|Prof. Türel YILMAZ ŞAHİN, Gazi University, Department of International Relations
| Following the announcement of the USA regarding its withdrawal from Iraq (and accordingly from northern Iraq), the Iraqi Kurds started to ask, “Is the USA “betraying” us?” and in some Kurdish sites, this question started to be discussed.
In an article within one of the Kurdish websites, it is indicated that since the dawn of the period in which the USA started to exert its power in the region (the 1950s), it has never treated the Kurds in a friendly way, and the Kurds have been used by this country for the interests of the USA and Israel against Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.  As a matter of fact, Mirwaisi history signifies the reality. Considering the historical experiences, it is seen that the Iraqi Kurds were “used/betrayed” not only by the USA but also by the USSR, Iran and Israel.
Although the Iraqi Kurds started their attempts so as to establish an “independent” state since 1932 when Iraq got out of the British mandate, despite on paper, they managed to show themselves with Molla Mustafa Barzani emerging as the leader of this goal after the Second World War.
After the Second World War, with the failure of the Kurdish movement led by Molla Mustafa Barzani, Barzani and his 10-thousand tribe members migrated to the Mahabad region in Iran where Kurdish authority prevailed (in the region, Mahabad Republic was founded with the support of the USSR). However, as a result of the USSR’s bringing a halt to its support to the Mahabad Republic due to the pressures from the USA, Barzani and his peshmargas left Iran and sought shelter in the USSR. After staying for 11 years in this country, they took military training and after General Kasım’s coup, they returned back to Iraq on October 7, 1958. 
Since the first half of the 1960s, the Kurds have begun their insurgencies against the Baghdad government. The USSR, with the Ba’ath administration in Iraq, gave support to the Kurds secretly so as to use them as a source of pressure on the administration in 1968. In other words, it used the Kurds to receive privileges from the Iraqi government. When Iraq would get concessive or the reverse happens, the support provided to Barzani was decreased or increased. The struggle of the Ba’ath administration against the Kurds rendered Iraq as the puppet of the USSR. As a result of all these developments, in April 1972, between the USSR and Iraq, 15-year-period “Friendship and Cooperation Agreement” was signed. With this agreement, Moscow apart from gaining some privileges from Iraq on oil, provided the Soviet navy with the use of “Oum Kasr” harbour located the Persian Gulf, which gave the USSR an important strategic superiority compared to the USA. Furthermore, thousands of Iraqi soldiers and junior officers would be trained by the USSR every year and Moscow would be able to use the air space of Iraq as whatever it wanted. 
Recognizing with the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement that he was being used by the USSR, Molla Mustafa Barzani started to look for other allies in the region. In fact, there was no need for that pursuit because Iran that had had problematic relations with Iraq due to border problems was very close to it as a potential ally.
Iran has already been supporting the Kurdish insurgencies since 1969. The target of Iran was to use the Kurds as a trump against Iraq. Turan Yavuz’s following statements are quite laconic in demonstrating the reality of that period: “On one side, there was Iran equipped with modern weapons by the USA, and on the other side, there was Iraq that owned the last weapons of the USSR. In between, there were the Kurds that seemed as a stooge and were ready to be moved to different places on the chess table”. 
With the initiatives of the Iranian Shah, then US President Nixon and Nixon’s then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger started to consider support to the Kurds, and the USA started to give weaponry support to the Kurds starting from the early 1970s through the CIA. Apart from the USA and Iran that gave support to the Kurds secretly, in the Middle East region, Israel appeared to be the country doing the same thing. The contact of the Jews with the Kurds started in early 1930s, and in 1960s, it reached its peak. Israel applied its policy of supporting the non-Arab publics in the Middle East successfully as a part of his strategy of making the enemy regimes unstable. Within this context, Israel supported the Kurds during all their struggles against the Iraqi governments through weapons and the provision of military training. As a matter of fact, MOSSAD agents and Israeli military personnel settled in northern Iraq under different identities (as a military advisor, doctor, agricultural specialist, teacher, etc.). This situation, in other words, Israel’s secret relations with the Kurds, was proclaimed officials by then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1980. 
Starting from the early 1970s, the US, Iranian and Israeli covert services started a secret weaponry support to the Kurds in Iraq through a triangle operation that they created. The US support to the Kurds through the CIA was documented with the infamous Pike Report  that was unveiled in 1976.
The Pike Report addresses the meeting of Shah and Kissinger and the plan of the Shah that was talked about during that meeting. The plan that the Iranian Shah had in mind was the following: “by arming the Kurds, the USA would weaken the Ba’ath regime in Baghdad and would compel Iraq that would not resist the Kurdish insurgencies to give certain privileges. The most important privilege was that Iraq would agree to the maintaining peace in the Gulf region that would be led by the Shah regime. In case that was realized, the USA would bring a halt to the support that it would provide to the Kurds and would leave the Kurds on their own. Iran would also close its doors to the Kurds in an attempt to help the USA. The remaining thing was that the Ba’ath regime would eliminate the Kurds. In the ongoing war, while the Kurds would be eliminated, Iraq would be weakened as well”.  In sum, the policy of Washington and Tehran was to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq, yet to weaken the country that would become a kind of satellite of the USSR. To give the Kurds as much autonomy as to let them gain their independence was not in line with the policies of the USA in that period.
