NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Statement by the United States and the United Kingdom Groups

top secret

The Problem

Iraq as a Factor in the Maintenance of Stability in the Middle East.


1. The British group observed that, as the ability of Great Britain to contribute effectively to the maintenance of the security of the Middle East depended to a large extent upon the holding of bases in that area, Iraq was regarded as possibly the key Middle Eastern country at the present time. Rightly or wrongly, the British felt that more confidence could be placed in Iraq than in any other country of the area. The Regent and other responsible officials were well disposed and the Iraqi Army appeared well satisfied with recent British efforts to meet its requests for the supply of military equipment.

The American group also stressed the importance of the maintenance of British bases in Iraq, but suggested that continued attention should also be given to the possibility of building up Kuwait as an alternate base in case developments should make it appear that effective use could not be made of the Iraqi bases.

2. In view of Iraqi pressure for the revision of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty the British Government was prepared to enter into negotiations at the present time. If negotiations were postponed until 1952, when either party could ask for revision, the atmosphere might prove to be less favorable. The British Government were considering the idea that a new treaty might provide for the sharing of the bases at Habbaniya and Shaiba together with the grant of the necessary rights in time of emergency. It was hoped that it might prove possible to conclude these negotiations by December 1 when the Iraqi Parliament was to meet. In the meantime this subject was being treated as top secret.

The American group expressed the hope that British negotiations for a satisfactory revised Treaty would be successful but indicated [Page 595] concern lest the responsible Iraqi negotiators might at the last minute find internal political pressures against granting bases to foreigners so strong that they would not dare to give the facilities required.

3. The British Government also had in view schemes for economic development in Iraq which might greatly increase the supply of food and might double the population within a measurable number of years.

Definite plans were under discussion. The British Government was making available to the Iraqi Government the services of a considerable number of British advisers and hoped that it would be possible to provide much of the equipment and material from British sources against Iraqi sterling balances. The British Government’s view was that the Iraqi idea of carrying out these projects through an Iraqi Development Board was preferable to a scheme for development under foreign auspices. The British group thought that it would be desirable to have American advisers associated with British advisers in the execution of their plans. The question might be discussed more fully in the economic talks.

The American group stated that the American Government had also been approached informally by the Iraqis regarding the development plans in question and that it was generally sympathetic.

The American group also pointed out that the Iraqi Government had also applied to the World Bank for loans with which to finance the development of the Tigris and Euphrates valley and had informally indicated that it would like technical advisers appointed by the Bank to cooperate with British and American technical advisers in working out and putting into effect plans for the development. The American Government had no firm ideas regarding the form which the development should take. The American group thought that American advisers might usefully be associated in such a plan as might be decided upon and that close consultation should be maintained between the Bank and the British and American Governments.


The British Government intends to proceed with negotiations for the revision of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty and the American Government would be prepared to render any assistance which might be practicable.
Both the British and American Governments considered that the economic development of Iraq, particularly of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, if carried on in a rational and well-planned manner would not only strengthen the security and the economic stability of [Page 596] the Middle East, but might also eventually contribute to the solution of the world food problem.
It was the opinion of both groups that matters relating to the role to be played in the economic development of Iraq by Great Britain, the United States, and the Bank, in particular problems involving furnishing of technical advisers, engineers, and so forth, and to the sources of supplies and equipment should be discussed in further conversations among representatives of the three interested Governments and that close contact should be maintained with officials of the Bank. It was the opinion of the American group that among the numerous factors to be considered in making decisions with regard to these matters should be availability of competent technicians and supplies and materials, the desires of the Iraqi Government, the existence of Iraqi sterling balances, and the initiative shown thus far by the British and Iraqi Governments.

With regard to these matters and other questions relating to the economic development of Iraq there should be close cooperation and frequent frank discussions between the two Governments.

The successful outcome of such development plans as may be decided upon will be so important for the future prosperity and security of the Middle East that these plans should be approached by Britain and the United States in a broad constructive spirit rather than a spirit of rivalry and competition on either side.