|Iraq Table of Contents
The Kurdish minority offered the most persistent and militarily effective security threat of Iraq's modern history. Although the Kurds had traditionally opposed any central governments in both Iran and Iraq, most Kurdish leaders initially saw the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran as a possible vehicle for promoting Kurdish aspirations toward selfgovernment . The Iranian government's antiminority attitude, however, along with Iraq's attempts to support the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), dashed all hopes for a unified Kurdish independent state. The Iraqi and Iranian regimes each chose to support a Kurdish faction opposing the other's government, and this intervention divided the Kurds along "national" lines. As a result, during the 1980s Kurds in Iraq tended to hope for an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq War, while a number of Kurds in Iran thought that an Iraqi victory would best promote their own aspirations. Because most Kurds were Sunni Muslims, however, their enthusiasm for a Shia government in either country was somewhat limited.
Following the outbreak of hostilities and the ensuing stalemate in the Iran-Iraq War, Kurdish opponents of the Iraqi regime revived their armed struggle against Baghdad. In response to deportations, executions, and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Baath, the Kurds seemed in the 1980s to have renewed their political consciousness, albeit in a very limited way. Differences between the brothers Masud and Idris Barzani, who led the KDP, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Iraqisupported Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as the Kurdish leadership's periodic shifts into progovernment and antigovernment alliances, benefited Baghdad, which could manipulate opposing factions. What the Iraqi government could not afford, however, was to risk the opening of a second hostile front in Kurdistan as long as it was bogged down in its war with Iran. Throughout the 1980s, therefore, Baghdad tolerated the growing strength of the Kurdish resistance, which, despite shortcomings in its leadership, continued its long struggle for independence.
Data as of May 1988
Source: U.S. Library of Congress