Memorandum by the Ambassador to Iraq (Wadsworth) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)
Subject: Conversation with the President
As you know, I had prepared a paper outlining remarks I proposed to make to the President when received by him today. A copy of that paper is attached.1 It is in essence a report on American-Iraqi relations written within the framework of a brief exposition of the situation in the Near East as shaped primarily by Soviet pressures and by United Nations action in the Palestine problem.
I had, too, arranged with Admiral Souers2 that my paper be put by him in the President’s hands yesterday. This was done primarily in the thought that, in any discussion we might have, both the President and I might dispense with preliminaries and get down to what I hoped might be the nature of any representations he might wish me to make on my return to Baghdad.
Admiral Souers telephoned me this morning that he had discussed my paper briefly with the President who had said that it would be helpful and that he would be glad to discuss it with me. The Admiral commented that the President was under much pressure to support the United Nations in carrying out the partition plan but was not disposed to use American troops to that end.
The Admiral then asked that either you or I keep him informed of developments. He is in touch with George Kennan on the subject of the paper now under preparation in the Department for consideration by the National Security Council.3 Consequently, his request to you is primarily in respect to what might be the upshot of my talk with the President. He was, too, interested in any current information you might be able to give him on British attitudes and actions.
I was received promptly at noon by the President and stayed with him the better part of 15 minutes.[Page 593]
After salutation, I said I was particularly grateful to Admiral Souers for bringing my paper to his attention. I had wanted to do more than report perfunctorily regarding American-Iraqi relations.
The President answered that he had read my paper and was glad to have it. The situation was certainly one for concern. He had kept in close touch. Lovett knew the situation well; so did General Marshall. He himself saw alike with the State Department.
I said I knew that the National Security Council was to consider the whole matter, from all its various angles. In my paper I had wanted to present one of them, i.e. that of his representatives in the field. We were up against a pretty tough proposition. Consequently, I hoped that, after the National Security Council had thought the question through, it would go a step further and suggest something positive which we in the field might say, something constructive which we could use to build better and mutually beneficial relations.
The President replied that the whole problem was being worked on actively and constructively. The basic trouble was and had been that bullheadedness and fanaticism constantly interfered. Two years ago he had found a sound approach. The British had gone along with his proposals for an Anglo-American commission.4 Attlee5 and Bevin had agreed that, if its report was unanimous, its recommendations would be applied. There had been a unanimous report. Grady had gone to London to get it implemented but had failed because of British bullheadedness and the fanaticism of our New York Jews. The British were still being bullheaded and American Jews were still being fanatic about it. One thing he could tell me though was that we would not send arms to the Near East and that we would only act through the United Nations.
I said that that assurance would be a great help to our representatives in the Near East; and I hoped that, after the National Security Council’s consideration, we could be authorized to go further and say that no American troops would be sent to Palestine to impose partition.
The President interrupted with a categorical ejaculation of concurrence and let me continue.
I continued: “Because, to us who are working on the problem in the field, partition seems, in the present situation, unworkable. It seems to us that a way must be found for United Nations reconsideration of the General Assembly’s recommendations of last November, primarily on the ground that they presumed Jewish-Arab cooperation which is now seen to be nonexistent.[Page 594]
The President answered in substance that that was for the United Nations to decide, in the light of experience. The situation was bad; and there was, as he had said, too much fanaticism. [Here follow personal observations by President Truman and Ambassador Wadsworth.] And I added that, until we could get both sides to rid themselves of extremist groups and thinking, I could not see the possibility of getting far with any sensible workable compromise. Without that, I could not see how we could turn successfully to constructive projects. As he knew, there were many such projects, from oil development to the Tigris–Euphrates Valley scheme,6 which were of mutual benefit and which we just could not get on with effectively in the present situation.
