The Survival of Saddam
a chronology
the kurds

1920Treaty of Sevres, which carved up the Ottoman Empire after World War I, calls for the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state. Instead, the Kurds are split up, with their population living mainly in Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
1931Kurdish leader Ahmad Barzani rebels against the Iraqi government.
1961Mustafa Barzani, the son of Ahmad Barzani, launches a new round of armed resistance against Iraqi rule that continues for 14 years, mostly with Iranian support.
1963American diplomats encourage Kurdish leaders to support the new Ba'ath government in Baghdad, following a U.S.-supported coup. (See interviews with Jalal Talabani and James Akins) The Ba'ath Party leadership issues a statement saying it "recognized the rights of the Kurdish people."
1970The main Kurdish group in Iraq, the Kurdish Democratic Party, negotiates a power-sharing agreement with Vice President Saddam Hussein, believing he is a man they can do business with. Afterwards, four Kurdish leaders become Cabinet Ministers in the Iraqi government.
1971Iraqi agents try to assassinate Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party. They hide explosives on a visiting cleric and blow the cleric up via remote control when he sits next to Barzani. (See interview with Mahkmoud Othman who was in the room when the cleric exploded. Also read interview with Abdul-Rahman who talks about repercussions after this assassination attempt, when the Kurds realized they could no longer trust Saddam.)
1972Saddam Hussein visits Moscow and signs a "Friendship and Cooperation" treaty with the USSR the following year.
1973Richard Nixon makes a secret agreement with Shah of Iran to begin covert action against Saddam's government. The U.S. and Iran then begin funding the Kurds in their battle against the Iraqi regime for an autonomous Kurdistan. (See interview with James Akins.)
1973-1975Working with Iran and Israel, the U.S. funds the Kurdish peshmerga (guerrilla army - rough translation: "those who do not fear death") and encourages them to fight Saddam's government. CIA and Israeli agents operate in Kurdistan. (See interviews with Akins, Othman, Talabani, and Abdul-Rahman)

Kurdish officials visit Washington to meet secretly with CIA officials (Read interview with Othman, who made the visit. Also, Talabani discussing general relations with the U.S. at the time)

1975Saddam Hussein makes surprise peace deal with the Shah of Iran at a meeting in Algiers. Within days, all U.S. support for the Kurds is stopped and Saddam begins to counterattack their forces. (See interviews with Akins, Abdul-Rahman, Talabani. )
1975 MarchJalal Talabani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), breaks away from the KDP following the collapse of U.S. support for the Kurds. Talabani forms the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and ever since, Iraq's Kurdish opposition has been riven with factionalism.
1975-1990U.S. forbids American officials from having any open contact with Iraqi Kurdish groups. (See interview with Othman on being shunned by State Department.)

At the same time, Iraq's government persecutes the Kurds. In 1988 Saddam Hussein uses chemical weapons against the Kurdish village of Halabja; thousands of men, women and children are killed.

1979Legendary Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani dies in Washington D.C. On his deathbed, he laments once having trusted the U.S. (See interview with Akins who knew Barzani well and was with him in his final days.)
1990After Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, US officials begin to meet with Iraqi opposition figures for the first time in 15 years.
1991 MarchAfter Iraq's defeat in Kuwait, Shias in Southern Iraq launch a popular uprising against the Baghdad regime. Following the Shias' lead, the Kurds in the North also revolt. Within two weeks, 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces are free of government control. However, once it is clear that the U.S. will not support the rebellion, Saddam's forces crush the revolt throughout Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds flee into the mountains. In response to humanitarian pleas, U.S. troops move into Northern Iraq in "Operation Provide Comfort". No-fly zones are established over Kurdistan.
April 1991Kurdish leaders meet Saddam in Baghdad to negotiate a settlement after the uprisings. (See interview with Abdul-Rahman on meeting Saddam again; he hadn't seen him since 1971.)
1992-5The Iraqi National Congress (INC), the U.S.-funded opposition to Saddam's government, uses Kurdistan as a base. Kurdish groups contribute forces to a CIA-backed rebel army. (See Talabani, Abdul Rahman on Kurdish role. Chalabi on the INC and relations with the Kurds and the U.S.)
May 1994Open fighting breaks out between the two major Kurdish factions, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan (PUK).
March 1995The KDP, the largest Kurdish group under Mousoud Barzani (the son of the legendary Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani), breaks with the INC after the U.S. government fails to back a planned attack on Saddam's forces. (See Abdul Rahman on decision to break with the U.S., and Talabani, whose KDP faction stayed loyal to U.S.).
August 1996KDP troops join the Iraqi Army in an attack on the INC forces based in Irbil, the largest city in Kurdistan. U.S.- backed rebels request American air support but request is denied. Iraqi troops arrest and execute hundreds of rebel leaders. (See Abdul Rahman on KDP decision to back Saddam. Talabani on lack of U.S. response to attack, which he considers another American betrayal. Also Chalabi on Kurdish infighting.)
1996-99Kurdish groups strike autonomy deal with Saddam's government and remain skeptical of the extent to which the U.S. is serious about its support for the Iraqi opposition. (See abdul Rahman on KDP's arrangement with Saddam.)
1999U.S. government explicitly states that an Iraqi attack on the Kurds would lead to a heavy U.S. response. State Department tries to resolve disputes between the two main Kurdish factions, the KDP and PUK, but sharp divisions remain.
Summer 1999U.S. government refuses to give Kurdish leaders security guarantees that would enable them to hold a general meeting of the Iraqi opposition inside Kurdistan. Instead, the meeting is held in New York City in October, 1999.

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