787.5 MSP/9–953

No. 1396
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Second Secretary of the Embassy in Iraq (Barrow) 1



  • Mr. Daspit, Department of State
  • Col. Sievers, Department of Defense
  • Major Eveland, Department of Defense
  • Mr. Ireland, Charg. d’Affaires, American Embassy, Baghdad
  • Col. Hester, Naval Attaché, American Embassy, Baghdad
  • Lt. Col. Monroe, Army Attaché, American Embassy, Baghdad
  • Lt. Col. Hippenstiel, Asst. Air Attaché, American Embassy, Baghdad
  • Mr. Barrow, Political Officer, American Embassy, Baghdad

Mr. Daspit opened the discussion by outlining the background of legislation providing for U.S. military aid to the countries of the Near East. He noted that the State Department for a number of years has been urging that the United States take more initiative in furnishing military aid to the Near East primarily on the grounds of its political importance. In the Mutual Security Act of 1951 there was contained a permissive clause enabling the President to transfer 10% of the grant aid for Greece, Turkey and Iran to the countries of the Near East provided the situation warranted. However, until recently the Joint Chiefs of Staff had taken the view that grant military aid to the Near East was not justified in the context of the world-wide politico-military situation. However, when Mr. Byroade became Assistant Secretary of State he thought it most important that the United States use military aid as a political tool to strengthen friendly regimes in the Near East and to increase their disposition to cooperate with the West.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were strong supporters of the MEDO concept, still held the view that there was scarcely any justification [Page 2357] for military aid from the military-strategic point of view until there could be brought into existence an overall strategic plan for the defense of the area in which the Arab States would participate, but they had now taken cognizance of the political advantages of providing a limited amount of military aid to strengthen the internal security of friendly regimes. Recognizing that MEDO seemed for the moment unacceptable to the Arab States, they conceived of an action program on two phases, the first being bilateral military aid programs designed to strengthen regimes now willing to cooperate and to increase their desire to cooperate, this phase having primarily political significance. They would hope, however, that this would eventually create a political climate conducive to a second phase in which the participation of the Arab States in a regional planning organization could be achieved ultimately providing for the effective defense of the area.

The Executive Branch of the Government asked this year for one hundred million dollars for the Middle Eastern states. Congress had adopted legislation providing authority to develop military aid programs up to fifty million dollars, but actual appropriations had amounted to only thirty million dollars.

Originally set off against this sum were several contingencies. For example, Egypt had been given virtual promise of military assistance if it reached a settlement with the United Kingdom. Moreover, consideration had been given as to the practicability of extending assistance to Pakistan inasmuch as that country was considered of very high strategic importance by the Defense Department.

However, the recent trend of thought was that to hold out the 30 million dollars against such contingencies, which might not immediately develop, would unduly tie our hands. It was therefore now thought that the 30 million dollars could be used to best advantage in such countries as would immediately absorb these funds. This idea has been given impetus by Secretary Dulles’ belief, after visiting the Middle East, that steps should be taken to strengthen the “northern tier” of Middle Eastern states against aggression. The “northern tier” concept had been written into the latest National Security Council paper on the area.2

At the August 28 RECNE meeting in Cairo3 the most logical apportionment of the 30 million dollars was discussed and it was tentatively [Page 2358] agreed that Syria and Iraq might well receive the major share, say 20 million dollars, with the other 10 million dollars being distributed among Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Thus Iraq might be eligible for say 8 to 12 million dollars of grant aid.

Colonel Sievers then undertook to outline the steps which would be necessary in order for the Iraq Government to obtain equipment under a grant military aid program. viz.:

Conclusion of a bilateral agreement with the United States in accordance with a standard form, as provided for in Mutual Security legislation. Mr. Daspit noted that this agreement would also make Iraq automatically eligible for reimbursable military aid. Colonel Sievers emphasized the desirability of requiring Iraq to pay for as much U.S. equipment as possible from its own funds.
A U.S. military survey team to establish the program in terms of specific items of equipment. Colonel Sievers said it would be preferable for this team to arrive after signature of the bilateral agreement in order that the team might have a firm basis on which to work. He said that in exceptional circumstances, it might come before the agreement was signed, but not unless the Iraqis had given a relatively firm indication that they intended to go ahead with the program.
The establishment of a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG). This group would be permanently stationed in Iraq to inspect equipment as it arrived and turn it over to the Iraq Government. It would also observe the end use of this equipment (as specified in the standard bilateral agreement) and give technical advice to the Iraqis on its use and maintenance. Colonel Sievers noted that it might be 12 to 14 months after conclusion of the agreement before substantial deliveries would be made, although some token shipment might be sent out shortly after the agreement had been concluded. He also noted that although all the equipment would be repaired, inspected and combat serviceable, it would not necessarily be new. He suggested that these considerations be brought to the attention of the Iraqis in order that undue expectations about the program would not be aroused.

