187. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rountree) to Acting Secretary of State Dillon0

SUBJECT

  • Statement to the NSC on the Situation in Iraq

Discussion

The situation in Iraq is scheduled for discussion at the NSC meeting on May 21. The Secretary last reported to the NSC on the Iraq situation on May 7 (Tab A).1 Ambassador Jernegan accompanied the Secretary to that meeting and gave an oral briefing on Iraq.

In discussing Iraq with the NSC this week I would suggest you may wish to comment along the following lines:

Ambassador Jernegan returned to Iraq last Thursday (May 14) after helpful discussions with the Department and other interested agencies. The Council will recall that the Ambassador’s general view was that the situation in Iraq is not yet lost, that there have been some encouraging though by no means conclusive signs that Qasim is resisting some Communist demands, and that in our contingency planning we should therefore avoid taking any actions which might jeopardize the hope of weaning Qasim away from dependence on the Communists.

Although there have been further developments favoring the Communists in Iraq, there have recently been some encouraging signs that the Communists may yet be prevented from taking over. Starting with his April 30 speech Qasim has made several public statements in which he has continued to resist Communist demands for permitting political party activity and executing the “traitors” convicted by the military tribunal. In these recent speeches, Qasim has also emphasized Iraq’s adherence to a foreign policy of neutrality and a willingness to be friendly with all states that wish to be friendly with Iraq. Both Qasim and Foreign Minister Jawad have personally assured the US and other representatives that Iraq will not go Communist. Despite overt Communist pressures for participation in the cabinet, Qasim has so far not named any Communists to cabinet posts. The British have informed us that Qasim’s personal reaction to their decision to accede to his request for arms [Page 457]appeared to be favorable. Meanwhile, our Embassy in Baghdad has reported that following Ambassador Jernegan’s representations of about two weeks ago customs difficulties experienced by the Embassy have been eased. The Iraq Government has recently requested an ICA participation program to include sending ten police officers to the US. The Iraq Embassy in Washington has published a letter asserting that 100 Iraqi students have come to the US since the revolution and an additional 100 are expected to matriculate in this country in the autumn.

The latest SNIE on Iraq (Tab B),2 on which the Director of CIA will probably have briefed the Council, brings out the dangerous implications of a Communist takeover in Iraq. The conclusions it draws indicate the importance of continuing our contingency planning.

So far as planning is concerned, a US-UK Working Group is actively involved in the consideration of courses of action designed to deal with the present situation and in the preparation of contingency plans in the event of a Communist takeover. We also continue to work as closely as possible with allies other than the UK in regard to Iraq. For example, utilizing the occasion of an orientation trip through the area, Deputy Assistant Secretary Hart has discussed the situation in Iraq with key officials of the Turkish and Iranian Governments. These discussions have revealed that the Turks and Iranians have begun to see the situation much more clearly as we view it. The Inter-Agency Committee established under NSC action 20683 has continued to meet, and it had the benefit of the views of Ambassador Jernegan on the situation in Iraq and his comments on the Committee’s Outline of Planning (Tab C)4 while he was here on consultation. Ambassador Jernegan generally approved the Committee’s Outline of Planning but cautioned against taking any action designed to bring down the regime until it had been decided that Qasim is beyond hope. The steps recommended in the Outline of Planning, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] are now being carried out.

Now that he has returned to Iraq, Ambassador Jernegan has been instructed at an early meeting with Prime Minister Qasim to assure him once again that the US Government is not intriguing against him either in Baghdad, other cities, or in frontier areas where there have been reports of disturbances. The Ambassador is also to say to Qasim that the US would look with disfavor on any acts by other governments which might disturb the independence of Iraq.5

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Recently UAR propaganda on Iraq has discontinued the previous personal attacks on Qasim. The US suggested this tactic to Nasser. If there is any truth to rumors that Nasser and Qasim might get together, we believe the cessation of the UAR’s attacks on Qasim personally will have been an important element.

In summary, there is some evidence that the situation in Iraq may have improved slightly from our point of view since the last report to the NSC. The single bits of evidence—such as, for example, Qasim’s not giving in to Communist demands for the licensing of political parties or the execution of political prisoners—do not loom large. Taken together, however, they appear to us to justify the present line of trying to build up Qasim’s confidence in our intentions toward him and weaning him away from the Communists as the best alternative we now have.

Recommendation

That you make an oral statement on Iraq along the lines outlined above.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Iraq, The Situation, NSC Action 2068. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree’s Special Assistant, Harrison Symmes, and sent through Murphy.
  2. See Document 183.
  3. Document 186.
  4. See footnote 12, Document 176.
  5. Reference is to Document 189.
  6. See Document 185.