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Iran Plots Assassinations to Achieve Shiite Crescent in the Middle East

Masoud Barzani meets with Ash Carter

Kurdish President Masoud Barzani meets with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Irbil, Dec. 11, 2016. (Department of Defense)

The Middle East was in turmoil after Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s dramatic resignation out of fear of assassination. But Lebanon is not the only country threatened by Iran’s plots. Kurdistan is also the target for Iran’s intrigues, which may be behind the resignation of the president of Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani.

According to our sources, Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani, conducted his own business on the fringes of a condolence visit in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, after the death of the Talabani Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani. The Talabani Kurds are fierce rivals to the Barazani Kurdish faction. The meeting went beyond the Talabani family’s coordination with Soleimani’s Shiite troops for the capture of Kirkuk, but concerned the mobilization of the Kurds for a sweeping process of establishing together a Shiite Crescent. According to our sources, the move necessitates the recruitment of the Kurdish PKK underground in Turkey. Indeed, in the battles against ISIS for control of Raqqa in Syria, many were surprised to see Turkish PKK flags being hoisted by the Kurdish fighters and PKK fighters were seen also in Sinjar in Iraq side-by-side with the Shiite militias. 

PKK women soldiers in Raqqa beneath a poster of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan

PKK women soldiers in Raqqa beneath a poster of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan after the capture of the city. (ANHA)

But with typical Iranian intrigue, Soleimani, after the PKK recruitment to establish the Shiite Crescent, spoke of the opportunity to undermine the good relationship in Irbil between the Barzani family and Turkey and to incite Turkey against Irbil. The special connection between the Barzani family and Israel is supposed to be the propaganda tool to oust the prominent Barzani family in favor of the rival Talabani family.

In Irbil, they suspected that in Soleimani’s talks in Sulaymaniyah, a plan was devised to remove Masoud Barzani from power, and perhaps even to murder him using the “Lebanon formula” — the Iranian plot to assassinate Saad Hariri 12 years after his father, Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a massive bombing.

If so, Iran’s plan to leverage the weakening of ISIS to establish a Shiite Crescent is very serious and gaining momentum. Instead of serving as a barrier to these aspirations, the Kurds might join them if the image of Iran’s victory in the war is reinforced.

Masoud Barazani meeting with the widow of Jalal Talabani and Fuad Masum

Masoud Barazani meeting with the widow of Jalal Talabani and Fuad Masum in Sulaymaniyah on September 12, 2017.

Protecting against the murder of Masoud Barzani, strict security arrangements were in place when he came to console mourners in Sulaymaniyah. No less than one thousand Peshmerga guards were sent there.

About Pinhas Inbari

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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