199. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State0
355. Department pass Defense. Information addressees pass major military commands. Paris also for USRO. Embassy telegram 3451.1 Following is Embassy’s estimate of current situation in Iraq:
- Corner Turned. Since our last general assessment (June 1), tide running against Communism here has greatly increased in strength. [Page 475]CPI has gone too far and has alarmed and angered Qassim to point where he will now not only definitely check any CPI attempts to increase power but will also take concrete steps to reduce its present power. Indications that Prime Minister now believes himself strong enough to stay in control without help of any one group and particularly without help of CPI include: Virtual nullification of PRF as active force, public identification of committees for defense of republic as illegal, (temporary?) closing of General Federation of Trade Unions offices and arrest of its Communist General Secretary, public denunciation by Qassim of student union participation in political terrorism and partisan propaganda, public rejection by Qassim of National Union Front, dismissal of some (though far from all) pro-Communist army officers and return to duty of certain previously retired officers, and Qassim’s condemnation of Kirkuk massacres.
- Where Will CPI Go From Here? Our belief that upward thrust of CPI now halted and its power being reduced does not lead us to underestimate tremendous gains party has made since July 14, 1958. Party’s tactics for coping with current reverses is to admit that its partisans, and to some extent party itself, have made mistakes, to tar its enemies with same brush, and, we believe, to count on Qassim’s tendency to be lenient with repentant sinners to save party apparatus from serious harm. Soul-searching session of central committee held recently, and party press has announced its results will soon be published. We expect that resolutions and manifestoes put out for public consumption will be of roll-with-punch variety. Possible that search for scapegoats will lead to expulsion or downgrading of some party stalwarts. By sitting tight, quietly mending factional splits and strengthening internal organization, CPI may and probably will come to January 6 starting line for resumption of political activity as well-organized cohesive party probably second only to NDP in size and best prepared of all parties to wage political campaign.
- Intermediate Communist Objectives. International Communism has reason to be pleased with gains already made here and may have recommended caution and moderation to its local adherents for time being. Communists should be well satisfied during next few years if GOI continues to be a neutral state in which Soviet bloc is in good standing and in which a legal CPI has developed strong apparatus. Move toward satellization of Iraq might well be deferred until after revolution in Iran, which Communists confidently predict. Then Communist drive could pick up speed and power with prospect of acquiring as Soviet satellites two oil-rich Middle East countries with warm-water ports.
What Will Qassim’s Position Be? Prime Minister has been repelled by Communist excesses in Kirkuk and elsewhere. He says he intends punish severely individuals found to have taken direct part in murders [Page 476]and other crimes in order prevent recurrences such disorders. He has set in motion house cleaning of army and government departments. Qassim apparently still not convinced, however, that Communist ideology threatens Iraq’s future in any way he, as popular leader, cannot meet and overcome. (He has never used word “Communist” in his denunciations.) While there seem to be elements of extreme naivete in this position, it may just be that under present circumstances in Iraq toleration is a more effective tactic than suppression. In this connection we do not think Qassim will suppress CPI if it eschews violence and subversion, nor that he will liquidate popular organization, in whose founding he has taken friendly interest, if they heed his call for reforms.
Barring new developments, Prime Minister will try to adhere to his announced plan to permit resumption of “party life” by next January and to move toward new constitution and election of a Parliament by next July. We doubt that he can carry out this schedule but believe he will try.
- Political Party Prospects. Our guess is that next five months will see following political party developments. NDP will try to increase its numbers and improve efficiency its organization. Ba’ath will re-emerge as significant Arab nationalist force in Iraq. Istiqlal and other right-wing nationalist groups will play little part unless in coalition with Ba’athist. CPI likely to be less aggressive and to fall back a bit to regroup. CPI may even try ally itself with some new left-wing party (organized by Mahdawi) in order to come to elections under some innocuous coalition label.
- Economic Prospects. Apart from political problems, particularly the Communist issue, government will be faced with serious economic difficulties which may hamper its efforts maintain internal stability and keep Communists in place. Administrative mismanagement and confusion, low productivity, labor indiscipline and harassment of foreign and Iraqi business and industrial enterprises since revolution have created serious economic situation. Retrieval will be close thing, but solid hope for rapid improvement lies in emergence of Hadid as chief Economic Administrator, down-grading of Kubba and return of officially encouraged discipline to labor force. Serious effort now being made reactivate long-stalled development program, with concomitant improvement in attitude toward participation Western firms. These signs of recognition that Iraq’s economic salvation cannot be achieved through ties with Soviet bloc. Soviet aid program limited in scope and will be slow in realization. Exaggerated expectations of its benefits may react against Soviet prestige as its limitations become generally apparent. Effects such disillusionment, however, could be offset by gains local Communists would derive from economic confusion and hardship.
- Iraq and Arab World. While process of Iraq’s reassimilation into Arab world not yet progressed measurably, current climate for it more favorable than at any time since last October. Prospects been enhanced by changed UAR policies (abstention since March from attempts unseat Qassim, toning-down of anti-Qassim propaganda) and by domestic course Qassim now following. Fact Qassim no longer fears Nasserite subversion has contributed greatly to his resolution to bring Iraqi Communists into line, and this in turn should raise his standing with other Arab governments.
- Position. US policy toward Iraq republic—friendly support for Qassim’s declared objective of neutral and truly independent Iraq despite many months of abuse of US and harassment of Americans in Iraq-at last beginning pay dividends. Qassim’s earlier suspicions of US and of British as well seem to have been largely overcome. He has repudiated Communist attempts blame "imperialists" for recent internal conflicts. Press now not exclusively anti-American and once virulent tone of Radio Baghdad been muted. Although their range of Iraqi contacts is still limited, official and unofficial Americans in Iraq are no longer pariahs. Over-all relations with East and West still not in balance but by no means as far out of line as formerly. We convinced our best bet is to continue support Qassim in every reasonable way, provided, naturally, that he continues his present course.
Despite favorable developments and portents reviewed above, Iraq likely be turbulent trouble-spot for years to come. Qassim’s evident resolve to achieve internal stability and adopt effectively neutral stance in foreign relations must contend with persistent regional and world tensions and with inherent instability of Iraq’s political, cultural, religious and ethnic make-up. Our hopes for measurable progress toward relative stability and genuine independence are riding on shoulders of one man, whose judgment regarding key factor of Communism is still open to question.
- [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Service Attaché concur.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 787.00/8–959. Secret. Transmitted in three sections and repeated to Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Benghazi, Bonn, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Karachi, Khartoum, London, Moscow, Paris, Rabat, Rome, Tehran, New Delhi, Tripoli, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Basra, Dhahran, and Kuwait.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 192.↩