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Mustafa Barzani
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Military Personnel
    (March 14, 1903-March 1, 1979)
    Born in Barzan, Iraq
    Defense minister of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in northwestern Iran (1945-46)
    Went into exile in the Soviet Union (1946-58)
    Head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (1946-79)
    Led revolts in Kurdistan against the Iraqi government (1961-64,1965-66,1969-70,1974-75)
    Went into exile in Iran after being defeated by Iraqi forces (March 23, 1975)
    Died at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, DC, while being treated for lung cancer
    He smoked the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes a day, which contributed to the lung cancer that killed him.
    He had rival Kurdish leaders killed or forced into exile.
    His decision to accept aid from the US and Israel alienated many of his followers, including his son Ubeydullah, who defected to Baghdad.
    He rejected an offer from Saddam Hussein of a general amnesty and creation of a Kurdish autonomous region and launched a revolt (March, 1974), confident that support from the Shah of Iran and Henry Kissinger would prevent an Iraqi victory.
    A year later, Iran cut off its military aid, causing the collapse of the rebellion and forcing 100,000 Kurds into exile.
    When he was five, he was imprisoned (with the rest of his family) by the Ottoman Turks because of a revolt by his tribe.
    His father, grandfather and an older brother were executed by the Ottoman authorities.
    Despite being chronically outnumbered and outgunned, he fought well enough in his first three revolts to either cause the Iraqi regime to collapse or force it to make concessions.
    He survived multiple assassination attempts by the Iraqi government.
    Considering Saddam Hussein's future genocidal treatment of the Kurdish people, Barzani was probably right in suspecting that he had no intention of following through on his autonomy offer.
    He was cynically used by the Shah and Kissinger, who wanted his forces to be enough of a pain that Hussein would be willing to make territorial concessions to Iran in return for Iran ending its support of Barzani.
    In post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, his son Massoud became President of Iraqi Kurdistan (2005).

Credit: C. Fishel


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