176. Memorandum of Discussion at the 402d Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1, “Resignation of John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State.”]

2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

Mr. Gray reminded the Council that the only business before it this morning was the grave situation in Iraq and what courses of action the U.S. might carry out to meet the threat of a Communist take-over in that country. He then explained that the Director of Central Intelligence would first brief the Council on the latest developments in Iraq and would thereafter add such other items of intelligence as he deemed of particular importance.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

With respect to the latest developments in Iraq, Mr. Dulles asked the Vice President’s permission to read a brief, coordinated Intelligence Estimate of the situation.1 The report, as read by Mr. Dulles, was extremely pessimistic from the point of view of the interests of the U.S. and the West. It indicated that the Iraqi Communists will presently have the capability to take over direct control of Iraq if, indeed, they do not have this capability already. On the other hand, Mr. Dulles was inclined to doubt if the Communists would make use of this capability in the near future because to do so might not be to their long-term advantage. The report also discussed the changing point of view of the British Foreign Office and of the Turkish Government, both of whom were now inclined to take a much more serious view of Communist influence in Iraq. There had been no change, however, in the well-known Israeli view that Nasser constituted a worse threat than Communism if the U.A.R. gained control of Iraq. Mr. Dulles asked Assistant Secretary Rountree if he entertained different views about Iraq than those provided by the report just read. Secretary Rountree indicated that he did not.

Secretary McElroy asked Mr. Dulles whether he felt that the previous Turkish point of view about Qasim was influenced by the views of [Page 424]the Israelis. When Mr. Dulles replied that he felt the Turks were somewhat influenced by the Israeli point of view, Secretary McElroy went on to say that he had recently had quite a long talk with Turkish Foreign Minister Zorlu who repeated their well-known view that Nasser was the real enemy in the Middle East and that Communism was nothing like the threat of Nasserism in that area.

Mr. Allen Dulles then informed the Council that a recent telegram from Ambassador Jernegan in Baghdad contained the information that the British Ambassador to Iraq, Sir Hugh Trevelyan, had been ordered back to London for consultation.2 It was Jernegan’s understanding that Trevelyan still intended to recommend to the British Government that it supply arms to Iraq. However, inasmuch as such arms could not be delivered until late in 1960, this proposal was at this stage, hardly more than a gesture.

Mr. Gray pointed out that he had seen recent information that the U.K. may change its mind on supplying these arms to Iraq. Secretary Rountree volunteered the information that the U.K. Government was at this point attempting to decide whether or not to proceed with its offer of armament to Iraq. There was a difference of opinion in the British Foreign Office and this was why Trevelyan had been called back to London. Some elements in the Foreign Office still believed that it was wise to provide Iraq with an alternative to securing arms solely from the U.S.S.R.

Mr. Allen Dulles then commented on the long and growing list of Iraqi harassments of U.S. officials in Iraq. He also alluded to the so-called repatriation of a number of Kurds from the Soviet Union. While perhaps most of these Kurds had been exiled from Iraq by the former regime of Nuri-Said, there were undoubtedly a number of Soviet agents included among them.

With respect to the list of incidents in which the Iraqis were harassing U.S. personnel in Iraq, Mr. Gordon Gray singled out as particularly shocking their treatment of Mr. Nash.3 Secretary Rountree agreed that the treatment which he described in detail, was shocking. He indicated that Nash had now been released from prison and given only twenty-four hours to leave the country. Mr. Gray commented that if this sort of [Page 425]thing were to occur in, Cuba or Bolivia or almost anywhere else, it seemed that our Government would get excited about such an incident and at least make strong protests. Secretary Rountree countered by stating that we were making strong protests to the Prime Minister. Indeed our Ambassador was at this very moment meeting with Qasim to discuss this and numerous other similar incidents.4 He believed that the State Department had done an adequate job of protesting each of these incidents as they had occurred.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to the situation in Yemen; indications that Khrushchev’s health may have been impaired by overwork in recent months; and a coordinated intelligence survey of the situation in Iraq.

