157. Memorandum of Discussion at the 393d Meeting of the National Security Council0

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

2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows discussion of an unrelated matter.]

Turning to the situation in Iraq, Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that a new conspiracy might be underway there to overthrow Qasim and his pro-Communist supporters. This conspiracy was probably influenced by Nasser [4 lines of source text not declassified]. Mr. Dulles said that we are inclined rather to doubt the possibility that this coup would actually be carried out. Meanwhile, however, some cabinet members have expressed concern about Qasim’s heavy reliance on Communist support. [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] however, had been lifted somewhat by Qasim’s speech on January 14 which warned pro-Communist elements in Iraq to curb their actions.

Secretary Dulles confirmed that the most recent U.K. estimates on developments in Iraq were somewhat less pessimistic.1

Secretary Dulles then indicated that President Nasser was continuing to round up leading Communists and pro-Communists within the borders of the United Arab Republic. Nasser seemed confident that he could carry out these moves because even though the Communists had been curbed in the UAR, the Soviet Union had proceeded to sign the agreement with the UAR on the building of the Aswan high dam. Nevertheless, the most aggressive anti-Communist steps that Nasser had taken had been taken since the signature of this agreement. Mr. Dulles promised later to brief the Council in detail on the whole picture on developments respecting the Aswan high dam.

Secretary Anderson noted that back in October of this [last] year Erhard had discussed with him a proposal by the Japanese to join the West Germans in putting up money to start the Aswan high dam. Anderson had told Erhard in answer to a question that we ourselves had carefully studied the costs of building the Aswan high dam and that the total outlay was very high indeed. Erhard doubted that his government would participate at all in a project for building the Aswan high dam and would certainly not agree to do so with the Japanese.

[Page 376]

Secretary Dulles said that he wished to comment on Mr. Allen Dulles’s statements about Iraq. He said that he was aware of Mr. Gray’s concern about the situation in that country, a concern which all of us of course shared. The situation in Iraq, he said, was very complicated indeed. In the early stages the U.K. had actually warned Prime Minister Qasim of a plot against him under the influence of Nasser. This U.K. move did not ingratiate the British with Nasser. We had had the same information about the plot that the British had but we did not pass this information to Iraq. Consequently, we stand at the moment in a better position than the U.K. in Nasser’s eyes. Nevertheless, at the moment we felt that it is essential to keep our hands off Iraq. We were simply not sufficiently sophisticated to mix into this complicated situation as yet but we were watching the situation almost daily [1 line of source text not declassified]. Secretary Dulles added that he did not think that any NSC action was called for at present or that there was any need to review existing U.S. policy on Iraq as of now. Nevertheless/he felt that the NSC should know of the complications of the situation in Iraq and should be aware that we are following the situation very closely. Obviously the potentialities would be extremely serious if the Communists did secure control over Iraq especially as regards the position of Iran.

Mr. Gray pointed out that the NSC Planning Board, in its concern about Iraq, merely wanted to be sure that if events moved very quickly in that country, we would not prevent Nasser from moving promptly to counter Communist gains. Secretary Dulles added that certainly Nasser was the lesser of two evils from the point of view of the U.S.

The President said that we should presently have to decide just how far we wanted to play along with Nasser. Secretary Dulles replied that after all we had moved considerably of late in the direction of playing with Nasser. While relations had thus improved between the U.S. and the UAR, we could not of course give carte blanche approval to everything that Nasser does and everything that he wanted. The President agreed but expressed anxiety about a Kurdish uprising and a Communist move thereafter to take over control of Iraq. If this were to occur, the result would be to outflank both Iran and Turkey and to provide the Soviets with their long-desired land bridge to the Middle East.

Secretary Dulles pointed out that after the fall of the government of Nuri Said, the U.S. had relatively few remaining assets in Iraq, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The President answered that the chief question was what we could do to support Nasser vis-à-vis developments in Iraq. He said he would welcome any ideas from any source on this subject. Secretary Dulles contended that at the moment there was nothing much we could do but that we must carefully avoid appearing to meddle in the situation in Iraq, an action which was sure to be counter-productive at this stage. The President replied that what he had [Page 377] meant was what encouragement or what money we might be able to give Nasser back in Cairo and not intervention by ourselves in Iraq.

Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that President Nasser was a kind of conspiratorial fellow. Accordingly, it might be useful to send a lower level envoy to talk over matters with him frankly. The President concluded the discussion by stating his view that this seemed to be a case of whether we decided to support a baby-faced Dillinger or an Al Capone. Certainly, said the President, he could not think of anything concrete that sounded useful at the moment.

The National Security Council:2

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to recent developments in Cambodia, Laos and Iraq, and the continuing anti-Communist measures by Nasser in the United Arab Republic.
Discussed the implications for U.S. Policy Toward the Near East (NSC 5820/1)3 of increasing Communist influence in the Iraqi Government; and agreed that all responsible departments and agencies should explore all feasible measures, including possible actions under paragraph 36 [39] of NSC 5820/1, to prevent Communist control of Iraq.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently circulated to all holders of NSC 5820/1 for information and guidance.

[Here follow agenda items 3–5.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on January 16.
  2. Reported in telegram 3618 from London, January 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/1–1359)
  3. Paragraphs a and b and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 2033, approved by the President on January 19. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  4. Document 51.