The Chargé in Iraq (Mattison) to the Secretary of State

No. 1357

Sir: I have the honor to refer to this office’s despatch no. 1347 of August 5, 1939, giving information with regard to the proposed new Educational Law for Iraq, and to report on developments which have occurred since forwarding the above-mentioned despatch.

On August 7 I called at the British Embassy at the request of Captain Holt, the Oriental Secretary, and discussed the situation with him. I outlined for his information the steps which the Legation had taken, as he was then preparing a memorandum for the Ambassador on the subject. He was quite frank in stating that, in his opinion, the only grounds which we had for protest was Iraq’s Declaration to the League of Nations of May 30, 1932, and that he did not believe that a protest on this basis would prove very effective, because of the objections which Iraq had originally made to including educational institutions in this Declaration. I pointed out the serious effect which the law, if enacted, would have on American educational institutions in Iraq and stated that I hoped that the British Embassy would see its way clear to taking some action in regard to this matter. The fact remains, however, that the British interest in educational institutions in this country is slight, and it would not be surprising if their actions parallel their interests.

The Legation has received a letter from Dr. John Van Ess, of the American Mission at Basrah, in which he states his objection to the proposed law. A copy of this communication is enclosed.8 Dr. Van Ess was also kind enough to furnish the Legation with a copy of a letter which he addressed to the Prime Minister, which is also enclosed herewith.8

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has now replied to the Legation’s note no. 668 of August 4, 1939 in which inquiries were made with regard to the proposed law. A translation of the Ministry’s reply is attached. From the tone and content of the note it would not seem that the Iraqi Government is as yet officially prepared to make any changes in the law.

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As of possible interest to the Department there is also enclosed a translation9 of an editorial which appeared in Al-Istiqlal of August 6, 1939. The next to the last paragraph of this editorial is regarded as being particularly pertinent, as it perhaps gives an insight into the real purpose of the law.

Respectfully yours,

Gordon H. Mattison

The Iraqi Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Legation

No. 12/11117/11875/gh

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs presents its compliments to the American Legation at Baghdad and with reference to the Legation’s note no. 668 of August 4, 1939, has the honor to state that what was published in the local press was nothing but a draft law submitted to Parliament for examination and that the decision thereon has been postponed until the next session. The bill under discussion has been drafted for the purpose of organizing cultural and educational affairs and is not intended to prejudice any foreign cultural institution in Iraq the aim of which is, undoubtedly, sincere service to the sons of the country within the existing laws.

The Ministry avails itself of this opportunity to express the assurance of its highest consideration and respect.

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