TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington on Tuesday of training “terrorists” in the Kurdish region of neighbouring Iraq.
“Behind our western border, the US is training terrorists. It is spending money and handing out weapons to be used against the Islamic republic” of Iran, he said in a televised speech in the western Iranian province of Kordestan.
“The Americans have dangerous plans for (Iraqi) Kurdistan … Their plans are not aimed at defending the Kurdish people, but they want to control them,” he said in the city of Saqaz.
“Our Kurdish friends on the other side of the border have told us that the US officers are paying the Kurdish youth on the Qandil hills in exchange for information,” he said.
“They pay money to create mercenaries. It is unworthy of Kurdish youth,” Khamenei added.
The border region with Iraq has often seen deadly clashes between Iran’s armed forces and the Kurdish separatists.
Iranians have targeted the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian Kurdish separatist group which has launched attacks on Iran from rear-supply bases in the Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq.
The group is closely allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has launched similar attacks against Turkey.
On February 4, the US Treasury included PJAK as a “terrorist” group, while the PKK too is blacklisted as a terror group by both the European Union and the United States.
The PKK took up arms for self-rule in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984, triggering a conflict that has claimed some 44,000 lives.
Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey all have significant ethnic Kurdish minorities.