3. The Situation in Iraq (NSC 5810/1, paragraph 34–d;5NSC 5820/1;6NSC Actions Nos. 2033–b and 2065–b7)

In introducing Council discussion on Iraq Mr. Gray informed the Vice President who was presiding at this meeting, as well as the other members of the Council, that he had discussed the idea of holding such a meeting with the President yesterday morning at Augusta. The President had agreed that such a meeting would be desirable. Mr. Gray added the comment that from personal observation of the President, it seemed to him that his health was good and his tone fine. However, he added that the President had obviously suffered a heavy personal blow in the resignation of Secretary Dulles. Mr. Gray then said that the only written material before the Council on the subject of Iraq was a paper prepared in the Department of State on the situation and possible courses of action.8 While this paper was responsive to the President’s previous instruction, there had been no time to coordinate the paper with the other responsible departments and agencies. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s [Page 426]briefing note9 and the State Department paper are filed in the Minutes of the Meeting.) The Vice President then asked Secretary Rountree whether he had any additional comments to make with respect to Mr. Allen Dulles’ briefing on Iraq or the State paper which Mr. Gray had just mentioned.

Secretary Rountree explained that several days ago Secretary Herter had instructed him to prepare this paper on Iraq and to coordinate it subsequently with the other interested departments for presentation to the National Security Council. Unfortunately, there had not been time to effect this coordination prior to the present meeting. It had, however, been distributed to the other departments yesterday and the coordinating process would promptly be begun. The analysis of the situation in Iraq, as contained in the State Department paper, was very similar to the Estimate which Mr. Allen Dulles had just provided to the Council. Secretary Rountree then reminded those present that at the last meeting at which the Council had discussed Iraq,10 shortly after he (Secretary Rountree) had returned from his visit to Iraq, he had reported on two major developments in that country. The first of these concerned how the Communists had come out in the open in Iraq. The second related to the strong anti-Communist campaign in the several Arab states which had emerged as a result of the demonstration of strong Communist power in Iraq. This latter Secretary Rountree described as an extraordinary change. Unfortunately, however, the effort to launch a program by the Arab League against the pro-Communist regime in Iraq had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, consideration as to what we should do with respect to Iraq should be undertaken in the light of these two most significant developments. In short, whatever the U.S. considered doing in Iraq should avoid if possible any conflict with this new and favorable anti-Communist trend in all the Arab states except Iraq. In this connection Secretary Rountree pointed out that the U.S. Government had recently greatly improved its relations with Nasser and the United Arab Republic. Nevertheless, the State Department doubted the wisdom of Nasser’s violent attacks on Qasim personally as opposed to the more sensible course of action of attacking Communism in Iraq. There appeared to be in the making, however, a shift in the direction of Nasser’s propaganda and in the future we might expect Nasser to attack the Iraqi [Page 427]Communists rather than to go after Qasim directly. Such attacks would nevertheless continue to be made against Qasim’s entourage.

Secretary Rountree then indicated that he did not propose to go into a detailed analysis of the situation in Iraq at present because this had been so well done by Mr. Allen Dulles earlier in the meeting. Thereafter he summarized the remainder of the content of the State Department paper and also discussed the attitude of the Turks, the Israelis, and the Jordanians toward developments in Iraq.

The Vice President interrupted to state that he judged that these three nations as well as the U.K. were a good deal less concerned about the situation in Iraq than was the U.S. He presumed that this was so because all these governments were rather more concerned about the threat posed by Nasser. Did this mean, inquired the Vice President, that the position of these governments with respect to Qasim would be to support him because Nasser was attacking him?

Secretary Rountree replied that when he and his associates had talked with the British recently at Camp David,11 three possible eventualities had been foreseen in Iraq: first, a Communist take-over; second, a Nasser take-over; and third, a “Nationalist” take-over which would remove both the Communists and the pro-Nasser leaders from the Iraqi Government. While all of us had hoped that the latter possibility would actually come to pass, it was agreed that one of the first two possibilities was the more likely. Because they so completely distrusted Nasser, the British were much more willing to undertake the risks which would be incurred by attempting to follow the third possibility of a Nationalist come-back in Iraq.

