Pike Committee Report
- U.S. representative Otis Pike chaired a committee in the House of Representatives during the mid-1970s that investigated the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Although the Pike Committee proved much less important in investigating the CIA than its contemporary, the U.S. Senate Church Committee, the Pike Committee did reveal the details of the U.S. and Iranian role in supporting the revolt of Mulla Mustafa Barzani during the 1970s. The details were revealed by the unauthorized publication of the Pike Committee Report by the Village Voice (16 February 1976).This document shows that in May 1972, the shah of Iran (Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi), who already was supporting Bar-zani because Iran and Iraq "had long been bitter enemies," asked U.S. president Richard M. Nixon and soon-to-be secretary of state Henry Kissinger—who were returning from a Moscow summit meeting—to help him in this project. Although the U.S. aid was "largely symbolic," the United States acted, in effect, as a guarantor that the insurgent group (the Kurds) would not be summarily dropped by the foreign head of state (the shah). The Pike Committee Report explained that "on numerous occasions the leader of the ethnic group [Barzani] expressed his distrust of our allies' [Iran's] intentions. He did, however, [naively] trust the United States."The Pike Committee Report concluded that "the project was initiated primarily as a favor to our ally [Iran], who had cooperated with United States intelligence agencies, and who had come to feel menaced by his neighbor [Iraq]." Other reasons for the U.S. action included the cold war (in which Iraq was a Soviet ally), a means for tying down Iraqi troops during any Arab-Israeli war, and a potential way for the United States to obtain oil if the Kurds achieved independence.Unfortunately for the Kurds, the covert U.S. and Iranian support for the Kurds helped lead to the breakdown of the March Manifesto of 1970, which held out the possibility of Kurdish autonomy. In addition, the U.S.-Iranian aid was never intended to be enough for the Kurds to triumph because, if Barzani were actually to win, the Kurds would no longer be able to play the enervating role against Iraq that the United Sates and Iran desired.Thus, the United States and Iran actually "hoped that our clients [the Kurds] would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's [Iran's] neighboring country [Iraq]." Of course, "this policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting. Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."On 6 March 1975, moreover, Iran and Iraq signed the Algiers Agreement, under which Iraq recognized the middle of the Shatt al-Arab River as the boundary between their two states, while Iran undertook to halt its aid to Barzani. "The cut-off of aid . . . came as a severe shock to its [the Kurds'] leadership" and caused the Kurdish rebellion to collapse. Barzani told the CIA that "there is confusion and dismay among our people and forces. Our people's fate [is] in unprecedented danger. Complete destruction [is] hanging over our head. . . . We appeal [to] you . . . [to] intervene according to your promises."Despite these pleas, "the U.S. [even] refused to extend humanitarian assistance to the thousands of refugees created by the abrupt termination of military aid." As the Pike Committee Report explained, the United States had become such "junior partners of the Shah" that it "had no choice but to acquiesce" to his cutting off Barzani's support. Kissinger infamously added that "covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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