As Kurdish defenses collapsed in Kirkuk province on Oct. 16, the top leadership of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a critical part of Baghdad’s offensive to recapture the disputed areas, received an urgent call from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to a senior source within the PMU, there was a request: Dispatch a unit to kill or capture a battalion of peshmerga stationed in the village of Kharabarut, near the oilfields of Bai Hassan and Avana in Dibis. Two senior Kurdish commanders confirmed to Al-Monitor that they were aware of an effort by Iran to hunt down this specific peshmerga, but did not know which Iraqi force was involved.
The peshmerga fighters who were about to be targeted were exclusively Iranian: members of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), an Iranian Kurdish opposition group with the stated aim of fighting Tehran to establish a Kurdish state. The group is a strong ally of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani, and it is seen by Iran as a threat to its interests in Iraq.