By Babak Dehghanpisheh BEIRUT (Reuters) - A decision by a Kurdish opposition group to take up arms against Iranian authorities has senior officials in Tehran worrying that Saudi Arabia is seeking to undermine its stability in a deepening of their regional rivalry. Riyadh denies the charge. But tension between the two countries is surging, with Saudi Arabia and Iran supporting opposite sides in wars in Syria and Yemen and rival political parties in Iraq and Lebanon. The contest has largely hewed along sectarian lines as mainly Shi'ite Iran and Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni country, vie for influence. That competition, officials in Tehran worry, has now spread inside their borders, thanks to what they fear is Riyadh's exploitation of the Islamic Republic's communal rifts. They point to clashes -- the first in almost 20 years -- between the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) fighters and Revolutionary Guards in the northwest in June and July that left several dead on both sides. As fighting escalated, Iranian forces shelled suspected Kurdish military bases in northern Iraq, raising the prospect that the conflict could spread across the border. "(Saudi Arabia) gives money to any anti-revolutionary who comes near the border and says 'Go carry out operations,'" Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards said after one round of clashes, according to the Tabnak website. "When they ask, 'Where should we carry out operations?' they say, 'It's not important. We want Iran to become insecure.'" Iran’s 8 to 10 million Kurdish community is mostly Sunni. In addition to the claims about Saudi funding for Kurdish armed groups, Iranian officials have also accused Riyadh of stirring up trouble among Iran’s other Sunni ethnic minorities like the Baluch in the southeast of the country and Arabs in Iran's southwest. The PKDI denies receiving Saudi support. And for their part, Saudi officials deny meddling in Iranian affairs. Riyadh in turn accuses Iran of stirring up trouble amongst its Shi’ite minority, a charge Iranian officials have denied. Riyadh fears a nuclear deal with world powers signed last year gives Iran more scope to push its interests internationally by releasing it from many of the sanctions which have crippled its economy. Alarmed by what it sees as a dangerous spread of Iranian activity overseas, the kingdom no longer relies heavily on Western allies to counter it, and is heightening its own efforts to contain Iranian influence. PROXY WAR Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal showed up at a rally in Paris in July of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), the main exiled opposition group seeking to topple the country's clerical rulers. While Prince Turki holds no official position, his presence suggests Saudi Arabia has crossed a line in terms of willingness to publicly support Iranian opposition groups. "The proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is becoming much more open and much more determined," said Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University. The Islamic Republic has had a tense relationship with its Kurdish minority since the revolution in 1979, which would potentially make them an ally of Iran’s rivals, observers say. The Revolutionary Guard fought Kurdish separatists immediately after the revolution and there have been periodic crackdowns on dissidents within the community since that time. That tension has led Iranian officials to accuse members of Sunni minority groups, particularly the Kurds, of sympathizing with religious extremists, including Islamic State. Last week, Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi announced that 1500 Iranian youth had been prevented from joining Islamic State. “It is a very convenient time to tie any act of persecution of the Sunnis to Islamic State,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. TENSION In early August, Iran executed 20 Kurdish inmates, allegedly Islamists, in the Rajai Shahr prison, ramping up tension between the central government and the Kurdish region of the country. "The timing (of the executions) certainly appears to be sending a message to the Kurdish militant groups and the local Kurdish community,” said Ghaemi. “It’s really punishment of a community to spread fear and intimidation.” The PDKI, for its part, denies any support from Saudi Arabia and says Kurds have been forced to take up arms because they have no alternative to secure their political rights. “Our main goal is not to pursue armed clashes,” said Karim Parwizi, a member of the PDKI politburo who is based in Erbil in northern Iraq. “We want to have organizational, political and civil activities.” The operations by the PDKI come at a time when Kurds across the region appear emboldened: Kurdish armed groups in Syria have been gaining territory and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq is increasingly distancing itself from the central government in Baghdad. PDKI members say they have no official ties or shared operations with other Kurdish parties in Iraq, Turkey or Syria. In mid-August, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani told a high level security delegation from the KRG that border security was a "red line", according to Mehr News. The KRG said it would not allow any group to threaten Iran’s border security, but Parwizi from the PDKI said his group had so far not been pressured to stop armed activities at the border, raising the possibility of further clashes. (Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Editing by William Maclean and Toby Chopra)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
- Women's Health
She loves to run—just not on the treadmill.
