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Mar 29, 2013 | 17:38 GMT

Kurdish Militant Hideouts on the Iran-Iraq Border

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Kurdish Militant Hideouts on the Iran-Iraq Border

The Qandil Mountains make up the northwestern part of the larger Zagros range, which shapes Iran's western border with Iraq. While most of the Qandil range is in Iran, its southwestern flank, which consists of several ridges and valleys, extends into northeastern Iraq toward Lake Dukan. Kurdish militants use this part of the range as a basing area. The distance from the fronts where Kurdish militants fight has made this region a haven to several thousands of rebels, and more may settle there in the future. The Taurus Mountains and the Zagros Mountains, including the Qandil range, cover parts of northeastern Syria, southern Turkey, northern Iraq and northwestern Iran. This vast area of broken terrain is easily defensible and restricts the movement of opposing forces, similar to the Tigharghar Mountains in Mali. The peaks of the Qandil Mountains in Iraq and the plateaus between them are covered in snow most of the year. The terrain is overlaid by multiple international boundaries of states that do not necessarily cooperate or have the ability to control the region. This geography, combined with the presence of the homogenous Kurdish ethnic group, allows Kurdish militants to defend themselves in several ways. Moreover, the geography creates safe training grounds and concealed routes through the area that let the rebels project force and smuggle goods.

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