This article originally appeared in Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Less than a week after losing 17 of their comrades, Iranian Kurdish leaders from the KDP-I defiantly held a press conference in the heart of the Kurdistan Region, insisting the international community take a tougher stance and hold the Islamic Republic to account for its attack on Koya.
“We consider that it is urgent that the Security Council of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, take the quickest concrete measures to prevent the Iranians from recommitting the crime they committed last Saturday,” said Asso Hassan Zadeh, KDP-I’s deputy security general.
Zadeh criticized the United States in particular for not taking a stronger tone after Iranian forces fired rockets at a joint coordination center for Iranian Kurdish parties in the Kurdistan Region’s city of Koya on Saturday.
Iran is guilty of using “disproportionate force” and violating international sovereignty, he stated.
He was flanked at the press conference by Karo Rasuli, head of KDP-I’s security committee and Khalid Wanawsha, a military deputy who is also a member of their Leadership Council.
They said the number of rockets was “unspecified.” Previous reports put the number at seven.
Seventeen people were killed, including several party leaders, and 46 were injured in the attack.
US Vice President Mike Pence condemned the attack in a phone call with Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Monday. The US State Department then said it expected Iran to fully respect Iraqi sovereignty and “stop this destabilizing behavior” on Tuesday.
“The two statements were quite different. The first one was really weak… it was not containing any definition, it was just criticizing Iran’s strike inside Iraq. But the second one was stronger. And still we do not find them enough as to prevent Iranians from committing those crimes which they committed against us last Saturday,” said Zadeh.
The Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein on Tuesday promised another attack if Kurdish opposition groups were not extradited or expelled.
“What we need really right now is a concrete measure. It’s not only about condemnations and rhetoric,” said Zadeh, referring to Western actors.
He recalled a previous incident when the US came to their aid.
“In 1996, when the Iranian Army attacked our headquarters, they came to Koysanjay [Koya] and they bombed our headquarters. The attack was stopped by American military aviation,” he said.
With US President Donald Trump’s appointment of John Bolton to the post of National Security Advisor and the establishment of the Iran Action Group, some analysts speculated the United States would be more proactive militarily instead of just focusing on sanctions.
Zadeh said they have seen a real shift under Trump, but are waiting to see what comes next and are worried that the Kurdish situation won’t be resolved.
Top US officials have repeatedly called for an end to Iran’s destabilizing activities in its own country, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
Zadeh said that putting an end to “Iranian maneuvers” in the region won’t actually solve the question of freedom and democracy in the country.
Trump and his cabinet have increased economic pressure on Tehran through sanctions and pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, but the Kurdish opposition would like to see more.
“It’s quite paradoxical,” Zadeh highlighted. “Under the Trump administration we have seen many words – not actions, not deeds.”
He acknowledged Kurdish forces can’t implement regime change by themselves, but they are capable of mobilizing populations in Iran.
“Still listening to what Iranian people say, trying to deal with elements that really represent the wills of the Iranian populations, especially among the Kurds, KDP-I, and of course other Kurdish parties,” Zadeh said. “That is what we want.”
His cadre denied reports that Iranian forces have established a base within the borders of the Kurdistan Region, explaining that they have observed Iranian forces scouting at night.
This article was originally published in Rudaw.