Iranian state media reported on Friday that Iran has sent additional units of special forces to strengthen its northern border with Iraq and counter infiltration by Kurdish opposition groups.
General Mohammad Pakpour, head of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards ground forces, said “armored and special units” were deployed in the western and northwestern provinces to strengthen existing border defenses, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The deployment aims to prevent infiltration and arms smuggling to the north by Kurdish opposition groups exiled in Iraq, which Tehran claims are fueling anti-government protests across the country. This is a claim that Kurdish groups deny and to date Iran has provided no evidence to support it.
Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and has had varying forces there for decades.
The troop move came even after Iraq issued instructions to increase security along the border to prevent further bombing by Iran, according to a statement by Iraqi military spokesman Major General 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 plans to launch a military ground operation to eradicate opposition groups from their bases.
Nationwide protests swept Iran in September after the death of a young woman in police custody for violating the republic’s strict dress code for women. The protests have become the biggest challenge to Iranian democracy since the chaotic years following the 1979 revolution.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died on September 16, three days after his arrest by Iran’s vice squad. Iran’s government says Amini was not assaulted while in police custody, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of abuse after she was taken into custody.