787.5 MSP/5–552

No. 1379
Memorandum of Conversation, Prepared in the Embassy in Iraq 1



  • Provision of Military Assistance to Iraq Under Section 408e of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, as Amended


  • Brigadier Arthur Boyce, British Military Attaché
  • Mr. Tom Bromley, First Secretary and Acting Counselor of the British Embassy
  • Mr. Morgan Man, Oriental Counselor of the British Embassy2
  • Mr. John D. Jernegan, Visiting US Counsul General from Tunis shortly to return to a Departmental post
  • Mr. Phillip W. Ireland, Counselor of the US Embassy
  • Mr. John R. Barrow, Second Secretary of the US Embassy
  • Capt. Wilbur C. Eveland, Acting Army Attaché of the US Embassy

The meeting was held as a result of a suggestion made by the American Ambassador to the British Ambassador.

Mr. Ireland opened the meeting by observing that hitherto the US Government had turned back Iraqi requests for US military assistance on grounds that Iraq should seek aid from the UK under the provisions of the Anglo-Iraq Treaty of 1930.

It must be obvious to all, however, that times were changing and some thought had been given both in the Embassy and at the working level in the Department to the possible provision of limited US cash reimbursable and/or procurement assistance under the terms of Section 408e(1)(c) of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 as amended. Whereas we had been able to explain our military assistance to Saudi Arabia on grounds of our large interests there and Saudi cooperation on the Dhahran airbase, added impetus had been given considering a program in Iraq by the projected conclusion of 408e agreements with Syria and with Egypt which, if [Page 2330] not accompanied by parallel action here, would be viewed most unfavorable by the Iraq Government.

We envisaged only cash reimbursable and procurement aid on a scale permitting Iraqis to make up deficiencies for currently existing forces in categories of supplies which the UK could not deliver within a reasonable period. We believed lavish aid unwise inasmuch as the supply of arms was our biggest bargaining lever to bring Iraq into the MEC. However, we felt giving the Iraqis some small earnest of what might be done would possibly bring them a step closer to eventual participation in the MEC.

We wished therefore to raise this question on an informal basis in the hope that we might find common ground of agreement with the UK Embassy which in turn would strengthen discussions at the Washington–London level where final decisions would be made. It was to be emphasized that all thinking thus far had developed at the working level only. The proposal did not have Departmental clearance nor were we speaking under Departmental instructions.

Brigadier Boyce noted that last year Brigadier Sir Heber-Percy had prepared a plan for build-up of the Iraqi Army, phase 1 of which called for making up deficiencies in the training and equipment of the 2½ Iraqi divisions currently in being. Phase 2 of the plan called for the gradual expansion of these forces. He did not believe phase 1 necessarily had to be completed “to the last button” before phase 2 began, because it would no doubt be advisable to negotiate contracts for phase 2 equipment some little while in advance. Still, phase 1 had a long way yet to go. At the earliest he estimated it would be nine months before phase 1 would have reached even a semblance of a satisfactory stage.

The greatest shortages preventing the completion of phase 1 were in motorized transport and artillery tractors which, as listed by Boyce, were all of British types. However, when he was read the list of items which the US Army Attaché thought were in short supply and which the US might provide, Brigadier Boyce voiced no objection.

It was generally agreed that there was much the US could profitably do to speed along phase 1 of Sir Heber-Percy’s plan and that for political reasons it would be wise to limit US assistance to this phase without for the time being considering what might be done in phase 2. In any case this was a technical question to be worked out by whatever group was eventually set up to coordinate UK–US assistance to this country.

Mr. Ireland noted that our original ideas on 408e assistance had developed around the Iraqi request for tank transporters. We believed there was a possibility that ten transporters might be provided from US stocks, but wondered now if these were urgently required [Page 2331] particularly since Iraq had obtained 16 from British and Egyptian commercial sources at about the price quoted for the new US transporters.

Brigadier Boyce said if they were in satisfactory operating condition (and the May 15 delivery would tell the tale on that) he thought the 16 were as many as the Iraqis could profitably use and maintain at this time. He had no doubt, however, that if offered the other ten the Iraqis would probably purchase them. It seemed to be generally agreed that the US should not offer additional tank transporters at this time but concentrate instead on other categories of equipment in short supply.

Financial arrangements were briefly discussed. Brigadier Boyce said that the 5,000,000 sterling Iraqi arms budget had for the most part already been earmarked against current contracts. Thus the Iraqis might not, at least initially, place large requests for US arms. In regard to convertibility, Mr. Bromley noted that advice received from the Foreign Office indicated that the F.O.’s agreement in principle to the idea of 408e assistance had been “subject to discussion with financial authorities”. When he was queried as what was meant by “financial authorities”, he said he thought conversations between British defense and Treasury officials were meant. Mr. Bromley did not believe, however, that any special reference to the 408e agreement would have to be inserted in the Anglo-Iraq hard currency agreement (to be renegotiated shortly) since it was probable the new agreement would be of an “open-end” nature similar to the present agreement.

Coordinating procedure was also touched upon. Mr. Bromley said he did not off-hand see any objection to coordination taking place by the tripartite arms coordinating agency in Washington except that it wasn’t established yet. Mr. Man remarked that the idea of “limited” assistance was fine provided others on our team played the same game. He referred to French practices of transferring arms to Syria. Mr. Bromley said that perhaps giving the French information about our arms supply policy in Iraq would encourage the French to do likewise in Syria. It was generally agreed that the French would be unlikely to desire an active role in the Iraq arms supply picture.

In summing up the meeting, Mr. Bromley said that he wanted to give his Ambassador, who was away on a local trip, the benefit of the minutes of the meeting and seek his views, but speaking personally he agreed in principle with our proposals as outlined by Mr. Ireland and saw no reason why the recommendation made by the UK Embassy to the Foreign Office on this question should not [Page 2332] be substantially the same as those made in paras 6 and 7 of the Embassy’s telegram 901, April 21.3

  1. This memorandum of conversation was transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to a letter by Ambassador Crocker to G. Lewis Jones, dated May 5. Crocker said he had come to agree with the concept of limited assistance to make up current Iraqi military deficiencies. (787.5 MSP/5–552)
  2. Man was appointed Head of the American Department of the British Foreign Office in May 1954.
  3. Supra .