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As West Applauds Kurdish Female Fighters, Iran Praises Peshmerga 'Elders'


An image from the photo gallery "The Elders Who Are IS’s Nightmare," published by Shafaf News.

An image from the photo gallery "The Elders Who Are IS’s Nightmare," published by Shafaf News.

While Western media and social networks have lauded the courage of young Kurdish female fighters, the Iranian press has praised their older, male Iraqi Peshmerga counterparts.

Several Iranian media outlets on October 29 published a photoset titled “The Elders Who Are IS’s Nightmare.”

“These aging men are on the battlefield side by side with Kurdish Peshmerga youth, fighting the takfiri terrorists of IS,” the article in Shafaf News reads.

The old Peshmerga fighters “have vowed to come back with their old weapons to drive out the takfiri invaders (i.e. IS) from their territory,” the article adds.

Shafaf News hints at the reason Iran is supportive of these “elders”: During the Iran-Iraq War, many Peshmerga allied with Iranian troops against Saddam Hussein and his Baathist republic, including in a March 1988 attempt to capture the Darbandikhan Dam in Iraq's Kurdish region.

Shafaf does not mention the Iran-Iraq War directly, however, but does refer to clashes between the Peshmerga and Hussein’s forces in the 1990s:

“These [men] who should be more experienced in war, since they fought in clashes with Baathist forces in 1993.”

Iran has supported the Peshmerga during the current conflict with IS militants in Iraq. In a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in August, for example, Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani said that Iran had supplied weapons and ammunition to the Peshmerga.

"We asked for weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us with weapons and ammunition," Barzani said.

Iran’s state media has also played up Tehran’s support for the Peshmerga, with Iran’s Press TV writing in August that “some Kurdish media have underscored the significant role of Iranian forces and the Iraqi Army in liberating the areas from [IS’s] grip.”

In recent weeks, Iran has put even greater efforts into demonstrating -- to both a domestic and an international audience -- what it claims is its leading role in helping Iraq combat IS militants. These efforts have included highlighting the role of Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Suleimani in helping oversee Iraq’s campaigns against IS alongside a campaign of criticizing as ineffective the efforts of the United States and its allies in combating IS.

Iran’s open support for Iraqi Peshmerga forces is another facet of its battle for influence in Iraq.

In line with Tehran’s recent strategy, that support comes seasoned with criticism for the United States and its allies in the fight against IS.

On October 29, amid reports that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were crossing into Syria from Iraq to help Syrian Kurdish forces combat IS in Kobani, Iran’s state news agency IRNA praised this move, saying it could shift the battle in favor of the Kurds.

However, IRNA also said the ultimate outcome would depend on the other countries involved in the crisis -- a reference to the United States and its allies. IRNA said that Kurds in Kobani were desperately short of weapons and fighters and asked to what extent the United States and its allies would be willing to help the Kurds beat IS.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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