Letter: A historic betrayal of the Kurds: why Barzani threw in his lot with Saddam

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Sir: The correspondence between the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Americans ("US blamed for causing Iraq crisis", 6 September) may have taken place. But I have a feeling that the decision to go over to Saddam was already taken when Massoud Barzani was asking Washington for help "against the Iranians". As long ago as February, I heard from Kurdish exiles that Barzani had received armoured vehicles from Baghdad. The correspondence may have been designed to justify, afterwards, an act which will go down in the history of the Kurds as the worst act of treason since a Kurd showed the way to Xenophon, the Greek general, after the Kurd's friend had been tortured to death in 401BC.

As a writer on the Middle East, and because I am a Kurd myself - an exile from Iran - I have known both the Iraqi Kurdish leaders for decades. I concede that the decision to let the murderer of Halabja, with his gas bombs and raping rooms, back into Kurdistan must have been difficult for Barzani. But he is not very intelligent, and he is a tribal man, the leader of a "party" whose leadership is hereditary. No wonder then, that the intrigues of Turkey and Iran, the need to rely on taxes imposed on smugglers, and the failure of winning formal recognition abroad for the Kurdish people, became the sparks needed to begin the civil war of the past two years. The truth remains that the Americans did not believe Barzani's claim that Jalal Talabani was receiving substantial aid from Iran. In fact, the Iranians have been helping Saddam - ask the Americans - by selling tens of tankers of Iraqi oil in the Gulf disguised as Iranian.

In any case, Saddam Hussein has scored a major victory. In return for a few radar dishes knocked down in southern Iraq, he has sent his tanks into the Kurdish region and is now in charge of half of Iraqi Kurdistan. If I have any insight into his mind, he will now wait only a few weeks before going for the big prize, the city of Sulaymaniyah, which, unlike Arbil, would not be taken by a surprise. A huge wave of refugees, and utter humiliation for the United States, may well be facing us.


London SW1