3. Background Paper Prepared in the Department of State1



Washington, April 28-29, 1964

Background Paper

The Situation in the Middle East

General Developments

After a year of readjustment and realignment among the Arab States a “Summit” meeting in Cairo in January 1964 called by President Nasser created a stronger sense of unity among the Arabs than had earlier and more formal attempts to attach and join states in legal but unhappy union. In Iraq a Ba’th dominated government came in February and went in November of the same year. The Ba’th Party (pan Arab socialists) has held on in Syria only by packing the Syrian army with its adherents. Yemen is still a sensitive problem, with the strength of UAR troops in the country apparently about the same as a year ago. However, the Arab Summit sparked a series of contacts between the Governments of the UAR and Saudi Arabia, and there now seems to be a disposition on the part of the states concerned to settle the dispute over Yemen. Yemen itself will have to endure a drawn out period of organization, consolidation and adjustment. Meanwhile, Israel’s forthcoming off-take of Jordan River waters from Lake Tiberias looms as possibly the most acute source of tension in the area.

United States Policy in the Near East

Political instability has been endemic in the Near East for the past several decades. Despite this, there has been considerable economic [Page 5] and social development which gives promise of providing a basis for greater political stability. The United States attempts to conduct its relations with states of the area on a strictly bilateral basis and to avoid being drawn into disputes either in an inter-Arab or an Arab state-Israeli context, except where vital United States interests are affected. The United States is equally interested in the integrity and well-being of all states of the area. It has no “chosen instrument” in its dealings with Near Eastern states; its aid programs, if examined on a per capita basis, have been remarkably evenhanded. The United States economic assistance and other programs are motivated by the belief that Free World interests will be served by economic, social, and political development of the peoples of the area. The United States believes that problems arising among the Arab states should be solved by those states without outside interference.

Arab Unity and the CENTO Countries

Just as the urge to unity is inherent in the Arab Islamic culture, so is the tradition and habit of strong individuality. Inevitably, the two drives clash. The ambitious plans of April 1963 for uniting the UAR, Syria, and Iraq were discarded as unworkable before September. Nevertheless, the January 1964 Arab Summit meeting brought Arab leaders back together long enough for them to remember their common heritage and to take new steps toward increased military, economic, and cultural consultation. Unity, in the strict sense of a single state made up of federated components, is unlikely in the foreseeable future. However the sense of unity, essentially a psychological phenomenon, was never stronger and cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, the United States believes that Arab unity does not pose a threat against CENTO states. It believes that the Arab states in considering the form of association they believe best for their interests should not be subjected to outside influences or pressures. The United States does not take a position for or against unity but would not favor any association brought about against the will of the majority of the peoples involved, brought about by force, or clearly directed against other states. The United States does not believe that, given geographic, organizational, and logistical considerations, a joint military command or other form of association of Arab military forces would appreciably affect the capabilities of these forces.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan

The United States has made clear its interests in the integrity of the kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi Arabia and has encouraged and contributed to the economic and social development of both countries. Jordan has made most satisfactory progress in the economic and social fields over the past several years and the United States believes that [Page 6] prospects for continued development and stability in this country are good. Jordan has recognized the USSR and the two countries are exchanging Embassies. The United States does not believe that this step will have any significant effect on its relations with Jordan nor that the present Government of Jordan intends to shift its international posture basically. In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Faysal has initiated a program of modernization, reform, and economic development which should in time serve to meet the aspiration of the Saudi people. The United States considers these programs to be the real first line of defense of these countries against subversive influence. A recent confrontation between Crown Prince Faysal, the effective ruler, and King Saud has resulted in Faysal’s convincing the ailing and feeble King to relinquish all active leadership of government to Faysal.


In the past year Kuwait has consolidated its independence and has become a significant source of funds for Arab world economic developments. This use of its financial strength gives tiny Kuwait an opportunity to buy “integrity insurance.” The comparatively vast resources of Kuwait as compared with its own needs also offer an Arab alternative to external sources of funding to support economic development. The extent to which Kuwait will be prepared to fund military equipment purchases by Arab states is not yet clear, but this eventuality cannot be overlooked.


Despite agreement on July 4, 1963 between the UAR and Saudi Arabia to disengage from involvement in Yemen, UAR troops remain in large numbers (around 30,000), and Saudi Arabia, while stopping material aid to the royalists, is still giving moral encouragement and probably financial assistance. Nevertheless, the disengagement agreement has confined the conflict to within the borders of Yemen, has served to preserve and even strengthen the Saud regime, and has protected Free World interests in the Arabian Peninsula. Precipitate withdrawal of all Egyptian troops at this time would result in chaos in the country, and some form of outside security force will no doubt be required to keep peace in Yemen for years to come. Meanwhile the UAR-Saudi resumption of diplomatic relations on March 3, 1964 and a mutual announcement that neither had designs in Yemen are positive steps in the direction of some kind of a modus vivendi over Yemen. Yemen’s economy is not in dire straits at the moment, but a certain amount of outside foreign assistance will be needed for any real economic development. Before this can be effective, however, Yemen needs a governmental mechanism which can make use of outside help.

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The Kurdish Situation (Noforn)

After two and a half years of fighting, during which time the Kurds at their peak were able to engage regular units of the Iraq Army and defeat them and at their weakest were able to hold only the more inaccessible high country, the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdish representatives agreed on February 10, 1964 to a cease fire. Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of the terms of that agreement seems already to have arisen, the government taking the position that it has complied with conditions agreed upon and the Kurds asserting bad faith on the government’s part for not carrying out its bargain (the Kurds claim more concessions were made than the government is now ready to honor). Nevertheless, the government has been withdrawing Army units and equipment from the north, giving every indication it is not planning to make war any longer. There are reports of dissidence within Kurdish circles in Iraq, of a lack of cohesion between the tribal fighters and the Kurdish party’s educated and more sophisticated cadre. The party militants are said to be threatening to resume the violence if the “autonomy” they fought for is not granted in sufficiently clear detail by the government. A final settlement is not yet clear nor is it in sight.

Meanwhile, there are reports of arrests in Iranian Kurdish areas of persons believed to entertain similar Kurdish aspirations in Iran. These developments will bear close watching. The Kurdish nationalist fever is not new to Iran. The United States would regard Kurdish unrest in Iran, as it has in Iraq, as an internal problem.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Komer Files, 12th CENTO Ministerial Council Session, April 28-29, 1964. Confidential. Drafted by Lee F. Dinsmore of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs; cleared by Davies, Jernegan, Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Regional Affairs John P. Walsh, and NEA/NR Officer in Charge of CENTO Affairs Matthew D. Smith, Jr.
  2. The Twelfth Session of the Ministerial Council of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was held in Washington April 28-29. The session was attended by Foreign Minister Abbas Aram of Iran, Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, Foreign Minister Feridum Camal Erkin of Turkey, Foreign Secretary R.A. Butler of the United Kingdom, and Secretary of State Rusk. For text of the communiqué, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, pp. 683-685. For documentation relating to the session, see Johnson Library, National Security File, Komer Files, 12th CENTO Ministerial Council Session, April 28-29, 1964, and Department of State, NEA/RA Files: Lot 75 D 312, CENTO Ministerial Files, 1962-1968, 12th CENTO Ministerial Council Session, Washington, D.C., April 28-29, 1964.