Mustafa Barzani – The Legacy of His Leadership and His Last Meeting With The Shah Of Iran - By Rauf Naqishbendi

Early in 1975, at an OPEC meeting in Alger, a landmark agreement between Saddam Hussein and Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was signed. Accordingly, Saddam ceded the historical Iraqi rights to the disputed waterway of Shatt al-Arab, to Iran. In return, the former Shah of Iran withdrew support for the Kurdish revolution initiated in 1961. Saddam believed it would be a death sentence for the Kurdish revolution to be cut off from the Shah’s support. He proved to be right. Once Iran and the CIA stopped sponsoring Mustafa Barzani, the Kurdish revolution’s fate was sealed.

After the Alger conference the Kurds were all anxiously awaiting Barzani’s decision, as was I. (At the time, I was student in Tehran.)  Would he give up or continue fighting?  I knew my mother’s cousin, Muhammed Harseney, was spending a great deal of time with Barzani in those days. Harseny would leave home each morning to accompany Barzani throughout the day. Barzani had not seen the Shah of Iran since his return from Alger.

Harseney had served as secretary to Barzani for years, and was then a high-ranking member of the Kurdish revolution. Later he served as secretary of the treasury. He was Barzani’s long-time confidante. Barzani understood that Tehran was behind his defeat. According to Harseny, Barzani called upon Harseney and Dr. Muhmood Osman, soliciting their views.  He asked Harseny , should the revolution continue,  how would he feed his Peshmargas?  Harseney replied, knowing how much money they had, that he could guarantee that no Peshmargas would go hungry. Barzani then asked Harseny what to do with the more than one hundred thousand Peshmargas. Harseney responded that the size of their army needed to be trimmed. He suggested to Barzani that they reduce the armed force to about 5,000 men divided into small units. Harseny also recommended that these units not engage in face to face battle with the Iraqi army, but rather be deployed in guerilla-type warfare. The goal was to make it possible to attack the enemy anywhere and at the same time make it impossible for the enemy to find them. Barzani then asked Dr. Osman how to care for wounded Peshmargas. Dr. Osman responded that, with their resources, he would guarantee that no wounded Peshmarga would go untreated.  These were the only two people Barzani consulted with, and both men were ready to fight to end.

In the end, Barzani decided to end the Kurdish revolution. When we heard the news in Tehran, my friends and I were stunned and disappointed like the rest of the people. First, we wondered and asked about the fate of the more than one hundred thousand Kurdish refugees in Iran. In addition, we heard that many Peshmargas kept on fighting purposely, preferring death with dignity in a battlefield rather than  submission to Saddam’s regime. We thought Barzani must have gone insane, for he enjoyed the support of all Kurds. People were ready to fight and die. Barzani may have been the only one who wanted to stop fighting.  But because he was the King, and lacking a forum for a democratic  open debate, his was the only opinion that mattered.  It was imperative to us that the revolution continue for it had consumed tens of thousands of lives, and people had been struggling for nearly fifteen years. It was, in our opinion, a betrayal to end a revolution that had grown as powerful as ours was.  To abruptly stop and submit to the will of two powerful Kurdish enemies - the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein.

According to Harseney, Barzani’s decision to stop fighting Saddam was made in a meeting with the Shah of Iran. He told me that General Sayaddian, the head of Iranian intelligence agency known as Savak, was honoring Barzani in scheduling a one-on-one meeting with the Shah after his (the Shah's) return from Alger. A day later, Sayaddian returned to Barzani and told him that the Shah had changed his mind. Instead of meeting with Barzani  alone, he wanted him to bring to the meeting as many people as he trusted.  The Shah wanted to be heard by as many people as possible.

The schedule was set and Barzani selected about a half-dozen people to accompany him to the meeting with the Shah of Iran. I recall the name of a few attendees besides Harseny.    Dr. Muhmood Osman was among the group.  The Shah received them and he started the meeting  by saying, as he pointed to Barzani: “Mr. Barzani you have told me on more than one occasion that your revolution will have no result. Because of that I have decided to stop futile fighting that can come to no good end, if for no other reason than to avoid further bloodshed. That is my decision, tell me what you think?“

Barzani responded, “Sir, I agree with what you said.” The Shah then looked at the rest of the participants in the meeting. “Now, gentlemen you may ask whatever questions you have."  There was only one question, proposed by Dr. Osman,  who asked what would be the fate of the Kurdish refugees should the Kurds decide to continue fighting. The Shah responded that his government would provide for them.

It should be said that Barzani at the time had the custody of the Kurdish revolution’s fund which, according to Harseney ,was close to $150 million at the time -  the equivalent to over a billion dollars in today’s money. Barzani treated that money as his and his family’s.  From that date to the present, there has been  no public record or accounting of that money, just as  with all the money his son, Masoud Barzani, has been receiving from Iraq since the start of the US occupation, and the funds he received from the food-for-oil program as a tax on oil pipelines crossing Kurdistan’s border to Turkey.

Readers must be reminded Barzani has said he would fight anyone who attempts to continue a Kurdish revolution. That needs to be said about Mustafa Barzani and the legacy of his leadership.


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May 15, 2009
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