304. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State1
From Herridge, managing director IPC who was in Baghdad a few days ago and is now back in Damascus, he had learned that Syrian Parliament is prepared to cut Haifa pipeline if present negotiations for diversion of line to a Syrian port do not lead to terms favorable to Syria.4 This Nuri Said, is first sign increased Communist activity next door to Iraq following Soviet arms move in Egypt. Egyptians and Saudi Arabians were now getting set to strangle Iraq through Communist element in Syria. As this situation will get progressively worse not better, he felt he had to act now. He wanted a free hand. This how he enlarged on that:[Page 544]
He was prepared in first instance just to talk seriously to Syrians urging them to be reasonable and rid the country of Communists but mere talk without backing from US and UK was useless. He could talk with effect if he knew he had backing of US and UK in approaching Syrians now and also a guarantee from US and UK that, while he was engaged in trying to set things right in Syria, US and UK would restrain Israel from aggressive move against Syria. Here I interrupted Nuri. I said that what he was telling me was that he wanted to step into Syria and bring about a change of government. He did not respond directly to this but said that he wanted to see a group of reasonable men in power in Syria. I then asked: “Are you thinking of military intervention?” He was even more evasive in his reply to this question. There are many ways of bringing about a change he said, if only he had a free hand.
I then said to Nuri that the situation in the ME right now, as he knew only too well, was very precarious and critical. This was no time to raise additional highly critical issues.
Nuri persisted, however. He said he wanted me to report immediately what he had said and get Washington’s reaction as quickly as possible. He said he would guarantee Syria’s independence. Whatever form of government or form of association with Iraq the people of Syria wanted would be acceptable. To determine that a plebiscite might be held under US or UK auspices or the auspices of some international agency but on this point he felt strongly: The Communists in Syria must be squelched and squelched now and a stop put to further Egyptian and Saudi Arabian intrigues in Syria. The future of Iraq was at stake. He was more immediately concerned about the threat emanating from Syria, Iraq’s neighbor, than from Egypt.
I saw British Chargé later this afternoon. Nuri had spoken to him in substantially the same vein, as he is reporting to London.5
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783.00/10–455. Secret; Priority. Repeated priority to London, Damascus, Ankara, and Beirut.↩
- On September 27, the Egyptian Government announced that it had signed with Czechoslovakia an agreement to exchange cotton for arms. Shortly thereafter, Assistant Secretary Allen visited Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. Soviet sponsorship of the agreement had already become apparent to U.S. officials.↩
- Reference is to Robin William Hooper, Counselor of the British Embassy in Baghdad.↩
- Reference is to one of several items under negotiation between the Syrian Government and the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) since the previous February. The primary Syrian objective in these negotiations was to gain an increase in transit royalties from the IPC whose pipeline traversed Syrian territory. In August 1955, the United States and United Kingdom had jointly protested Syrian pressure and the setting of deadlines in these negotiations. Documentation concerning the negotiations is in Department of State, Central File 883.2553.↩
- During a conversation on October 6 in Washington, British Ambassador Makins told Secretary Dulles that the British Foreign Office did not take Nuri’s comments regarding Syria too seriously and that the Foreign Office believed that Nuri expected the Americans and British to say no. Dulles responded that the United States could not accede to giving Nuri a free hand in Syria as it would have a most harmful effect on Israeli activism in the area and on Saudi Arabia.↩