The Vice President expressed the opinion that even if the Nationalists should win temporarily in Iraq, their victory might lead to an eventual Communist take-over. The Vice President said that this was what he deduced from the State Department paper. While he described this paper as an excellent analysis, the Vice President added that when one got through reading it, one came away with the idea that there was really nothing that the U.S. could do to prevent the worst from happening in Iraq.

Secretary Rountree said that he would like to describe the main factors which underlay the situation in Iraq with respect to these three possible alternatives. He believed that the vast majority of the population in Iraq want neither Nasser nor the Communists to take over their country. Accordingly, there was some reason to hope that even if the [Page 428]Iraqi Communists now have the upper hand, that the pendulum would ultimately swing back away from Communism but not in the direction of Nasserism. This at least was the view and the hope of some of the leading Iraqi citizens.

The Vice President then inquired of Secretary Rountree whether he would say that the people of Iraq were more worried about the Communists or about Nasser. Secretary Rountree replied that at the moment at least they were more worried about the Communists. But, continued the Vice President, the British and apparently the Turks, Israelis, and some others seem more worried about Nasser than about the Communists. Secretary Rountree did not think this was quite accurate but noted that the governments mentioned by the Vice President were certainly reluctant to enter into any program which would result in building up Nasser in the Middle East. The Vice President then commented that nevertheless it seemed unlikely that we could find any middle ground between Communistic control of Iraq and control by Nasser. Secretary Rountree answered that a leading authority in the U.A.R. had stated yesterday that in his view Qasim’s career was finished. If it turned out that Qasim was a Communist, then clearly the Communists have him in the bag. If, on the other hand, it turns out that Qasim is not a Communist, the Communists will get rid of him very soon. They will never permit him to swing back to a nationalist but non-Communist position. According to the U.A.R. informant, the U.S.S.R. had been willing to submit to tremendous losses in its long-term program for taking over the Middle East by virtue of the support that it had given to the Iraqi Communists. Secretary Rountree pointed out that of course these views constituted an Arab argument but he nevertheless thought them significant. Secretary Rountree gave it as his own view that we do not believe that we can yet conclude that Qasim was lost and that there was no possibility of a reverse of the trend of Iraq toward Communist domination.

The Vice President then referred to the several alternative U.S. courses of action as set forth in the State Department paper. He commented that there seemed a strong implication that each one of these alternatives was weighed down with so many liabilities from the U.S. point of view that one was driven to the conclusion that it was perhaps better to let Iraq go down the drain than to attempt to carry out any of the alternatives. Secretary Rountree said that he could not agree with the Vice President’s deduction but the Vice President replied that the State Department paper seemed to argue against each of the alternative courses of action because each course of action, while providing some hope of improvement in Iraq, carried with it the likelihood that it would hurt the interests of the U.S. in all the other Arab countries.

Secretary Rountree responded by stating his belief in the possibility of avoiding the loss of Iraq while using means short of drastic U.S. action. [Page 429]The basis for his belief, said Secretary Rountree, lay in the fact that the Arab countries themselves were now so deeply concerned about the Communist threat to Iraq and to the entire Middle East. As a result, the Arab countries themselves may undertake to do what is necessary to save Iraq. Such a course of action would certainly be the best from the U.S. point of view and this was the course of action which at the present time the U.S. Government was following. Secretary Rountree added that this did not mean, of course, that there were not certain things that the U.S. could do to assist the Arab movement.

(At this point the Vice President temporarily left the room to take a telephone call from the President at Augusta.)

While the Vice President was absent from the room, Mr. Gray asked the members of the Council whether they would approve of his drafting a Resolution by the National Security Council on the resignation of the Secretary of State. Mr. Gray thought that the Council Resolution should be undertaken prior to the appointment of a successor to Secretary Dulles. All present responded enthusiastically to Mr. Gray’s suggestion. (The draft Resolution is given as Item 1 in the list of Council actions for this meeting.)

When the Vice President had returned, Secretary Rountree went on to say that the most hopeful possibility of saving Iraq was in his opinion to give the lead in the process to the Arab states themselves. We were encouraging this course of action in every possible way. If this course of action did not ultimately succeed and Iraq was lost to the Communists, we could at least derive some comfort from the fact that the Arabs themselves would thereafter recognize the necessity for drastic action if the whole Middle East was not to be lost to Communism. Once this realization had dawned, then the U.S. would be in a position to undertake forceful military measures in collaboration with the Arab states to change the situation in Iraq.

