163. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Iraq, Internal and External Affairs

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Nasir al-Hani, Ambassador of Iraq
  • G—U. Alexis Johnson
  • NEA/NELee F. Dinsmore

Deputy Under Secretary Johnson opened the conversation with a reference to his speech before the Citizens Committee for American Policy in the Near East,2 and said he had been amazed at the reaction [Page 335] to a statement he had thought was unexceptionable. The Ambassador said that after he had read the text he had been one of the persons in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who had tried to temper the interpretations put on it, but the damage had been done. Mr. Johnson thought reaction may have mistakenly been based on the press treatment given the speech in the United States.3

Mr. Johnson asked Ambassador Al-Hani about Iraq’s relations with Jordan. The Ambassador thought relations were quite good, and that they have improved since the Arab Summit meeting in January 1964. The Jordanians had done a “spectacular job” of improving the country’s economy, he added. When Mr. Johnson commented that both King Hussein and the Shah of Iran were changing their countries by an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process, the Ambassador merely commented that Iran still had a “long way to go”, and that the Shah’s “white revolution” was “a bit late.”

In answer to a question regarding the stability of Iraq, Dr. Al-Hani replied, “We have entered a new era of moderation.” He said the previous government (Ba’ath Party dominated) was almost as extreme as the communists (referring possibly to the heavy handed communist influence during the Qasim regime). Now the main task is to “put our home in order”, he said. Iraq must “restore” itself economically. Once it is clear that Iraq can maintain its stability, other countries will step forward voluntarily to invest in and to assist Iraq. The country needs all kinds of investments, for large housing schemes and for industrialization.

The agrarian reform program had been something of a failure, the Ambassador stated. Mr. Johnson asked about relations with the oil company (Iraq Petroleum Company). Dr. Al-Hani said there is as yet no settlement of outstanding differences, but he thought the government was now ready for discussions.4

The Ambassador answered Mr. Johnson’s question about the Kurds positively, saying the problem was “settled, finished”, he hoped, for good, but added that the job of reconstruction would take a long time.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL IRAQ. Confidential. Drafted by Dinsmore.
  2. For text of Johnson’s speech on January 20, see Department of State Bulletin, February 10, 1964, pp. 208-211.
  3. Following Johnson’s speech, which was described in U.S. press reports as a warning to Arabs against taking any actions hostile to Israel, the Department received many informal protests from Arab embassies.
  4. For documents relating to U.S. international oil policy, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXXIV, Document 175 ff.