787.56/4–2152: Telegram

No. 1378
The Ambassador in Iraq (Crocker) to the Department of State1


901. Emb views re mil assistance to Iraq (Embtel 893, April 192) as follows:

Former basis on which we have parried Iraqi requests for arms, i.e. primary responsibility of UK under Anglo-Iraq Treaty, has become galling in the extreme to the Iraqis and is anachronistic [Page 2328] in light MEC concept. Whereas Iraqis usually sensible enough realize UK must continue take most of mil assist burden here they resent bitterly any implication UK own exclusive sphere. Moreover, they dissatisfied with small quantity and at time inferior quality of Brit arms recently received.
Better basis on which to parry mil requests is on grounds Arabs cannot expect much mil help until it becomes clear they prepared cooperate with West in creating effective ME defense org along lines MEC or similar. Naturally Iraqis wld prefer that we simply give them arms without any quid pro quo, but Emb believes foregoing is argument they readily comprehend and respect.
MDA agreement with SA consistent with foregoing since we can make valid argument that our bid there “just reward” for Saudi cooperativeness, particularly on Dhahran airfield agreement.
In case Syria, however, argument breaks down. Whereas we may privately have compelling reasons to shoreup present Syrian Govt, we can hardly show on the record that Syria has been more coop or more clearly committed to pro-Western policy than Iraq.
Thus if Syrian mil assist agreement finalized, Emb believes we cannot then logically refrain from offering something similar to Iraq; Emb believes we shld do so soon enough to off-set unfortunate reaction when Iraqis learn of projected Syrian program.
Iraqis do not need grant aid. Ministry of Defense known currently to have about 5 million sterling at its disposal for arms purchases. Moreover, in order retain bargaining power on MEC, Emb wld recommend that we not at this time provide arms on a scale permitting Iraqis expand mil forces. Iraqis cld profit, however, by cash reimbursable or procurement assistance under Section 408e(1)(c) to make up shortages in motor transport, radar, standardized ammo, anti-tank mines, replacement parts, etc. for currently existing forces. (Army attaché submitting detailed estimate Iraqi requirements to Defense in BD–045 April 21.)
Emb assumes before MDA agreement cld be offered Iraq following steps wld be necessary:
Pres must find Iraq eligible under 408e(1)(c).
Agreement must be reached with UK re (1) principle involved; (2) procedures for coordinating mil assist; (3) UK Treas willingness convert sterling to dollars for purposes of agreement.
Dept guidance re foregoing requested.

  1. Repeated to London.
  2. Not printed; it reported the Embassy policy in the past had been to discourage Iraq from asking for arms and said it would submit its views in a separate telegram on whether it thought the United States should make an internal political decision to establish Iraq’s eligibility to receive arms under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. (787.56/4–1952)