151. Memorandum of Discussion at the 391st Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1 and 2.]

3. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

Mr. Dulles reported that the situation in Iraq was uncertain. It was questionable whether Kassem, who is in the hands of the Communist mob, can retain power. The Army commanders are uneasy and a nationalist coup is not impossible. Thus far Kassem has not been able to establish a strong government or end Iraq’s economic difficulties. His talks with Rountree have been cool.

Secretary Herter said that Kassem was still reserved and suspicious; he was not apologetic for the bad reception of Rountree. He appears to believe the U.S. was behind the latest plot against him. The President said it might be good policy to help the UAR take over in Iraq. Nasser does not want to be dominated by the Kremlin. We should be [Page 364] apprehensive of Communist control of Iraq. Secretary Herter observed that a Communist Iraq, working through Syria, might bring about the breakup of the UAR. Nasser probably had this in mind when he told Rountree that the U.S. and the UAR had a common intent in Iraq. The President felt that we might be able to work closely with the UAR if it were not for the Israeli problem.

Mr. Quarles thought the critical question was, what should your policy in Iraq be? At one time we had seemed to favor Kassem; were we now changing our appraisal of him and leaning to other personalities? Mr. Dulles said there were no important civil political figures in Iraq. If Kassem were replaced, some division commander in the Iraq Army would probably be the replacement. We had felt that Kassem was preferable to Col. Orif [Arif], who was not controllable.

The President said that since the Kremlin was our principal enemy, he would propose cooperating with Nasser if we think he is restive at the prospect of Kremlin domination. Mr. Dulles thought Nasser might work with us in Iraq, but elsewhere, e.g., Africa, he is adopting the Communist Party line. Secretary Herter believed Nasser would work with us in Iran [Iraq]. He added that one school of thought believed Kassem was not a Communist but a leader who feels he can control both the left and the right.

Mr. Gray recalled that our policy toward Iraq as stated in the Near East paper assumed that the Government of Iraq was one we could support. Perhaps the Planning Board should review the Iraq portion of the paper.

[Here follows discussion of an unrelated matter.]

The National Security Council:1

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to the Soviet request for Deputy Premier Mikoyan to visit the United States, and the situations in Cuba, Communist China and Iraq.
Agreed that the NSC Planning Board should review the existing policy on Iraq, contained in NSC 5820/1.2

[Here follow agenda items 4–6.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Boggs.
  2. Paragraphs a and b constitute NSC Action No. 2021, approved by the President on December 24. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  3. Document 51.