108. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans of the Central Intelligence Agency (Wisner) to the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming)0


  • An Analysis of the Effect in Iraq of Military Intervention in Lebanon by the United States and the United Kingdom
In view of the impact of the Lebanese crisis on other Arab States, the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has forwarded to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] its appreciation of the possible effect in Iraq of various courses of action in Lebanon which might be taken by the United States and the United Kingdom. This analysis is based on the following premises:
the short-term consequences of intervention only;
the Iraqi Army would not be committed in force, either to action in Lebanon or to any Syrian adventure;
US/UK intervention is without international sanction. The estimate would be proportionately mitigated by the degree of international backing.
no account has been taken of possible French intervention, which would be disastrous.
Iraqi reaction is estimated to be as follows:
Top level officials in the Government of Iraq (GOI) would accept it as a necessity. The GOI’s current propensity is for pro-Sham’un intervention; the GOI undoubtedly views the fall of Lebanon to the United Arab Republic (UAR) as a sufficient threat to its own security to warrant an unpopular overt Western intervention;
The urban-based political opposition would oppose the intervention in an articulate manner and would attempt to exploit it by demonstrations, the primary aim of which would be to weaken or overthrow the GOI. The opposition would use the intervention as a medium of expression for many unformulated popular grievances against the Iraqi regime and Western “imperialism.”
The following factors favor the GOI’s ability to contain the disturbances:
While articulate public opinion is preponderantly anti-GOI, the hard core of activists is small and, except for the Ba’th and Communist Parties, is badly organized. The Ba’thists and the Communists have fairly effective organizations, but they can be kept under control by firm government action. The remaining effective opposition probably comprises not more than 50 lawyers and a few hundred students. There is no evidence to date of the existence of an effective coordination between the opposition and the Army. Thus while the opposition is capable of causing disturbances, it lacks the immediate capacity to overthrow the regime;
While nationalist and anti-Western concepts have penetrated quite widely, the rural population is still basically responsive to the conservative control of the shaykhs, who in the Arab and even Kurdish sectors are predominantly not anti-government;
More than it may be apparent, the urban bourgeoisie and skilled workers may passively feel their own interests, in the form of an unprecedented prosperity, lie with the regime, although this is balanced against the emotional appeal of Arab Nationalism.
With most Iraqis, like other Arabs, the principal motive is to be on the winning side, regardless of the political principles involved. A firm action by the government would arouse less real resentment than might be supposed;
The Iraqi police are better equipped, particularly in vehicular transport, than a year ago. More important, the organization, command, tactical handling, and confidence of the Director-General of Police and the Director-General of Security have markedly improved in the last year;
The crucial aspect of containing disturbances is the need to issue orders for strong police action at the outbreak of any trouble. The [Page 306] command line is Chief of Police Abbas (with Chief of Security Bajhat Attiyyah), Minister of Interior Sa’id al-Qazzaz, Prime Minister Ahmad Mukhtar Baban, Arab Union (AU) Prime Minister Nuri Sa’id, all of whom will act decisively with the possible exception of Baban, who would be decisively controlled by Nuri and the Palace.
The principal GOI weaknesses are as follows:
The lack of full conviction, even on the part of government officials (except a few at the top), in the correctness of broad GOI policies, including decisions on internal measures;
The possibility of change in the GOI or the AU Government bringing in weaker personalities, such as Ayyubi, who through hesitation or vacillation would fail to act decisively when trouble starts. This in turn would give heart to the demonstrators and would furnish momentum by providing a situation where all those disgruntled with some aspect of GOI could join in pulling down the regime. (Such a group would have neither constructive nor defined goals.)
Based on the above analysis, it is believed that the GOI can contain any immediate internal disturbances which might arise out of a US/UK intervention in Lebanon. Once the hard core extremists are under control the best of the opposition is quickly dispersible.
In favor of US/UK intervention (if United Nations action proves ineffective), the following, based entirely on considerations of relevant Middle East factors, is submitted:
The fall of Lebanon would add to the momentum of UAR expansion and would increase the likelihood of developments in the AU similar to those in Lebanon. In such eventuality, the US/UK would find themselves in the dilemma of either supporting the constituted government (under more difficult geographical conditions and against the rising tide of unpopularity with mass opinion) or acquiescing to Nasir.
In spite of the popular hue and cry and some trappings of a constitutional government, the Middle East Arab states are basically army-based. In the short term the popular opposition to US/UK intervention of the practical moment could be disregarded and local internal security maintained.
Intervention would be much more palatable if undertaken by the UN with multi-country forces and non-US/UK troops undertaking the initial operations. There is a reservoir of public respect for the UN which is not reserved for US/UK, who are viewed as participants in Lebanese struggle.
For the Deputy Director, Plans:
W. Lloyd George
  1. Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 582, Iraq, General, 1958. Secret; Noforn; [classification markings and dissemination indicators not declassified].
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.