188. Telegram From the Delegation at the Baghdad Pact Council Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 41. In restricted session today, Delegations again discussed Egyptian-Syrian union.2 Reports which had just been received that Quwatly had transferred power to Nasser placed discussions in context of what should be done about apparent fait accompli rather than more possibility. After general and inconclusive discussions, Secretary said it essential Arab nations take initiative if anything to be done. He pointed out various efforts non-Arab countries to take initiative in past had been counterproductive, as for example when Arab states unwilling to support US contention in General Assembly that situation in Syria posed threat to Syria’s neighbors. Secretary agreed with observations which had been made by Iraqi Foreign Minister that before deciding upon public position, enough time should be taken to find out whether Arab countries other than Iraq would oppose union. If Iraq alone opposed, it would be accused of acting on influence of non-Arab BP powers and while that would be better than doing nothing it would not be as helpful as a common position by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. He therefore felt Iraq should not be pressed until it had had time to work out such a common position.

Secretary felt BP should not at this time take concerted public action such as statement condemning union, since that would commit us before we had an idea of what Arab states would do. Moreover that would not be advantageous from standpoint possible future action. If such action in fact materialized, our hands would have been tipped in advance; if no action materialized statement would be harmful in that it would indicate futility of our opposition. He felt therefore that we should reserve our public position pending developments, with the hope that Iraqi Government would immediately be in touch with other Arab states. We should all be considering other possible courses of action. Secretary was not pessimistic regarding possibility of developing opposition in Syria among those who object to being denied their national existence without adequate opportunity to be heard. If action was to be taken, it was necessary to move quickly since in a few weeks time it might be too late. Summarizing, Secretary suggested (a) BP not make pronouncement condemning union, (b) as individual countries we reserve position pending developments and (c) that Iraq, with [Page 413]appropriate help from other governments, try to work out a united position with other Arab countries. He hoped consultation among Arab states would disclose best manner of bringing into vitality elements in Syria opposed to union, so that they might be given effective support by all of us.

Secretary stated it important that impression not be given that BP alarmed over union which clearly timed to coincide with conclusion Council’s sessions. Meetings had been highly successful and there every reason assume optimistic attitude over progress being made by and prospects for future of BP. He emphasized that attitude of optimism of delegations might spell difference between success or failure of conference from public viewpoint.

In discussing support which delegations would give to Iraq in latter’s effort bring about concerted position on part Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, Secretary said US prepared send message to King Saud, President Chamoun and King Hussein urging that they concert among themselves and with Iraq with respect to situation arising out of union which we considered dangerous. He said messages would indicate that US wished give support to its friends among Arab states and stress importance knowing their position before deciding how best to help. All other delegations agreed send similar messages.

Request Department formulate suitable communications and despatch them soonest to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 976. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rountree.
  2. The U.S. Delegation reported on the previous discussion, January 28, in Secto 30, January 29. (Ibid., Central Files, 674.83/1–2958) For further documentation on the Baghdad Pact Council meeting, see volume XII.