740.0011 European War 1939/9328: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Iraq (Knabenshue) to the Secretary of State

51. On March 19 Suwaidi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, made an official statement regarding his talk with Anthony Eden at Cairo. It abounded in platitudes and diplomatic clichés without disclosing the matter actually discussed. During a talk with him yesterday he gave me an account of his talk with Eden which corresponded substantially with Hare’s telegram No. 10714 and my 42, March 22 [11], 11 a.m. The particular specific point raised by Eden was rupture of diplomatic relations with Italy. Suwaidi agreed in principle but refused to promise accomplishment within a fixed time limit because, as he explained, of strong local opposition which will take time to overcome. He acknowledged that this opposition was in fact the Army leaders. I spoke freely and frankly to Suwaidi along the lines of the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 56 of December 3, 5 p.m., and 60, December 14, 5 p.m.15 I am inclined to believe that if he does not succeed in bringing about a rupture with Italy within a reasonable period of time he will resign.

As an illustration of the power and influence of the Army leaders the following is related: The British community organized a British war charities fete for March 27 to be held under the auspices of the British Ambassador and the Mayor of Baghdad in the large municipal entertainment hall placed at the disposal of the fete by the Mayor. The Mayor and other Iraqis serving on the committee commenced [Page 491] to receive threatening letters protesting against the use of the hall by the British. Then rumors were circulated that the Iraq Air Force would bomb the hall if so used. Then the Arab broadcaster at Berlin threatened the long arm of the German Air Force in similar action. The pressure on the Mayor became so great that he has now withdrawn permission to use the hall and compelled the fete to be held only in the garden thereof. There is speculation as to whether the fete will pass without a serious incident.

  1. Dated March 8, 4 p.m., p. 489.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, pp. 716 and 721, respectively.