The leader of a dissident Kurdish organization in Iran says his forces killed more than 300 Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops, including three generals and 15 decorated commanders while sustaining just 16 casualties, during two weeks of running battles along the Iran-Iraq border last month.
During an exclusive interview with Newsmax in Stockholm, Rahman Haj Ahmadi said his group, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, commonly known as PJAK, had advance warning that Iran’s forces planned to attack its bases in the Qandil Mountains along Iraq’s northeastern border with Iran. So PJAK developed guerilla tactics to ambush the attacking forces and drive them back across the border into Iran.
“Now everyone can see how powerful PJAK has become,” Ahmadi said. “For Kurds, Qandil has become like Mecca, a sacred place. This is where we have shown our strength.”
Iranian troops attacked PJAK forward positions on the Iranian side of the mountains on July 16, inflicting heavily losses among the guerilla forces.
“We lost eight fighters in the first day of this war, and for us this was a heavy loss,” Ahmadi said.
Despite the casualties, PJAK forces drove the Iranians back.
Over the next few days, Iranian troops tried to cross the 12,000-foot Qandil Mountains several times to attack PJAK training camps inside Iraq but were driven back.
“The fighting was so close that they couldn’t use their technology against us,” Ahmadi said. “It was hand-to-hand combat.”
Iran’s biggest advantage was access to intelligence from Israeli-made Heron surveillance drones that Turkish Special Forces troops flew over the battlefield in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “This limited our ability to move, but it didn’t matter much since most of our positions were underground,” Ahmadi told Newsmax.
Over the next 10 days, the battle moved back into Iran, where PJAK forces attacked IRGC garrisons and flying roadblocks that Iranian troops had set up to harass Kurdish villagers and press them into military service against the guerillas.
“In one attack against an IRGC roadblock, one of our female commanders single-handedly killed 15 of their troops. This is a huge shift in the Islamic world. Not only do we treat women as equals, but they are heroes,” Ahmadi said with pride.
Roughly 40 percent of all PJAK leaders and guerilla fighters are women, unlike the traditional Iranian Kurdish parties that have excluded women activists until just recently. Three of PJAK’s 16 casualties were women.
Although Iranian accounts differ dramatically from PJAK’s claims, the state-run Keyhan daily confirmed that the IRGC was taking heavy losses in its fight against the Kurdish guerillas.
On July 22, the regime acknowledged that the commanding general of the attacking force and five other senior officers had been killed during the fighting. The next day, they had a public funeral for the six officers that was broadcast on state television.
Iran also has acknowledged it was calling up veteran commanders from the 1980-1988 Iraq war in Gilan province because it had lost so many officers during the fighting.
“The heavy losses have demoralized them, so they are starting to bring fresh troops into the region,” Ahmadi said. “We are expecting another attack. They can’t back down.”
Ahmadi said there is substantial evidence that Turkey aided Iran in the recent fighting, which would violate Turkey’s status as a NATO member.
“Our people repeatedly saw Turkish tanks crossing back and forth between Turkey and Iran to help the IRGC in the battle,” he said.
The local Kurdish militia repatriated the bodies of five Turkish soldiers who had been killed in the fighting in Sardasht, far from Turkey, according to the Firat News agency.
“Turkey is using its relationship with Iran to hold America hostage,” Ahmadi said. “They are basically saying to Washington, if you weaken your support for us, we will strengthen our ties with Tehran.”
The IRGC tried to mobilize local Kurdish militia units to attack PJAK activists living near the town of Sanandaj but faced high desertion rates and started offering $1,800 bonuses to anyone who agreed to fight.
“One man in Sardasht was running back to his home to escape the recruiters,” Ahmadi said. “They shot him in the back.”
An ambulance was traveling so fast from Schoor to Urmiyeh that it drove off the road. When local villagers went to help they found the bodies of 10 Kurdish civilians the IRGC had killed. “They were being rushed to the morgue in Urmiyeh so they wouldn’t be found by the local population,” Ahmadi said.
The IRGC also used guerilla fighters from Ansar al Islam, an al-Qaida affiliate operating in the Kurdish region run by Mullah Krekar, who now lives in Norway. Videos on Kurdish YouTube channels show Ansar al Islam fighters visiting the local morgues to claim their dead.
“Iran’s goal is to drive PJAK out of Qandil and replace us with Ansar al Islam, al-Qaida, and Hezbollah,” Ahmadi said. “If Qandil falls, the Kurdish Regional Government [in Iraq] will come under Iranian control. Then Iran will control both the Shia and the Kurdish populations in Iraq.
“I fear the United States is not aware of how great a danger this is, not just for Iraq, but for U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Revolutionary Guards had so many casualties in some areas of Iran that remained under PJAK control that they were afraid to return to the battlefield to reclaim them, Ahmadi said.
Large areas of Iranian Kurdistan, including the cities of Sardasht, Baneh, Piranshah, and Urmiyeh, are still closed to non-military traffic because of the large numbers of IRGC troops.
The current round of fighting essentially ended when PJAK attacked a large IRGC garrison on July 26
, inflicting major casualties and breaking the momentum of the Iranian offensive.
During the past week, the Iranian regime has put out feelers to PJAK to negotiate an end to hostilities and to surrender its arms. Other Iranian Kurdish parties have negotiated separate peaces with the regime after major military clashes in the past.
Ahmadi was adamant that PJAK will not lay down its arms unless the regime agrees to its seven-point plan for transforming Iran into a democratic confederation, where the cultural and political rights of all Iranians, regardless of their ethnic background, will be respected throughout the country, without breaking Iran into separate ethnic regions or states.
“We are not just fighting for Kurds, but for the rights and the freedom of all Iranians,” Ahmadi told Newsmax. “Think of Iran as a burning seven-story building, with Kurds living on the fourth floor. How can you save your own apartment, unless you fight the fire to save the whole building?” he said.
“We are hoping to free Iran from Qandil, and welcome all who want to join this fight.”
Iran continues sporadic shelling of Iraqi Kurdish villages in the border region, prompting yet another protest from the government of Baghdad to the Iranian ambassador on Wednesday. Iranian forces attempted to attack a PJAK camp inside Iraq again on Wednesday but were repulsed, local news agencies reported.
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