780.5/3–2253: Telegram

No. 1388
The Ambassador in Iraq (Berry) to the Department of State 1

confidential

1158. Foreign Minister Tawfiq Al-Suwaidi asked me to call this morning. He said that recent conversations with Turkish Chargé (mytels 1053, 1107 and 11182) had made Iraqis realize how very vulnerable their country was to a Soviet attack coming through Persia. Foreign Minister had discussed this situation with Cabinet with result Cabinet had decided to improve Iraqi defense as rapidly and completely as means permitted.

Currently Iraq had no external military responsibilities except those specified in Arab League treaty of mutual defense, the military clauses of which have not yet been implemented. Thus, until such time as these, and arrangements of mutual defense by Western powers, are completed Iraq is bound to supply its army with the means to meet situation. Therefore Iraq desired to commence forthwith in building up its army. Foreign Minister then outlined importance to Western world of Iraq both from viewpoint of resources and strategy and asked that US, with British, assess Iraqi needs to meet its obligations in defense of its own territory and Western world. Foreign Minister said that he would send Embassy [Page 2345] written note expressing these thoughts. He said he planned similar approach to British Ambassador today.

I told Foreign Minister that I would report this conversation and forward to Department by air pouch his note when received.3 I said that I understood that his intention in present conversation was to start us thinking upon matter. If that were correct I felt USG might inquire as to why Iraqis had not availed themselves of means suggested to them by my note November 124 informing Foreign Minister that Iraq had been declared eligible to receive military equipment from USG under provisions of 408e of MDS act. As I had presented our note to acting Foreign Minister Baban I took occasion to repeat to Foreign Minister Tawfiq Al-Suwaidi remarks I made at time of presentation. Minister replied that Iraq Government expected to take advantage of this offer and that I could expect very soon an official reply from Iraq Government so stating.

I told him I was pleased with this information and also that Iraq Govt realized so thoroughly need to prepare against Commie aggression. I said it seemed to me appropriate that Iraq Government use its resources to meet needs since it did have considerable resources.

Foreign Minister commented that Iraq Government could maintain four complete divisions from its own resources but it would not arm and equip four divisions without jeopardizing its program for economic development. He added that if there were plenty of time he felt developing sound economy and building military strength could go forward together entirely with Iraqi means, but he doubted the wisdom in these times of slowing down building strong army to maintain planned economic development. Without economic development Communism would arise from within Iraq.

Foreign Minister confirmed to me Cabinet position on defense as reported in final paragraph mytel 1108.5

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I am gratified that this government understands the Commie menace and is taking measures to meet it both at the present time internally and in the future at Iraqi frontiers. Furthermore, it begins to look as though this government is toying with the thought that participating in MEDO may be the approach to solution of their own defense problems.

Berry
  1. Repeated to Ankara and Cairo.
  2. None printed. Telegrams 1053, Feb. 27; 1107, Mar. 10; and 1118, Mar. 12 are in Department of State file 780.5.
  3. Despatch 693 from Baghdad, Mar. 25, transmitted a personal and confidential memorandum by the Foreign Minister to Ambassador Berry. The Memorandum stated that in order to defend its territories, Iraq required important quantities of arms, equipment, and supplies, which could only be obtained through aid from the United States and Great Britain. (780.5/3–2553)
  4. See footnote 1, Document 1385.
  5. Dated Mar. 10, not printed. The last paragraph reported the Iraqi Government had set up a special Cabinet committee to consider the general subject of defense. The committee, composed of Defense Minister Nuri Said, Foreign Minister Tawfiq Al-Suwaidi, Justice Minister Ahmad Baban, and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Jawdat, made the following recommendation to the Cabinet: 1) If Egypt agreed to a system of Middle East defense, Iraq would join; 2) If Egypt did not agree, Iraq would conclude an agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States, if they agreed, based on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter; or 3) Iraq and the United Kingdom would modify the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty through and exchange of notes worked out between the two governments. (780.5/3–1053)