Kurds shelled as Iran seeks scapegoats for unrest

Martin Chulov in Erbil, Iraq

Picking through a pile of twisted metal, Rebaz, a Kurdish Iranian fighter, stooped to cradle a jagged chrome piece that was dug from the ruins of his base. “This was part of a Fateh missile,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest that the Iranians have in their arsenal. It’s from the day they tried to wipe us out.”

The heap included other wreckage – of rockets and kamikaze drones that had devastated this small outpost, just east of Erbil in northern Iraq, a fortnight ago. Since then, jittery guards had looked from the ruins towards the east, from where more than two dozen ballistic missiles and another dozen kamikaze drones blazed from a blue sky a fortnight ago.

The attack marked one of the biggest barrages of ballistic missiles anywhere in the region in at least the past decade and, across northern Iraq, few saw it coming. Except for the Iranian Kurds who have guarded this hilltop through war and insurrection, and knew what to expect from Iran, a mortal foe under mounting pressure at home.

With the attacks, Iran sought to lay the blame for protests at home on a long-term enemy, the fighters for an independent Kurdistan, a state the Kurdish ethnic group hope to one day establish on land currently in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria….