171. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State0

2837. Deptel 2416.1 Numbers of paragraphs correspond with those of reference telegram.

Much water under Tigris Bridges since Embassy recommended US offer sell arms to Iraq. Believe we should not at this stage raise with GOI question of supplying US arms on any basis, at least not until British have made their decision on arms sale question. Considerable delay likely be entailed in British consultation with BP members. Trevelyan still recommending that HMG offer sell arms and I share his feeling that it better if we stay out of picture for time being. If UK does decide sell Iraq arms, might be better for us to stay clear indefinitely confining our participation to straight commercial sales of reasonable quantities spare parts and ammunition for US equipment already in hands GOI. We are not under any particular pressure this regard. Qassim spoke of it in my first talk with him last January2 but did not return to subject at our March 17 meeting.3 Department’s point re negative effect our initiative [Page 407]in this respect would have on UAR anti-Communist campaign is well taken.

I do not believe that official expression of US concern about Iraqi situation would be helpful just now. World attention already sufficiently directed to trend here. Statement by USG would (A) revive neurotic GOI fears we considering intervention or encouraging intervention by others, (B) increase acceptance among Arabs of Iraqi charge that Nasser acting as cat’s-paw for imperialists, (C) correspondingly weaken impact of Nasser anti-Communist campaign.

If President or Acting Secretary asked to comment at press conferences, recommend reply not go beyond general line President took on February 18,4 possibly with additional observation that GOI continues to declare that it wishes friendliest relations with US.

We doubt that Qassim could be induced see light by special envoy from Turkey or Pakistan. High-level representatives from India, and possibly from Sudan and Morocco, might have some effect, but we judge none these governments would leap at idea. More easily arranged and probably of greater cumulative value would be reiterated expressions of concern by Resident Chiefs of Mission of Arab states, smaller European powers and Afro-Asian states not members of Baghdad Pact or SEATO, whenever they see Qassim in normal course of business. In this category are Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tunisia; Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Yugoslavia; India, Indonesia and Japan. If Department has no objection I will urge colleagues from these countries use any meeting they have with Qassim to express hope Iraq will not fall under domestic or external Communist control. Their willingness to do so and effectiveness of their presentations of variants of this theme would, of course, be enhanced by instructions from their governments. Department may wish try to induce such instructions through individual approaches in capitals concerned. My guess is that multilateral approach as through NATO Council, would not be advisable.
Assume reference to cessation “attacks” refers only to propaganda warfare. It seems to us Nasser now too deeply committed to call off dogs. He might see advantages, however, as we do, in middle course whereby he kept up campaign against Communist parties and their Soviet backing in ME, and in Iraq in particular, but tapered off direct attacks on Qassim including charges he himself is CP member. We believe there some chance that “opening to the right” could be devised for [Page 408]Qassim if UAR propaganda switched to picturing him as essentially sound Arab patriot who had become unwilling captive of Communists. Attacks on personalities might be better centered on influential Iraqi Communists not holding official positions and on foreigners like Bakdash and Bizri, charging latter making Baghdad headquarters for alien influences and assuming leading roles in direction of CPI.
Although we not in best position to make judgment, we inclined doubt Nasser needs encouragement or money from us for conduct his propaganda campaign. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] As for Nasser’s capacity check trend in Iraq by promoting overthrow or overhaul its government, we doubt he can do this, even with outside help. If we aided or otherwise encouraged him in that direction, most of blame for renewed failure see in his mind be ours. Furthermore, there would always be danger of leak which would be damaging both to him and to us. On other hand, we should, of course, try assure him west will not stab him in back while he is fighting communism in ME.
We see nothing to be gained by a US-UK-French threat to boycott Iraqi oil. It would enrage all Iraqis without really coercing them. It would gravely jeopardize IPC position. It would confirm in Iraqi mind conviction that “imperialists” forever bent on unseating “popular” governments in underdeveloped lands and keeping their people poor and oppressed.
We think it would be serious error if UAR cut oil pipelines at this time. Step would immeasurably exacerbate UAR/Iraq feud and would strengthen rather than weaken Qassim regime. West would inevitably be blamed along with UAR, whereas Soviet bloc would have good opportunity tighten hold on country by extending increased aid to cushion shock of “imperialist” squeeze on oil revenues. Iraq would no doubt demand large loan from IPC to tide it over fiscal emergency, under threat of nationalization. If pipelines should be cut, US should plainly dissociate itself from step and use its influence to hasten completion new oil-loading facilities now under construction by FAO.
No psychological measures of obvious worth under present circumstances occur to us. We believe VOA on right course in reporting without comment both sides of slanging match between Cairo and Baghdad. Nasser’s propaganda machine is better attuned than ours to pound at Arab consciousness with anti-Communist thesis. Discreet for us to stay off players bench and away from cheering section at this stage. Would be most worthwhile, however, for us canvass all possibilities for encouraging western contracting and engineering firms to continue participation in Iraq development program despite present difficulties and risks. Soviet program will meet only fraction of Iraq’s real needs in next few years, and field should not be left to them alone. We should not rule [Page 409]out guarantees against loss and extension credits by USG and other western governments for specific and limitable projects (not surveys).
We would not recommend personal letter from Eisenhower to Qassim warning against Communists for reasons similar those stated above in paragraph 3. Additional hazard in this case is that sooner or later letter would be leaked in distorted form to Baghdad press, as was case with President’s February 18 statement, and would then be made text for new round of indignant sermons on US “pressure” and “interference in internal affairs Iraq.” Might, however, be well worthwhile for President to send Qassim few days before July 14 National Day letter going well beyond protocol requirements, assuring Qassim that USG well disposed toward young republic, had followed with friendly interest first year of its efforts to create better life for Iraqi people and wished it well in its continued efforts to this end.

Regret our cogitation has produced generally negative reaction to Department’s inquiries. Seems to us best course we can follow until situation clearer is to defend our specific interests here as best we can, to maintain such programs as we can, especially in fields of education and development as symbols continued western interest and good will, and to continue assure Qassim we sincerely want see Iraq be independent and prosperous and are prepared to help toward that end.

Our general estimate of situation and prospects has not changed during week since transmission Embassy telegram 2758.5 We think that their deep aversion to Nasser leads Turks and to lesser extent British to declare somewhat greater confidence than we feel in Qassim’s determination and ability to steer middle course, but we recognize they may yet be proven right. In any case, we see no present alternative to support of Qassim.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/4–359. Top Secret; Limited Distribution; No Distribution Outside Department. Transmitted in three sections.
  2. Document 167
  3. This meeting was reported in telegram 2114 from Baghdad, January 19. The portion dealing with U.S. arms assistance to Iraq reads:

    “Re arms aid, he had been surprised when two American consignments which arrived Basra at moment of revolution had been turned back without unloading. Had asked Ambassador Gallman for statement of what heavy arms we would be prepared provide new regime but had received no reply. I said I should be glad discuss this whole question with him another time. Pointed out would make a big difference whether Iraq wanted grant or reimbursable aid, as our legal requirements for grant aid were much more complicated. Prime Minister merely nodded. At no time did he say whether he was willing accept continuation MAAG.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.87/1–1959)

  4. Reported in telegram 2680, March 18. (Ibid., 611.87/3–1859)
  5. Reference is to a Presidential news conference on February 18 during which Eisenhower was asked to evaluate the situation in Iraq. For text of his response, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959, p. 195.
  6. Document 166.