Tehran & Ankara Flex
Following the onslaught of Islamic State (IS) into Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq, Kurdish armed factions from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey have increasingly coordinated the fight against IS. Transnational coordination has certainly energized the evolving process of Kurdish nationalism. This development has Ankara and Tehran alarmed, particularly given the increasing autonomy in Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq. The concern remains that developments in Syria and Iraq have potential to bring Kurdish unrest to the Iranian Kurdish Region (IKR) and Turkish Kurdish Region (TKR). In this context, both Tehran and Ankara governments have increased military actions in their respective Kurdish regions.
Elements of the Iranian military regularly display a presence in the Kurdish regions of western and northwestern Iran. As recent as April of 2015 high level Iranian military delegations, including a Brigadier General visited IKR. Additionally, an uptick of Iranian military exercises and the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has been reported in 2015. Furthermore, clashes between Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) and elements of the Iranian security forces were reported in the Jwanro region in May of this year, while confrontations between PJAK forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were reported in April. Furthermore, popular Kurdish protests occurred in the Mahabad region in April due to the death of a Kurdish woman who dropped from a hotel window after an apparent rape attempt on behalf of an Iranian security official.
Simultaneously, an increase of Turkish military presence and maneuvers has been reported from the TKR in 2015. This comes amidst an ever stalling peace process launched in 2013 between the government of Tayyip Erdogan and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Meanwhile, clashes between PKK forces and Turkish Security Forces have been reported in the Hakkari province of southeastern Turkey in recent weeks.
Given that Kurdish elements from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria continue to cooperate, it is likely that both Ankara and Tehran will continue to show in the TKR and IKR. The aforementioned incidents in Turkey and Syria highlight the ongoing potential for popular protest and armed conflict in the IKR and TKR. Furthermore, reported clashes are a sign that dialogue between the PKK and Ankara continues to cripple. Although Turkey and Iran are at times supportive of transnational Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq, Kurdish nationalism is unwelcome domestically by these governments.