The Vice President observed that he understood that the State Department was trying to build up the basis for this course of action with respect to Iraq. Secretary Rountree replied in the affirmative and said that in addition to the State Department paper before the Council, we had discussed this course of action with the British in the Macmillan meetings at Camp David, along with various other contingencies. Secretary Rountree added that there was a group of U.S. officials working on the problem in very great secrecy. The group had arrived at no magic solutions but it was engaged in surveying practically continuously all possible courses of action.

The Vice President said that as he understood Secretary Rountree’s remarks, he was in effect stating that we simply could not tolerate a Communist take-over in Iraq and that we were therefore engaged in building a case to prevent this from happening or for overthrowing a [Page 430]Communist regime in case one became established in Iraq. Secretary Rountree answered in the affirmative and stated that the U.S. could not tolerate a Communist take-over in Iraq. Such a take-over would not only result in the loss of Iraq, it would pose great danger to Iran, Kuwait, and Syria—indeed in time it would endanger the entire Arab world. This was not only an obvious truth, thought Secretary Rountree, but one which he thought in a short time the Arab states themselves would recognize.

The Vice President next inquired of Secretary Rountree whether there was any considerable number of people in Iraq who would rally to the support of Qasim against either the Communists or the pro-Nasser forces. Were there a number of genuine Iraqi Nationalists? Secretary Rountree replied that while there were plenty of strong personalities in Iraq who would support Qasim against either Communist or Nasser forces, these Nationalists were not well organized at the present time. Secretary Rountree went on to add that we were not as appalled over the possibility of a pro-U.A.R. take-over in Iraq as were the British. We felt that we could do more about a Nasserite regime in Iraq at some future time than we would ever be able to do about a Communist regime in that country. Moreover, we are convinced that the Iraqis basically would never accept Egyptian domination over any considerable period. Since we thus believe that any Egyptian domination of Iraq would inevitably be for a short term, we are not too greatly concerned about the possibility of a take-over by Nasser in Iraq.

General Twining at this point stated that if the Council was entertaining thoughts of going as far as our current NSC policy on the Near East suggested, namely, to prevent by all possible means Soviet domination of countries in the Near East, we had better begin now to think about preparing for the possibility of military action in the area. If we contemplate military action to save Iraq, General Twining was convinced that we would need to clarify our reasoning in order to make such a move acceptable to the American public. Moreover, said General Twining, have we asked Nasser what he would think about such a U.S. plan for military action? We could easily take over Iraq by military force if the appropriate preparations were made in advance.

Secretary Anderson said that he was convinced that one of the basic elements in Soviet and Chinese Communist strategy was to multiply the number of crises in the world at any given time. We are now in such a situation as was exemplified by the Berlin crisis, Iraq, etc. If the Russians are very concerned about the possibility of having a free Berlin within Soviet controlled territory, how much greater should our concern be if Iraq fell into Russian hands. When you look at the Arab states which border Iraq, you cannot fail to observe the very great lack of significant military capability in all of them. Accordingly, if a strong Communist [Page 431]military capability should be established in Iraq, then the whole of the Middle East is likely to go down the drain. Any such Communist military strength in Iraq would likewise lead to a most serious threat both to NATO and to the economic life and health of Western Europe as a whole. Fuel requirements alone would present an appalling problem for Western Europe as the Suez affair clearly demonstrated sometime ago. This would have repercussions even for the U.S. If the Suez affair had continued a few months longer, Secretary Anderson said he was convinced that fuel would have been rationed in the U.S.

Secretary Anderson then said that he agreed with Secretary Rountree as to the modification in the past few weeks of prior Arab hostility toward the U.S. Nevertheless we must be realistic. In his judgment, said Secretary Anderson, there was really no basic and permanent Arab unity except perhaps unity against Israel. The basic interests of the Arabs were the basic interests of the individual Arab countries rather than of the Arab nation as a whole. Even if we assumed that the man in the street does not want Communism to win out in Iraq, there always remained the problem of how effective the man in the street can be in Iraq unless we provide him with external assistance. With respect to the choice between Nasserism or Communism in Iraq, Secretary Anderson expressed himself as shocked that the British or anyone else could fail to realize that Communism is much the worse of the two choices. To Secretary Anderson indeed there was simply no choice at all. That the U.A.R. should take over as an alternative to the Communist take-over was to Secretary Anderson not even a debatable point.

