By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Reliable Friends; Tough Territory

with 4 comments

Mullah Mustafa Barzani

1. Mullah Mustafa Barzani

In this resumption of my series on the Kurds of northern Iraq, we celebrate — in black and white — their famous 20th century political and military leader: Mullah Mustafa Barzani. Today, his descendants in Erbil and Baghdad carry on their people’s long push for autonomy.

It is hard for Americans to appreciate the depth and tenacity of this struggle. Following the centuries-long dissolution of the Ottoman empire, dozens of tribal and linguistic groups still struggle to survive the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics. It remains a tough neighborhood. And Mullah Mustafa’s toughness is evident in these pictures.

Democratic ideals projected through a Western lens can go only so far in this region — something well worth admitting now, amid the shifting sands of power politics. Memories of Beirut in the 1970s remind us of the temporary nature of all alliances within and among a myriad of subgroups and special or outside interests. Deeply rooted habits of splintering, betrayal, and infighting survive every “boots on the ground” intervention.

The Kurds remain staunch friends of the U.S. They have major petroleum reserves. The Americans have been blocking the Kurds from selling their oil directly on the international market. However, instead of clinging to the unworkable fantasy of rebuilding a tripartite, failed state of Iraq, the Americans should encourage these proud mountain people to make whatever “declaration of independence” they feel they can handle — supported by oil sales.

In a time of softening frontiers, ethnic affinity between the Iraqi Kurds and those in Turkey and Syria raise questions — and opportunities. Last summer, a retired CIA Director whispered to me that certain of America’s close friends in the region would applaud a Kurdish diversification of the sourcing and supply of Middle Eastern petroleum on world markets.


Iraqi Kurdistan 1965: photographs © William Carter













Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

Written by bywilliamcarter

August 23, 2014 at 12:22 am

4 Responses

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  1. Thank you for these photos


    Parwiz Chicho

    January 28, 2020 at 3:34 am

  2. Thank you. Great photos.
    Amed Demirhan


    Amed Demirhan

    September 6, 2014 at 6:11 am

  3. Great photos of the Kurd leader, Bill. I have been reading the works of Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah’s Men, and his book on Turkey, the Crescent and Star which I find helpful. We just got back from a trip to Istanbul.


    Bill Delaney

    August 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

  4. Great photographs Bill! Thank you for sending them to me.




    Frank J Scheufele

    August 23, 2014 at 7:19 am

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