181. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 36.2–2–59


The Problem

To assess the reactions of interested states to the developing situation in Iraq.


Nasser regards the Communist-backed Qassim regime as an immediate and critical danger to his interests. The UAR will continue efforts to topple this regime, and has more political and subversive potential than any other government for doing so. Nevertheless, this potential has been impaired and increasing Communist control in Iraq will weaken it further. Nasser will welcome improved relations with the US, but will also seek to avoid a complete break with the Bloc. (Paras. 7, 10–21)
Most other governments in the area, as well as some British circles, have shown less concern about developments in Iraq and have hoped that Qassim would provide a useful counterpoise to Nasser. These hopes are fading, and we believe that awareness of the Communist threat will spread. Initially, most of these governments will prefer action to reverse the trend without augmenting Nasser’s influence, but if this proves not feasible, there will be increasing willingness to countenance, if not support, Nasser’s efforts. Notable exceptions will be Israel and probably the present regime in Jordan. (Paras. 6, 8, 22–28)
Except for the UAR, Arab states individually can do little to affect the situation in Iraq. A unified stand among the Arab governments would be more promising, but difficult to maintain. Short of military intervention by their armed forces, Turkey and Iran have only limited capabilities. (Paras. 22–26)
We believe that the Soviets would much prefer to avoid a sudden Communist coup or provocative Bloc action in Iraq. They almost certainly hope, and probably believe, that a continuation of present [Page 443]trends will obviate the necessity of such a move. While we believe that the USSR would take energetic measures involving some risks to maintain the Communist position in Iraq, in our judgment it would not at this time intentionally run serious risks of general war for that purpose. The closer Iraq comes to membership in the Communist camp, the greater will be the degree of risk which the Soviet Union will be prepared to run if Communist power there should be challenged. (Paras. 29–31)

[Here follows the five-page “Discussion” portion of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, Iraq Documents. Secret. This special estimate, submitted by the CIA, was prepared by 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 the 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 subject was outside their jurisdiction.