180. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State1

688. Subject: Call on President Aref.2 Ref: Embtel 677,3 Deptel 538.4

Had 35 minute talk with President Aref noon May 17. After my delivery of President Johnson’s personal best wishes to Aref and for well being of Iraq, Aref expressed sincere appreciation and asked that his personal best regards and best wishes be transmitted to President Johnson. He then recalled our frequent friendly contacts before he became President and said he wished our relationship to continue on same basis.
Briefly described main feature of my mission as further development of US-Iraqi relations and US cooperation in promoting stability and political, economic and social development of Iraq to extent desired by Iraq and within means available. Aref expressed understanding and appreciation and turned conversation to Iranian aid to Kurds.

I explained in detail USG position on Kurdish problem, outlined Iranian concerns, recounted our efforts to encourage Iran and Iraq to find way to settle differences peacefully and said I thought only Iran and Iraq could settle their mutual problems. Aref said Iran had nothing to fear from Iraq or from UAR-Iraqi relations, but if Shah, who alone responsible for Iranian hostility to Iraq, for whatever reason persists in helping Kurds, then Iraq will be obliged make as much trouble for Iran as possible (airgram being submitted with more detailed account).5

Aref expressed gratitude for frank discussion which he said he would hold in confidence. Said he wished our talks to be as friend to friend rather than President to Ambassador. I said I looked forward to quiet, friendly talks from time to time.

Comment: Aref was friendly, relaxed and mild throughout. He showed good sense of humor several times. In no way did he place blame on US for Iranian actions and he acknowledged USG not helping [Page 360] Kurds. When I referred to great principles for which US fighting in Vietnam he expressed understanding and agreement. Interpreter was used throughout except for several brief exchanges of personal nature at beginning and end of talk. His English is adequate for ordinary conversation.
Consider talk to have confirmed earlier belief that Aref well disposed toward US, although we cannot expect him to take cordial public posture and there inevitably will be events which will embarrass our relations somewhat.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 15-1 IRAQ. Confidential.
  2. President Abdul Salam Aref was killed in a plane crash on April 13 and succeeded on April 16 by his brother, Major General Abdul Rahman Aref.
  3. Dated May 16. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 15-1 IRAQ)
  4. Telegram 538 to Baghdad, May 14, instructed Strong to reiterate the President’s congratulations on Aref’s assumption of office and noted that the initial call should be primarily a courtesy call, although the Ambassador could discuss specific subjects at issue between the two governments if he felt it appropriate. (Ibid.)
  5. Airgram A-959 from Baghdad, May 18. (Ibid., POL 2 IRAQ)