Continuing, Secretary Anderson said that he was particularly worried about certain earlier situations which resemble the crisis we were now facing in the Middle East. He recalled all the discussion in the National Security Council about saving Indo-China from the Communists. After a great deal of talk, we finally came to the conclusion that we simply could not afford to lose Indo-China to the Communists. Yet after that, when we finally got down to military planning, we found ourselves talking about such a scale of magnitude that our intervention appeared to be hopeless. In point of fact, therefore, much of Indo-China was lost to the Communists while we were here talking and planning about saving it. We must not now repeat this error in the Middle East. How long are we expected to wait before we take action or make plans? How firm is our resolution that we cannot afford to lose Iraq to the Communists regardless of the risks that we would incur by forceful action to save the country? Secretary Anderson believed that the people of the U.S. would understand a U.S. decision to intervene to save Iraq. He expressed himself as much more worried about public opinion in Europe. Certainly there was no fuss in the U.S. about the action which our armed forces took in Lebanon and Iraq after all was much more important than [Page 432]Lebanon. Secretary Anderson emphasized that he did not wish to state positively that we were taking adequate steps or inadequate steps to support Nasser or to do other useful things but he simply could not bring himself to believe that Qasim was a possible trump card in our hands. On the contrary, Secretary Anderson said he considered Qasim to be a doomed man if he did not actually prove to be a Communist.

Secretary Anderson went on to say that he did not think that Nasser and Qasim were comparable in terms of their capacity to make use of and yet to hold off the Soviet Union. Accordingly, it seemed to Secretary Anderson that the National Security Council ought to share the President’s view that any take-over by the Communists in Iraq was completely unacceptable and that we should be prepared to take very great risks to prevent such a take-over. To this end he recommended that the Council set up at once a group of Government officials whose sole duty it should be to plan to prevent such a Communist take-over. At the same time we should exert all possible pressure on our European allies and on our Arab friends to act in timely fashion to save Iraq, as we certainly did not do in the case of Indo-China. We do not want another Dienbienphu. We face a formidable task in preparing the U.S. to act militarily against Iraq without having recourse to the use of atomic weapons. Such U.S. intervention would require many divisions.

Turning to Secretary Rountree, the Vice President commented that as he understood the State Department view, it was that the State Department felt that no action which the U.S. can take at the present time could succeed in Iraq. Secondly, the State Department sees nothing that we can do to save Iraq which, even if successful in that country, would not destroy the U.S. position and prestige in all the other Arab countries. Secretary Rountree replied that this was indeed the case and would be the case until the Communists actually took over in Iraq and by so doing brought the Arabs to see what this meant for them and therefore induced them to support U.S. intervention to destroy the Communist regime in Iraq. The Vice President then went on to say to Secretary Rountree that as he, the Vice President, understood it, as far as Nasser and the leaders of the other Arab states were concerned, all that the State Department thinks we can expect for the time being is that they can stir up public opinion in Iraq to stand up against the Communists. Secretary Rountree replied in the affirmative.

Mr. George Allen stated that there seemed to him to be other possibilities. Perhaps, he said, he viewed the situation in Iraq with less concern than the other members of the Council. It seemed to Mr. Allen quite possible that Qasim’s course of action might well end up as a repetition of the action previously taken by Mossadegh in Iran and by Nasser in Egypt. In the midst of the Iranian and Egyptian crises, many of us in the U.S. were convinced that both Iran and Egypt were lost to the West. [Page 433]Nevertheless, as Iran and Egypt showed, every time one of these Arab governments drastically changes in character, the pendulum inevitably swings back in due course. Therefore, Mr. Allen argued that he was not at all sure that the situation in Iraq had at this point gone any further than had the similar developments in Iran under Mossadegh and Egypt under Nasser at an earlier time. He therefore recommended that we remain calm and roll with the punches. He was quite sure that the Soviets would have a great deal of trouble in Iraq and he had the feeling that we were going through an era in Iraq not unlike that which Iran and Egypt had earlier gone through. If we did not lose our poise and our nerve, we might well come out all right. Moreover, if by our courses of action, we ended by handing over Iraq to Nasser, Mr. Allen was sure we would find Nasser extremely hard to deal with. In fact, if he added Iraq to his existing holdings, he would soon end up by swallowing the whole of the Middle East. He would therefore, said Mr. Allen, be inclined to let the nations of the Arab world settle their own affairs. In concluding his remarks, Mr. Allen pointed out that the great difficulties which Nasser had encountered in attempting to line up the Arab League against Iraq at the Beirut meeting had resulted, as it turned out, in only Yemen supporting Nasser’s efforts.

