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214. Letter From the Chief of the Interests Section in Baghdad (Lowrie) to the Director of the Office of Lebanon, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic, and Iraq Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Korn)1

Dear David:

Thank you for the reassuring letter of April 13 concerning Tehran’s concern over our diplomatic offensive in Baghdad!2 Tehran should be comforted by the negative Iraqi position on overflights and the visit of the Regional Geographic Attaché. I read your letter in Beirut on my way to Tehran and because of it felt considerably more confident in discussing Iraq with Ambassador Helms and Co. I think Tehran now accepts that any modest progress we can make here will not cause problems with Iran. This still leaves us on square one with Iraq and, I must admit, that recent Iraqi actions have again made clear their unwillingness to take any action that hints at improved relations. In the circumstances, I believe we have no choice but to back off for the time being.

With regard to terrorism, I do not object to making written démarches and pressing them in other ways. There may even be some advantage in requesting their cooperation, for example, in tracing Mr. Jawary.3 Any refusal to cooperate would be tantamount to an admission of official support for terrorist activities.

I spoke up twice at the Chief-of-Mission conference.4 The first time to make the point that Iraq was not a principal protagonist in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the conference agenda notwithstanding. I mentioned that Iraq was devoting no substantial resources to the cause, it had no interests at stake, and it seemed to be pursuing a “no risks” policy toward Israel. Iraq should, however, be taken into account in dealing with the problem because its aspirations for Arab leadership and the deep, emotional anti-Israeli sentiment of its leaders mean that it will continue substantial support to Palestinian extremist groups. This [Page 622]could certainly have a spoiler effect. In addition, growing Iraqi capability to use the fedayeen against other Arabs may become even more troublesome.

My second intervention followed the presentations of Messers. Helms, Thacher, Stoltzfus, and Crawford, all of whom cited Iraqi-Soviet collusion as a source of regional instability and potentially serious subversion. I attempted to put the USSR-Iraqi relationship in perspective, not by downplaying its importance, but by emphasizing (1) why the Baath regime feels so threatened by Tehran; (2) the still essentially nationalist nature of the regime; (3) its fear and hostility toward the domestic communists; and (4) some of its recent actions that demonstrate its independence from the USSR. I also mentioned that the Baath is quite keen on engaging in subversion and does not need Soviet urging to do so. Furthermore, the Baath would very likely have been more effective if there was Soviet-Iraqi collusion.

The conference was of course tremendously valuable for me. I was most impressed by Mr. Rush and thought he gave us a good idea of Washington, and particularly White House, thinking on such burning regional issues as the use of Arab oil as a weapon. The realpolitik approach may well be correct, but most of us were disappointed that the administration does not feel compelled to “put some light between the U.S. and Israel” (this became the conference cliché) to at least give the moderate Arabs some ammunition to use in defending themselves against the extremists.

I had short private talks with Messers. Helms and Sisco and used them to promote the idea of an Iraqi-Iranian rapprochement. I will be sending in a message very shortly giving the view from Baghdad on this. The possibility of rapprochement has been mentioned to me by the French, Algerian, and Turkish Ambassadors, with the Turk clearly the best informed. He is apparently already playing something of a mediator role. The Algerian Ambassador was quite definite in his statements that the Iraqis want it and that the Soviets would also be pleased. Contrary to the remarks of the Soviet Foreign Ministry official to Embassy Moscow, the Iraqis apparently do not want the USSR involved as intermediary. Our own role would of course have to be completely in the background, but at the right moment perhaps we could have some influence on the Shah. There is real skepticism on my part that the Shah would want a rapprochement since the existence of such an unruly neighbor not only makes him look good, but helps to justify what he wants to do in the way of building up Iran’s military forces. Nevertheless, the Iranian official position is that they are prepared to negotiate their differences with Iraq at any time.

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I hope Ed5 is able to make his trip here in May despite Ray Hunt’s gloomy words about travel funds. If not, he should get here as soon as possible in the new financial year.

Best personal regards.

Sincerely,

Arthur L. Lowrie 6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAQ–US. Secret; Official–Informal.
  2. Not found.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 209.
  4. The NEA Chiefs of Mission Conference was held in Tehran April 23–24. See footnote 6, Document 12.
  5. Edward Djerejian.
  6. Lowrie signed “Art” above this typed signature.