But the next day we heard that things were real different and everything was
cut. Then Barzani--he was in shock, really--he wrote a telegraph to
Kissinger ... saying, 'look this has happened to us, at least deal with this
from a humanitarian point of view--we have a quarter of a million of refugees
in Iran and it's a disaster. People are not happy to go back to Saddam
... The answer of Kissinger to it was that well, this is politics. There are
no moral values in politics. And usually when two sides agree on something
which is important, maybe a third side would suffer or whatever it is, and I am
sorry to say this is not human rights, this is not a moral issue, this is
And we were very much disappointed. I think maybe part of the thing was
because we were a bit short-sighted in evaluating American policy. We didn't
have much experience. And Barzani personally was very much disappointed and
after that he went to America. He was you know ill. And then he died there
also. Even when he went there, till he died, they didn't see him and they
didn't care about it really.
Can you talk about your personal dealings with Saddam Hussein in 1970,
negotiating the agreement. On a personal level, how would you describe him?
And what were those negotiations actually like for you personally?
Well, I was leading the Kurdish delegation then, and he was leading the Iraqi
delegation. At that time he was vice-president and dealing with the Kurdish
file; usually they always put the Kurdish file to the vice-president to deal
with it. And we had months of negotiations with Saddam. I saw him many many
times, then, at that time. I think he's a clever tactician, or he was at least
at that time. ... And he made a lot of tactics with the communists. Because
he wanted to reach Soviet Union, he made pact with Soviet Union. And then, he
just changed his policy. And then he made the front with the communists,
against the Kurds.
Also for the Kurds, he knew that he couldn't end the movement through
fighting, so he was thinking of trying to have a deal with the Kurds in a way
that make the Kurds support his policies. And if he couldn't succeed in that,
then he will try to fight the Kurds. Because at that time he had the pact with
Soviet Union. They were giving a lot of arms to the Soviets, and the Soviets
told us very frankly in 1973 when the last delegation came to see us, say if
you have a war with Iraq, we will support Iraq all through it. Donít do
that and try to be you know, co-operative. And I mean, theyíre, able
to crush the Kurdish movement through cooperation with Soviet Union. Then he
decided that he has no objection to making big concessions to Iran, to agree
with Iran to encircle and destroy the Kurdish movement. ...
So all the tactics with the Soviet Union, with us, against us, with Iran,
against Iraq--Saddam never had strategy for the Kurds except to either crush
the Kurdish movement or contain it and make it support him as a leader. I
view him as a clever man.
When you are sitting in a room with him, what is he like? Is he charismatic?
Is he shy? What is your impression?
Well, he attracts attention. And he has a personality which sometimes deceives
some people at the beginning because whatever points you put in, he agrees
immediately. But he has something at the back of his mind. He has an end
result. He wants to reach something so he agrees to this point that went so
quickly and you think he is a very flexible and positive. But there's a plan
behind it. You don't know what it is. So he has always a double policy really.
One thing on the table, one thing under the table, so. And our experience
with him, experience of all Iraqis,is that he could never be trusted, And
whatever he says one thing, whatever he does is another thing. And he is a real
killer. He is a very cruel man, a dangerous man. He has used chemical
weapons, biological weapons.
You also have seen what he studied, his books. Can you give us an insight
into his mind, into his thinking?
We have seen him many times and I have seen his library. And he had a lot of
books about Stalin and the Stalin system and he liked it. And he actually
liked the way Stalin was dealing, was making policies-- he was following the
I mean, some people say Saddam is like Hitler. Much different, I think.
Hitler fought people outside his country but Stalin--how he behaved in his own
country against his own people and the opposition--there are a lot of
similarities with Saddam.
What was it like for you, when you walked into that study and you saw these
I was amazed. And when we asked him about communism, reading all those
books, he says 'But even Stalin, was he a Communist? Stalin used communist
party as a tool to stay in power. To govern the country, to defend his
country. And we have other tools.'