The President picked up my reference to Iraq. Development of the Tigris–Euphrates plan, he commented, would support 15,000,000 people. There was one point in that connection he wanted to make. Tamerlane had destroyed that great ancient civilization. In the past, destruction had always been the aftermath of war. Today, for the first time in history, the conqueror was putting everything he had into reconstruction of the conquered. We were trying to get the world back on its feet. We would work, as he had said, through the United Nations; but reconstruction was the active policy of the United States. He wanted other countries to know this and to understand that we wanted to work with them in realizing that policy. As for the Near East, he could not say more than he had said to Amir Faisal7 and the Prince of Yemen8 who had come to see him last fall; and he had said much the same to the Prince Regent of Iraq who had stayed with him two years before.9
I answered that I could testify to his having made of the latter a very good friend and admirer. I was much struck, I said, by his comment that “For the first time in history, the conqueror’s policy was to reconstruct the conquered.” Might I not, I asked, repeat that phrase to the Prince Regent on my return to Baghdad? It made exactly the sort of point Near Eastern leaders would appreciate, for the record of their past was an almost continuous passage of conquerors and destructive conquests.
The President replied in the affirmative.[Page 595]
I added: “And might I also, when next I see the Regent, tell him you again expressed to me, as you did last year, keen interest in facilitating realization of the Tigris–Euphrates Valley scheme?” The President answered “By all means” but added that Iraqi, like other Arab leaders, should realize that they have to play their parts to make this possible. There was nothing much constructive anyone could do if they (the Arab leaders) started sending their armies into Palestine. There was only one force which should go there if any should be needed and that was an international police force under the United Nations.
I answered that that too was along the lines of the reassurance I hoped I would be authorized to take back with me after the matter had been gone into by the National Security Council. The Arabs’ keenest fear today was that we, under Zionist pressures, would act unilaterally and send troops independently of the United Nations.
The President answered in substance: “We won’t, but they (the Arabs) must first assure me, before I can give them any categoric promises, that they won’t either.”
I answered that I could well understand that and that it was in just that field that I believed I and our other Chiefs of Missions in the Near East could be helpful.
There was, I continued, one other field of discussion in which I felt we could be helpful, if so authorized. The Arabs enjoy nothing more than a legal argument. They had questioned at Lake Success the constitutional authority of the General Assembly, basically limited as it is to discussion and recommendation, to divide a country against the wishes of the majority of its population. They had asked that this legal issue be submitted to the World Court for advisory opinion. They would probably raise this point again when the matter comes this month before the United Nations Security Council.
The President interrupted, as I was about to add that I hoped I might be authorized to say that we would not oppose any such proposal if made to the Security Council. He said in substance that, while this might be helpful, there was little he could say on the subject at this time. It would all have to be worked out here and at Lake Success; and he repeated that, having kept in close touch with Mr. Lovett and General Marshall and seeing the picture as they do, he felt he could go along with what the Department might recommend.
Then, taking my leave, I thanked the President again for seeing me and for talking so frankly. Whatever the Department might authorize me to say on my return to Baghdad, our talk would have been immensely helpful to me. The situation gave us all much concern but there was nothing more reassuring than to know it was in good hands.
- Printed on p. 596. Ambassador Wadsworth had also conversed with President Truman on January 16, 1947, when he was the Appointed Ambassador to Iraq. His memorandum to Mr. Henderson and the “Outline of Proposed Remarks to the President”, both dated January 16, 1947, have not been printed. They may be found in the files of the Department of State under 123 Wadsworth, George.↩
- Sidney W. Souers, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council.↩
- Presumably the report of February 11 by the Policy Planning Staff, p. 619.↩
- For documentation on the activities of the Anglo-American Committee
of Inquiry, see
Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. vii, pp. 576 ff.↩
- Clement R. Attlee, British Prime Minister.↩
- Regarding the economic development of Iraq, see instruction 17, March 29, to Baghdad, Part 1 of this volume, p. 77.↩
- For the memorandum
of conversation between President Truman and Amir Faisal on December
13, 1946, see
Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. vii, p. 729.↩
- For information on the visit
of Prince Abdullah to the United States in July 1947, see editorial
ibid., 1947, vol. v, p. 1344.↩
information on the visit of Abdul Ilah, Regent of Iraq, to the
United States in May 1945, see
ibid., 1945, vol. viii, p. 586.↩
- The source text is a carbon copy undated and unsigned.↩
- These are the Moslem countries—Turkey, Iraq, Iran’ and Afghanistan—which signed in 1937 at Saadabad (near Teheran) a pact of mutual assistance. Pakistan is a possible applicant to membership. [Footnote in the source text.]↩
- For documentation on this subject, see Part 1 of this volume, pp. 202 ff.↩