Driving recklessly comes with consequences…
- Business Insider
Trump started speaking in the third person during a heated discussion with Bill Barr regarding the election results, book says
Barr told the AP in an interview last year that the DOJ had "not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election."
- The New York Times
Schanda Handley was at home with her daughter and a neighbor when two men showed up at the door, dressed in what looked like blue uniforms from an appliance store. They had a carpet steamer and asked Handley if they could demonstrate it for her. When she said no, the men forced their way into her house at gunpoint, put a hood over her head and handcuffed her and her neighbor, she said. Then they pushed Handley into a van and drove off, leaving Handley’s 14-year-old daughter and the neighbor behi
- In The Know
This father was not playing games — but he didn't lose his cool either.
- Business Insider
'You're all f---ed up': Trump exploded after his officials warned against using military troops to end George Floyd protests, book says
"Mr. President, that guy had an insurrection," Gen. Mark Milley said as he pointed to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, according to the book. "You don't have an insurrection."
- Associated Press
Arizona Republicans’ partisan review of the 2020 election results got off to a rocky start when their contractors broke rules for counting ballots and election experts warned the work was dangerous for democracy. When the auditors stopped the counting and returned the ballots this week, it hadn't gotten better. The review's Twitter accounts were suspended for breaking the rules.
A brown bear attacked a group of campers, eating one and forcing the others to flee barefoot into the mountains
The bear snuck up on hikers and devoured their friend in Ergaki national park in south-central Russia in the second fatal attack in a month.
- The Guardian
Ex-president claims he was not trying to subvert democracyTrump restates election lie that fraud to blame for Biden winGiuliani: ‘I committed no crime’ while working for TrumpWhat did Jim Jordan know about the insurrection and when? Donald Trump’s pressure on federal and state officials to overturn his national defeat and state losses to Biden has been well documented. Photograph: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP/Getty Images Donald Trump insisted on Saturday that when he told senior justice department offici
- Associated Press
Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.
- NBC Sports
Some veterans are willing to take less to chase a ring with LeBron.
An Olympic medalist admitted on live TV that she was 'sh------ herself' while swimming her relay leg
Sydney Pickrem was very candid during her TV interview after winning bronze for Team Canada in Sunday's 4×100 meter medley relay.
- Washington Examiner
Former President Donald Trump has been holding meetings with "Cabinet members" at his golf club in New Jersey this week, according to a top ally.
- Business Insider
A World War II Nazi tank discovered in a retiree's basement leads to legal spat. There was also a torpedo and an anti-aircraft gun.
84-year-old also had a horde of Third Reich memorabilia, including a Hitler bust, mannequins in Nazi uniforms, swastikas, and SS rune-shaped lamps.
- MMA Junkie
Gadzhi Rabadanov scores nasty KO at Bellator 263; coach Khabib Nurmagomedov loads fallen fighter on stretcher
Khabib Nurmagomedov coached his fighter Gadzhi Rabadanov to a violent KO win – and then loaded the fallen opposition onto a backboard.
- The Guardian
The DoJ has dealt two blows and the 6 January committee is winding up for more. They know democracy is in dangerSidney Blumenthal: What did Jim Jordan know and when? Donald Trump disembarks Air Force One as lightning splits the sky at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, in August 2020. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images On Friday, Donald Trump received two more unwelcome reminders he is no longer president. Much as he and his minions chant “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton and other enemies, i
- USA TODAY Sports
Baseball's trade deadline is behind us and with two months left to go, a look at which teams have the best shot at a title.
After Kourtney Kardashian tattooed her boyfriend Travis Barker, she let him return the favor by giving her a haircut
- NBC Sports BayArea
Bob Myers said the Warriors will look to free agency to add the pieces needed to become contenders. Here are five possible options for Golden State to look at.
“Sometimes luck is on your side and sometimes it isn’t. It was this impala’s day.”