191. Memorandum for the Record0


  • Meeting of Special Committee on Iraq


  • Assistant Secretary of State William M. Rountree, Chairman
  • Mr. Parker T. Hart, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Mr. Stuart Rockwell, Director, Office of Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State
  • Mr. Harrison Symmes, Special Assistant to Mr. Rountree
  • Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense F. Haydn Williams
  • Dr. Lynford A. Lardner, ISA, Department of Defense
  • Colonel Butler—JCS (USAF)
  • [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], CIA
  • Mr. William J. Handley, Area Director, NEA, USIA
  • Mr. Philip J. Halla, NSC Staff

In opening the meeting, Mr. Rountree said he thought it would be advisable for the group to meet regularly on Mondays at 11 o’clock until further notice. He remarked that we had probably all seen the cabled report of Ambassador Jernegan’s conversation with Kassem following his return from consultations in Washington.1 Mr. Rountree observed that the Ambassador seemed neither encouraged nor discouraged as a result of his latest discussion with the Iraqi leader. The Assistant Secretary felt that there was slight evidence of improvement, particularly regarding the Communists. There were, however, no signs that Kassem was building up any anti-Communist forces. One encouraging fact was Kassem’s decision not to arm the Popular Resistance Forces. At least one could say that the situation has not deteriorated further.

Mr. Rountree continued that the Iraqi decision to cancel our military assistance agreement and the supplemental sales agreement is the latest development. This was done by diplomatic note, which was in itself an innovation, although the note was only delivered2 shortly before the press announcement was made. The Department is not sure what the “economic assistance agreement” of July 23, 1957 is which the Iraqis have also canceled. Mr. Rockwell said it possibly concerned the police agreement made by the Richards Mission. (Embassy Baghdad’s cable [Page 461] 3439 of May 293—copy attached—thought the reference might be to the telecommunications agreement signed in connection with the Baghdad Pact.)

Mr. Rountree’s Deputy, Mr. Parker T. Hart, reported on his recent trip to the area. Mr. Hart said he went primarily to discuss the Iraqi situation with the Turks at their request. He had a lengthy conference at the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul with Foreign Minister Zorlou and several other Turkish officials, including the former Turkish Minister to Syria, whom he had known in Damascus.4 Mr. Hart regards this man, who is now Zorlou’s Middle East advisor, as a very sound individual. The discussion showed that Zorlou may have revised his views of Arab nationalism somewhat. He now seemed to agree that the choice was between independence and Communism in Iraq. At the same time, Zorlou hoped that we would not help resurrect Nasser’s influence in Iraq. During the conversation, Zorlou appeared moderate and willing to listen. Among other items, the Turkish Foreign Minister agreed to our suggestion that the Turks extend military aid to the Afghanistan Military Academy. The Turks indicated that they were worried about Iran as well as Iraq, regarding the Shah’s country as a weak reed.

Zorlou’s attitude toward the Kurds was that they were beset by ancient rivalries and always scrapping among themselves. The Turks do not favor Kurdish activity at present and have so informed Kassem. However, Zorlou considers the Kurds a factor to be held in reserve for possible use if the Iraq situation deteriorates.

In Iran, Mr. Hart mentioned meeting with General Paklavan, deputy head of SAVAK, the Iranian intelligence mechanism, whom he found to be very knowledgeable on Iraq.5 Mr. Hart found the general attitude toward Iraq more relaxed in Tehran than in Beirut and Ankara. The General appeared to have numerous sources in Iraq which Mr. Hart presumed were among the Shiite Muslim community. Paklavan thought a strong force was building up in the Iraqi army, which would be prepared to take anti-Communist action if necessary. He indicated that the Iranians were also attempting to hold back the Kurds and keep them in reserve.

In response to my question as to whether there were still differences of view between Zorlou and Prime Minister Menderes concerning Iraq, Mr. Rountree said he had talked with Zorlou when he was here last week for Secretary Dulles’ funeral. He confirmed Mr. Hart’s impressions, [Page 462] stressed Zorlou’s dislike of Nasser and his feeling that we should not build up the UAR leader, as well as an impression that the Iraqi situation might start to deteriorate quickly. Zorlou wanted to start joint planning for possible contingencies in Iraq. Mr. Rountree still thinks this would be highly dangerous and said he “finessed” this Turkish request. The Assistant Secretary feels that we should continue to exchange information, but go no further with the Turks at this time.

