170. Memorandum of Discussion at the 401st 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.]

[Page 403]

Turning to the situation in Iraq, Mr. Dulles said that Iraq continued to move along the Communizing line. He referred to the extensive and gloomy review of the situation recently sent by Ambassador Jernegan in Baghdad.1 He also noted the efforts of the Chinese Communists and other Satellite diplomats in Cairo to smooth over the rough relationship between the U.A.R. and Iraq.

After commenting briefly on Nasser’s continued attacks on Khrushchev, Mr. Dulles stated that it was clear from intermediaries that Nasser felt the need of some quiet indication that if he continues his breach with Moscow, he will get support from the U.S. and other Western Powers. For example, said Mr. Dulles, we have learned indirectly that Nasser wants us and our allies to buy his cotton crop.

The President inquired whether it would not be a good idea to provide [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] support to Nasser [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. It seemed to the President that if we were really going to undertake to save Iraq, we should have to begin to do so now. Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out in response to the President that the situation was very complicated. Not all our friends and allies seemed to have the same view on Iraq as we did. In illustration of this point, Mr. Dulles said that in his discussions with Zorlu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, it was apparent that Zorlu still thought Qasim was a nice guy. The President said that it could be that Qasim was a nice guy but if so, he was certainly a prisoner of the Communists in Iraq. This, said the President, is what Rifai, the Foreign Minister of Jordan, thought to be the case. In any event, continued the President, we are facing the complete loss of Iraq to the Communists. In such a situation the President said that it was his idea that we should keep our eye on the principal enemy, namely, the Soviet Union, which was going to take over Iraq. Admittedly, said the President, Foreign Minister Rifai advocated no open attack by Nasser on Qasim because he feared such an attack would simply have the effect of driving Qasim further into the arms of the Communists.

Secretary Dillon expressed the opinion that at least we are in much better contact with Nasser now than we have been for a long time and indeed our relations with him were improving steadily. Meanwhile, we are trying to coordinate our view of the Iraqi situation with the British and the Turks. Secretary Dillon asked those present to remember the unfortunate results of Nasser’s last attempt to overthrow the Iraqi Government. In the light of this unhappy result, Secretary Dillon expressed the opinion that if we would join in planning with Nasser to start something in Iraq, knowledge of our activities would presently be widespread in [Page 404]the Middle East and we would simply be accused of colonialism and imperialism. Nevertheless, Nasser does know that we are backing him even though we are not joining with him.

The President said that he still did not understand why Nasser could not make common cause with Qasim against Communism. The authorities in Jordan think that this course of action could be successful, Mr. Allen Dulles expressed the opinion that there was far too much bitterness between Nasser and Qasim to make such a joint operation possible. On the other hand, Mr. Dulles said he did not believe that Nasser felt that he was getting at present the kind of support in the U.S. that Secretary Dillon thought he was getting. Secretary Dillon replied that the argument he was making had been greatly strengthened by a new instruction which the State Department had sent to our Embassy in Cairo only yesterday.

Mr. Gray asked Mr. Allen Dulles whether he had completed his intelligence briefing because if he had, Mr. Gray wished to make some further comments on Iraq. Mr. Dulles said that he had planned to say a little something about Tibet but would confine himself now to saying that he believed the Dalai Lama was safe [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

Mr. Gray then spoke briefly to the remaining members of the Council (many of whom had been obliged to leave the meeting in order to attend the opening of the NATO meetings) with respect to the Planning Board’s views on Iraq. He linked these views with the President’s comment with respect to what seemed to the President the necessity of doing something promptly to save Iraq. However, Mr. Gray added his understanding of the difficulties which confronted Secretary Dillon with regard to Iraq. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s remarks on the subject of Iraq are filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)2

Secretary Dillon repeated his view expressed earlier that if it became known that the U.S. was plotting with the U.A.R. against Iraq, the result would be simply to drive the Iraqis further and more rapidly into Communism. Secretary Dillon did mention the scrutiny which was being given to the problem of dealing with Egypt’s surplus cotton and pointed out the ultimate danger that Egypt itself would go Communist if its economic difficulties continued to worsen.

On this subject the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mr. McCone, said that in his view the sensible thing would be to buy up all the cotton in Egypt and dump it into the sea. It was obviously much [Page 405]better to lose this amount of money than to lose Egypt as well as Iraq to the Communists.

Mr. Gray, in support of his contention about the necessity of action to save Iraq, cited Paragraph 34–d of the Basic National Security Policy (NSC 5810/1)3 which reads:

“In the event of an imminent or actual Communist seizure of control from within, take all feasible measures to thwart it, including military action if required and appropriate to cope with the situation.”

Secretary Dillon replied that this was precisely the policy under which the State Department was now operating with respect to Iraq. In reply Mr. Gray argued that if on the one hand we fear that if we take action now against Iraq, we will push that country further into Communism, and on the other hand we believe that Iraq is going to end up Communist anyhow, it would be worthwhile to take the risk of the first course of action since it might possibly result in saving Iraq. Mr. Dillon replied simply that he agreed with Mr. Gray and others as to the seriousness of the situation and agreed also that our basic objective in the Middle East was the denial of that area to Soviet domination.

Mr. Gray then suggested that at least it seemed to some of us that the U.S. should seek to bring about a common appreciation of the danger in Iraq among ourselves, the U.K., the Turks, and perhaps other Middle Eastern states. Secretary Dillon replied that this was precisely what we were now engaged in doing with the British. Mr. Patterson suggested the desirability of a review of our current U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Secretary Dillon replied that such a review now would be impossible to make. Things were simply moving too fast. The problems facing us in the area were wholly operational in character. In these operations we were being guided, as he had said before, by Paragraph 34–d of the Basic National Security Policy (NSC 5810/1).

[1 paragraph (4-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Gray then suggested that inasmuch as so many members of the Council had been obliged to go to the NATO meeting, it would be best to bring the discussion to a close.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to reports of an Israeli mobilization; and the situations in Iraq and Tibet.
Discussed the implications for U.S. security, in relation to existing U.S. policy, of the danger of a Communist takeover in Iraq, and reaffirmed the applicability of NSC 5810/1, paragraph 34–d, to the situation there.
S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on April 2.
  2. Document 166
  3. See Document 169.
  4. NSC 5810/1, “Basic National Security Policy,” May 5, 1958, is scheduled for publication in volume III.
  5. Paragraphs a and b constitute NSC Action No. 2065, approved by the President on April 7. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)