Why Iran Targets the Kurdistan Region?
The Kurdistan region is home to bases of Iranian opposition armed groups. They are Kurds and have maintained their headquarters in the Kurdistan region since the early 1990s. These groups have never used the territory of the Kurdistan region to attack Iran. Only peshmerga positioned in Iran and commanded by Kurdish opposition groups conduct operations within Iran. Yet the IRGC frequently shells the territory. Before the September 28 attacks, the IRGC bombed multiple locations bordering Iran, especially the Bradost area.
Who Was Targeted?
Iran targeted several Kurdish opposition groups. The IRGC targeted the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPKI). It has a significant presence in Koya; many of its members live as refugees or have integrated into the people of Koya in Erbil. While a large number of its members live in diaspora, especially in Scandinavian countries, and work towards the party's aims through civil society organizations. The party controls a Saddam-era castle and holds regular high-level meetings, colloquially known as DPKI castle Koya. PDKI also said two people had been killed in attacks on its houses near Koya. A portion of this attack was caught on video, and journalists were reportedly wounded. A K24 journalist, while covering the attacks live, was hit by a missile and lost his legs.
Kurdistan Freedom Party (KFP) was attacked near Pride with drones and missiles. The KFP played roles in fighting ISIS alongside the Kurdistan region Peshmerga forces. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) backs the KFP, and its leaders live in Erbil. The group's leader, Hussein Yazdanpanah, became well known during the war against ISIS. Iran now appears to be expanding its areas of operations in Iraq to target the group. The KFP claimed to have downed one of the drones in Pride, KurdSat reporter in Prde said.
When KurdSat's correspondent went to Pride to cover the events, the KDP security forces in Pride broke the Camera and equipment of the KurdSat reporter; the scene was caught on Camera and widely circulated on social media.
Mustafa Hijri leads the PDKI and recently reunifies with the KDP-I; the two groups separated 16 years ago. Iran has assassinated many of its leaders. In 1989, Iran assassinated PDKI leader Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in Vienna and killed his successor Sadegh Sharafkandi several years later. PDKI and KDPI unification might have played a role in the attacks on them, as recently, Iran accused the Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the Kurdistan region behind the nationwide protests in Iran.
Iran has also targeted Komala, or Kurdistan Tailor's Party, another Kurdish group. Iran arrests group members, most of whom have left the region for Europe or elsewhere. The only opposition group not targeted in the September 28 attacks is Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). The group of PKK's sister organization in Iran has a united command with the PKK.
Where Was Hit?
The attacks were concentrated on Sulaimani and Erbil. The first swarm of drones targeted KDPI bases in Koya around 7:00 AM, the KurdSat report said. The attacks continued until late afternoon. Later it targeted Zirgwezala in southern Sulaimani. Zirgwezala is home to Komala bases, and many of their political refugees are leaving the area. Several refugee homes were destroyed by Kamikaze drones, a member of Komala speaking to KurdSat English said. One of the Kamikaze drones falling into a base in Zir Gwezala was caught on Camera and widely shared on social media.
The coordinated drone attack comes after Iran sold several of its drones to Russia, where it was deployed against the Ukrainian army, and so far, it has proven effective. Iran's use of drones in the region helps its drone brand to attract more customers.
The commander of the ground forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Muhammad Pakpour, announced, on Wednesday, that his country launched 73 ballistic missiles and dozens of drones at 43 points in the Kurdistan region, Al-Arabiya reported.
What Weapons Were Used?
Iran’s recently popularized Kamikaze Shaheed-136 drone was used in the attack, according to IRNA. The same model was sold to Russia and used against Ukraine. Iran state media reported the deployment of Fath-360 missiles in the attack, the latest of the Islamic Republic’s satellite-oriented missile system. the recent attacks were more precise than the previous ones. In 2020, in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq, some of which fell to the ground before hitting their targets and were widely mocked on Kurdish social media as the rockets hovered over the Kurdistan region skies.
The Kurdistan Regional Government's health ministry said on September 28, "Today's attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran that targeted several areas in the Kurdistan Region has killed 9 people, including 1 civilian, and left more than 30 more wounded. Hospitals are currently providing treatment for the wounded."
Kurdistan region government and Parliament condemned the attack and called on the international community to put an end to the attacks. The KRG wrote, "The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) strongly condemns the repetitive violations of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region.
Attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran's missiles, under any pretext, is an incorrect stance that promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events. We strongly condemn these continuous attacks which result in the death of civilians, and we call for an end to these violations."
The US department of state condemned the attack. It said, "We strongly condemn Iran's use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan Region as an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are also aware of reports of civilian casualties and deplore any loss of life caused by Today's attack."
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) noted, "Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, rejects the idea that it can be treated as the "backyard" of the region where its sovereignty routinely violates its neighborhood with impunity. Missile diplomacy is a reckless act with dire consequences. These attacks must stop immediately."
Iraq summoned the Iranian ambassador and condemned the attacks, calling it a "dangerous development that threatens the security and sovereignty of Iraq."
"We view Iran's attacks on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq against the background of the domestic political protests in Iran with great concern," Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a new statement.
US Central Command Downs An Iranian Drone
"At approximately 2:10 PM local time, US forces brought down an Iranian Mojer-6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle headed in the direction of Erbil as it appeared as a threat to CENTCOM forces in the area," US Central Command said in a statement. The statement was "Statement regarding Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' unprovoked attack in Iraq's Erbil Governorate."
The wave of the attacks were unprecedented in scale and it shows Iran that it could break other limits without retaliation from the groups and regions it targets, turning the Kurdistan region into a playground for the various state and non-state actors in the region. Once one of the most stable and peaceful places in the world, the Kurdistan region might turn into regional battleground.
Map of Targeted Locations