War in Syria and Iraq could spread to Iran: PKK foreign relations head

PKK foreign relations head Riza Altun.

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s foreign relations head, Riza Altun, has warned that if Iran doesn’t resolve its internal problems and democratise, the war in Syria and Iraq (Middle East crisis) could spread to the country.

In the final part of a four-part interview with ANF news agency published on Saturday, the leading PKK figure said the final countdown in the war against the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq would create a new set of conditions in which the war in the Middle East could spread to Iran, something the US wanted.

Adding that previous US President Barack Obama had employed a balanced policy in the region, which had given Iran the opportunity to spread its influence, Altun said Trump had overturned this and formed a new bloc with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to rally leading Sunni Arab countries and Iran’s “historic enemies” against Tehran.

“I don’t think Iran can do much to stop this. It could try to strengthen its presence in Syria and Iraq but both of these are in danger. On one side you have Russia scratching away at the government and on the other the US. Can Iran, using its ties to the regime and physical presence there defeat these other forces and prop up the regime, which is its strategic ally. Especially after this kind of [Arab anti-Iran] bloc has been formed. There is a danger that Iran will lose strength in Syria. Its presence could be broken.

“The same is true for Iraq. A new power formation in Iraq which gets the support of the International Coalition and Arab Union will mean another blow to Iran. A blow in Iraq will lead to an internal contraction inside Iran. If it loses blood in both Iraq and Syria, it will have to start waging the war it is waging in the Middle East inside the country. Because Iran is a mosaic of communities, religions and sects. If the conflict spreads to Iran it will be apocalyptic, and if this happens Iran will never be able to correct it again.”

Responding to a question about what Iran’s Kurdish population [some 7 million] would do in the coming period, the leading PKK figure said this would depend on Iran’s approach.

“The Kurds can play an important role [in democratisation and reforms]. They can be actors in creating instability but also stability. This all depends on Iran’s approach. If Iran does not develop solutions which accept Kurdish existence this carries the biggest potential for unrest.”

The leading PKK figure dismissed the upcoming presidential election in Iran as “cosmetic” and said the contenders, whether liberal or conservative, made no difference in practice.