193. Memorandum for the Record0

SUBJECT

  • Meeting of Special Committee on Iraq

PARTICIPANTS

  • Assistant Secretary of State William M. Rountree, Chairman
  • Mr. Parker T. Hart, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
  • Mr. Harrison Symmes, Special Assistant to Mr. Rountree
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) Robert H. Knight
  • Dr. Lynford A. Lardner, ISA, Department of Defense
  • Colonel William A. Stiles, Joint Chiefs
  • [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], CIA
  • Mr. William J. Handley, Area Director, NEA, USIA
  • Mr. Philip J. Halla, NSC Staff

At the opening of the meeting, I stated that as of that hour (11:00 AM) we did not know whether there would be a Council meeting this week.1 Mr. Rountree said that if a meeting were held, the Department would brief Acting Secretary Dillon to report briefly on Iraq. There was perhaps less reason to report this week than last, so far as developments are concerned, except for the fact that the Committee had not reported last week because of the agreement between Mr. Dillon and Mr. Gray.2

Mr. Knight of Defense, substituting for Mr. Haydn Williams, wondered why it was necessary to convene the Committee every week in view of the fact that there seemed general agreement on the policy being followed (which he described as one of “wait and see”) and that the members of the Committee had not been prepared to introduce alternatives.

Mr. Rountree said the main purpose was to permit the agencies represented to compare notes. He gave Mr. Knight a background briefing on the origins of the Committee; as he saw it the group had been formed as a result of the Vice President’s wish at the NSC (in the President’s absence) to have people looking for ideas which could be applied in the Iraq crisis and not necessarily to write a paper or draw up a plan. However, preliminary contingency planning was going forward in Defense and CIA.

Mr. Knight thought the Committee should report back to the NSC at this stage to the effect that there was general agreement on the policy being followed, that contingency plans were being formulated or reviewed, and should then recommend to the Council that the group not meet for the time being. Mr. Handley thought that if that were done, the Committee should be relieved of responsibility for making action recommendations. I said I wondered if this was not premature. I was not sure my principal would favor putting the Committee on the shelf. Mr. Rountree said this was not the case. The Committee would not meet henceforth unless a meeting were requested, which could be done by any member agency. State would review the situation on Fridays to determine if it thought a meeting should be called. The understanding was that Mr. Rountree would so recommend to Secretary Dillon. Advance copies of the paper submitted to Mr. Dillon would be available to members of the group. Mr. Rountree felt that such a report could be made this [Page 468]week, if an NSC meeting were scheduled, or whenever the next meeting occurred.

Turning to the situation in Iraq, Mr. Rountree said the Department was still concerned about whether the U.S. would be invited to the celebration of the July 14 Revolution. The Iraqis have invited the British and Turks, among others, but not the U.S. He felt that if invited, we should send a relatively high ranking (sub-Cabinet level) official, such as Deputy Under Secretary of State Murphy. Mr. Hart noted that the issue of Iraq’s agreeing in advance, at least in the principle, to pay compensation for the three Americans killed last July 14 might be an issue connected with the invitation and our decision to accept. Mr. Rountree noted that the U.K. planned to be represented by its Ambassador in Baghdad, perhaps aided by a British Ambassador from one of the neighboring states. I asked what the advantage would be to the U.S. in sending a man of Mr. Murphy’s standing. Mr. Rountree thought the opportunity which he would have to talk with Kassem would be worthwhile and noted that Kassem and Murphy had gotten along well last year when he visited Iraq.

Further questions then arose as to other developments in Iraq. Mr. Rountree said the firing of non-Communist army officers was apparently continuing, although the rate had not increased. One more local employee of the U.S. Embassy had been arrested, making a total of nine arrested or deported. On the positive side, there were continuing reports that Kassem’s pro-Communist aide, Tahir, would be demoted through a foreign assignment.

I asked whether Mr. Rountree had discussed the situation with Ambassador Hare, who is now on leave in the U.S. He said that he had and that Mr. Hare would return to Washington later for further talks with U.S. officials. Commenting on my question (based on Dana Adams Schmidt’s article in the Sunday Times) about Nasser’s probable next move, Mr. Rountree said the situation is explosive in the Middle East, aside from the Iraq situation. He listed three elements: (1) The Suez Canal crisis involving the Danish ship, a crisis which he felt had been precipitated by the Israelis. The case may go to the Security Council (Israel’s cabinet is discussing it today) and if so the U.S. will be placed in a difficult position. (2) The air battle over the week-end between UAR and Israeli planes indicated the degree of tension between the two sides. (3) The tension between Jordan and the UAR, which has deliberately closed the Syrian-Jordanian border. This issue is in the hands of the UN Presence (Spinelli) Mission at the moment. Mr. Rountree said we hope that Hammarskjold will get further into the act on both the Suez Canal and Jordan border problems. Separately each item is important. Taken together they may make Nasser feel impelled to act to cover up the fact that he lost in his moves against Kassem. Meanwhile, our relations with [Page 469]the UAR are pretty good and Nasser himself seems to have worked rather hard on his side toward normalizing them. Mr. Rountree feared, however, that a crisis over Israel, the Canal, or Jordan would rock the boat.

Mr. Handley said USIA was scraping together money to put a small show on at the Damascus Fair in August, in response to the Consul General’s recommendations. It would include things like closed circuit television and a solar energy exhibit. Handley said he would not favor making a major splash at this time, but thought we should participate in a limited way to demonstrate the normalizing of relations.

Dr. Lardner of Defense noted that according to Ambassador Jernegan’s reports, Kassem seemed favorably influenced by the Indians. He wondered if the Indian Ambassador in Baghdad (Chopra) may be a useful channel [5-1/2 lines of source text not declassified], A discussion of the role of the previous Indian envoy to Baghdad, a Muslim, followed, but no decisions were taken.

The meeting adjourned about 11:40 AM.

P.J.H.
  1. Source: Department of State, White House Office Records, Project Clean Up, The Middle East. Top Secret. A stamped note on the source text reads: “Noted by Mr. Gray.”
  2. There was no NSC meeting held that week.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 192.