'It's not a matter of an ideology,' he says. 'A statesman usually uses an
ideology here and there to stay in power, to govern the country.' So that is
why he thought that Stalin was more a nationalist than a communist.
... At that time, in the 1970s, people were not much against Stalin as now.
The Soviet Union was still there, the leftist ideas were in the area, but
later on when he started killing people through poisoning, killings, chemical
weapons, everything. ... You remember, [Saddam] was trying to deport the whole
Kurdish people to the South. He did half of it. Then came the war with Kuwait
and then the war with Iran. He couldn't finish it. And Stalin did the same.
Stalin deported the whole Chechen people from one area to many areas. We saw
gradually that we are dealing with a man, who's quite dangerous.
Did he give you an impression that he'd actually collected books on Stalin,
and was actually studying his methods?
He didn't say 'I'm studying his method.' But he was fond of him as a good
leader, a big, important leader. He wanted [to study] Second World War, and so
forth. And he really looked to be imitating Stalin's ways of action.
... And he was benefiting at the same time from the Soviet bloc for his
security plans against his own people. [For example] when he made this very
evil plan to kill Barzani on the twenty ninth of September 1971. I was in the
room with Barzani. He had the whole planning and training and everything help
from East Germany. Because Saddam was the first country to recognize East
Germany after the communist bloc and they were helping him, in security terms,
which was very dangerous to Kurds and the Iraqi people.
Could you tell us that story, briefly, about Saddam's assassination attempt
There was some religious delegation who had come to see Barzani. ...
After several minutes, Barzani came in and sat there ... And they said 'we
have come here to listen to you to see what you think.' And they brought
offers of religious book for him as a present.
And he started to say thank you, when the man opposite him exploded. I mean,
he became pieces, you know, in the room, and four people were killed in the
same explosion. Two on his left side. Two on his right side. And somebody on
the right side. Barzani was severely wounded, but was safe. Both of us. At
that time the coffee man who was putting tea for that man who exploded, so
apparently he has something, we saw later, he has a belt around his tummy, and
they have told him this is a recorder... Apparently two drivers were outside
the building. They had two cars. Security officers. It seems very devoted
ones. They explo, I mean they put, you know what you call it electronic or
something on the recorder there, and it exploded you know And the whole room
was dark. Full of powder and the smoke, and we came out, when we came out we
went in front of the door, the two drivers saw us. And they point and say look
heís still alive, at Barzani. And they throw a hand grenade. This
explosion of the grenade took place in front of us. One was killed, fourteen
were wounded. I was safe, Bazani just had small rounded parts in his body
which are not dangerous, which we took out later.
Jumping forward some years, the next contact you had with the U.S. was in
the 1980s. You yourself were subject to the Iraqi chemical attack on the
Kurds. And after that, there was the beginning of a small opening in America,
with Congress. What kind of a response did you get then in Washington, after
Saddam Hussein's chemical attack?
In 1986 I went to Washington as a representative of Kurdish movement. Couldn't
see anybody. They had good relations with Saddam then. Saddam was at war with
Khomeini and the U.S. thought the danger is Khomeini and they were supporting
... And of course in 1988, when I went again as a representative of the
Kurdistan Front, which was the Front which was from the all Kurdish groups at
that time, we had had chemical weapons attack in 1987-88, and I was myself a
victim of chemical weapon. We didn't die, of course, but we had suffering.
Even now my throat has some problem.
... We came to Washington and we tried to see anybody in State Department,or
at the Iraqi desk, or at the human rights desk. To talk to them about our
sufferings, especially the chemical weapons because it is prohibited
internationally. So Saddam is doing something which is violating all
international laws so they should at least stand for the international laws, if
they don't stand for the Kurds.
