169. Memorandum of Conversation1


New York, November 1964

Sec Del/MC/28


  • The Kurdish Problem


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • NEA—Mr. Walsh
  • Iraq
    • Foreign Minister Naji Talib
    • Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs Kadhim Khalaf

The Minister said that he had one problem which he wished to bring to the attention of the Secretary, namely, the Kurdish situation.

The Minister said that the Kurdish problem fundamentally dominated the Iraqi scene. The Iraqi Government is preoccupied with this [Page 344] issue and has little time or energy to turn to other pressing economic and social issues. He was not sure that they were any closer to a solution now than they were before the fighting started several years ago.

The Minister went on to say that he could not understand certain elements of the Kurdish problem. Manifestly there are unidentified forces supporting the Kurds. The Kurds are poor people and their land has been damaged by war. Where are they getting money from to buy staple foods, arms, and equipment? Who are these mysterious forces? What do they want?

The Minister stated that his Government might be able to deal with Mullah Mostafa Barzani but the Communists and the Democratic Party were much more difficult. In his opinion, the Kurds were controlled by the Communists. If a Kurdish state were established, it would be a Communist enclave which would split the Arab world, pierce the protective CENTO belt, and shatter the stability of Turkey and Iran. He had seen Kurdish maps indicating a Kurdish state stretching from Iskendrun in Turkey to Basra in Iraq.

He said that the Turks had sealed their Kurdish frontier. On the other hand, some support was drifting into Kurdish hands across the long Iranian frontier. This did not appear to be the result of deliberate Iranian Government intent but rather reflects the inability of a weak government to patrol its frontiers.

He asserted that he did not wish to suggest that the U.S. was supporting the Kurds but he did wish to emphasize that his Government is sore-perplexed by the machinations of some mysterious force which is supporting the Kurds.

In reply, the Secretary categorically assured the Minister that the United States was not directly or indirectly supporting the Kurdish movement. The U.S. supported the independence, integrity, and prosperity of Iraq. It had no other interest in Iraq affairs. Furthermore, he shared the Minister’s concern about the dangers of Communist penetration of the Near East by means of a Kurdish independence movement.

The Minister said that he was very pleased to have had this exchange of views and to receive this reassurance in respect to what he had known was American policy. He said that the U.S. could help Iraq by determining who is the financing and supplying source for the Kurds and what the motivation of this source is.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-9 IRAQ. Confidential. Drafted by Walsh on December 11. Approved in the Office of the Secretary of State on December 17. The memorandum is Part I of III.