264. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Colby to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Text of General Mulla Mustafa Barzani’s Letter to Secretary Kissinger

1. We are transmitting to you below the text of the letter from General Barzani which was shown to you in Tehran.2 We are also including the most recent list of ordnance requirements which the Kurds submitted to the Iranians and which was shown to you in Tehran.

2. Barzani is in a very difficult position because he must defend the Rawanduz–Haji Umran area which is now the objective of a concentrated Iraqi attack lest he lose the only supply line to Iran over which supplies can be moved in large quantity. It is also his headquarters area and its loss would be a tremendous blow to Kurdish morale. We estimate that if Barzani loses this area he could at best continue military operations against Iraq only on a drastically reduced scale with the chance a significant proportion of his supporters would desert him.3

3. As in the case of previous Kurdish requests for more aid, we recommend against increasing the level of our support to Barzani because a further increase in aid would risk exposure of this sensitive operation. Our assistance to Barzani for FY 1973, 1974 and 1975 totals almost $20 million and has included over 1250 tons of ordnance. Iranian assistance to the Kurds is at a very high level of over $74 million per year. Nevertheless the Iranians are able to give all of the assistance the Kurds need [Page 721] and the Agency recommends that further increases in aid to the Kurds be left up to the Iranians.

4. We have already informed the Iranians and Barzani via our Station in Tehran that, in our opinion, it would be unwise for Barzani at this juncture either to make a public declaration of autonomy or to announce the formation of an Iraqi government in exile in Iraqi Kurdistan.

5. The text of Barzani’s letter follows:

“Dear Mr. Secretary:

“Once again we find it necessary to present to you in this memorandum the serious situation in which our people find themselves and the military, political and economic problems which the circumstances of an aggressive war has imposed on them. We are hopeful that our situation will merit careful consideration by your government, that our problems will be studied and understood and that we will consequently be helped in any way possible.

“Fully backed by the Russians, the Iraqis have for more than seven months been waging a war of genocidal proportion on Kurdistan. In addition to the active participation of thousands of Russian experts, pilots and other Soviet officers, material Russian support and the continuous flow of arms and ammunition has given the Iraqis an immense superiority in weaponry and war power, a superiority from which our forces have and continue to suffer greatly. For example, in the last two months and a half we have suffered about 1200 casualties killed and wounded on the two fronts of Qal’at Dizah and Rawanduz alone. It is on these two fronts that the Iraqis have concentrated most of their troop strength of 30 infantry brigades, 6 battalions of special forces all of which is being supported by 400 pieces of artillery and mortars, 600 tanks and hundreds of aircraft. The major and final aim of attacking from these two fronts is of course the occupation of our central position Balak, a place where most of our headquarters are located. This is a fact that has forced us into a frontal battle with the Iraqis on those two fronts as it is evident that we cannot afford to lose this area. Through continuous military pressure the Iraqis have managed to advance and control some key positions on both fronts and from where Galala, in the immediate vicinity of which are located our headquarters, is being shelled by their long-range artillery. This is something that has not happened during the entire history of our movement. Furthermore, 95 per cent of the casualties we have taken are the result of air raids and artillery and tank shelling. That is not to say that while achieving this the Iraqis have not suffered very heavy casualties which can be placed at about 6,000 killed and wounded.

“Mr. Secretary, this being the situation and in order to be able to effectively defend ourselves we see that we are in urgent need for some [Page 722] sophisticated anti-air and anti-tank weapons along with long-range artillery units all of which must be sufficiently supplied with ammunition. These weapons are also needed as the key supporting element in the counter-offensive which we must launch in order to ease off and push back the immediate Iraqi military pressure which we now feel. We have attached for your consideration a list of these urgent needs.

“Aside from the military pressure, we also find ourselves in a serious and rapidly deteriorating economic condition whereby we have close to 400,000 refugees who have lost their homes and property. This is in addition to the 100,000 who are being cared for by the Red Lion and Sun Society through the kind help of the Iranian Government. The economic situation is dangerously worse in areas neighboring the Turkish border which is closed to us. With the advent of winter the conditions in these areas are rapidly approaching a critical stage and unless some efforts are spent in persuading Turkey to open her border, at least for humanitarian purposes, and until large quantities of humanitarian help reach the population in these areas, famine will soon be the real and immediate danger. We are hopeful that your government will extend the urgently needed aid either directly or through the efforts of American philanthropic organizations.

