154. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • Request for Contingency Authority to Recognize the New Iraqi Regime

A coup d’etat reportedly led by Colonel Abdul Karim Mustafa was mounted in Baghdad in the early morning of February 8, 1963. Former Prime Minister Qasim is reported dead. Affirmations of support for the new regime have come from military and civil leaders in all parts of Iraq. Barring the unforeseen, the new regime seems likely promptly to establish itself in full authority in the country.

The leaders of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command and the members of the Cabinet have a nationalist orientation with a strong Pan-Arab bent. They appear to be anti-Communist. We have neither evidence nor reason to believe that the United Arab Republic will wield any undue influence in Baghdad. In our opinion the new regime is likely to be an improvement over that of former Prime Minister Qasim, which had few friends either internally or externally.

Our Chargé d’Affaires at Baghdad is under instructions to convey informally to the leader or leaders of the Revolutionary Command friendly overtures from the United States Government after he has first satisfied himself the Command is in firm control of the country.1 He will explain United States criteria for recognition of a new Government and will indicate that the United States would welcome public affirmation that the new Iraqi regime intends to carry out Iraq’s international obligations. He will also ask for assurance that the new regime will safeguard American citizens and interests in Iraq.2

The desired public Iraqi affirmation may be forthcoming soon. It would appear to be in our interest to grant early recognition to the regime [Page 345] when the prerequisites to recognition have been met. For this reason we should like to have contingency authority to recognize. Six Arab countries, including Jordan and Kuwait, have recognized the new regime, and we are now undertaking close consultations with the British, Turkish, and Iranian Governments on the recognition question.

In requesting this authority I must state the possibility that Saudi Arabia may wish to defer recognition and may seek to persuade the United States to delay. Should our policy on recognition diverge from that of our Saudi friends, we may expect criticism from them beyond that already levied against us because of our policy on Yemen. On balance, the advantage lies in prompt recognition when circumstances otherwise warrant.

Finally, as you recall, our Ambassador to Iraq was withdrawn at Iraqi request in June 1962. Following our recognition of the new Iraqi regime, assignment of a new Ambassador will be required.3

Dean Rusk4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 IRAQ. Confidential. Drafted by Killgore (NEA/NE) and cleared by Talbot, Knox (EUR/BNA) (in draft), and Bracken (NEA/GTI) (in substance). Attached to the source text is a “Proposed Statement on Recognition of New Iraqi Republic Regime,” drafted on February 9 by Davies (NEA/NE). Talbot forwarded this memorandum to Rusk on February 9 with a recommendation that he sign it. (Memorandum from Talbot to Rusk; ibid.)
  2. Telegram 220 to Baghdad, February 9, conveyed criteria for recognition of the new regime. (Ibid.) The criteria are taken from a memorandum from Lawrence Hargrove (L/NEA) to Killgore, February 8. (Ibid., L/NEA Files: Lot 70 D 165, Iraq)
  3. Melbourne executed these instructions on February 10 during a conversation with Foreign Minister Talib Husain Al-Shabib, who assured Melbourne that U.S. citizens and interests would be protected and that Iraq would honor its international obligations and follow a nonaligned foreign policy. (Telegram 409 from Baghdad, February 10; ibid., Central Files, POL 16 IRAQ)
  4. The United States announced its recognition of the new Iraqi regime at noon in Washington on February 11. (Circular telegram 1398, February 10; ibid.) For text of the U.S. statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, p. 598.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.