149. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Iraq0

209. Baghdad’s 362.1 Chargé, members Country Team and all participants highly commended on excellent and detailed estimate Iraqi situation [Page 335] at year’s end. We sympathize with staff’s desire break US public silence in face of attacks from Qasim and agree validity of number of points made in Embtel 362. We concur situation in Iraq disturbing but as yet by no means clear Iraq actually becoming Soviet base.

Department considering carefully whether on balance US interests would be served this particular juncture by abandoning policy of avoiding public reaction to Qasim’s charges while objecting through normal diplomatic channels. Through our posture, US has sought maintenance American presence in Iraq, and, concomitantly, avoidance of open controversy with Qasim regime; readiness to respond to any Iraqi desire improve official relations; and continuance official and unofficial American contacts with view not only of influencing Iraqi attitudes but also of acquiring valuable intelligence. If we are at some point to undertake line of action Embassy proposes, a more specific objective would be required and there would have to be probability of success.

Qasim’s latest remarks perhaps deliberately designed provoke US reaction which could then be used as “proof” US hostility to Iraq and serve as basis for increased level of attacks which, having reacted once, we could not well ignore. US statements cannot be disseminated without distortion within Iraq, and shortwave broadcasts would not have impact on wide group. Qasim would have freedom within Iraq to twist US representations to provide basis for increasing tempo of anti-US campaign and intensifying harassment of Embassy and Consulate Basra. We cannot be sure Qasim might not proceed to length of expelling various officers of our missions, thus threatening reduce “presence” which constitutes important US asset [1 line of source text not declassified].

Qasim regime not highly regarded anywhere in Arab world. Our position and prestige in other Arab countries determined by factors other than our relations with Iraq or Iraqi propaganda. Department believes you should continue press for meeting with Prime Minister for presentation along lines Deptel 148, December 3.2 Should harassment of mission operations accompany rise in Qasim’s critical propaganda, Department would wish consider counter moves.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1–3 IRAQ-US. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Killgore and Davies on February 1, cleared by McGhee, and approved by Strong. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Ankara, and Basra.
  2. Dated January 22. (Ibid. 787.00/1–2263)
  3. In telegram 148 to Baghdad, December 3, 1962, the Department of State provided guidance to Chargé Melbourne for a forthcoming conversation with Qasim. The Department indicated that it was mystified about Iraq’s receptivity toward false allegations of U.S. hostility toward Iraq and of U.S. support for the Kurds, and affirmed the U.S. desire to continue friendly relations with Iraq. (Ibid., 787.00/11–2762) For text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iraq. The Charg?as unable to obtain the proposed audience with Qasim.
  4. On February 7, the Department of State sent the White House the Embassy’s analysis of the situation in Iraq and its recommendation that the United States actively move to counter Qasim’s continuing public criticisms of the United States. The Department indicated its disagreement with the proposed course of action. (Memorandum from Brubeck to Bundy; Department of State, Central Files, POL 1–3 IRAQ-US; for text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iraq)