247. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Iran (Helms) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

872. Ref: Tehran 870 (Barzani’s letter to Secretary Kissinger).2

1. The Shah sent word via SAVAK Chief, General Nasiri, Tuesday morning 16 April that he wanted me to read the Kurdish Democratic Party’s proposed autonomy declaration prior to my audience scheduled for late that afternoon. The declaration consisting of a preamble of 6 pages and a statement of principles and organization of 7 pages was [Page 688]brought to the Embassy by a SAVAK officer in mid-afternoon. (The complete text of both parts has been cabled [less than 1 line not declassified] with a request to send a copy to your office.)3 SAVAK had indicated that the Kurds were planning to broadcast their autonomy declaration over their clandestine “Radio Kurdestan” later in the evening 16 April.

2. When I saw the Shah, he said that he wanted our government to study the proposed Kurdish autonomy declaration. He was seeking and would welcome our government’s comments and views on the contents of the declaration itself and on the advisability of promulgating it at this time.

3. I pointed out that once broadcast, the statement could not be un-broadcast or recalled. It seemed to me a step which should be very carefully considered before being taken.

4. The Shah said that he had not had the opportunity to consider all aspects of the proposal himself and that is one reason he was seeking our views. “Since we are in this thing together”, he said, he wanted to consult the U.S. before reaching a decision.

5. In my presence he telephoned SAVAK ordering them that the broadcast of the autonomy declaration should be postponed at least until Saturday, 20 April. He said that General Barzani is in Tehran and will wait here until then to have the Shah’s decision.

6. He said that in any case he would be increasing his own financial assistance to the Kurds who now need more aid than ever due to the influx of an estimated quarter of a million refugees from the south including thousands of professional people, teachers, doctors and intellectuals.

7. The Shah pointed out that the present regime in Iraq is an aggressive combination of the Ba’th and the Communists and until Iraq gets a decent government it seemed desirable to him to support the Kurds.

8. It seems to me that the Washington staff study which was forwarded to us for comment as WH40770,4 put forth some cogent reasons for the Kurds not issuing their own declaration of autonomy at this time. Such a declaration will be a public burning of bridges which will virtually foreclose further negotiation and will give the Baghdad regime a further pretext for major coercive military action. The Kurds can always issue the declaration at some future time if it appears advantageous to do so. If the Shah and we indicate we approve of issuing the [Page 689]declaration at this time, we shall be implicitly bound to support the Kurds through the consequences which follow. We know that their projected minimum budget is 180 million dollars per year and that they are going to need massive supplies of food and other materials to support their population of one and a half million people (Tehran 869).5 With an area which is economically unviable, is it in the Kurdish interest to make this irreparable break with Baghdad. We in Tehran do not think so and recommend that we tell the Shah and the Kurds that we do not recommend that they issue the autonomy declaration for the time being.

9. Need your comments before Saturday6 local time. Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 426, Backchannel Files, 1974, Middle East/Africa, Vol. II. Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only. Sent with the instruction to deliver at opening of business April 17.
  2. Not found.
  3. A copy of the declaration is in the Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80M01048A, Box 3, Folder 35. Colby sent a copy to Kissinger on April 16.
  4. Document 244.
  5. Not found.
  6. April 20.