167. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State1
362. On October 23 Masud Muhammad, Minister of State for Northern Affairs, informed me he planned leave same day for north carrying tentative procedural agreement resulting from several meetings between himself, Interior Minister, Army division heads, Army Intelligence Chief and Northern Mutasarrifs. GOI now prepared make first move involving following steps: (1) release of all Kurdish prisoners including those convicted of military crimes; (2) return of government employees of Kurdish origin to former positions, especially in north; (3) removal of Salahaddin cavalry from north; (4) removal of Arab tribes from Kurdish areas and return of Kurds forced from their villages; (5) compensation to those who suffered during recent troubles.
Following these GOI actions, Kurds to (1) withdraw Pesh Merga from major roads and stop harassment; (2) return weapons captured from Iraqi Army (Masud said token amount would satisfy GOI’s honor); and (3) permit establishment local administration, made up mainly of Kurds but under GOI supervision. Once these moves completed, GOI and Kurds to sit down and tackle political settlement. Masud expects to return from north in week with Kurdish acceptance since agreement offers sound opportunity test good faith of GOI. Masud emphasized Mulla Mustafa regards USG as key to settlement of Kurdish problem and USG can get what it wants. He had told Iraqi colleagues he lunching with me to discuss tentative agreement.
Comment: Although first steps by GOI do not incorporate acceptance Kurdish political demands, they do include what Kurds have always requested as proof GOI’s good faith. Kurds, therefore, should find it easy accept offer provided that only nominal return of weapons will, indeed, be acceptable to GOI. If GOI and Kurds carry out their parts of bargain, political talks likely follow.
Masud identified himself as prime mover in creation new situation but agreed Egypt is big factor as result of delay in unity until internal Iraqi problems met. He gives us large share of credit. In any event, that GOI willing make first move is significant, indicating tacit recognition of strong Kurdish position and effectiveness of Egyptian pressure. Given Embassy’s assessment that neither GOI or Mulla Mustafa wish resume hostilities, present GOI offer may mark turning point. In essence [Page 341] I told Minister, who several times during conversation indicated Mulla Mustafa would heed US advice, that (1) US hopes for peaceful negotiated settlement within framework Iraq without foreign interference, (2) Kurds should cooperate, having nothing to lose, and (3) Kurds must be prepared be patient in long drawn-out negotiations over internal political settlement and must be prepared compromise their extreme demands. Also stated Kurdish cause best served by avoiding appearance of acting as agents; they should avoid entangling themselves in interests of others.
At end of conversation Masud asked in all seriousness whether in event of trouble he could seek political asylum in American Embassy. I told him case would have to be judged on its merits at the time but US did not encourage such action. While he may have been trying create impression he laboring under great pressure, it is possible he believes there is chance Kurdish extremists in Baghdad may start a racial conflict which would be bloody and would endanger his life.
Addendum. At end of my conversation with FonMin October 24 I said that to counteract any rumors he might hear about my luncheon with Masud. I wanted to tell him that I had told Masud (a) USG continues to advocate a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Kurdish problem; (b) that use of force could not settle it; (c) that it was evident GOI wished avoid further military action; (d) that Kurds would be well advised concur in procedural agreement reached by Masud with GOI; (e) that it would be possible to observe whether GOI acting in good faith; (f) that if GOI acts in good faith then Kurds obligated do so; (g) that when time for political negotiations came Kurds should recognize these are complicated and must be prepared be patient; (h) and that USG intends continue avoid getting into specifics of problem. Minister commented he understood our position and he appreciated learning what I had said. He gave no sign of objecting to our role and his manner was as friendly and relaxed when I left as it had been throughout.
Comment: Transfer of Iraqi 3rd division to H-3 further strengthens Kurdish position and increases pressure on GOI reach settlement. Was this one of UAR purposes in request by UAC that Iraq move 3rd division?2
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-9 IRAQ. Confidential. Repeated to Ankara, Tehran, Aleppo, Basra, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, London, and Tabriz.↩
- Circular telegram 765, October 28, stated that the developments reported in telegram 362 were encouraging and that the Department concurred in the line taken by the Ambassador. It commented that Masud’s call on the Ambassador pointed up a situation where the United States, without seeking the role, had in effect become a psychological support in Kurdish minds. (Ibid.)↩