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


  • Increased Assistance to the Kurds

The Shah of Iran, during his recent visit, raised the question of additional support for the Kurds in their efforts to prevent consolidation of Ba’thist-controlled Iraq, the principal Soviet client in the Middle East. Similar soundings have been made by Mulla Mustafa Barzani.

You will recall that you initiated financial and military support to the Kurds in August 1972 in response to an appeal from the Shah. The Shah said he was impressed by the material aid we have supplied—arms, ammunition, blankets, medical supplies, plus a monthly cash subsidy of [less than 1 line not declassified]. Barzani has been strengthened by this support, and the Ba’th regime’s proclivity for offensive adventures weakened.

Following the abortive coup in Baghdad on 30 June, an attempt has been made to form a national front government. The Kurds have resisted efforts to force them to join although the alternative is a threat of an all-out military attack against them. The Kurds lost a direct Iraqi subsidy in 1972 (which prompted the first request for aid to which you responded) and now face loss of an indirect monthly subsidy of $1.125 million which Baghdad pays for the salaries of Kurdish border guards and police and for civil services in Kurdistan. In anticipation of this loss, Barzani appeals for all subsidies (ours, Iran’s, [less than 1 line not declassified]) to double.

You have authorized for FY 1974 monthly subsidies of [less than 1 line not declassified] cash and [less than 1 line not declassified] medical sup[Page 663]plies, [less than 1 line not declassified] for ordnance, and an additional [less than 1 line not declassified] for ordnance as a contingency in case of an outbreak of fighting. OMB has been holding the [less than 1 line not declassified] interpreting your approval to mean it should be used only if fighting breaks out. However, CIA reports that its stocks of foreign arms and ammunition are low and that considerable lead time is necessary to acquire such ordnance; therefore, it needs the money now in order to have supplies on hand in case of need. In addition, inflation has affected the rate at which we purchase Iraqi dinars to maintain the monthly cash subsidy [less than 1 line not declassified]. In order for this subsidy to remain constant, CIA will require an additional [dollar amount not declassified] this fiscal year which will increase the total commitment to the Kurds and for related political action operations in FY 1974 [less than 1 line not declassified].

These moves will prepare for contingencies and maintain the status quo but will not be responsive to Barzani’s appeal for additional aid. He will not be aware of our expenditure for stockpiling arms for fear it would encourage him to launch offensive operations. The Shah believes that a substantial increase in the monthly cash payment to Barzani is urgently needed, especially to enable him to pay more adequate salaries to regular troops. The Shah indicated that he would increase his own cash subsidy (which the Kurds report amounts to about $444,444 per month) by 50% and provide additional arms and supplies.

Ambassador Helms’ views substantiate those of the Shah. He favors an increase in our cash subsidy over a one-time payment for educational and social needs as being more responsive to Barzani’s needs and providing us a larger measure of continuing leverage to ensure that Barzani maintains a defensive posture. He recommends that we increase our cash subsidy by 50% which, allowing for inflation, will require an additional [dollar amount not declassified] for FY 1974.

We may wish to try to avoid the impression of a long-term escalating commitment by telling Barzani that we will provide these additional funds for this year on a monthly basis, but in any event would emphasize that we share the Shah’s view regarding maintenance of the defensive posture of the Kurds.


That you approve:

—Release from the CIA reserve of the [dollar amount not declassified] you previously approved for stockpiling ordnance in case of heavy combat.

—An additional [dollar amount not declassified] from the CIA reserve in order to maintain the current level of the monthly subsidy.

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—An additional [dollar amount not declassified] from the CIA reserve to increase the cash subsidy by 50% for FY 1974.2

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, Box 8, Iraqi Kurds, 7 April 1969–12 June 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Outside System. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendations on September 6. Ratliff showed a memorandum advising of the President’s action to Clements, Moorer, Porter, and Colby on September 7, which all signed. (Ibid.)