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

SUBJECT

  • A Clearer Picture of the Iraqi Coup

While you were gone, the situation in Iraq became much clearer. The new government could still be a little harder for us to deal with than the old—if we ever have a chance to deal with it—but if we had to have a Baathist government there, this is probably the best we could expect.

The Baathists are from the right-wing of the party—the opponents of those in control in Syria—and non-Baathists are playing a major role in the new government. The Syrians had nothing to do with the coup; in fact, one of the most interesting questions raised by the coup is whether the Iraqi example will encourage the moderate Syrian Baathists now in exile to take a crack at the Syrian regime.

The inability of the Aref government to deal with Iraq's domestic problems was the reason—or excuse—for the coup, and the new government is talking mainly about economic reforms, eliminating corruption and solving the Kurdish problem. They have made the usual statements about Zionism, Imperialism and Arab unity, but so far there have been no indications that Iraq's foreign policy will become more radical. It's too early to know whether there will be progress on a Kurdish settlement or more trouble—a key determinant of how free Iraqi troops will be to menace Israel.

Until we see these people in action, we won't know for sure what problems we might face, but there seems to be less cause for concern over anything radically different now than there was last Wednesday.

John
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Iraq, Cables &Memos, Vol. I, 12/63-7/68. Secret.