318. Telegram From the Interests Section in Baghdad to the Department of State1

1633. Subject: Insurgency in Kurdistan. Ref: Baghdad 1421.2

1. USINT source reported that following information was obtained from his neighbor, Major Salman Yasin, the political guidance officer of the Arbil command and former political guidance officer of the Air Force.

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2. The GOI believes that approximately six hundred Kurdish partisans controlled by Jalal Talabani have recently been infiltrated into Iraq from Syria. After crossing the border, these partisans operate in the Zakho area until they are prepared to risk moving through the recently depopulated zone along the Turkish border on their way to Galala and Haj Omran. The center for Kurdish guerilla activity has now shifted from the Turkish border area further east to Haj Omran, where the few remaining Talabani followers in Iran are able to join the partisans. Kurdish partisans are not slipping across the sealed Turkish border nor are they coming from Iran.

3. There are no indications that Barzani supporters are involved in this insurgency. Recruitment by Talabani group in Haj Omran probably assisted by resentment over GOI “land reform” program in Kurdistan. In an attempt to break the power of influential tribal leaders, in past year GOI has resettled Kurdish peasants in areas outside their traditional tribal domain.

4. The Iraqi Army has not suffered serious casualties and does not believe that the Kurds have been able to bring in heavy military equipment. Nonetheless, the army is now on full alert in the north and some soldiers and a substantial amount of military hardware have very recently been moved from the Syrian border to Kurdistan. The command headquarters formerly located in Arbil has now been moved to Balala.

5. Iraqi Government is concerned that increased insurgent activity in areas away from Syrian border and particularly harsh weather in Kurdish mountains this winter could demand larger commitment of Iraqi resources than previously anticipated. GOI, however, remains convinced that Kurdish guerilla warfare can be contained.

6. Comment: Apparently generous amnesty offer to Iraqi Kurds in Iran, extension of deadline for amnesty, and dispatch of Iraqi Internal Trade Minister, Ali Hassan, to Iran to request return of Iraqi Kurds may convince some potential partisans to hesitate before again resisting the Baghdad government. Nonetheless, Iraqis who have been willing to discuss subject feel that almost none of approximately 1,000 Kurdish families who have returned under amnesty program have been allowed to stay in Kurdistan, and Kurdish insurgency, particularly near Zakho, is rapidly picking up steam.

7. The Iraqi Government has not repeat not publicly admitted that any disturbances have taken place in the north. If this regime is forced to publicly acknowledge this Syrian-based Kurdish insurgency, the United States, often accused in Iraqi press of collaboration with Syria in Lebanon, may well be publicly condemned by GOI for instigating new Kurdish revolt.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D760407–1161. Secret. Repeated to Amman, Ankara, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Kuwait, Tehran, London, and Moscow.
  2. Telegram 1421 from Baghdad, October 2, reported that the infiltration in northern Iraq by Kurds under Jalal Talabani’s leadership was increasing, via the Syrian border. To restrict Kurdish movements, Turkey and Iraq agreed to depopulate a border area of 25 kilometers on each side of the international boundary. The Iraqi Government, the report concluded, was apprehensive over the possibility of U.S. support for the Syrian-based insurgents. (Ibid., D760372–1292)