148. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State0

1770. From Rountree. After reading latest series Baghdad telegrams subsequent Ambassador Gallman’s estimate of situation and consulting with Ambassador Hare, I have grave doubts wisdom proceeding with visit to Iraq. Widespread campaign against US and me personally obviously would not be possible without government acquiescence. It seems most unlikely that in present atmosphere any positive results could be achieved in discussion with government, but on contrary it seems assured that press and Communist-inspired demonstrators would have field day in anti-Americanism. Even relatively friendly officials in Foreign Office expect demonstrations which again would be taken justifiably as government-supported disturbances directed at visitor from nation with which Iraq presumably maintains good relations. Such activity could even endanger lives and property of American citizens, particularly since there are no assurances government capable controlling situation.

Another factor is that my visits to Lebanon and Jordan have received publicity far beyond that expected with considerably more beneficial results than at first seemed likely. Atmosphere for my Cairo visit is relatively good, and while it is hazardous to predict ultimate short-term and long-term effects, it now seems reasonable to expect modestly good results. To follow these three visits with one to Baghdad filled with acrimony would mitigate to large extent advantages which have somewhat unexpectedly accrued.

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Finally, we must recognize that current anti-government activities in Iraq have by no means ended, and it is quite possible that there will be further developments along these lines in next few days. [1 line of source text not declassified] Situation would be immeasurably complicated if these developments should occur either just before, during, or after my presence there.

I therefore propose that Embassy Baghdad inform GOI that Department has decided in view unpropitious atmosphere brought about by widespread campaign which appears to have been condoned by government censors that I will not proceed Iraq at this time. It is earnestly hoped that visit may take place at later time in more favorable circumstances.

We had thought and continue to think that it would be to our mutual advantage to seek such opportunities to exchange views on matter of common interest.

What will be said to press presents a problem. On the one hand failure give reasons for not going can provide good opening for unfriendly propaganda. On other hand, elaboration of reasons might jeopardize to some extent at least whatever chance we may have of working out better relations with regime. On balance I believe we should simply say that situation does not appear at moment propitious for visit of general character planned. We hope that suitable opportunity will present itself in near future for visit to Iraq and other countries in area which Rountree could not visit at present time.

Department please advise urgently its reaction to foregoing and telegraph appropriate instructions to Baghdad if Department concurs.1

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.15–RO/12–1258. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Baghdad.
  2. Telegram 1581 to Cairo, also sent to Baghdad as 1746, instructed Gallman to see Qassim and seek a clear understanding whether Iraq still desired Rountree to visit Baghdad. If so then Gallman should seek assurance for Rountree’s personal safety and inquire what steps had been taken to curb unfriendly disturbances. If the trip was cancelled, it should be done at Iraq’s request to avoid the impression of a U.S. retreat in the face of Communist threats and to diminish charges of U.S. involvement in the December 10 abortive Baghdad coup. (Ibid.)

    In telegram 1867 from Baghdad, Gallman reported that at a dinner given by the Government of Iraq in his honor marking the end of his tour as Ambassador, Qassim had given him informal, personal assurances that he wanted Rountree to come to Baghdad and that proper security measures would be taken. Although Gallman was not satisfied with the informal nature of these assurances, he thought Rountree should come lest the Iraqi Communists claim credit for cancellation of the visit. (Ibid.)