239. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Iraq: Possible Pressure Points

Our bilateral relations with Iraq are few and tenuous. We do not have any bilateral assistance programs for Iraq and we do not sell the Iraqis military equipment. The Iraqis are not dependent on us for anything that they consider vital. We are not currently dependent on Iraqi [Page 672] oil but could become so in the future if Iraq’s production expands and our oil needs grow.

There are nonetheless some actions we could take to signal our displeasure with any given Iraqi policy:

1. Reduce the size of, or close down altogether, the Iraqi Interests Section in Washington, which is currently staffed by five diplomatic officers. The Iraqis would probably respond in kind against our two-officer Interests Section in Baghdad, which since its opening in the fall of 1972 has been a valuable political listening post for us.

2. Discourage American firms from doing business in Iraq. The Iraqis have recently opened the door to American business; they have awarded a $122 million construction contract to Brown and Root, have signed a contract for the purchase of commercial aircraft from Boeing for about $60 million, and have relaxed the ban on American manufactured products. We could deny Export-Import Bank credits to Brown and Root and could refuse an export license to Boeing. This would, of course, hurt these two firms, and we would have to be able to make a good case for our action to them and to the American public. The Iraqis would probably respond by barring American firms and American products from their market.

3. Encourage the Kurds in Iraq to undertake military activity against the central government. Mulla Mustapha Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party is already in a state of incipient insurgency and probably would be ready to move against the Ba’ath regime if we would promise to supply arms to his forces. However, the only practical way we could support the Kurds would be through Iran, which has itself a substantial Kurdish population. The Iranians have been careful to give the Kurds in Iraq only enough assistance to keep their separatist movement alive; they do not want to risk the possibility of the Kurds actually succeeding in breaking away from Iraq, for that would endanger both Iran and Turkey. Moreover, the Iranians have recently reestablished diplomatic relations with Iraq and would probably be hesitant to take actions which would result in a renewed rupture.

Iraq would not be likely to be affected by a U.S. threat to withdraw from the peacemaking effort. The Iraqi Government has declared itself opposed to resolution 3382 and to negotiations between the Arabs and Israel and would welcome abandonment of the U.S. effort.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAQ–US. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Korn.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 238.