Are Islamic State Militants Operating Inside Iran?
According to villagers in western Iran, beginning around mid-August, teams of Islamic State (IS) fighters have been conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in the rural areas of Iran’s Kurdish regions. At nights, the fighters enter villages and harass the locals. In at least two instances, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has clashed with these insurgents on Iranian soil.
These so-called IS fighters are reported to have operated in the following areas:
- Mawana village, Silwaneh district of Orumieh county, West Azerbaijan province: On August 26, the insurgents clashed with the IRGC.
- Diwandarreh county, Kurdistan province: On August 27, the insurgents clashed with the IRGC.
- Talim Khan village, Maku county, West Azerbaijan province: So-called IS fighters demanded that the villagers swear loyalty to them. The villagers refused and fought back. The insurgents fled into the mountains to the west, where they clashed with Kurdish PJAK fighters.
- Saranjianeh mountain region, Dehgolan county, Kurdistan province.
- Jawanroud county, Kermanshah province: At night, the militants set up roadblocks between towns and villages in the area.
It’s not yet clear whether these fighters are formal members of IS or just sympathizers. They are, however, most likely Kurdish Salafists, who have maintained a presence in Iran’s western provinces for the past decade.
In recent months, Iran’s officials have repeatedly assured concerned Iranians that there are no IS fighters in the country. IS considers the Islamic Republic to be an apostate regime, and has massacred Shias in Iraq. As IRGC forces continue their hunt for IS militants inside Iran, the Supreme Leader has apparently authorized joint Iran-U.S. military operations in Iraq.