Mr. Allen’s comments induced Secretary Rountree to outline in some detail the recent meeting of the Arab League at Beirut and the reasons for Nasser’s failure to get Arab League support against Qasim. He said that the Arabs feared a complete triumph of Nasser. Secretary Rountree himself believed that the possibilities that Nasser could permanently take over in Iraq were very remote. He therefore repeated that he was not particularly worried about the U.S. policy of encouraging Nasser in his current anti-Communist program.

Secretary McElroy stated that he and his colleagues in the Defense Department together with the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been giving thought to U.S. requirements in the event that a determination was made for military action in Iraq. It was the view of the Defense Department that if we were to intervene in Iraq, we would have to be invited to do so by some kind of Iraqi governmental unit as had been the case in Lebanon. If Qasim was not going to be around long enough to invite us in to assist him in action against the Communists and we nevertheless intervened, we should be regarded in the eyes of much of the world as merely having become engaged in old-fashioned power politics. Secretary McElroy likewise thought it would not be easy to sell a program of military intervention in Iraq to the American people. In any event he was quite sure that we could not intervene in Iraq without requiring several divisions and without encountering severe logistical problems. Although of course we could successfully intervene, we must realize that we could not do so without bringing on a real strain in this country. [Page 434]We might very well be forced to total mobilization to prepare for various contingencies; for example, that Iraq would be defended militarily by the armed forces of the Soviet Union. This of course could well lead to war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. All this, in Secretary McElroy’s view, pointed straight to trying to do whatever we could to act in Iraq without resorting to military actions—more perhaps than we were now doing. For example, should we not consider boycotting Iraqi petroleum? It would be possible for the Free World to get along without oil from Iraq. Beyond this course of action Secretary McElroy recommended that we should make a further effort to determine what Qasim’s objectives and wishes really were—whether he was a Communist or an anti-Communist or, hopefully, a Third Force Nationalist. If the latter turned out to be the truth, then Qasim must be made to accept whatever support the U.S. could supply. If this were not the case and he turned out to be a Communist, we should think at once of applying commercial sanctions. Speaking with great feeling, Secretary McElroy said he felt it was outrageous that our British and French allies were treating developments in Iraq so casually when these were the very nations who would suffer first and the most acutely if Middle Eastern oil were lost to Western Europe and the Free World.

Mr. Gray asked for some clarification as to the views given in the State Department paper with respect to shutting off Iraqi oil as a commercial sanction against the Iraqi regime. Was the State Department thinking of a sudden and drastic shut-off of this oil or of a more subtle course of action such as a progressive reduction in Free World purchase of Iraqi petroleum supplies? Secretary McElroy replied that we were thinking rather of the progressive reduction of the purchase of the oil than of a sudden embargo.

Mr. Allen Dulles said that he was very much inclined to agree with Secretary McElroy that what was happening in Iraq represented a major effort by the Soviet Union to split the Middle East. He expressed himself as particularly worried about the eventual fate of Iran and he said that we could not sit by and let the situation in Iraq deteriorate further. In his opinion the Soviets would certainly not have risked their whole position in Egypt if they really did not mean business in Iraq. Their policy and action in Iraq was not certainly a mere drift. The Soviet policy was carefully calculated. Furthermore, he expressed disagreement with the analogy drawn by Mr. Allen between Mossadegh and Qasim, between Iran and Iraq. [2 lines of source text not declassified] He felt that there were a number of possible courses of action. He felt we should certainly try to induce the Arabs to take the lead and join in a united front against the Iraqi Communists. In this endeavor Bourguiba might prove a useful instrument. Perhaps he could find out what was really in Qasim’s mind and what were Qasim’s true objectives in Iraq.

