The Kurdish Peshmerga military seized territory in the north of the country as part of a broad-based uprising against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in response to his Iranian-backed policies of consolidating power into a small number of Shiite hands while excluding minorities. Iraqi Kurds have remained effectively neutral since then, as the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites continued to escalate, with Iran sending soldiers and military advisers to help support the Maliki government. The Kurdish leadership has, however, been considering a motion for independence, thus adding to tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.
Last week Kurdish news sources reported that Iran was reaching out to its own Kurdish population in an effort to encourage the Kurds in Iraq to support the Baghdad government. Mukaddem’s visit to Erbil follows upon those efforts and signifies a more direct approach to courting Iraqi Kurdish military involvement in the crisis that threatens Tehran’s influence its western neighbor.
The Iranian regime is known for poor treatment of its various minorities, including the Kurds. The change of policy that now leads Iran to ask for Kurdish help in Iraqi governance and security may indicate just how much Iranian influence there is threatened by the ongoing sectarian conflict.