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

1744. Call on President Aref. State 1696152 and 168758.3

Aref welcomed me in usual friendly fashion. I expressed appreciation for his receiving me and said I wished to present congratulations of diplomatic corps on removal of previous limitation on his term of office; members of corps look forward with pleasure to the continuation of relations with him. I went on that USG was happy to note this development and is looking forward to further development of our relations basis of mutual interests. I added my personal congratulations.
Aref said he wanted to thank President Johnson, Secretary of Defense, US Army, USG generally and me for highly successful visit of Iraqi military mission. Visit left deep impression on members of mission and mission was able to create favorable impression of Iraq in US. I concurred, expressed delight, promised to transmit this thanks, and said my government had instructed me to say it is happy with improvement in US-Iraqi relations in recent months and would appreciate any comment Aref wants to make on how he thinks this trend can be further developed.
Aref responded at some length, referring to widespread efforts of Communists and Ba‘this to subvert Iraq, interference Iraq has suffered from other countries, numerous difficulties Iraq has had to face and price it has had to pay in struggling against them. He said aim of his government is to develop Iraq to point that its people could have dignity, jobs, homes, better things and some money in their pockets. While Iraq cannot rightly think of becoming another US, it must do more for its people. Iraq has proved its anti-communism. He himself has worked hard to promote stability in Iraq and stability in area. He is doing his best to improve relations with Iraq’s neighbors so that all can benefit from tranquility to devote themselves to development. He does not want to have to spend tremendous sums on farms but to use money to build his country. Iraq is doing what it can with its own resources.
Aref went on that he hoped continued development would lead to greater assistance from the US toward this objective. Iraq particularly needs to draw on the scientific and technical know-how of the US. He hopes US will respond to Iraq’s needs and thus help Iraq continue to defeat forces of communism and other extremism which are trying to create anarchy in Iraq.
I referred to long list which I provided him some months ago of USG and private activities in Iraq all targeted at this objective. I said the USG’s principal interest in Iraq is creation of stability, economic development and social reform, and prosperity. My government had instructed me to state that it has observed with gratification Aref’s efforts to improve relations with Iraq’s neighbors and to express hope that this process will continue. The means available for direct USG assistance to Iraq are limited; the means of private American companies and foundations are greater and we continue to encourage them to work there. There are many American companies interested in investing capital and know-how in joint ventures in Iraq, but this of course raises the question of investment guarantee agreement which the companies feel must exist to [garble] capital. If IGA can be considered from economic viewpoint, there should be little problem in signing it. It is not political agreement. Aref interjected that IGA is now before the Council of Ministers and added that he understands it is necessary.
I went on to explain measures USG is proposing to assist in the reconstruction of the north (food for work, village development expert, and Ex-Im loan of $[2?] million for materials and equipment); these proposals are limited in size and scope. Situation in north continues to develop favorably, if this small program is successful. If there is organization and money devoted to north, and if new arrangement with Italy to use Italian consultant to plan reconstruction and development works then further measures of cooperation will come to light and can be examined sympathetically; agriculture will be extremely important and there are many things that can be done in this field.
Aref expressed appreciation. He went on to say there are forces at work harmful to Iraq. Some of these forces he had already explained. Another force is oil companies which prefer to overlook conditions in Iraq, which fail to understand efforts by other baneful forces to destroy country. Oil companies of course are interested in increasing their profits, but he has had to conclude there is something more behind their attitude; there must be a political motive. (From here on for [the better?] part of an hour we discussed oil problem which is dealt with in separate messages.)
In conclusion I reported that I would be leaving for US on April 13 for just over two months and would return in mid-June with my wife. Hopefully to remain for another year or two. I said Aref could [Page 376] count on me constantly to look for feasible ways to improve US-Iraqi relations and to increase US-Iraqi cooperation. It is my fondest hope that before my assignment in Iraq is completed Iraq and IPC will have settled all issues and that Iraq will be well on the road to stability, development and prosperity. Aref responded that he always appreciates my attitude, he shares my hopes and he wishes me a nice vacation.

9. Comment:

Aref was serious and more preoccupied than usual during our talk. He gave more impression of bearing heavy burdens than in past. However, he responded well to my occasional efforts to lighten atmosphere and showed his usual good humor and friendly personality number of times. He intently followed my words and interpretation of his remarks into English as though working to improve his comprehension of English. A number of times he understood clearly what I said and reacted before interpretation; and occasionally he made brief comments in English. I was unable to find suitable opportunity to work in question about Iraq’s future relations with Iran without diverting from main issues undesirably.
Interview was valuable both in content and in terms of maintaining periodic contact with Aref.
Addendum: State 169615 authorizing delivery of an oral message from President Johnson to Aref did not arrive until the evening of April 6 and therefore was not in hand for my meeting with Aref. An inquiry might be made into reasons for delay in transmission. I am having the message delivered to Aref through master of ceremonies on April 8.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 IRAQ. Confidential. Repeated to London, Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Kuwait, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Basra, and Dhahran.
  2. Telegram 169615 to Baghdad, April 6, instructed the Ambassador to convey the President’s congratulations to Aref on having had his term of office extended by the cabinet and defense council. (Ibid.)
  3. Document 190.