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155. Memorandum of Discussion at the 392d Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1–4.]

5. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

Turning to the Middle East, Mr. Dulles reported that Kassem was increasingly dependent on the local Communists, even though other Iraqi officials assert that strong measures against the Communists are imminent. The Army commanders in the south may move against Kassem if he permits the Communists to acquire greater power.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

6. U.S. Policy Toward Iraq (NSC 5820/1, par. 39;1 NSC Action No. 2021–b2)

Mr. Gray briefed the Council on this subject. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s Briefing Note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another copy is attached to this Memorandum).3 At the conclusion of his briefing, Mr. Gray called on Secretary Herter for an oral report by the Department of State on the situation in Iraq. Secretary Herter said that Mr. William Rountree, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who had just returned from a trip to Iraq and the Near East, would give the report.

Mr. Rountree said that, preparatory to his trip to the Near East, he had made two trips to New York for talks with Iraqi and UAR officials to determine their views on his proposed trip, which they welcomed. The trip was actually a routine one but was highly publicized over the Soviet radio, and in Iraq, where the Iraqi Communist Party issued pamphlets charging a plot. Mr. Rountree found the atmosphere in Lebanon good, possibly because Lebanon had just been given $10 million in aid. His talks with Lebanese officials were frank and friendly and the Eisenhower Doctrine was not mentioned. There appeared to be some sense of relief that we were not trying to sell a new policy of open alignment with the West. Progress is being made in Lebanon, Mr. Rountree believed. The behavior of the U.S. forces in Lebanon had made a great impression.

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From Lebanon Mr. Rountree had journeyed to Jordan. He had been very much impressed with the Prime Minister and found the King and the Prime Minister deeply troubled about the future of Jordan. Jordan may take unwise action in associating with neighbor states. [3 lines of source text not declassified] Jordan is burdened with heavy military expenditures, [2 lines of source text not declassified]. Communist propaganda at this time was directed against a Kassem–Nasser rapprochement and against a Kassem–U.S. rapprochement. The build-up of propaganda against him (Mr. Rountree) as a plotter reached new heights just before he entered the country and cast considerable doubt on the wisdom of his going on to Iraq. The safety of U.S. citizens in Iraq is precarious.

In Cairo, talks with officials were critical but friendly. Cairo is worried about Communism in Iraq and Syria. While there has been public recognition in the press of the dangers of Communism, this is the first time there had been apparent official recognition of it. Mr. Rountree had taken the line that the U.S. wanted to establish confidence and good relations with the UAR. The Caltex and Shell Oil agreements were also discussed. There is an indication that Cairo is at last prepared to do something about Communism in the UAR. There is a conflict of interest in Iraq between the UAR and the Soviet Union.

In Iraq, Mr. Rountree had received a violent reception and the army had to take over. Outside the entrance to the airport demonstrators plastered his car and there were crowds of demonstrators all along the road. These demonstrations were violent; not the work of schoolboys. The Embassy is well-guarded, however. After the first demonstrations, there was no more trouble. The meeting with Kassem was ruined by a previous meeting of the Soviet Ambassador with Kassem. Mr. Rountree found the building filled with machine guns, all pointed in his direction. Kassem was tense and worried and apologized for Mr. Rountree’s reception. He attributed it to the Iraqis’ belief that the U.S. was plotting against Iraqi interests. Kassem believed some stories against the U.S. but not all of them. He was particularly concerned about a U.S. plot with the Kurds and despite all protests by Mr. Rountree, continued to believe there is such a plot. Three battalions were assigned to police Mr. Rountree’s departure and there was no trouble. Mr. Rountree believed the Communists over-extended themselves in these demonstrations and had created concern in Iraq over Communist activities. Mr. Rountree in his talks with cabinet officials had found them gloomy but aware of the Communist problem. However, Kassem must accept some Communist support or stand alone against Nasser. The Communists were worried about the reaction of the Near East to these demonstrations. The Arabs are becoming aroused to the real danger, i.e., to the fact that it is not colonialism but Communism.

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The President thanked Mr. Rountree for a good account of the situation in Iraq and thought the trip must have been an exciting one. He said that when he was at SHAPE, demonstrations had been threatened against him while he was in Rome and Paris but military protection had been too good.

The Vice President said he had been impressed by Mr. Rountree’s account of the behavior of U.S. troops in Lebanon and thought a fine story could and should be written about this, in Readers’ Digest or The Saturday Evening Post perhaps.

Mr. Gray said that in view of the lateness of the hour, he would like to invite Mr. Rountree to a subsequent Planning Board Meeting, where the situation could be further discussed in connection with the Planning Board’s review of U.S. policy toward Iraq.

The National Security Council:4

a.
Noted and discussed an oral report by the Department of State on recent developments in the Near East with particular reference to the situation in Iraq.
b.
Noted that the NSC Planning Board would consult with Assistant Secretary of State Rountree in its review of existing policy on Iraq, pursuant to Council action at its last meeting.

[Here follows agenda item 7.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Boggs.
  2. Document 51.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 151.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Paragraphs a and b constitute NSC Action No. 2030, approved by the President on December 30. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)