Kurdish Issue

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Masoud Barzani and the roots of Kurdish distrust of the United States- Bruce Riedel

Brookings– This fall, Iraq’s Kurds have suffered their worst setbacks in their quest for independence in a quarter-century. Their leader Masoud Barzani has quit his posts in disgrace and blamed the United States for failing to help the Kurdish people. It’s unfortunately an all too familiar pattern. Barzani’s life story is the best witness to the pattern.

Barzani was one of six Iraqi opposition leaders invited to the White House. He was the most credible but by far the hardest to convince to come, and he remained skeptical throughout the visit about American intentions. He sat in the Roosevelt room like a man cornered, who knew that the siren call of the Americans could not be resisted but would ultimately be a disastrous delusion.Barzani first visited the White House on July 31, 1992. I was the director for Gulf and South Asian Affairs in the National Security Council so the visit was my responsibility. The liberation of Kuwait was just over a year and a half old and President George H. W. Bush was being criticized for leaving Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad. Bush’s arguments that the coalition had no mandate for marching to Baghdad, ousting the government, and that occupying Iraq would become an endless quagmire for Americans failed to staunch the criticism.

It is not hard to understand his reluctance and caution. His father Mustafa Barzani had led the Kurdish rebellion against Baghdad in the early 1970s that was supported clandestinely by the Shah of Iran and the CIA as well as the Israeli secret intelligence service, the Mossad. Against great odds, the Kurds drove the Iraqi army out of much of Kurdistan.

In 1975, the shah signed a border treaty with Hussein and abandoned the Kurds to disaster. The United States did nothing to help the Kurds except to offer the elder Barzani safe exile. The Kurds paid a horrific price for trusting their allies. Mustafa spent the rest of his days in exile in northern Virginia. Henry Kissinger famously said, “fuck the Kurds if they can’t take a joke” and “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

In the 1980s, the Kurds joined with the Iranian revolutionary regime in fighting the Iran-Iraq war. When it ended, Hussein was even more ruthless and brutal than in 1974. Again Washington did nothing. Thousands of Kurds were killed and tens of thousands were forced into harsh encampments where they were under Hussein’s cruelty. The Reagan administration had aligned with Hussein against Iran and did nothing to help the Kurds.

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This entry was posted on 2017-11-08 by in News Articles.
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