179. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 36.2/1–59


The Problem

To reassess SNIE 36.2–59, “The Communist Threat to Iraq,” in the light of subsequent developments.

The Estimate

The main themes of SNIE 36.2–59 were the ominously effective Communist drive toward power in Iraq; the apparent disorganization and lack of effective leadership among the local nationalist opposition to Qassim—military and civilian; and the fact that Nasser viewed the situation as a serious challenge and one which he must fight even at the risk of losing Soviet support. We believe that the validity of these judgments has been borne out by subsequent developments, of which the most important are the abortive Mosul uprising in early March and the widening breach between Nasser on the one hand and Qassim and the Soviets on the other.
Within Iraq itself, the chief effect of the abortive Mosul rebellion has almost certainly been to help the Communist cause—by increasing [Page 440] Qassim’s dependence upon his Communist backers, by adding to his pronounced distrust of nationalist opposition elements, and by underscoring the deficiencies and reducing the capabilities of those elements. Nasser’s diatribes against Qassim and his Soviet and Communist backers have almost certainly intensified Qassim’s fears. In this atmosphere the Communists have been moving aggressively, and their influence now permeates all levels and activities in Iraq.
Starting with several of Qassim’s closest advisors, strong Communist influence now exists in the Ministries of Economics, Development, Agriculture, Education, and National Guidance. In the armed forces, many actively anti-Communist officers have been removed from their commands, transferred, or arrested on allegations of anti-regime activities, and have been replaced by men felt to have a stronger personal loyalty to Qassim, some of whom are known to be pro-Communist. These changes have weakened the anti-regime potential of the armed forces and made them more susceptible to Communist penetration.
The Communists now enjoy virtually complete control over the internal dissemination of information. Nearly all non-Communist newspapers were sacked and destroyed by the mob at the time of the Mosul revolt. Radio Baghdad is under the control of a Communist director, and is used frequently to broadcast Communist-inspired “popular demands” for action of various types by Qassim. Proliferating “mass organizations” also serve this purpose, as well as providing channels for feeding the Communist line directly down to labor, student, female, and similar groups.
Finally, the Communists are near masters of the “street,” with their position reinforced by the Qassim government’s recent distribution of small arms to some units of the “Popular Resistance Forces,” and they have succeeded in intimidating many Iraqis who are basically opposed to Communism.
Popular and military loyalties still appear attached to Qassim rather than to Communism. Hence Qassim may still have some capabilities to avoid Communist domination of Iraq if he were disposed to do so. However, these capabilities are decreasing, those of the Communists are increasing, and Qassim’s feeling of dependence on the Communists continues to grow. Accordingly, we think it highly unlikely that Qassim will strike at them, and we know of no potential leader in Iraq who could do so with success. In short, the Communists will soon, if they do not already, have the ability to assume direct control in Iraq. We believe that the local Communists and the USSR will prefer for some time not to assert Communist power openly, though they would probably do so in the event of a serious challenge to their position.
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Iraq Documents. Secret. The special estimate, submitted by the CIA, was prepared by the CIA, INR, the intelligence organizations of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff. On April 21, this estimate was concurred in by all representatives of the USIB except the representatives of the AEC, FBI, the Director of the National Security Agency and the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, who abstained on the grounds that the topic was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Supplements SNIE 36.2–59, “The Communist Threat to Iraq,” dated 17 February 1959. [Footnote in the source text. See Document 161.]