183. Memorandum of Discussion at the 405th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1 and 2.]

3. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

With respect to Iraq, Mr. Dulles said that he would not say very much at this time because Ambassador Jernegan was here to give a report on developments in Iraq. He did have, however, one or two developments which had occurred since Ambassador Jernegan had left Baghdad. There had been more clashes in the last couple of days in the northern part of Iraq between dissident Kurdish tribesmen and the Iraqi army. These clashes probably had been fostered by the United Arab Republic. We had also learned [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that some of the Communist officers in the Iraqi army were making more extreme statements than those being made by the recognized Communist leaders in Iraq.

The National Security Council:1

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to possible Austrian agitation in the Italian Tyrol; the circumstances surrounding the departure of the Soviet Attaché at Rangoon; the views allegedly expressed to a leader of the Greek Progressive Party by Khrushchev; the implications of the current visit of the Shah of Iran to Western Europe; highlights of De Gaulle’s first year of power in France; and recent developments in Jordan and in Iraq.

4. The Situation In Iraq (NSC Action Nos. 2068 and 2074)2

Mr. Gray asked Secretary Herter to introduce Ambassador Jernegan who would, thought Mr. Gray, report to the National Security Council about the latest developments in the Interdepartmental Watch Group which had recently been established by the NSC to scrutinize developments in Iraq.

[Page 447]

Ambassador Jernegan moved to the Council table and opened his remarks by stating that he supposed that it would not be necessary to describe in any detail the process of Leftward drift which had begun in Iraq on July 14 of last year and which had been greatly accelerated in recent weeks and months. Of this development Ambassador Jernegan thought it sufficient to state that it was obvious that the Communist Party in Iraq was more and more active both overtly and covertly. The Communists had achieved substantial control of many popular organizations in Iraq, a number of which the Ambassador cited. The most alarming symptom of what was going on in Iraq was the fact that these popular organizations were following whole-heartedly the Communist Party line. Things had reached a point where the Communist Party actually signed statements and manifestos openly.

In addition, Ambassador Jernegan said that there was good reason to believe that the Communists and their sympathizers had now succeeded in penetrating more deeply into the government of Iraq. They had not yet reached the level of the cabinet but they were entrenched at the second and third echelons of the Iraqi government. There were numerous reports that the Iraqi army had likewise been infiltrated to some extent. Ambassador Jernegan said he was not sure just how far infiltration into the army had occurred. Perhaps some of our reports on this matter were slightly exaggerated. Nevertheless, it was at best a gloomy picture and one that was getting worse rather than better.3

Ambassador Jernegan then stated that in his opinion there were five major reasons for this trend to the Left in Iraq. The first of these reasons was a reaction against the pro-West attitudes and policies of the former Nuri regime. Secondly, Qasim himself and many other Iraqi leaders distrust the West and feared that we were working to destroy the new regime. The third reason was widespread fear that the regime would be brought down by Nasser and the U.A.R. Ambassador Jernegan commented that it was obvious that Nassar was out “to get” the new regime and in this instance Qasim’s fears were justified. Fourthly, the Communists themselves in Iraq had worked very hard and were extremely well organized. The fifth reason was that Qasim may really want events to take the course they have been taking. He might be a Communist or a pro-Communist. Personally, however, Ambassador Jernegan did not think so. He did think that Qasim was scared and that he was tolerating the Communist activity because he felt sure of the strong support of the Communists.

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In the face of this picture, continued Ambassador Jernegan, we have been following a policy of trying to reassure Qasim and to support his regime. We have repeatedly offered our assistance to help Qasim. While Ambassador Jernegan admitted that this policy had not thus far worked too well, matters might have been much worse if we had tried another kind of policy. He therefore believed in this policy and strongly advised that we should stick to it. He did not really believe that Qasim wanted to end up in the Soviet camp and he therefore thought that sticking with our present policy was less risky for the U.S. than the adoption of a policy of hostility to Qasim whether overt or covert. A U.S. policy of overt hostility would surely drive Qasim more completely into the hands of the Soviets. [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Finally, there was no one now in sight who could replace Qasim if we succeeded in ousting him.

Ambassador Jernegan then suggested that in carrying out the present U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iraq, he believed that there were two or three additional things which we might attempt to do. First, he felt we should try to end Iraq’s complete isolation from all the other Arab countries. Some degree of rapprochement might be useful although, of course, this would require a change in Nasser’s point of view. Ambassador Jernegan felt that we should try to get Nasser to stop his direct attacks on Qasim while continuing his general anti-Communist campaign. While Nasser’s anti-Communist campaign had produced very useful results in the Middle East generally, this campaign had been a failure as regards Qasim personally because he was the great hero in Iraq and the father-figure of that country.

  • Secondly, Ambassador Jernegan urged that we carry out a technical assistance training program for Iraq which had already been proposed and agreed upon in Washington. This program, he explained, would train 170 Iraqis either in the U.S. or in Beirut. The proposal now awaits the approval of the Iraqi Government and the nomination of the 170 candidates.
  • Thirdly, Ambassador Jernegan thought that this Government ought to propose to negotiate a cultural agreement with Iraq. Such cultural agreements were all the rage today in Iraq. Many such agreements had been made with the Iron Curtain countries. In connection with such a U.S.-Iraqi cultural agreement, Ambassador Jernegan recommended that we invite some of the high officials of the Iraqi Government to visit the U.S. Such officials should be in the cultural or economic areas and not in the political.

This, said Ambassador Jernegan, was his story in a nutshell although he would glad to answer any questions which members of the Council wished to put to him.

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Secretary Scribner asked about business conditions in Iraq at the present time. Ambassador Jernegan replied that business was a bit depressed. There was a good deal of unemployment, there had been a significant drop in foreign trade and in construction. There was a serious lack of confidence in the new regime on the part of Iraqi businessmen.

Mr. McCone inquired about the oil situation. Ambassador Jernegan replied that this was good and output had actually been increasing. Secretary Quarles inquired whether the Ambassador felt that Qasim would continue to recognize that Iraq’s economic ties were still necessarily with the West. The Ambassador replied that this would certainly be the case as far as petroleum was concerned. The Iraq Petroleum Company did not seem now greatly concerned about dangerous interference by the Iraqi Government. With respect to other kinds of trade, Ambassador Jernegan said he did not know precisely the views of Qasim. On the other hand, it was clear that the Minister of Economics in the Iraqi cabinet desired to counter-balance Western ties with Eastern ties and has therefore signed a lot of trade agreements with the Iron Curtain countries.

The President thanked Ambassador Jernegan at the conclusion of the discussion.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed an oral report on the subject by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

[Here follows agenda item 5.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on May 8.
  2. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 2077, approved by the President on May 18. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  3. See footnote 12, Document 176, and footnote 2, Document 182.
  4. This was the general conclusion of telegram 3144 from Baghdad, May 3, which was an extensive assessment of the Iraqi situation for the previous 5 weeks. (Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/5–459)
  5. The following sentence constitutes NSC Action No. 2078, approved by the President on May 18. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)