In early 1975, the relations between Iran and Iraq were so under tension that both countries were on the verge of a war. While a war between the two countries seemed inescapable, Iran and Iraq resolved their problems with the “Algeria Agreement” signed during the OPEC summit in Algeria in 1975. According to the agreement, the border in Shatt-al-Arab would go exactly in the middle of the water road. With this provision Iraq would give up its assertions on the river and abandon the control over Shatt-al-Arab. In return, Iran would bring a halt to its support to the Kurds in the north of Iraq. 
One day after the signing of the Algeria Protocol, the Iraqi army started to pressure the Kurds in the country. As a result of the cut on the support from Iran, the Kurds had a harsh defeat against the Iraqi armies and the Kurdish revolt was suppressed in a short while. The Kurds, as in 1988 and 1991, started to escape to Turkish and Iranian borders and there was a massive refugee problem in the country. By sending a letter to Kissenger, Molla Mustafa Barzani asked for help from the USA. Kissinger, in his reply in the letter, just said that “we adore your public” without addressing the demand for help. In short, he indicated that the USA could not do much. . In other words, the USA and Iran used the Kurds and after they were done with them, they just left them on their own.
After these experiences, Iraqi Kurds’ not trusting the USA in the recent period is quite natural. Mirwaisi, in his article in which he addressed Barzani and Talabani, argued that “Unfortunately, after the Gulf War, the administration of the region was seized by Barzani and Talabani, and instead of creating a democratic country for the Kurds, they became the agents of Iran and Turkey. As it is known by the whole world, Kurdistan Regional Government is a bribe-taker government and the US government, although it warned the Regional Government so many times, did not observe any result. At last, Obama came to a point in which he could easily abandon to deal with the problems of the Kurdish public without any hesitation as a result of the US public’s not favouring Barzani or Talabani. … Barzani and Talabani could not establish a government that had the military power to defend the Kurdish public. With their fellows, instead of establishing an army for the Kurds, they stole billions of dollars from the Kurdish public. … USA considers Barzani and Talabani as the dictators in Kurdistan and they do not allow the Kurdish public to establish a government on the basis of rule of law and democracy. Until Turkey accepted to place Missile Defence Shield in the country, US governments used Barzani and Talabani”.
To the discussions on the idea that the USA will leave the Iraqi Kurds on their own, one of the specialists on the region, Michael Rubin, from the USA joined as well. In his article, Rubin emphasized the speech Obama gave in the UN General Assembly, and posited that Obama said the last words on whether the US forces will stay in Iraq. Obama stated in his speech that by the end of this year (2011) the US mission in Iraq would come to an end, normal relations would be made with this independent country. According to Rubin, Obama not only put an end to these discussions, but also he did not leave any affirmative question marks in the minds of people about the establishment of a US base in northern Iraq. 
Michael Rubin, in his report that was published in early 2008, expressed that “Iraqi Kurds were not a trustworthy ally for the USA, the USA wanted the northern Iraq to be a democracy model; however, Barzani and Talabani would rule the regional with family dictatorship and very strict security-intelligence control, both of the groups were very much in corruption, and Barzani had wealth worth of 2-billion dollars and Talabani had 400-million dollars” . In sum, there is a common belief that the attitudes of the administrators in northern Iraq pave the way for the USA to diverge from the region. However, it is also useful to underscore that: if the US interests on the region require withdrawal from Iraq and the northern part and it thinks that it can remove its concerns on Iran through different ways, it will withdraw from the region and again as usual, it will leave the Kurds on their own.
 Hamma Mirwaisi, “Is President Obama Betrayed Kurds”, http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2011/10/state5524.htm, (Date of Access: 25.10.2011).
 Turan Yavuz, ABD’nin Kürt Kartı, Milliyet Yayınları, İstanbul, 1993, p.25, 28-29.
 Yavuz, pp.40-41.
 Yavuz, p.43.
 Türel Yılmaz, “Irak Savaşında İsrail’in Politikası”, II. Körfez Savaşı, (Eds. Mehmet Şahin-Mesut Taştekin), Platin Yayınları, Ankara, 2006, pp.124-125.
 The Unexpurgated Pike Report,
http://students.washington.edu/trevorg/pdfs/Domestic%20Intilligence/PikeReport-Domestic.pdf (Date of Access, 10.11.2011); Yavuz, p.53.
 Yavuz, p.55.
 Türel Yılmaz, Uluslararası Politikada Orta Doğu, Barış Platin Yayınları, 3.B., Ankara, 2011, p.259.
 Yavuz, pp.65-68.
 Michael Rubin, “Will America Leave Kurdistan?”http://kurdistantribune.com/2011/will-america-leave-kurdistan, (Date of Access: 27.10.2011).
 www.nasiriyah.org, (Date of Access: 13.04.2009).