[Page 435]

The Vice President commented that it seemed to him that the great problem about waiting until the Communists had overtly taken over in Iraq, as Secretary Rountree advocated, prior to direct U.S. action was this: if the Communists do take over Iraq there will be in a very short time no one left to invite us or anyone else to intervene. Under these circumstances could we still move in? We might but it would be very awkward. On the other hand, the arguments of Secretary Rountree and the State Department paper certainly did emphasize the difficulty of any overt U.S. course of action.

Secretary Rountree commented that Nasser had actually stated that Iraq was a battle which he was obliged to win. Secretary Rountree believed that the employment of Arab military forces against Iraq at some future time was not unlikely. It should be U.S. policy to support such Arab initiative rather than for us to intervene first and overtly.

Secretary Anderson said that while he agreed with Secretary McElroy in general on the desirability of commercial sanctions against the present government in Iraq, he nevertheless doubted whether we would be given a good case to apply sanctions against Iraq as we had been given such a case in Iran when Mossadegh proceeded to take over and to nationalize Western oil concessions in Iran. He believed that the Iraqi Communists would not take over the petroleum industry in Iraq as Mossadegh had in Iran. Therefore, it would be harder to refuse to buy Iraqi oil. So he came back, he said, to talking about U.S. divisions. We must prepare for the time when we reach the conclusion that Iraq is indeed lost to the Communists. We must at that point be able to act in timely fashion. Accordingly, we must have people constantly working on this problem every hour and every day to explore every U.S. action.

Secretary McElroy noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had not yet had an opportunity to consider the State Department paper which was now before the National Security Council. He believed that the Chiefs wanted an opportunity to consider the paper. Secretary Rountree said that the State Department was proposing to have meetings at once on its paper with the other responsible departments and agencies. The Vice President again praised the State Department paper despite the fact it concluded that there were more liabilities than assets for practically every course of action proposed in the State paper. He added that he would agree with Secretary Anderson that if we wait until the Communists clearly and openly take over in Iraq, we won’t be able to do anything about the accomplished fact.

Secretary Anderson in this context pointed out the difficulties of determining when such a Communist take-over had actually occurred. Secretary McElroy added the point that as regards military action against Iraq he doubted whether the Arabs, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] could overthrow the Communist regime in Iraq. To this [Page 436]argument Secretary Rountree stated that the kind of military action he envisaged did not consist of a plain confrontation of Iraqi armed forces by the armed forces of the United Arab Republic. Rather such military action would consist of the infiltration of U.A.R. military forces into Iraq to work hand in hand with dissident forces already in action in Iraq, against the Communist regime. At this point Mr. Gray said that he wished to suggest a course of action upon which the Council might agree and recommend to the President. (For the text of the proposed action see Mr. Gray’s attached briefing note.) He then read a somewhat lengthy proposed NSC action on the subject of Iraq. The Vice President immediately at the conclusion of Mr. Gray’s proposal asked Secretary Rountree how it sounded to him. Secretary Rountree replied that he believed that the State Department should proceed with further consideration of its own paper in conjunction with the other interested departments and attempt to get a coordinated view as to the correct approach. As to Mr. Gray’s proposal for regular meetings of a group to study the problem, Secretary Rountree suggested that this would certainly be done in any case. He stressed the great concern of the State Department about developments in Iraq.

In response to Secretary Rountree, Mr. Gray pointed out that the group of officials mentioned in his proposed NSC action would not be expected to deal with day to day operations with respect to Iraq. He added that he realized that at the present time the State Department was heavily burdened. Nevertheless, ten days had passed since the President had asked that a group be set up to study possible courses of action in Iraq and Mr. Gray felt that the President’s sense of urgency must be maintained.