“Mr. Secretary, on the political level the Iraqis are now taking specific measures to implement what they call their law of autonomy as they already have formed legislative and executive bodies for that purpose. As superficial and unsatisfactory as these bodies may seem to the bulk of the Kurdish people, these measures could nevertheless deceive the uninformed particularly in the outside world. On our side we therefore must have an alternative either in the form of declaring autonomy for our people in Iraqi Kurdistan, or by offering the people of Iraq a recognized Iraqi formation in our area. In order to fairly and squarely face our people and the Iraqi population in general, one of the above steps must be taken as a political alternative.

“These Mr. Secretary are briefly the main issues which we hope will be studied by yourself and jointly with our Iranian friends as we certainly hope also that your government will do whatever it can to help us in these critical circumstances.

“We have been and continue to be ever grateful for what His Imperial Majesty The Shahinshah Aryamihr has ordered to be done for us and this has always been the cornerstone in our struggle. We also are grateful to the United States of America for the help it has extended to us until now, but the demands upon us are greater now and that is why we find it necessary to request the expansion of that help in any way feasible and in the manner which will suit your policy.

“Iraq is no doubt becoming a real danger for the area and particularly in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. This is not only because of the fanatical and subversive policy of her government, but also be[Page 723]cause it has become a bridgehead from which the Russians are penetrating the whole region and are trying to consolidate their presence and serve their own interests at the expense and the exclusion of others particularly your country and her allies. Helping us in our present bloody struggle against the Iraqis will not only be aiding an oppressed people, but it will also count as a major contribution in putting a limit to the ever-increasing Soviet influence in the region and in weakening and finally eliminating the very tool which they so freely use to serve that purpose. No doubt Mr. Secretary that you agree that this is a serious matter worthy of careful consideration by yourself and your government.

“Please Mr. Secretary, accept our best wishes and appreciation.”

(signed) Mustafa Barzani, October 22, 1974

6. The list of ordnance requirements follows:


155MM (Howitzer) Artillery 10,000 shells
25 Pounder 10,000 shells
120MM Mortar (Russian) 10,000 shells
120MM Mortar (American) 10,000 shells
82MM Mortar (Russian) 6,000 shells
B–10 Anti-Tank 2,000 shells
106 (Recoilless Gun) Anti-Tank 3,000 shells
“107 (Recoilles Gun) Anti-Tank 3,000 shells
R.P.G. 7 Anti-Tank 5,000 shells
60MM Mortar 10,000 shells
122MM Mortar (Russian) 10,000 shells
122MM Field Gun (Russian) 4,000 shells
30MM Anti-Air 50,000 bullets
Douchka (Heavy M. Gun) 100,000 bullets
14.5 Anti-Air 50,000 bullets
Brno Rifle Ammo 5,000,000 bullets
Russian Kalashnikov 7.62X36MM 2,000,000 bullets

“B. Needed also are as many as possible of anti-tank missiles (Sager or identical ones), and some sophisticated anti-air weapons, especially missiles.

“C. There is also need for:

150 pieces of 60MM Mortars

150 R.P.G. 7 Launchers

5,000 Hand Grenades”

W.E. Colby 4
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80M01048A, Box 3, Folder 35. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. On a routing slip, Colby wrote on December 12: “I prodded Scowcroft on this—He said they had asked [text not declassified] who said they’d be delighted if repaid (which is not administratively feasible)—I suggested we should consult Shah and then go shares with him—He rather agreed, but will check HAK. C”
  2. Kissinger was in Tehran November 1–3.
  3. On a second routing slip, October 31, the Deputy Director for Operations commented, “We have left the question of guerrilla warfare out of the memorandum to Dr. Kissinger because Barzani is using guerilla tactics wherever possible. His forces continually strike at Iraqi roads, power lines and Iraqi garrisons throughout the whole of Kurdistan. Barzani, however, has been forced to concentrate a major part of his forces to defend his one remaining major supply route. The terrain in the area is such that the Iranians could not move major quantities of supplies to the border at any other place. Barzani needs not only military supplies but large quantities of foodstuffs. The rural Kurds in the mountain valleys have always needed to import food; now with hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees from the cities and many more displaced from villages under Iraqi control, many of Barzani’s people would starve in the long cold winter without Iranian supplies.”
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Colby signed “Bill” above this typed signature.