199. Memorandum From John W. Foster of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow)1

SUBJECT

  • The Iraqi Coup

Until things sort themselves out, and until we get better information—we have no representation in Baghdad—it's impossible to tell what the effect of last night's coup2 will be. We can't even be sure that the coup leaders' claim of military support is true. A counter-coup tomorrow is conceivable.

The intelligence community's initial reading is that the new group—apparently Baathists—will be more difficult than their predecessors, but at this point no one knows how radical they will be. So far, their communiques have taken a fairly moderate line by Iraqi standards, promising economic reforms, honest government, a “wise” solution of the Kurdish problem,3 and Arab unity against the Zionist and Imperialist threats. On the other hand, if these people are Baathists, their tendencies will be towards moving Iraq even closer to Fatah, the Syrians and the Soviets. From our point of view, the most important question is whether they will continue Iraq's support for King Hussein. Iraq has about 25,000 troops in Jordan and could easily make life difficult for the King.

This is just to give you the best reading we have before you leave.

John
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Iraq, Cables &Memos, Vol. I, 12/63-7/68. Secret.
  2. An almost bloodless army coup overthrew the regime of President Aref at dawn on July 17. The new Revolution Command Council assumed absolute powers at 7 a.m. and unanimously elected former Vice President and retired Major General Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr, as President. Baghdad radio subsequently announced that former President Aref had been retired on pension and deported to “join his family” in England. (Intelligence Note 561, July 17; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 23-9 IRAQ)
  3. The Aref government had made little progress on implementation of the June 1966 cease-fire agreement. Barzani had refused to disband his army until the Iraqi Government made good on its promises for limited Kurdish autonomy in the North, Kurdish proportional representation in the still unreconstituted Iraqi Parliament, and disbanding of the government's anti-Barzani Kurdish irregulars. In the meantime, Barzani's forces maintained de facto control of the North and had recently secured renewed military and financial aid commitments from Iran and Israel. (Intelligence Note 488, June 20; ibid.)