161. Telegram From the Consulate General at Geneva to the Department of State1

Secto 28. Following message was delivered by Prime Minister2 to President Sunday evening, July 17th: [Page 301]

“The proposal to make a public statement on the Alpha plan for Palestine carries serious risks which will fall largely upon Her Majesty’s Government by reason of our responsibilities and commitments in the Arab world. The main danger is that there might be a violent reaction in Iraq against the Baghdad Pact and the new Anglo-Iraqi agreement which might lead to the weakening or even the fall of Nuri. In that event the whole concept of a Middle East defense organization would be swept away.

“2. There are two ways in which the United States could help to mitigate these risks. The first is by making it clear to the Iraqi Government that if a Palestine settlement could be achieved on the lines suggested in the proposed statement the United States would be prepared to join the Iraqi-Turkish Pact. On this point the United States Secretary of State has given assurances to the Foreign Secretary.

“3. The second, and even more important, point is that an early decision should be taken that the Iraqi Army shall be equipped with British Centurion tanks. Nuri has indicated that he wishes this, but that he desires the tanks to be supplied free under the American military aid programme, that is to say, by off-shore purchase. The strategic arguments for basing Iraq’s armoured formations on British equipment have been fully set out to the United States Government. Primarily it is a question of the Iraqi forces being able to operate in conjunction with British armoured units in the Middle East and to share repair and supply facilities. Not until this matter is resolved can the Iraqi Government show that they are receiving from the West the reward to which they are entitled for their courage in joining the northern tier.

“4. It would therefore greatly allay the anxieties which Her Majesty’s Government must feel regarding the proposed Alpha action if the United States Government could agree as follows:—(a) that it will be U.S. Government policy to supply the Iraqi armoured forces with Centurion tanks by off-shore purchase; and (b) that Nuri may be informed of this decision now and the launching of the Alpha statements.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/7–1755. Top Secret; Alpha; Limited Distribution. Received at 8:15 p.m.
  2. Sir Anthony Eden.