The Vice President said that it appeared to him to be useful if three or four high-level officials of the interested departments could keep meeting regularly so that when the President returned from Augusta they would be in a position to report to him. He added his view that the U.S. Information Agency should be a member of this group. In short, he would agree with Mr. Gray’s proposed NSC action if Secretary Rountree thought it was workable.

Secretary Rountree observed that he did think the proposal was workable. The Vice President then stated that the group to be set up should spend a minimum amount of time on the nuances of language and promptly get down to what courses of action the U.S. might undertake in the face of various contingencies. He urged that the group not haggle over language. Secretary McElroy added that to have the group report each week on its activities to the Council might be a wise course of action for a period of time but not indefinitely. The State Department would be the best judge on this point.

[Page 437]

The National Security Council:12

a.
Discussed the situation in Iraq, in the light of a report on the subject prepared by the Department of State as a first step in carrying out the President’s instructions (transmitted to the Acting Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense on April 3, 1959) that the Acting Secretary of State take the lead in bringing together the heads of responsible departments and agencies for the purpose of determining what the U.S. Government, either alone or in concert with others, can do [1 line of source text not declassified] to avoid a Communist take-over in Iraq.
b.
Agreed that continuing work, further to implement the above mentioned instructions by the President, should be done by an interdepartmental group composed of representatives at the Assistant Secretary level of the Departments of State (Chairman) and Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Information Agency, assisted as necessary by the International Cooperation Administration. This group would be requested to develop integrated views, keeping their principals fully informed, and to report to the National Security Council each week unless otherwise directed. The group would be concerned with further consideration of the above-mentioned State Department report, current developments, and feasible courses of action; taking into account the discussion at this meeting, particularly the sense of urgency required to prevent a Communist take-over in Iraq.

Note: The action in b above subsequently submitted to the President for his approval and transmittal to the Acting Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman, JCS, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director, USIA, and the Director, ICA, for appropriate implementation.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on April 20. In addition to Gleason’s memoranda of this meeting, Rountree and Gerard Smith prepared less extensive memoranda of conversation of the meeting, both April 17. (Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/4–1759, and ibid., S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Iraq, The Situation, NSC Action No. 2068)
  2. Not found, but the description of the conclusions is similar to that in Documents 179 and 181.
  3. Telegram 2964 from Baghdad, April 15. (Department of State, Central Files, 787.56/4–1559)
  4. John R. Nash, a member of USOM in Iraq, was arrested on April 14 by Iraqi plainclothes agents who searched his house and confiscated a tape recorder. Nash was taken to the Ministry of Defense and then the police station. Despite assurances to Ambassador Jernegan that Nash would be released, he was detained overnight, interrogated, insulted, and treated roughly. He was released at noon on April 15 and given 2 days to leave Iraq, which he did. At no time was he provided with an explanation of his arrest, but his interrogators led him to believe he was suspected of spying. (Telegram 3099 from Baghdad, April 29; ibid., 611.87/4–2959)
  5. In telegram 2543 to Baghdad, April 10, Jernegan was instructed to meet with Qassim to “leave definite impression of seriousness with which we view apparently rising tide of deliberate anti-American actions and public statements on part of Iraqi officials.” (Ibid., 611.87/4–859) Jernegan was not able to see Qassim until April 28 when he made the démarche as instructed and received a rambling and disjointed response from Qassim. Jernegan commented that Qassim’s manner was friendly, his comments broad and idealistic, his conviction that the United States was plotting against him unshaken, and there was no indication that he was disposed to take concrete actions to settle the specific problems of harassment of the U.S. Embassy and Americans in Iraq. (Telegram 3099 from Baghdad, April 29; ibid., 611.87/4–2959)
  6. See Document 170.
  7. Document 51.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 157, and footnote 4, Document 170.
  9. Document 175.
  10. From this briefing note Gray read to the Council the text of his April 3 memorandum to Herter ( Document 172) and stated that he would naturally report the results of this meeting to the President in Augusta, Georgia. Gray then suggested creation of an interdepartmental group as outlined in paragraph b of NSC Action No. 2068 (see footnote 12 below).
  11. See Document 155.
  12. An account of that discussion, in which Iraq was one of the topics discussed, is in a memorandum of conversation, March 22. (Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199)
  13. Paragraphs a and b and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 2068, approved by the President on April 22. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)