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

363. Subj: Kurdish Problem and Iran. Ref: Baghdad 329.2

1. Communist weekly Al-Fikr al-Jadid and KDP Al Taaxhi published identical article Jun 23 stating that ICP delegation headed by First Sec of Central Committee Aziz Mohammad had met with Mustafa Barzani at his hdqs on Jun 19. Statement said two parties had concluded that Iraq facing great danger from imperialists and that to meet it required (A) national unity through implementation of Mar 1970 manifesto and safeguarding rights of minorities; and (B) creation of National Front as quickly as possible. Al-Fikr al-Jadid commented editorially by praising meeting as new step toward accelerating establishment of National Front and defeating efforts of reactionary elements trying to exploit differences and sowing hatred and doubts among national forces. It called on masses to help bring peace between Baath and KDP.

2. Comment: This meeting almost certainly had approval of Baath, who are presumably attempting to use Communist influence within KDP—and their strong interest in formation of National Front—to pressure Barzani to compromise on demands for autonomy. There is, however, increasing evidence of divergence between ICP and Baath over Kurdish issue. Baathist leaders are believed to view Kurdish problem as regime’s major remaining weak spot and to be determined to resolve it. London Observer correspondent Gavin Young, who recently spent several weeks here at invitation of GOI, said Ministers all stressed their determination to resolve issue and had indicated willingness to reach détente with Iran as necessary to Kurdish settlement. Communist leaders, on other hand, had appeared more relaxed about Kurds and threat from Iran. They cited long Iranian border with USSR which meant USSR could pressure Iran whenever required to protect Iraq.

3. Although many pieces of puzzle obviously missing, it appears that Communists do not want to see Baath resolve Kurdish issue and achieve détente with Iran on their own, since this would further strengthen Baathist power monopoly. If, however, Communists can bring about Kurdish settlement, their price will be greater role in National Front.

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4. French Amb Cerles has report, in addition to that contained in reftel, that Baathists are being told by sources unknown that Shah favors détente with Iraq but Western powers have dissuaded him, presumably to contain “revolutionary” views from spreading. This rumor was given credibility by heavy coverage of CENTO meeting and emphasis on combatting “subversion.”

5. Consensus of diplomats here is that Baath regime is serious in seeking détente with Iran in order to resolve Kurdish problem and concentrate on rapid development of petroleum sector after 10 years of near stagnation. I realize Dept and Embassy Tehran may have info which contradicts some of above. If not, however, I believe it would be helpful in present circumstances if U.S. could let GOI know, perhaps through third party such as Algerian or Turkish Amb, that USG would like to see rapprochement between Iran and Iraq.3

Lowrie
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number]. Confidential. Repeated to Tehran, Ankara, Beirut, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Moscow, and Paris.
  2. Telegram 329 from Baghdad, June 9, reported that anti-Iranian propaganda had recently ceased in Iraq and that the government appeared determined to achieve détente with Iran as a prerequisite for settling the Kurdish problem. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAN–IRAQ)
  3. The Department replied in telegram 134384, July 10, that the United States would not discourage détente. The United States generally welcomed the reduction of international tensions but, the telegram noted: “We have not, however, any vested interests in the mode or detail of a rapprochement between Iran and Iraq, a matter which we consider to be strictly between the two states directly concerned.” (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])