150. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State0
1887. From Rountree. I called, accompanied by Fritzlan and Symmes at noon December 16 on Prime Minister Qassim who received me in his Defense Ministry office with Foreign Minister Jomard and Finance Minister Hadid.1 In arranging call this morning Embassy had urged appropriate security precautions be taken. It was probably in response this urging that although no demonstrations observed in Baghdad, government escort transported me to and from call in military vehicle.
Meeting was held in cordial atmosphere. After explaining purpose of my visit Baghdad and other ME capitals I said I had been encouraged include Iraq in itinerary both as result Foreign Minister’s reaction to mention of the possibility in my talks with him in New York2 and Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s reaction in extending welcome at time Ambassador Gallman discussed my coming. Normal visit of diplomatic official of one country to another between which friendly relations maintained had taken on entirely different coloration because of Iraqi press campaign and unfriendly crowds which met me yesterday. I observed result of publicity would have unfortunate effect on public opinion outside Iraq. I considered security precautions had been inadequate3 and hoped Prime Minister would be able to carry out expression [Page 362]of intention to maintain order he expressed to Gallman. From there, however, I went on to constructive aspects of visit and outlined in general terms situation as I saw it with respect to our relations. I sought first hand knowledge on matters of common interest as GOI saw them and would appreciate the Prime Minister’s frank views.
Qassim expressed regret for yesterday’s demonstrations but then stated Iraqi people had been much aroused by recent revelation of plot against government and implications some foreign power involved. Although identity of power not yet revealed, many Iraqi people believed it to be US. He reviewed at length facts affecting Iraqi public opinion and stated on many occasions Iraq wished maintain good relations with US, as with all other countries. His main theme was that Iraqi public extremely vigilant, determined maintain independence, and looked with keen suspicion upon activities of any government which would seem to impair their independence. In this connection he recited a number of allegations against activities of Americans in Iraq and in Iran which had led Iraqi public to believe US unfriendly. His main concern in this regard was alleged stirring up of trouble among Iraqi Kurds with American support in Iraq to some extent but primarily in Iran. I, of course, denied all allegations US engaged in activity against interests of Iraq and endeavored to reassure him of our friendly attitude toward government. I said US public understandably was shocked as result certain aspects methods of take-over but that with recognition of GOI we had every intention of working for good relations. I made strong point of fact those who did not desire to see good relations between USG and GOI would use every conceivable device to create suspicion and doubt. I earnestly hoped that Prime Minister fully aware of this and that he would not believe ridiculous allegations, at least without looking into their origins and discussing them frankly with us. At one point Qassim admitted that he, himself did not believe one of the charges which he had mentioned to me (that Consulate Kirkuk had been involved in demonstrations) but said simply that “Many Iraqis did believe it”. He said now that Iraq was completely free, public must be permitted to express itself.
I did not gain impression that Qassim substantially reassured by my statements USG not engaged in activities inimical to regime. Indeed one of his last remarks was to effect good relations would follow automatically in view many common interests of two countries, if Iraqi public not given reasons to suppose US hostile to government. I repeated that every assurance could be given that we were not hostile but that no one could assure that unfriendly elements would not maintain that we were and develop fictitious proof of that allegation. It was thus important to build confidence.
At end of conversation I said that there had been considerable adverse reaction to my visit as though it had been imposed upon the [Page 363]government of Iraq and I hoped that the Prime Minister considered it appropriate to make it clear that my visit had been welcomed. While he did not respond directly to this, he did state that he could assure me that there would be “no trouble” attendant to my departure. Throughout conversation Qassim seemed tense. If he felt any sense of shame over hostile reception, he was successful in concealing it. Throughout conversation we were both frank and I believe Qassim appreciated my efforts to be cordial, sympathetic and frank at the same time. I am confident he was sincere in making his oft repeated assertions that he wants friendly relations with US. What constructive measures he might take in this regard did not emerge.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.15–RO/12–1658. Secret; Priority. Transmitted in two sections.↩
A more detailed memorandum of conversation of this meeting is ibid.John Eisenhower included an account of Rountree’s discussion with the Iraqis in his synopsis of State and Intelligence material reported to the President, December 17, as follows:
“Qassim, Foreign Minister Jomard and Finance Minister Hadid received Rountree at Baghdad yesterday. Rountree made comments on his welcome to the city to which Qassim replied that they had been much aroused by the recent revelation of a plot against the government. Rountree denied all allegations of U.S. implication and emphasized that those who did not desire good relations between the U.S. and Iraq would use all devices to create suspicion. Qassim appeared unconvinced and tense but seemed sincere in desiring good relations with the U.S.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries)↩
- See Document 137.↩
- Rountree was met by an assistant protocol officer and escorted from the airport by four military vehicles with armed soldiers, two motorcycle outriders, a Foreign Office car, and two Embassy cars. Hostile crowds, including about 100 airport employees inside the airport fence, shouted anti-American slogans. Rountree’s limousine flying the American flag crawled through swarms of demonstrators who pelted it with mud, rocks, eggs, and garbage and pasted “Rountree go home” stickers on it. The only major damage inflicted to the car on the trip to the Embassy was a shattered windshield. (Telegram 180 from Baghdad, December 15; Department of State, Central Files, 110.15–RO/12–1558)↩