And I remember I had some help also from Jonathan Randolph, from Jim Hoagland,
from William Safire, from David Ottoway. These are great journalists in
America. And they helped us really. And they also contacted the State
Department for someone to see me. They promised me that they will see me
... And then after twenty four hours official phoned me in Washington. Saying
well, 'look, I will see you, but you have to remember two points. One, we are
not with violence, so if you want to change regime with violence, we will not
support you. Second, we are not for the partition of Iraq. So you have to know
that you are with Iraq unity.' And I told him on the phone, I said 'look, we
have to use violence because the regime is killing us anyway, but still I
haven't come here to ask you to support me for the violence. I am just coming
here to talk about the suffering of Kurdish people, the chemical weapons, etc.
a humanitarian plight for us. And secondly, we have asked for autonomy within
Iraq. We haven't asked for partition, so it's okay, I could meet your
conditions and come and see you.' He says okay.
After another twenty four hours he phoned me again. He says "look we have this
Kurdish thing with Mr Schultz who was the Secretary of State. And I am sorry to
tell you I cannot see you. Because in our policy on this, it may complicate
things. We are trying to talk to Iraq through diplomatic channels about your
issue, but if we see you, it might be counter-productive, for them it may be
The explanation was nonsense. And I said okay if you don't see me then let
the Iraqi desk come and see me. He say well this policy goes for all of us. I
say well there are human-right section. You have a human-right section in your
state department. And this is human-rights issue. We have been killed. I have
been nearly killed myself and I want to come and tell the story. Won't you
listen to people like us?
They contacted the head of human rights section in the State Department and
they talked to him about the whole story. And he said 'well I will let you
know.' He was positive himself. Then apparently when consulting again, with
Mr. Schultz, that's when they said no. ... And nobody saw us. And I stayed
there three months trying to see somebody. And they never saw anybody.
Francois Mitterand, then the French president, and some other world leaders
asked for a summit in Paris, in January 1989, on prohibiting chemical weapons,
and the main issue was Saddam. And we went there, to the Kurdish Institute in
Paris. We tried just to talk to somebody in the conference about chemical
weapons. Who are the victims? We are the victims, so listen to us. And we
brought some of the people who were burned by chemical weapons and nobody
allowed us in or listened to us. And the final result of the conference was
not at all about Iraq. Nobody talked about Iraq at all. It was about Libya.
As Libya is going to have chemical weapon factory. And they completely
acquitted Saddam, and America had a big hand in that conference to acquit
Saddam. And I have seen that personally.
After the Gulf War, the balance of power changed and suddenly America
began trying to work with the Kurds. How would you describe that relationship
in the 1990s? Do you think there was skepticism on the part of the Kurdish
parties which America supported?
In general the Kurdish parties have had skepticism towards America. From
1946 ... then in 1975, when they have the setback and the U.S. supported
Saddam, and so on. In 1988 as I told you, they didn't care about our issue.
And later on they were co-operating with Turkey, with Iran, with Arabs. And of
course all the while Kurds were becoming the victims.
In 1991 things changed, of course, and Saddam was becoming a danger to them
[the U.S.]. So they started having a bit different position towards the
Kurds. Also, because Kurds were an important element--they were the only armed
strong opposition which
they have there on the ground. And they could challenge the government more
than any other opposition in Iraq so they had to deal with it.
After the war I was again in Washington as a head of a Kurdish delegation led
by Kurdistan Front. We were going there to see State Department again. Same
old story. Something happened in-between, which was not so good, and it was a
mistake, I think from the Kurdish side. They went into negotiation with Saddam
while we were in America waiting for State Department to see us. The whole
delegation was in Baghdad, Talabani and the others were ... kissing Saddam...
It was a blot on our mission. And I think it was a mistake.
... We went to State Department again. This time we were received of course.
And they told us, 'now look we have no policy to interfere in your country.' We
told them, 'but people are by the millions running to the frontier, this is
not a matter of policy, it is humanitarian tragedy. You have to do something
about it. Six hundred thousand are staying on the frontier of Turkey.' And at
that time it was snow and winter, people are dying, children are dying.
