173. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • The Situation in Iraq


  • United States
    • The Acting Secretary
    • NE—Mr. Stuart W. Rockwell
  • United Kingdom
    • Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
    • Sir Harold Caccia
    • Lord Hood
    • Mr. Willie Morris
    • Mr. Denis Laskey

Selwyn Lloyd began by stating that at the recent Camp David meetings1 it had been agreed that it would be useful if something could be done to end the present tension between the UAR and Iraq. He asserted it had been decided to await the results of Arab League efforts to this end, but these seemed to be proving fruitless and Mr. Lloyd wondered whether the US and UK should not now take some action themselves. There wasn’t much that could be said to Qassim but perhaps the US might take steps in Cairo to get Nasser to “lay off” Iraq. The more the UAR attacked Iraq the more the latter was forced to rely on the Communists.

The opinion was expressed to Mr. Lloyd that if the US were to approach Nasser in this sense there would be a grave risk that he might interpret this as espousal of Iraq’s cause against that of the UAR and as an indication that the US did not support the UAR anti-Communist campaign. While this campaign carried with it the risk of causing Iraq to rely more than it might wish to upon the Communists, the value of the UAR anti-Communist campaign was so great that it would seem unwise to jeopardize the latter in an effort to ease UAR pressure on Iraq. Furthermore, it was by no means certain that the Qassim regime would turn away from the Communists if the UAR attacks ceased. Accordingly, the US would be very reluctant to approach Nasser in the sense suggested by Mr. Lloyd.

[Page 412]

Mr. Lloyd said that the UK was deeply concerned by the situation in Iraq. What if the IPC should be nationalized? Furthermore, he was certain that the Iraqi decision to withdraw from the Baghdad Pact was taken as the direct result of the UAR attack on Iraq. Mr. Lloyd said that he was to see Mr. Hammarskjold in New York in the next few days and wondered whether he might suggest to the Secretary General that he seek to ease the tension between the UAR and Iraq, proceeding from the Arab General Assembly Resolution of last August calling for good neighborly relations between the Arab states.

It was suggested to Mr. Lloyd that if it became thought or known in the Middle East that the Secretary General had intervened between the UAR and Iraq at Western suggestion, there would be the same grave risk of causing the UAR to slack off in its anti-Communist campaign as would be present were the US to approach Nasser directly. However it might be useful for the UK to ask Mr. Hammarskjold to arrange to convey to the UAR the UK’s sincere desire for the resumption of diplomatic relations and the establishment of confidence between the UK and the UAR. Mr. Lloyd thought this was a good idea and said he would approach the Secretary General in this sense instead.

Mr. Lloyd also said that he would explain to the Secretary General the reasoning behind the UK decision to agree to sell arms to Iraq, which was now pretty firm. Previously during the conversation Mr. Lloyd had wondered whether it might not be a good idea for the UK to convey these reasons directly to the UAR. It was suggested, however, to Mr. Lloyd that such action might only deepen the current UAR suspicion of the UK, since any value which might reside in prior notification to the UAR had been destroyed by the publicity already given to the possibility that the UK would reach an affirmative decision on the Iraqi arms matter, and on the grounds that “qui s’excuse, s’accuse”. Mr. Lloyd believed this reasoning had merit. (During this part of the conversation, Mr. Lloyd said he had the impression the US hoped the UK would provide arms to Iraq. In response the US position was outlined. It is that if the UK should decide, in its own interests, to go ahead, the US would not object. Mr. Lloyd said he had thought our position was more “affirmative” than this.)

Turning again to the situation in Iraq Mr. Lloyd asked if there were not something that the US and UK could now do about reducing tensions between the UAR and Iraq. In reply it was noted that Nasser’s direct attacks on Qassim seemed to be less frequent and that the UAR had agreed to attend the Arab League meeting now going on in Beirut. It was perhaps too soon to say that this meeting had failed, and it might be that in the next few days there would be a slacking off of the UAR propaganda attacks on Iraq. It seemed desirable for the US and the UK not to intervene at this stage in this specific sense. However, it might be useful [Page 413] if the US and the UK were to approach other nations with the suggestion that they instruct their representatives in Baghdad to warn the Iraqi Government against the dangers of becoming too closely involved with the Soviet Union. Such a suggestion had just been received from the American Embassy in Baghdad, together with a suggested list of countries to be approached. These included a number of Arab states, which the Department thought it might not be a good idea for the US and UK to approach, since this would inevitably become known in the Near East thus destroying the effectiveness of any démarche. However there were a number of other nations outside the area which might exert a beneficial influence. It was suggested to Mr. Lloyd that the US and UK might agree upon which of these countries each would approach. Mr. Lloyd thought this was a good idea and said the UK might take Yugoslavia, for example, and the US might take Spain. It was agreed that the Department and the UK Embassy would consult about this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/4–459. Secret. Drafted by Rockwell and approved by Herter on April 13. The meeting was held at the British Embassy. Selwyn Lloyd was in Washington to attend the NATO Ministerial Meeting April 2–4.
  2. See Document 62.