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

202. Subj: First Anniversary of Soviet-Iraqi Treaty. Ref: Baghdad 153.2

1. Summary: Recent events tend to substantiate conclusion that while relationship with Soviet Union remains basic to Iraq, warm comrades-in-arms relationship of just two months ago is changing. For Iraq, Russia is assuming more role of valued supporter, but not close confidante and certainly not leader of joint alliance. There is no longer any talk of Iraq joining COMECON. Anniversary celebrations and Gorshkov visit treated as routine. Iraqi plan to purchase U.S. A/C and cease barter sales of oil indicate Iraqis moving even faster than expected to demonstrate independence. End summary.

2. Frank public statement on relations with USSR was made by ForMin Abdul Baqi in recent interview (not published here) with Beirut weekly As-Sayyad. When asked if Iraq wanted two Kuwait islands for Soviet fleet, Abdul Baqi said, “Soviets are our friends. They offer valuable aid without strings. We do not accept that the treaty brings Soviets to this area. Soviets have no bases or armies in Iraq. We differ with them on many issues . . . we have our national strategy and ideology and they have theirs. We don’t discuss our strategy in Gulf with Soviets . . . our goal is to preserve Arabism of Gulf.”

3. Celebration of first anniversary of Soviet-Iraqi treaty was lackluster, particularly in comparison to joint celebrations of last December. At main celebration Apr 9, principal Iraqi address given by Minister of Health and RCC member Izzat Mustafa. No other ranking Iraqi attended. Mustafa’s speech was devoted to generalities, but it did contain statement that “treaty is directed against no one.” Same phrase has appeared in several recent editorials. Official Al-Jumhurriya said Apr 9 that “treaty is one of friendship and cooperation; it is not a mil-itary treaty or a collective defense treaty; it is not directed against any third party; it is based on equal cooperation.” Communist weekly [Page 618] Al-Fikr-al-Jadid unrestrained in praise of treaty and said alliance with Soviets necessary to guarantee sovereignty and build socialism and that it had full support of masses.

4. Soviet Naval Commander in Chief Gorshkov’s presence for anniversary celebration was seen as something of a snub to GOI since Saddam Hussein had invited top leadership. Only two Communist Ministers attended Soviet Ambassador’s reception for the Admiral on Apr 9. Soviet cruiser and two destroyers believed to be visiting Umm Qasr or Basra in conjunction with Admiral’s visit. Gorshkov visited Basra, and presumably Umm Qasr, Apr 8 and 9.

5. Some good reasons for Soviet displeasure are Iraqi choice of Boeing A/C over Soviet A/C; large new Western investments expected to follow IPC settlement; and new Iraqi policy that henceforth all oil will be sold for cash, which is of course directed mainly at Communist countries.

6. Comment: “Strategic alliance” with Soviets will continue to be, in Iraqi words, “buttress for struggle against imperialism and Zionism” but Iraqis appear to be moving even more rapidly than expected to demonstrate their independence.

7. Re recurring reports of Soviet base or building of base at Umm Qasr, it is my understanding that in judgement of Intelligence Community (NIE 36.2–72)3 Soviets do not control any military facilities at Umm Qasr or elsewhere and are not building any. If Dept has any new info that indicates otherwise, would appreciate having it.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAQ–USSR. Confidential. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Moscow, Paris, Tehran, Tripoli, and Cairo.
  2. In telegram 153 from Baghdad, March 27, the Interests Section suggested that Soviet influence and presence in Iraq was leveling off, as seen in Saddam Hussein’s Moscow visit when he was asked for an explanation of the Iraq–IPC accord. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number]) Telegram 3178 from Moscow, March 23, reported on Saddam’s visit to Moscow, which marked the anniversary of the Iraqi-Soviet treaty of April 9, 1972. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 IRAQ)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Document 330.
  4. The Department responded in telegram 71762 to Baghdad, April 17, that while the Soviets did not control military facilities in Iraq, “USSR is assisting substantially in development of Umm Qasr as major Iraqi port, and its military and commercial vessels will undoubtedly have access to those facilities. Soviet planes may similarly gain transit rights at certain installations in Iraq. Soviet control or exclusive use of Iraqi port or air facilities not now foreseen as serious possibilities.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAQ–USSR)