WASHINGTON — In 1973, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had the CIA instigate an uprising of the Kurds in northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein. The United States walked away from the rebellion when Mr. Hussein and the Shah of Iran settled their differences, leaving the Kurds to be decimated by a vengeful Hussein.
After the Gulf War over the Iraqi seizure of Kuwait in 1990, President George H.W. Bush appealed to the Kurds, as well as the Shiites in the south, to rise up in rebellion against Hussein. Victorious in that war, the US military permitted Hussein to retain his helicopter gunships, which he used to mow down Kurds and Shiites by the hundreds. Tens of thousands died in reprisal killings. Finally, US public opinion forced the administration to establish "no-fly zones" to protect the two populations.
Kurds' loyalty to America has cost them plenty. So it is with a certain chutzpah that the current Bush administration presumes to tell the presumably autonomous Kurds what relations they may entertain with other countries of the region, including America's enemy No. 1, Iran.
Now, under orders from President Bush, the US military has conducted raids on Iranians, some of whom carry Iranian passports, several of whom claim to have been establishing an Iranian consulate in Kurdistan. The US military says they had ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
The raids have taken on the proportions of an offensive. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that increasing activity among these networks had been noted, including transfer of sophisticated weapons, presumably intended for the larger war.
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the US was resisting an Iranian effort to establish its hegemony throughout the region.
Significantly, the US has not had much help from the Iraqi government in containing Iranian activity, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has paid a friendly call on Iranian President Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
The Kurds appear to be finding themselves in an arena of contest between the US and Iran for dominance in the Middle East. And once again, the Kurds are being stiffed by their American friends.
• Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.