206. Telegram From the Interests Section in Baghdad to the Department of State1

149. Subj: U.S. Policy Toward Iraq.

1. Summary: USINT recommendations that Dept approve certain requests for Iraq are based on assessment that conflict taking place within Iraqi regime between extremist elements currently in control of party and security organs and more constructive, realistic elements who want to get on with development. We should condemn or ignore the first, but work to strengthen the latter. End summary.

2. Recent messages from USINT (A) recommending favorable response to Iraqi request for air transport for military basketball team;2 (B) proposing that USG offer a few graduate scholarships;3 (C) requesting films for Ministry of Irrigation;4 and (D) providing U.S. firms with suggestions for doing more business here,5 raise questions about our policy toward Iraq. One of my British colleagues for example, was appalled by thought that USINT would even consider recommending that USG provide transport for basketball team. This message gives rationale behind recommendations.

3. There are two major forces in Iraq today and gap separating them is becoming so wide that one can almost speak of two Iraqs. Their respective policies are sometimes diametrically opposed, e.g. disregard of Western opinion on arrested Jews and effort to promote tourism. Best known Iraq is engaged in subversion, smuggling arms, supporting Black September (at least tacitly) and other extremist groups,6 inciting armed clashes on Kuwaiti and Iranian borders, and is vociferous in its anti-American propaganda. This Iraq accurately reflects powerful, but small group of Baath Party militants and opportunists, most in their twenties and thirties, who dominate security and party organizations. They came to power through conspiracy and violence, lack experience and formal education, and, since they know little about it, their percep[Page 604]tions of outside world usually reflect only their Iraqi experience. Most are true believers in militant opposition to reaction (the monarchy) and imperialism (Israel, IPC and the U.S.) and their support for liberation and socialism (Baath Iraq). There is little U.S. can do to either influence them or get rid of them.

4. The other Iraq, equally nationalistic, is busy carrying out development plans, running INOC and the banks, promoting tourism, trying to reverse brain drain, and working hard for a better life for themselves. It includes the technocrats and no doubt represents majority of population. They do not like arbitrary rule and police state methods of Baath regime but are politically powerless. There are, however, indications that their ability to influence RCC, particularly in economic policy, is on increase.

5. In face of Iraq’s recent activities (arms smuggling to Pakistan, attack on Kuwait, boycott against Lebanon,7 subversion in the Gulf and Yemen, and at least tacit support for Black September), U.S. could condemn GOI, refuse any requests from whatever source, and perhaps even take some hostile actions against Baath regime. Such a policy would be morally confronting [comforting?], but in my view, have little chance of bringing about change for better. On contrary, it would probably strengthen extremists since it would confirm their view of U.S. as chief enemy.

6. More realistic way of dealing with dichotomous Iraq, and one which carries some hope for eventually influencing regime toward more constructive policies, is to seize every opportunity that may strengthen constructive elements. We can do this by re-establishing direct official ties where possible, by encouraging more private links, especially in commercial sector, and by responding favorably to requests from those elements who wish to deal with us. At same time, there is no reason why we should not condemn more irresponsible and extremist acts of regime. In short, pursue a highly flexible policy that attempts to deal with both Iraqs.8

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number]. Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Telegram 145 from Baghdad, March 26. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  4. Telegram 103 from Baghdad, March 7. (Ibid.)
  5. Telegram 111 from Baghdad, March 13. See footnote 4, Document 205.
  6. Black September was responsible for both the September 1972 kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany and the March 1973 murder of three diplomats, two American and one Belgian, at the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.
  7. Regarding the incident of arms smuggling to Pakistan, see Document 204. For the attack on Kuwait, see Document 210. According to telegram 147 from Baghdad, March 27, Iraq imposed “boycott measures” on Lebanon after the Lebanese Government took control of IPC Lebanon during the Iraqi-IPC negotiations to prevent an Iraqi takeover of the pipeline and terminal on Lebanese territory. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  8. The Department agreed with this view in telegram 60585 to Baghdad, April 3. (Ibid.) The Embassy in Iran, however, dissented in telegram 2250 from Tehran, April 10, on grounds that the suggested moves were unlikely to work and could cause misunderstanding of U.S. aims toward Iraq in Iran and other moderate states in the region. (Ibid.)