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

SUBJECT

  • Intelligence Note: Significance of the Return to Iraq and Arrest of Col. Arif

The arrest of Col. Arif upon his return to Iraq and the harsh and uncompromising character of the public statement announcing his arrest1 has put in sharp relief the cleavage in the Iraqi regime. This event has not only precipitated the showdown stage in the power struggle within Iraq itself but has also created an open challenge to President Nasir.

Neither within Iraq nor in the UAR has there been any immediate public reaction to Arif’s arrest. It is likely that events moved so fast Arif’s followers in Iraq as well as Nasir have not had time to prepare and execute a countermove. On the propaganda front the Iraqi Government apparently is trying to keep the initiative by broadcasting cables of support for Premier Qasim and may be preparing the ground for charges against Arif by broadcasting slogans against “imperialist plots.” Even if Qasim should succeed in stifling any violent reaction to his move for the moment, factionalizing of the army is likely to result and profound internal unrest is the outlook for some time.2

The most important factor however, will be Nasir’s reaction. Since Arif has been the chief protagonist and symbol for the pro-UAR faction in Iraq his arrest is a public slap at Nasir which the latter can hardly overlook without serious consequences for his leadership role in the Arab World. He will be virtually forced to take a hand, and whether he does so openly or covertly, the outcome will be labelled his success or failure. This new and pressing affair may distract Nasir’s attention from [Page 352]other problems facing him in inter-Arab affairs, such as relations with Tunisia or developments in Yemen. He may also postpone any move he may have contemplated regarding Jordan—or on the other hand feel compelled to move prematurely as a diversionary maneuver. Syrian affairs may also demand more of Nasir’s attention as a result of the events in Iraq, since any success on Qasim’s part would strengthen those Syrians who would prefer looser ties with Egypt and possibly closer relations with Iraq.

From a propaganda point of view Nasir may well find himself in a quandary. It would be embarrassing to call Qasim an imperialist tool so soon after extolling him and the new republic. Reliance upon the USSR for arms and economic aid would most probably keep Nasir from openly charging Soviet interference in Iraq.

It is too early to assess to what extent the Soviets and the local Communists are likely to profit from the most recent events in Iraq. One result may be an increase in Kurdish restiveness, which the Soviets have been able to stimulate and exploit in the past, in the face of disunity among the Arabs in the country.

A similar memorandum has been addressed to the Under Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/11–558. Confidential. A note on the source text indicates that Dulles saw this memorandum.
  2. On November 4, Radio Baghdad announced that “Col Abdul Salaam Arif the Iraqi Ambassador to Bonn arrived in Baghdad without proper authorization or permission. In view of the public interest and his repeated attempts to jeopardize public security he has been arrested today and will be tried for plotting against the security of the State.” (USARMA Baghdad telegram CX 134, November 6; ibid., 787.00/11–658)
  3. On November 3 and 5, John S.D. Eisenhower and L. A. Minnich, Jr., included in synopses of State and Intelligence material reported to the President accounts of demonstrations in Iraq. On November 3 John Eisenhower’s synopsis included the statement: “Anti-UAR demonstrations are occurring in Iraq with security forces making no apparent effort to interfere until violence is threatened.” On November 5, Minnich’s synopsis stated: “Popular demonstrations supporting Qasim reflected pro-Communist agitation and suggests some reliance by Qasim on Communists for popular demonstrations in his support.” (Both, Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries)