241. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance (Donaldson) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Iraqi President Bakr’s Letter to President Nixon

In response to your request of yesterday, the following is an analysis prepared by NEA of the Iraqi President’s letter to President Nixon.2

Viewed in the context of Iraq’s political position as a militant, radical Arab state, President Bakr’s reply to President Nixon’s energy letter3 seems remarkable for its moderation and absence of polemic. The letter focuses on basic Third World themes in respect to the fundamental problems arising from the growing economic, social and technological gap between the industrialized world and the developing [Page 676] countries. With the exception of certain references to “imperialism” and “monopolies,” there is no direct attack against the United States and no mention of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Given the length of President Bakr’s reply to the President’s letter and the prominent media coverage it has been given in Iraq, the Iraqi Government seems pleased to have been given this forum to enunciate its policies on these major issues.

The Iraqis have rejected explicitly a U.S. leadership role for such a conference and have opted for the U.N. in accordance with their thesis that the energy problem cannot be isolated from other basic international economic problems and any conference must, therefore, include all the energy consuming states. Bakr adopts a position similar to that of the Shah of Iran when he states that there is a direct relation between the price of oil and the cost of alternative sources of energy. Also, Bakr’s letter presents a basic rationale for the full or partial nationalization of foreign oil interests which, in Iraq’s view, resulted in a more realistic adjustment of the price of oil.

Despite the major differences in the U.S. and Iraqi views on the energy question, President Bakr’s reply, we believe, is not merely an exercise in propaganda, but is meant to be constructive. We share the view of our interests section in Baghdad that we should keep the dialogue on energy matters open with the Government of Iraq.4 This is especially the case since Iraq is one of the leading oil producers in the world and its potentially recoverable crude oil reserves are estimated to be second only to those of Saudi Arabia.

The main points in Iraqi President Bakr’s response to President Nixon’s letter to the Chiefs of State of the oil-producing countries are as follows:

(a) Iraq is opposed to the President’s suggestion of convoking a meeting of the major energy producing states and the major consuming states.

(b) The issue is broader than just the problem of energy, and is tied to other major problems such as the general rise in the prices of raw materials and manufactured goods from the industrialized states.

(c) Also, a fundamental problem is the economic and social development gap between the industrialized states and the developing countries which aggravates the relations between the two.

(d) The developing states which also consume energy and need energy resources for their development are suffering more than the in[Page 677]dustrialized states as a result of the scarcity of energy and its increasing cost.

(e) The best framework for discussing the energy question and the broader issues involving the industrialized countries and the developing countries is the United Nations and its agencies. Further, any such conference should not be limited only to the major energy consuming states.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P800093–2337. Confidential. Drafted by Djerejian and concurred in by Robert W. Chase (NEA), Julius Katz, and Abraham Katz (T/IEP).
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., P800093–2329)
  3. In a January 9 letter, Nixon invited the major oil-consuming nations and OPEC members to participate in a meeting between consumers and exporters. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974, Document 280.
  4. The Interests Section expressed this view in telegram 54 from Baghdad, January 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])