BAGHDAD — Iran has sent additional special forces units to fortify its northern border with Iraq and crack down on what it says is infiltration by Kurdish opposition groups, Iranian state media reported on Friday.
General Mohammad Pakpour, head of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard ground forces, said ‘armored and special forces’ units had been deployed in western and northwestern provinces to bolster existing border security , the official IRNA news agency reported.
The deployment aims to prevent the infiltration and smuggling of weapons into the north by exiled Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq which Tehran says are orchestrating anti-government protests across the country. This is a claim that Kurdish groups deny and, to date, Iran has provided no supporting evidence.
Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and has had forces there on a rotating basis for decades.
The troop movement also comes after Iraq issued directives to tighten security along its border to prevent further bombardment by Iran, according to a statement issued by Iraqi military spokesman Gen. division Yahya Rasool. Kurdish opposition groups have bases in the Kurdish-ruled northern region of Iraq.
Earlier this week, Iranian officials were quoted in state media as saying they had no intention of carrying out a ground military operation to root out opposition groups from bases, despite apparently having threatened to do so during the visit of General Esmail Ghaani. in Baghdad last week.
Nationwide protests engulfed Iran in September after a young woman died in police custody for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. The protests have become one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the chaotic years following its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died on September 16, three days after her arrest by Iranian vice squads. The Iranian government insists Amini was not abused in police custody, but her family say her body showed bruises and other signs of beatings after her arrest.