166. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Iran1

198. Begin FYI. In its assessment of UAR-Iraq unity declaration May 26, 19642 Department was persuaded that President Arif, rather than President Nasser, took initiative for the move. Arif, it was felt, needed added prestige of UAR support for what he realized was not popular government. Subsequent Iraqi steps such as nationalization of number private enterprises and establishment of Arab Socialist Union were indicative of Iraqi regime’s intentions make changes in traditional character Iraqi political and commercial life that would have favorable reception in Cairo. However, basic sociological and political facts of Iraq have not changed. President Arif’s government must come to terms with Iraqi reality soon, or face pressures from diverse ethnic, commercial and political factions that are increasingly inimical and even hostile to his regime. Some of hostility is related directly to Arif’s moves toward coordination of Iraqi with UAR institutions and concepts.

Government of Iran is intimately aware of dissident elements of Iraqi society. Iranian liaison and continuous contact with anti-government Iraqi Kurds and the anti-Arif Shi’a (who comprise an estimated 55% population of Iraq) not only give Iran a very instructive (even if one sided) view of the inherent weakness of Iraq as a political unit, but, unfortunately, have tempted Iranians to consider action tantamount to subversion of Arif government. Department is aware it also increases Shah’s concern that Arif cannot cope with his flirtation with Nasser. Whatever Iran may deem to be provocations for its practice of intrigue in Iraq, it should not be surprised if a weak and suspicious President Arif seeks bolster himself by alliance and ties unity with another Arab state. Further, Iraqis (as well as UAR and other Arabs) are aware of Iranian friendship with Israel. With that knowledge as take-off point, Iraqis are capable of exaggerated assumptions of content and product of that friendship. Any undue notice by foreign states of military cooperation between UAR and Iraq could help that cooperation to coalesce.

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According to British Embassy Washington, Foreign Office proposes British Ambassador take following line with Shah: U.K. intends leave the Shah in no doubt that UAR military presence in Iraq would be most unwelcome development.

UK would expect that UAR military presence in Iraq over extended period might arouse hostile Iraqi reactions.

UK would make point that outside attempts to influence situation in Iraq would only strengthen UAR-Iraqi unity.

UK would point out that UAR is already heavily committed in Yemen and vis-a-vis Israel. It is not in position to send large numbers troops to Iraq to remain for long. End FYI.

Department concurs generally in British line and suggests you pass to Shah the following as our assessment Iraqi situation in light reports to date.

To date, limited UAR-Iraq unit has been imposed on Iraq by President Arif who estimates he needs UAR support in order maintain himself at home. The initiative appears to have been Arif’s.

Steps toward implementation of unity declaration (nationalization of businesses, creation of Arab Socialist Union) are unpopular in many Iraqi circles and have contributed to already widespread lack confidence in or respect for Arif.

Divisive factors of Iraqi society (Shi’a-Sunni, Kurds, suppressed political parties) will weaken and erode Arif’s ability impose preponderant UAR influence in Iraq.

Introduction of significant numbers of UAR troops in Iraq would be an unwelcome development for us. We have no firm reports numbers UAR troops that might maneuver nor information length of time they might stay in Iraq. We have only Chief of Staff’s announcement of intention hold joint maneuvers.

However, we do not believe that Iraqis would permit large contingent UAR troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely. Any attempt by UAR to control Government of Iraq from position of military strength in Iraq would be resisted and rejected. Such an attempt could very well cost Arif his position of leadership. Logistical demands on UAR to maintain unwelcome military presence in Iraq would be almost insurmountable.

Even in unlikely event that some UAR troops were stationed for extended period in Iraq, this would pose no threat to Iran.

Any public evidence undue foreign concern over presence UAR troops in Iraq would have effect of strengthening rather than disturbing UAR-Iraq unity.

British Embassy apprised of foregoing.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL IRAQ-UAR. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Dinsmore; cleared by Jones, Davies, Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs Katherine W. Bracken, Spain, and Officer-in-Charge of United Kingdom Affairs Thomas M. Judd (info); approved by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs James P. Grant. Repeated to Baghdad, Cairo, and London.
  2. On May 26 President Arif and President Nasser signed an agreement in Cairo to set up a joint military command in war time and for exploratory talks on unifying the two governments. The accord was described as “the first step toward full Arab unity.”