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The Kurdish question in Iraq

Éditeur : Syracuse U.P. Date & Lieu : 1981, New York
Préface : Pages : 224
Traduction : ISBN : 0-8156-0164-6
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 155x230 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Gha. Kur. N°190Thème : Général

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The Kurdish question in Iraq

The Kurdish question in Iraq

Edmund Ghareeb

Syracuse University

The Kurds have long been a problem to those countries they inhabit, primarily Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Edmund Ghareeb examines the history of the Kurdish issue in Iran and Turkey and then concentrates on Iraq, chronicling the Iraqi Baath government’s attempts since 1968 to achieve a political understanding with the Kurds concerning their status in Northern Iraq. The failure of both sides to reach agreement contributed to widespread Kurdish armed rebellion, which was encouraged by covert Iranian, American, and Israeli assistance.

Drawing upon extensive personal interviews with pro - and anti - Baath Kurdish leaders, including Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani and members of his family, Iraqi government and Baath party officials, and U.S. government officials, Ghareeb discusses in detail the positions of the Baath and Kurdish leaders and the factors which led to the failure of negotiations between them and, ultimately, to the collapse of the Kurdish rebellion itself.

Dr. Edmund Ghareeb is a specialist and consultant on Middle Eastern and press affairs. His works include The Kurdish Nationalist Movement and Split Vision: Arab Portrayal in the American Media. He has contributed numerous articles on Arab affairs to American, European and Middle Eastern journals.



This work first briefly examines the history of the Kurdish question in Turkey and Iran, then concentrates on the Kurdish question in Iraq —specifically, the Iraqi Baath government’s attempts since 1968 to achieve a political understanding with the Kurds concerning their status in northern Iraq. The inability to establish and implement an effective political forum acceptable to both sides contributed to a widespread Kurdish armed rebellion, encouraged by covert Iranian, American, and Israeli assistance. The rebellion faltered as conventional Iraqi military units dislodged the Kurdish irregulars and forced their retreat to peripheral border regions in Iraq’s rugged mountains. When the Iraqi government consolidated its internal position and attracted significant Kurdish support, the revolt collapsed altogether.

The leaders of Iraq, some holding high positions in the ruling Arab Baath Socialist party, have tried a variety of plans to accommodate the Kurds. These leaders believed that the territorial integrity of the country should be maintained and that the primary decision-making powers should remain in Baghdad. They were willing, however, to grant the Kurds limited powers of self-rule and cultural expression.

Attempts to reconcile the Kurdish leadership with the central government foundered on a number of differences, exacerbated by unrest and armed clashes that neither side was able to control during the repeated efforts at negotiation. The underlying conflict was between a central government anxious to solidify its authority and to preserve Iraq’s territorial integrity and an entrenched Kurdish leadership whose desire for self-expression was exploited by foreign interests, which sought to promote the instability —if not the destruction —of the Baath regime in Baghdad. As Iraq’s forces gained the upper hand over the Kurds, these foreign powers, notably Iran and the United States, began to recognize that the Iraqi war with the Kurds also threatened their own economic interests in the oil-rich Middle East, and not just the Baath government alone.

The demise of the Kurdish revolt and the granting of limited autonomy to the Kurds in Iraq can be viewed as a victory for the Baath government and a step toward intraregional accommodation and stability. It is also an indication of Iraq’s growing strength, of the country’s consolidation of power, and of the need for foreign powers to refrain from exploiting minority problems for their own interests.

The principal sources for this study include, in addition to documents and statements issued by both sides, the author’s interviews with pro- and anti-Iraqi government Kurdish leaders, Iraqi government and Baath party leaders, Iraqi Communist leaders, United States .government officials, and other informed figures. The study also draws on numerous Arab and Western newspaper and magazine articles as well as on secondary works dealing with this subject.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all my friends and colleagues, too numerous to mention by name, for all their suggestions, comments, and help in arranging some of the interviews cited in this work. Through their help and encouragement, they made the realization of this project possible.

Origins of the
Kurdish Question in Iraq

Iraq was occupied by the Ottoman Turks in the sixteenth century.

For almost four centuries it served as a buffer zone between the Ottoman and Persian empires. Persian and Turkish armies fought over the land, while the people of Iraq tried to rid themselves of foreign invaders. The violence and instability of those years destroyed much of Iraq’s commerce and industry and contributed in no small measure to the deterioration of the country’s political system, which still suffers from the aftereffects to the present day.

When Iraq achieved its independence in 1932, it inherited the legacy of the Ottoman regime as well as problems resulting from the rise of nationalist sentiment among Arabs and Kurds, internal dissension, social and economic unrest, and foreign pressures and interventions. The British tried to form a state, which necessarily included many ethnic groups and religious minorities, each with competing demands and expectations from the new country. In a memorandum submitted to his government in the early 1930s, Faisal, the first king of Iraq, summed up Iraq’s major problems as follows:

This government rules over a Kurdish group most of which is ignorant and which includes persons with personal ambitions who call upon this group to abandon the government because it is not of their race. [It also] rules a Shia plurality which belongs to the same ethnic group as the government. But as a result of the discriminations which the Shiis incurred under Ottoman rule which did not allow them to participate in the affairs of government, a wide breach developed between these two sects. Unfortunately, all of this has led the Shiis ... to abandon a government which they consider to be very bad...

I discussed these great masses of the people without mentioning the …


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