787.5 MSP/8–1352

No. 1381
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Iraq (Berry) 1

confidential

Participants:

  • Dr. Fadhil Jamali, Iraqi Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Burton Y. Berry, American Ambassador

I called formally at 10 o’clock this morning upon Foreign Minister Jamali in accordance with protocol requirements for newly arrived Chiefs of Mission. After the exchange of the usual amenities the Minister said that he would like to express two hopes that regards our future relationship, (1) that we could swiftly pass over the official and formal phase and develop a personal and friendly approach to our work so that he would feel free to telephone me day or night, arrange for a meeting, and then talk out quite frankly what was on his mind, and that I can on my part deal with him in the same informal manner, and (2) that on those occasions when he would “blow his top” that I would bear with him recalling that underneath a sometimes turbulent exterior there is a warm heart and a desire to act justly. The Minister explained that he was not a career diplomat and therefore had not learned to control his feelings at all times, particularly on matters where he had worked hard and another party seemed to take an unreasonable position.

The Minister said that he hoped that the relations between Iraq and America would develop constructively and rapidly, particularly in two fields, that of defense and economic development. He said that he felt that in the past America had neglected Iraq and favored [Page 2334] other Near Eastern countries. Of course, there were explanations for such an attitude, but the fact remained that in Near Eastern matters America was inclined to think first of Lebanon or Iran or Saudi Arabia and only afterwards of Iraq. This was illustrated, for example, in the matter of schools. In Iraq before the war American interests had established a single small school for boys in Basra, a small school for boys in Baghdad, which subsequently had been closed, and a small school for girls in Baghdad. In view of the need of education in Iraq and the great educational effort America had made in neighboring countries this obviously demonstrated lack of American interest in Iraq. Similarly, he said, he felt it was a grave mistake to neglect Iraq in matters of defense as Iraq was an area of stability which could be developed into the focal center for the defense of the Near East. He recalled a map published by Time magazine showing how Russian armies, by moving down from Azerbijan into Iraq and then westward to the Mediterranean, could bypass Turkey and dominate the Near East. He said that if Iraq were developed from an area of weakness into an area of strength such a Russian maneuver would become impossible.

The Minister explained that there were elements in Iraq, such as the Communists and the die-hard British supporters who would resent America playing a more prominent role, but he personally felt that the times require America to play such a role, and that the opposition of such elements would be overcome inasmuch as they represented only the type of opposition that one met anywhere in the world where selfish interests oppose the national good. The Minister recalled that when he had last seen Secretary Acheson he had said, “I accuse America of neglecting Iraq, both in development and in defense”, and when he had had conversations with Assistant Secretary McGhee he had developed considerably this theme. He said that he felt very strongly that the time had come now when the United States should remove the validity of this accusation and that he would want to talk to me soon on a series of suggestions, the purpose of which would be to bring Iraq into closer cooperation with the United States.

  1. The source text is an enclosure to a letter from Berry to Parker T. Hart, informing him that the conversation under reference here was Berry’s first with Jamali. Berry informed Hart he hoped the United States would agree to make Iraq eligible for reimbursable military assistance if the Foreign Minister should request it. In an answer, dated Aug. 21, Hart informed Berry that Byroade wanted to attack the whole program of military aid to the Middle East states because he did not favor the piecemeal process of declaring eligibility for individual states. In the meantime, the Department of State had presented a strong recommendation to the Department of Defense requesting its support for reimbursable military aid for Iraq. (787.5 MSP/8–1352)