erbil agreement on the normalization of the situation in Sinjar, west of Mosul, will obstruct the agreement to deploy the Peshmerga in the disputed areas. This is especially true given that [Prime Minister] al-Kazemi, who was committed to concluding those agreements with the regional government, may not retain his post in the next government.

Therefore, the mutual accusations of exploiting terrorist organizations such as the Turkish Workers’ Party and ISIS and supporting their presence on Iraqi soil to achieve local and regional political agendas are not limited to Kurdish parties on the one hand, and the Shiites and Turkmen on the other hand, but rather also extends to leaders of the al-Fateh Alliance, which includes pro-Iranian factions, and which considers that the recent attacks in Kirkuk were intentional and motivated by political agendas aimed at providing justifications for the presence of US forces in Iraq, which are scheduled to depart at the end of this year. They also accuse the Kurdish leadership of fabricating or exploiting ISIS attacks in order to seek to restore the region’s control over Kirkuk and the areas disputed between the Baghdad and Erbil governments, after the expulsion of the Peshmerga from those areas in 2017, following the referendum on secession from Iraq.

Image Information:

Image:  Disputed areas in Iraq.
Source: Rafy,
Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons