226. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Attitude Toward the Kurds

PARTICIPANTS

  • Chafiq Qazzaz, Representative of Kurdish Leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani
  • Edward Djerejian, Country Officer for Iraq, NEA/ARN

Chafiq Qazzaz, the Representative of Kurdish leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani, paid a call on Mr. Djerejian on July 27 at the State Department. Qazzaz is a resident of the Washington area and has been here for the last 14 years. He plans to return to Kurdistan this Fall to assume an official position in the Kurdish Democratic Party’s (KDP) newly created “Office of Information.”

Mr. Qazzaz made the following major points: Mulla Mustafa Barzani has no real hope that the Iraqi government will grant the Kurds limited autonomy and a proportional share of political power, economic benefits, and cultural rights along the lines of the March 11, 1970 manifesto. In fact, the approximately $200,000/month payments by the [Page 644]Iraqi government to the Kurds for the support of the Pesh Merga border guards and the administrative costs of the KDP have not been paid in recent months. This is another indication of Baghdad’s bad faith and the difficulty of arriving at any workable arrangements with the ruling Ba’ath Party of Iraq (BPI). The Kurds are becoming increasingly skeptical over the prospects of reaching any workable arrangements with the BPI for limited but meaningful autonomy and there is a growing tendency among younger Kurds to explore the possibilities of establishing an autonomous state, linked perhaps to Iran.

Iranian support of the Kurdish movement has been continuing, Qazzaz said, but that support is limited. For example, Iranian arms shipments are of a small-scale and of a nature to give the Kurds only a short-term military capability. The Iranians realize that their support for the Kurds has paid off in at least two ways: 1) their northwestern border with Iraq has been defended against encroachments by Iraqi saboteurs and agents and 2) the Kurds have pinned down the Iraqi army in the north. Trade between Iran and Kurdistan has also increased. The Shah no longer fears the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish State in Iraq in terms of possible moves for independence on the part of the Iranian Kurds. Barzani has assured the Shah that a Kurdish autonomous state would be limited to the area of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In any event, many Kurds are now thinking in terms of an autonomous State and are beginning to give up on the idea of a semi-autonomous Kurdish entity within Iraq which is linked to the regime in Baghdad. In fact, a deliberate effort is being made by the KDP to establish “offices” which would be the equivalent of government ministries in order to pave the way for the alternative of an independent Kurdish autonomous state.

The BPI’s attempts to create splinter groups within the “Kurdish Revolution” such as the Kurdish Revolutionary Party are doomed to failure, Qazzaz said. Talabani has established his residence in Kurdistan and is on friendly terms with Barzani.

Qazzaz, referring to Barzani’s recent interview in the Washington Post, asked whether or not the USG has changed its position on the Kurdish question and specifically on U.S. assistance to the Kurds.2 Mr. Djerejian stated that the USG position remained unchanged. Namely, our position continues to be one of non-involvement. Barzani’s interview with Jim Hoagland published in the June 24 Washington Post in which he asked for U.S. help either “open or secret” was read with interest. We sympathize with the plight of the Kurds and would not ob[Page 645]ject to international humanitarian efforts to improve their conditions. It would be preferable if such support was channelled to the Kurds through the Iraqi government, or at least endorsed by that government. Qazzaz asked if there was any improvement in U.S./Iraqi relations. Mr. Djerejian stated that ever since the IPC settlement last March, there has been a definite improvement in U.S./Iraqi relations at the economic and commercial levels. Saddam Hussein al-Takriti’s recent interviews with Western journalists in which he indicated an interest in improving Iraq’s relations with the West is of interest to us. The USG would welcome an improvement in relations with Iraq, and for that matter with all those countries which broke diplomatic relations with the U.S. at the time of the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Barzani, Qazzaz said, is watching very closely the status of U.S./Iraqi relations in order to know what he can expect or not expect from the U.S. in terms of support. Mr. Djerejian reiterated that our policy was one of non-involvement, and that we considered the Iraqi/Kurdish issue to be an internal matter for the parties themselves to resolve. Qazzaz said that Barzani would welcome U.S. support even if it had to be channelled through Iran. In fact, he was interested in determining whether the U.S. and Iran could join forces in supporting the Kurds in Iraq with a view toward the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish entity in Iraq. Mr. Djerejian commented that we recognized that Iran’s role vis-à-vis Iraq and the Kurds was an important factor, but our policy of non-involvement in the Kurdish question extended to Iran, as well as Iraq, which we regard as independent and sovereign states.

Mr. Qazzaz said he would be returning to Kurdistan probably in September, 1973, and asked if he could have another meeting just before his departure. Mr. Djerejian said that he or another member of the Country Directorate would be pleased to meet with Mr. Qazzaz again.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 13–3 IRAQ. Confidential. Drafted by Djerejian.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 220.
  3. Qazzaz met with Djerejian and Korn on September 5, warning that Kurdish-Iraqi relations had deteriorated and that while the Ba’ath Party was pressing the KDP to join the National Front, it was also “Arabizing” Kurdish areas prior to a census that would determine the boundaries of an autonomous Kurdish entity. In response to Qazzaz’s request for assistance, Korn observed that there had been no change in U.S. policy toward the Kurds, and that any humanitarian aid had to be channeled through Baghdad. He also noted there had been a steady improvement in U.S.-Iraqi economic and commercial relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 13–3 IRAQ)