In brief

Leaked documents expose Iranian intelligence activities in Iraq against Kurdish independence

Secret cables revealed by New York Times, The Intercept also reflect Iranian support for Kurdish government in fight against Islamic State

Screenshot of The Intercept information on the leak.
Screenshot of The Intercept information on the leak. Author: The Intercept
“To keep Iraq […] from spinning off an independent Kurdistan that would threaten regional stability and Iranian territorial integrity.” This is how The New York Times explains one of the “main tasks” of the Iranian intelligence operative in Iraq in recent years, according to a 700-page leak of secret documents revealed by that newspaper and The Intercept.

Both media claim to have “verified the authenticity of the documents” but not the identity of the person who sent them anonymously, who says has done so to “let the world know what Iran is doing in my country Iraq.”

The documents show that, during the period of maximum expansion of the Islamic State (2014 and 2015), Iran gave military support to the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq to fight against the Sunni fundamentalist organization. In return, Iran received contracts in the oil sector.

The cables, The New York Times goes on, also reveal that Nechirvan Brazani, then the Kurdish Prime Minister, met in 2014 top American and British officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and “then went almost immediately to meet with an Iranian official to tell him everything.”

These manoeuvres were aimed at supporting Teheran’s final goal, according to the documents revealed: to keep Iraq united while it became a client state of Iran, to what the Iranians worked to “infiltrate every aspect of Iraq’s political, economic and religious life,” the newspaper writes.

The Interceptadds that Iranian support for the Kurdish autonomous government progressively diminished in favour of backing to the central Iraqi government and several Shiite Arab militias. In 2017, after the independence referendum organised by the Kurdish authorities, Iran supported the Iraqi military campaign that allowed Baghdad to prevent secession and retake territories previously held by Kurdish forces.