Mr. Rountree then asked Mr. Rockwell for comments. The Director of Near Eastern Affairs said that he thought things looked a little better than the last time the group had met.6

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] when asked for comments, said things perhaps are improving, although recent events in themselves had not proven the case. He said Kassem has not given the real tip off of his intentions, which might come if current rumors that he is about to remove one or both of the two pro-Communist Taher brothers turn out to be true or if he cracks down on Col. Mahdawi of the military tribunal.

Mr. Handley asked for State’s view of Ambassador Jernegan’s suggestion that we send a representative to the celebration of the July 14th revolution.7 Mr. Rountree replied that if invited we would attend. If the USSR is invited and we are not, it would be highly significant. (Mr. Handley told me later that Ambassador Jernegan had suggested that someone like Dr. Elson of the National Presbyterian Church might represent the U.S. Although he had not yet taken up the matter with Mr. George Allen, Handley expressed some doubt of the desirability of this type of appointment and, in fact, wondered whether we should send a special representative at all. I said that perhaps a sensible military representative might make more impression on the present regime in Iraq, although, of course, Dr. Elson is known for his interest in Near Eastern matters.)

Mr. Haydn Williams said he had no substantive comment. He found Mr. Rountree’s report interesting and useful. He liked the idea of regular weekly meetings, which would provide useful information for briefing the Council principals, for discussion of whether there will be a report, and, if so, its contents. Mr. Williams favored group discussion of [Page 463] what the reports will contain. He thought it would be useful to include a check off list for the Council on actions taken. The meetings could also permit the input of new ideas from other agencies.

Mr. Rountree agreed in general, noting that the Group would meet regularly and that his office would undertake to supply on an informal basis advance copies of briefing material prepared for the Secretary of State.

I asked whether the Committee would report this week. Mr. Rountree indicated a report would be made along the lines of the previous report.8

Mr. Handley said USIA was looking into the Iraqi request that bookmobiles be provided through UNESCO and asked Mr. Rountree’s view of the policy implications. Mr. Rountree favored the idea, although he was not happy about the fact that the U.S. would receive no publicity from such an activity. When asked for details Mr. Handley replied that USIA was working with ICA since the equipment would be costly and with the UNESCO relations staff in the State Department. USIA could supply books.

Mr. Lardner of Defense mentioned the problem of certain effects caused by Iraq’s abrogation of the military assistance agreements. This raised a question as to what we should try to do about the equipment we had already given them. The discussion brought out the fact that we had given Iraq five F–86 aircraft (which Col. Butler said are not flyable because certain parts have been returned to the U.S.) and thirteen 8” Howitzers [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which are part of the equipment for an armored regiment. These guns are operational, if maintenance has been kept up. Mr. Rountree and Mr. Rockwell agreed that this represented a problem that we would have to take up with the Iraqi. Mr. Rockwell noted that there is a one-year cancellation notice provision in the agreement, but he was not sure there was much the U.S. could do in view of Iraq’s unilateral action.

Philip J. Halla
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Project Clean Up, The Middle East. Top Secret. Drafted by Halla.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 185.
  3. The Iraqi Government delivered the note to the U.S. Embassy the morning of May 29.
  4. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 687.00/5–2952)
  5. Hart reported his conversation in telegram 3229 from Ankara, May 16. (Ibid., 787.00/5–1659)
  6. Hart reported his conversation in telegram 2303 from Tehran, May 21. (Ibid., 787.00/5–2159)
  7. At the 408th Meeting of the National Security Council on May 28, as part of his briefing on “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” Allen Dulles briefed the Council along similar lines noting that Qassim seemed anti-Communist and cautiously favorable to the West. Dulles stated that it was still too early to detect any clear trend. (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, May 28; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)
  8. As suggested in telegram 3394 from Baghdad, May 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 887.424/5–2659)
  9. See footnote 1, Document 192.