154. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State0
286. It appears to me that in leaving initiative to Qassim we are in grave danger being drawn into costly and politically disastrous situation over Kuwait. As Department aware I have on several occasions during last few months (most recently in Embassy despatch 425 December 2)1 expressed conviction that status quo cannot long be maintained in Kuwait in face of unrelenting Iraqi pressure. Reliance on British military protection can be no more than desperate last resort. From military, financial and political viewpoints British themselves can hardly view prospect of renewed occupation of Shaikhdom with other than concern. Thought of British troops fighting Arabs on Arab soil with moral and political (if not military) support of US particularly disturbs me as I am sure Afro-Asian world will fail to appreciate distinction which we so clearly see between Kuwait and Goa.
Even another precautionary landing of British forces would play right into hands of Qassim (not to mention Soviets) who would trumpet this as new “proof” of “bogus” nature Kuwaiti independence. Reentry of British would also be politically retrograde step which would make mystery [mockery?] of concept of Arab League responsibility for protection Kuwait and would place Jordanians and Saudis in even more invidious position than they now occupy. Qassim moreover would be taken off hook of his own making and saved from loss of face in delaying promised action under such circumstances. But how long would British keep garrison in Kuwait, or how often could they afford to send the fire brigade for Qassim’s false alarms?
Only alternative I can see to this dreary prospect is for Kuwait to become genuine concern of other Arab states, and specifically of UAR.
Nasser’s reported decision withdraw small UAR contingent following Soviet veto of Kuwaiti UN membership suggests that he may prefer avoid liabilities of further involvement in what is for him messy situation. He can be fairly sure that British will for present keep Kuwait out of Qassim’s clutches but will himself be free to castigate them as “Imperialists” for doing so and it is essential in my opinion that Nasser and other Arab leaders be given real incentive to involve themselves in fate of Kuwait. Too much is at stake politically (future shape and coloration of Arab world), economically (combined oil resources of Iraq and [Page 375]Kuwait) and psychologically (another Western “intervention” for Moscow to make hay with) for US and UK to be deterred by handful of avaricious Bedouin Shaikhs. Nasser appears to be key to problem, and it is past time Ruler is told he must find Nasser’s price and pay it if he does not want to accept Qassim’s commission as Qaimmaqam.2
If I read Nasser rightly, more than a crass bribe will be necessary. His pride and prestige will also have to be engaged if he is to stay interested. A device designed to give him both protective responsibility and some measure of claim on funds for development will have to be found. Similarly Jordan will have to be given tangible inducement to maintain political, and particularly military, commitment to preserving Kuwait’s independence. Whether such arrangements are best worked out in series of bilateral agreements or whether problem better approached in context of establishment Kuwaiti-financed area develop organization (from which Iraq too could benefit) is question obviously requiring careful study. Ruler of Kuwait must, however, be made to realize that nothing less than major and continuing fin contribution to develop other Arab states (particularly oil have-nots such as Jordan and UAR) will in long run save Kuwait from total absorption by one of its neighbors.
The West can no longer afford present policy of reliance on British military protection, which seems to be most attractive one to greedy, short-sighted Shaikhs. Under circumstances it behooves us to seize initiative while time (now very short) remains.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.86D/12–2861. Secret; Priority. Also sent to Kuwait and Moscow and repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Khartoum, London, and Basra.↩
- Not printed. (Ibid., 611.862/12–261)↩
- An Iraqi decree asserting Iraq’s claim to Kuwait, issued in late June 1961, appointed the current Sheikh of Kuwait as “Qaim-Maqam” of the district of Kuwait under the authority of Basra Province. (Memorandum from Blackiston to Strong, June 27; ibid., NEA/NE Files: Lot 63 D 33, Baghdad)↩