Colonel Sievers also noted that in its terms of reference the Department of Defense would be largely confined to providing equipment for existing Iraqi forces and could not at this stage undertake an aid program designed for the expansion of such forces.

Embassy representatives noted that some aspects of the program, as outlined by Colonel Sievers, did not match with the request that the Iraqis had submitted simultaneously to both the United Kingdom and the United States. In the first place it had been indicated to us that the Iraqi Army would act as a British corps in the event of war, that its tables of organization and equipment were on British standards and that its supply “pipeline” in the event of war would originate from the British MELF. Consequently, it appears [Page 2359] that the Iraq Government had thus far conceived of the program largely as the U.S. financing offshore procurement of army from Britain. It was also noted that the request had been in terms of an expansion of forces rather than in terms of meeting supply deficiencies of existing forces.

Colonel Sievers said with regard to the supply pipeline that it was the Defense Department’s normal practice to provide a year’s supply of spares and maintenance equipment and beyond that additional spares for an estimated three months of combat. With respect to offshore procurement he said that it was probable that some items, such as ammunition, might be obtained by offshore purchase but he believed the United States Government would wish to furnish many items directly, and in any case not be in the position of furnishing aid through the U.K. as an intermediary. He said that among other things there would be serious objections in Congress to the latter arrangement. Colonel Monroe noted that many of the U.S. equipment items likely to be in demand by the Iraqis would be similar to standard U.K. items.

With respect to the concept of furnishing arms for existing forces only, Colonel Sievers and Mr. Daspit thought that this point need not be raised with the Iraqis but could be worked out on a practical basis by the MAAG once established. It was the consensus that there was some merit to Ambassador Berry’s suggestion that our equipment be directed toward a specific unit rather than scattered throughout the Iraq Army with its political effect thereby diminished.

Mr. Barrow said that if we still regard the U.K. as the principal supplier to Iraq, which he assumed we did, we would then ultimately be in the position of furnishing only such items as the U.K. told us they could not provide. This would, in a sense, conflict with an approach to Iraq’s arms supply problems independent of the U.K.

It was generally agreed that some prior consultation with the United Kingdom on the foregoing points was essential.

Mr. Ireland further suggested that one possible approach to the problem might be the establishment of a joint US–UK planning team, or alternatively attaching UK liaison officers to the proposed military survey team, which would do the detailed work of establishing the program. Colonel Sievers said he thought it would be well if both the members of the military survey team and the members of MAAG would consult and work closely with appropriate British military counterparts in this country, but he believed it would be unwise to have the British participate directly in determining how our dollars and our equipment would be utilized.

[Page 2360]

It was agreed that these points should be discussed between Washington and London prior to establishment of the program.

Colonel Sievers noted that the time element was most important inasmuch as if we were unable effectively to utilize the 30 million dollars currently appropriated by next June 30, there would be great difficulty in persuading Congress that more funds should be obligated in the future.

Mr. Daspit asked if we could not stimulate the Iraqis to more rapid action if we informed them of current discussions with Syria on military aid and leave them with the impression that their chances for obtaining desirable items in short supply would be enhanced by early signature of the agreement. The Embassy representatives said they saw no objections to trying such tactics but emphasized that Iraqis had not hitherto been noted for rapid action in such matters.

In a later discussion between Mr. Daspit and Mr. Barrow two further points were brought forward:

Mr. Barrow noted that British Embassy representatives here often expressed the fear that our furnishing arms on a grant basis, while the U.K. required payment, would complicate their relationship with the Iraqis. Mr. Daspit said he believed the U.K. Government had considered this point and was reconciled to U.S. grant aid programs in the area.
Mr. Daspit and Mr. Barrow discussed the possibility that Iraq, by diverting unused funds set aside for economic development, might be able to purchase military equipment on its own account. It was agreed that if we should decide to furnish grant aid we should make it clear that we were doing so in order that Iraq’s own revenues could be saved for development purposes.
  1. Transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to a letter by Ireland to Parker T. Hart, dated Sept. 9. Ireland informed Hart that following the conversations that took place during the visit of Daspit and the two Department of Defense representatives to the Embassy, he took Daspit to call on the British Chargé. The Charg. read them excerpts from instructions received from London, which made it obvious to them that the British were very sensitive about anything the United States might do with regard to military aid to Iraq. (787.5 MSP/9–953)
  2. For Secretary Dulles’ view of the “northern tier” concept, see the memorandum of discussion at the 153d meeting of the NSC, Document 144, and NSC 155/1, Document 145.
  3. For information on the U.S. Chiefs of Mission Conference at Cairo, Aug. 28–29, 1953, see telegrams 271 and 272 from Cairo, Documents 149 and 150.