315. Memorandum From the Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, Central Intelligence Agency (Waller) to the Director of Central Intelligence (Helms)1 2

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  • Background to Current Efforts by Kurdish Leader Barzani to Gain U.S. Support

1. The following is for your background information in connection with the forthcoming meeting which you General Haig will have with representatives of the Kurdish leader, Mulla Mustafa Barzani. An edited version of this is being prepared for General Haig.

The Kurdish Situation in Brief

2. The increasingly close relationship between the Soviet Union and the Ba’thist Government of Iraq, and concomitant pressure by the Soviets and the Ba’thists to induce the Iraqi Kurds to join a national unity government in Baghdad, have given rise to Kurdish claims that without financial aid from some source to pay Barzani’s Kurdish forces, the Pish Mirga, plus western, particularly U.S., “moral” support to counter Soviet backing of the Iraqi Bath, the Iraqi Kurds may be forced into an accommodation with their adversaries.

3. The Shah of Iran is concerned that Iraq is progressively falling under Soviet domination with implications for Iranian security and Iranian and western interests in the Persian Gulf. He therefore is seeking ways to minimize Soviet influence on Iran’s flank and in this connection believes it desirable that Barzani remain sufficiently viable to maintain his resistance to the Ba’thist regime in Baghdad.

4. Principally because of the above factors, in recent months both Barzani and SAVAK, on behalf of the Shah, have intensified their efforts to obtain western support, particularly U.S. and British moral backing as a counterweight to the Soviet support of the Ba’thists. [Page 2] Although Mulla Mustafa claims he will keep secret any commitment of U.S. moral support, such a commitment would be of little use to him if he could not exploit it to gain backing, and this would mean letting it become known.

5. The Kurdish desire for financial support has practical foundations. The subsidy granted by the Baghdad Government after the civil war ended in 1970 has been terminated recently and the [text not declassified] Iranian subsidies provided Barzani prior to the end of that war were greatly reduced when the Ba’thist subsidy took effect. As a result, in recent months, Barzani has had to reduce sharply the salaries of his forces and many have faded away. We estimate Barzani needs about $7,200,000 annually just to pay the current force of 15,000 soldiers he claims to have. He has proposed to increase his troops to 50,000 men, for which salary support would run about $24,000,000 per year. Material and arms would, of course, be extra.

Summary of Recent Approaches to the U.S., our Responses and Related Developments

6. In November 1971 [text not declassified] of [text not declassified] reviewed [text not declassified] the possibiliy of U.S. aid to Barzani, relating the question to the developing national front government in Iraq. Based on guidance from the Department of State, [text not declassified] was told that U.S. policy was to refrain from in intervention in Kurdish affairs. In March 1972 [text not declassified] proposed covert U.S. assistance to Barzani, [text not declassified] Again the U.S. policy of non-interference was confirmed, not only by the State Department but by Dr. Kissinger’s office as well. Later, in March Barzani sent a special representative, [text not declassified], to [text not declassified] and Washington to speak with the [text not declassified] and U.S. Governments.

7. While in Washington, [text not declassified] asked [text not declassified], to use his influence to obtain a covert expression of U.S. support for Barzani. During your meeting with [text not declassified], he mentioned the situation in Iraq and the two dissident groups he was in touch with. You replied that in general you shared his views of the Iraq situation. You noted, however that the U.S. could not involve itself directly. [text not declassified]

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8. [text not declassified], as well as reporting [text not declassified], have indicated that Barzani and the Shah have hope that U.S. assistance might be forthcoming. [text not declassified]

9. During his trip in April, [text not declassified] also met with Department of State officials [text not declassified] Additionally, in April Barzani sent another special representative, [text not declassified], to the U.S. to solicit official and private support for the Kurds. [text not declassified] has been in touch with Senator Gravel’s office most recently. In May, [text not declassified] proposed that Barzani’s [text not declassified] meet with Secretary of State Rogers or Dr. Kissinger during the President’s visit to Iran. This proposal was turned down on the grounds of insufficient time. Subsequently, the Shah through [text not declassified]requested that Dr. Kissinger and yourself receive representatives from Barzani. The Shah also asked for Dr. Kissinger’s and your reaction to such a meeting. A message has been sent to the Shah stating that you and. General Haig will together receive the Barzani representatives if they come to Washington.

10. [text not declassified]

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11. [text not declassified]

12. [text not declassified]

13. [text not declassified]

John H. Waller
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80B01086A, Box 1, Executive Registry Subject Files, I–13, Iran. Secret; Sensitive. The attached biographies are not published. A record of the conversation is published as Document 319.
  2. Waller provided background information for Helms’ and Haig’s upcoming meeting with representatives of Kurdish Democratic Party Leader Barzani, including a summary of other recent approaches by the Kurds.