134. Memorandum From the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming) to Secretary of State Dulles0

SUBJECT

  • Intelligence Note: The Nature and Consequences of Factional Splits Within the Iraqi Government

Infighting is developing within the revolutionary government of Iraq somewhat earlier than expected, but along anticipated lines. It is in [Page 338]no sense a conflict between anti-Western elements and those sympathetic to the US: the latter, in fact, have no articulate spokesman at the present time. Since anti-imperialism is the stock-in-trade of all of the protagonists, and given the demagogic character of Arab politics, the present struggle is bound to develop into a contest in anti-Western name-calling.

Initially, the National Democrats (primarily a radical nationalist group, but heavily Communist infiltrated) and the Communist Party of Iraq, now operating openly, are ranged against a faction headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arif. The situation presents a close parallel to that of Syria in late 1957. Arif, who from the first has been closely aligned with Nasir and has sought Egyptian support for his personal position, is now openly pressing for full union with the UAR. The Communists and their allies, mindful of Nasir’s stern repression of the Egyptian Communist Party but unwilling to adopt an unpopular posture of seeming to dissent from Nasir’s leadership, are advocating a federation or other loose association short of actual union. The far-left coalition is being steadily reinforced as exiles deported under the previous government’s anti-Communist program return to Iraq. According to some reports Prime Minister Qasim is himself protecting this group in return for its support against Arif. Where other principal governmental figures and the Army stand is not known, but it is almost certain that the Army will fragment and align behind the contesting personalities, probably on the basis of leadership preference rather than policy line or ideology. The Ba’th Party, earlier reported wary of the UAR because of the disbanding of its parent party in Syria, is, for the moment, supporting the assimilation movement.

The public attitude is not fully defined, but a pro-union ground-swell is reportedly beginning under the constant prodding of pro-UAR propaganda.

Nasir’s position in the context of these developments is not clear. Since the Nasirite faction has held nearly all the key power-positions (Interior Department, propaganda, control of the street organization) in the Iraqi regime from the start, he can hardly be seriously worried about a Communist takeover in Iraq. It is conceivable that he has allowed a full display of Communist-leftist strength in order to generate local pressure for union and to reconcile Western powers to its accomplishment, on the Syrian precedent. Conversely, it may be that he is being overtaken by forces of unforeseen intensity. Certainly considerable pressures are developing toward Iraqi entry into the UAR that may prove irresistible.

A similar memorandum has been addressed to the Under Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786.00/8–2258. Secret.