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207. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

SUBJECT

  • Continued Covert Support for the Kurds

In August of last year, acting upon a request from the Shah of Iran, you authorized the initiation of covert cash subsidies and military support to strengthen the Kurds under Mulla Mustafa Barzani thereby preventing consolidation of Ba’thist-controlled Iraq, the principal Soviet client in the Middle East.2

CIA reports that more than 1,000 tons of nonattributable arms, medicines and blankets have been supplied (a value of over [less than 1 line not declassified] which cost less than [less than 1 line not declassified]); our monthly subsidy of [less than 1 line not declassified] has enabled Mulla Mustafa to maintain and strengthen a 25,000-man military force; intelligence on Iraq is received from Mulla Mustafa’s mountain headquarters [less than 1 line not declassified] our support is channeled through the Iranians (who contribute $4.8 million per year plus unknown arms and services) and has been coordinated in general terms with [3 lines of text not declassified].

Mulla Mustafa Barzani is stronger now than at any other time in his 12-year struggle against the Iraqi central government. His strength facilitates his rejection of Iraqi and Soviet blandishments and threats; provides the Shah with a strong buffer force against Iraqi-directed infiltration teams of saboteurs and terrorists; and worries the Baghdad regime, forcing it to deploy almost two-thirds of its ground forces in the north, reducing its capability for offensive adventures.

The Ba’th regime continues to support radical subversion, recently even as far afield as Pakistan. It continues to finance Palestinian terrorist organizations and remains one of the most irreconcilable regimes against negotiated peace with Israel. It threatens to disrupt oil agreements which western companies may be able to negotiate with more moderate governments in the area. It is a regime whose instability we should continue to promote.

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CIA proposes that the covert support you approved last year be continued in FY 1974 at about the same level: a monthly cash subsidy of [less than 1 line not declassified] and a medical supply subsidy of [less than 1 line not declassified] plus limited and predictable replacement ordnance estimated at [less than 1 line not declassified] for the year. This totals [less than 1 line not declassified]. The availability of another [less than 1 line not declassified] is recommended for additional ordnance if required because of heavy combat conditions. [6½ lines not declassified] bringing the total cost of the proposal to $5 million for FY 1974.3

Recommendation:

That you approve continuation of covert support to the Kurds under Mulla Mustafa Barzani (at [less than 1 line not declassified] plus an additional [less than 1 line not declassified] authorized in case heavy combat requires replacement ordnance), and initiation of complementary political action operations (at [less than 1 line not declassified]) for a total of $5 million in FY 1974.4

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, Iraqi Kurds, Box 8, 7 April 1969–12 June 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Outside System. Sent for action.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Documents 321 and 322.
  3. Kissinger deleted a passage from an earlier draft of this memorandum that reads: “CIA believes that its recommended program will keep Iraq weak through viable Kurdish self-autonomy and political divisiveness while creating a climate for indigenous pressures for a modification of Iraq’s hostile policies. It would improve our knowledge of Iraqi-Arab political dynamics which should increase our options to exert political influence.” (National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, Iraqi Kurds, Box 8, 7 April 1969–12 June 1974)
  4. Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendation on March 29, and a note below his approval indicates that Richard Kennedy was advised on March 30 at 9:35 a.m. On March 30, Kissinger informed the 40 Committee of the decision during a meeting. According to an attached note by Rob Roy Ratliff, he hand-carried the minute of the meeting to the 40 Committee principals for them to read and initial, which each of the four principals did. (National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, 303 Committee, 40 Committee, NSCIC 1969–1974, Box 7, Minutes 1973, 40 Committee Meetings (Approvals) Minutes 1973, RMN)