They say, 'no we can't interfere this is an old story you have with the
Iraqis.' And we said, 'but, President Bush said in one of his speeches--we ask
the Iraqi people to rise up and change their regime.' But you didn't let us
change the leader, because you allowed him to use armed helicopters. So now we
are his victims. He is running after us. We are running because people are
afraid of chemical weapons again. And they said no--'this is an internal
We went back to the hotel, disappointed with these people, and I told Mr.
David Mark--'look, I have been in this building and in this room, 25 ago in
1966. And I am very sorry that there is still no change in American policy
after 25 years.' And then in the evening we heard that President Bush ordered
8,000 marines to go to Iraq, Kurdistan, to bring back the refugees and create
camps for them. Apparently it was because the Turkish president phoned Bush.
He said, 'there are six hundred thousand Iraqi Kurds on my frontier. I am not
ready to allow these people in. My Kurds are safe and we have no problem. We
don't want these people to come into my country, because they will disturb the
whole Kurdish situation. So please take them back to their country. If you
don't, I will do it with my army.'
So George Bush had to do it. Because they didn't want the Turkish army to come
in because of Arabs and whatever. And that's why it was done. They then
created the safe haven and they started helping those refugees.
Final question. If you look at the whole history of the U.S. relationship
with Iraq and with Saddam in particular and the Ba'ath Party, how would you sum
I think they strengthened this man and his regime. They like this regime to be
around. Maybe they wanted to change Saddam in person, if possible, but not the
regime. ... They are not on good terms with Syria. And America doesn't like
Iraq and Syria to be on good terms. And, they are not on good terms with Iran
also. So they don't like Iran, Iraq, Syria, to be on good terms because there
is a danger that they may make a front and Israel wouldn't like it, and so on.
That's why I think they like this regime to stay on. And they always threaten
the world countries with Saddam and his regime--they have sold their arms to
the Gulf States. And I don't know why the Gulf States need arms. Against who?
The factories are working for them, the U.S., just because they're afraid.
They say they [Iraq] threatens Kuwait and the others. So I think American
policy is that they like this regime to stay on, but definitely, they are fed
up with the person of Saddam who is difficult to deal with him.
They would like to change Saddam. Of course they have a hope of that. But I
don't think they have any plan to change Saddam. I think they have a hope. They
want to encircle him economically--which is more, dangerous to Iraqi people.
And they have suffered more from the regime. And they want to put pressure on
him here and there by the Kurds, by Iraqi opposition. Hoping that some day,
somebody within Saddam's circle could kill him.
... Now Saddam is there in Baghdad. He has seventy-five thousand Republican
Guards. And a lot of other security forces around him. Nobody could reach him
easily. ... We have always asked the American government to indict this man.
Put him before a trial. He is a criminal of war. ... And their best evidence
for that would be to dig the very huge mass graves in Iraq. The infamous
graves in which hundred and ninety thousand Kurds were buried alive. They
buried them in very big holes. And biological weapons were used on these poor
people before killing them. That's what everybody says. And then we have told
the Americans, whhen you dig it, then nobody would defend Saddam. Neither
Russia, nor France or anybody. And they told us, 'well look, how could you do
that? Because this is a sovereign state and we cannot go there unless we have
permission from the Iraqi government.'
Secondly, they are not ready to bring even one of their soldiers into Iraq or
to be wounded. So they won't do a military operation. Thirdly, they are not
ready to put up an Iraqi government from opposition.
... How they will change Saddam? It's just a dream you know. I don't think
they have any plan to change him really. They hope to do that, but how they
don't know. That's why when the Iraqi opposition visits the U.S., they always
go there with some hope, but they come back without anything. Because
Madeleine Albright told the last delegation when they went there--'look, we
want to get rid of this man, but we cannot tell you when and how.'
...Even the different U.S. political parties haven't yet agreed on a common
plan what to do. I think they had a golden opportunity to remove Saddam during
the war. They had another opportunity to remove him in the uprising after the
war, and they didn't. And now it's more complicated. They say they have been
trying to remove Castro for forty years and they can't. ... They can't remove
Khadaffi, it's not so easy. Opportunities come, but they don't seize it.
That is my point of view.
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