Hans-Lukas Kieser, Historisches Seminar der Universität
Zürich, Kolloquium Wintersemester 2003/04: "Die USA und der Nahe
Osten im 20. Jahrhundert"
Aus Kissingers Memoiren (US-Aussenminister 1973-77)
Das Fallenlassen der Kurden 1975
On March 9 , I elaborated to Rabin after the agreement between the
Shah and Saddam Hussein was announced:
In Zürich, he [the Shah] told me about it in a hypothetical
way. He said, "If I meet Saddam at Algiers [at the OPEC meeting] . . ." He
put it as an idea, what turned up in the agreement. I told him strongly that
it was a bad idea-particularly the idea that he believed the [Iraqi] assurances
that no Communist would be put in [in an autonomous Kurdish zone].
The Shah had not mentioned that a deal was Imminent or that he would
acquiesce in total Iraqi control of the Kurdish area. As a result, I still
continued to encourage Barzani. On February 20, I replied to a letter from
him suggesting a personal meeting:
I was most pleased to receive your message of January 22. 1 want you to know
of our admiration for you and your peopleand for the valiant effort you are
making. The difficulties you have faced are formidable. I very much appreciated
reading your assessment of the military and political situation. You can
be assured that your messages receive the most serious attention at the highest
levels of the United States Government because of the importance we attach
If you would like to send a trusted emissary to Washington to give the US
Government further information about the situation, we would be honored and
pleased to receive him.
A little more than two weeks later, on March 6, as I was preparing to embark
on the Middle East shuttle that deadlocked, the Shah stunned us with the
announcement that he had reached an agreement with Saddam Hussein in which
he in effect abandoned the Kurds. The Shah closed his border and stopped
all assistance to the Kurds in return for Iraqi concessions on the Shatt-al-Arab
River, the waterway demarcating the Iranian-Iraqi frontier.
On the human level, the Shah's actions were brutal and indefensible. But
in terms of a cold-blooded assessment of Iran's security, the Shah's decision
was as understandable as it was painful. Only overt Iranian intervention
could now save the Kurds, the costs of which would surely exceed the $360
million Barzani had requested in 1974. The United States, absorbed with liquidating
Indochina, could not even consider opening another military front and, given
congressional attitudes, even political support was doubtful.
I did not care for the Shah's actions and even less for his deceptive methods.
On March 10, 1 sent a frosty telegram in which I stopped well short of endorsing
his actions and implied that I had doubts about the benefits the Shah seemed
to hold in store for himself:
With respect to the Kurdish question, there is little I
can add to what I have already said to you personally during our recent meeting.
This is obviously a matter for Your Majesty to decide in the best interests
of your nation. Our policy remains as always to support Iran as a close and
staunch friend of the United States. I will, of course, follow with great
interest the evolution of Iraqi-Iranian relations itid of Iraq) policy in
your area generally and toward the Soviet Union in particular.
When it was all over, heroes of retroactive confrontation savaged the
Ford Administration -and me in particular-for having "abandoned" the Kurds.
But the Shah had made the decision, and we had neither plausible arguments
nor strategies to dissuade him. The remedy suggested by some of our critics-that
we should have threatened the Shah with a cutoff of assistance-made no sense.
How could we urge a key ally to begin military operations on his own-the
only aIlternative-when Congress was cutting off allies who had the knife
at their throats?
A Personal Note
As a policymaker it fell to me to help define the relationship between
the pragmatic and the moral in American foreign policy. And, as is inevitable
in turbulent times, these judgments were often controversial. Some commentators
have asserted that my emphasis on a sense of proportion in foreign policy
springs from a preference for order over justice, which they ascribe to the
experience of having grown up in Nazi Germany. But the Germany of my youth
had a great deal of order and very little justice; it was not the sort of
place likely to inspire devotion to order in the abstract.
Through the prism of segregation, delegitimization, and emigration, my
childhood views were shaped much more by my family than by reflections on
politics in the abstract. In retrospect, my parents epitomize the two aspects
of human conduct-the practical and the ethical-without either of which life
grows precarious and politics loses its meaning. My mother-practical, vital,
courageous-saw to the necessities; my father-thoughtful, sensitive, gentle-defined
the family's moral compass.
In 1946, while I was serving with the United States Army in Fit. rope,
my father entered a hospital in New York for an operation from which he was
not expected to recover. He left a letter for my brother, Walter, (then in
the United States Army in Korea) and me. It w~is our father's single most
demonstrative gesture toward his sons. Others will have to judge the degree
to which I have lived up to my fither's personal precepts. I cite his letter
here because it helps to explain the gratitude I have always felt for having
been permitted to serve the country that gave my family refuge in America's
traditional quest for a world in which the weak are secure and the just free.
After a few personal remarks, the letter (written in English)
read as follows:
Your grandfather Falk, this fine and honest man, used to say: "Der
Mensch muss seine Schuldigkeit tun" (a human being must always fulfill his
moral obligation). These simple words shall become a principle In your life.
Do always your duty toward your mother in the first line, to your relatives,
to the Jewish community, to this great country, to yourselves.
I know the different conditions in this country which gave a man
of my age so little hope for future life made it impossible for me to be
a guide for you both as I would have been in normal times. But I subordinated
all my personal decisions to your future.
In all the hard times of the war, the confidence lived in me that
God will protect you. I am grateful to Him that He was with you. I am confident
that you both will always go the right way. I am proud of you and am convinced
that your future life will confirm my pride.
Always keep in mind that we find real satisfaction only in what
we are doing for others. Try always to be good, faithful, helpful, reliable,
I would have liked to see you grown up and to be witness of your success
and happiness. God bless you.
My father recovered and lived until 1982 through all the events described
in these memoirs.
(S. 1078 f.)
Kissinger, Henry Alfred, Years
of renewal, New York : Simon &
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