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

564. Subject: U.S.-Iraqi Dialogue. Ref: State 186614; Baghdad 543.2

1. Summary: ForMin considers “high level” dialogue with U.S. “premature” in view unchanged USG policies toward Arabs and in [Page 709]support of Israel and Iran. Nevertheless, improvement in some areas continuing. Iranian “aggression” threatening peace of area and USG seems involved. Despite negative reaction we should encourage continuing exchange of substantive information. End summary.

2. Foreign Minister Taqa received me for almost one hour August 26 when informed that I had message from Secretary. He listened very carefully and expressed appreciation. He then engaged in half-hour monologue on why suggestion for high level meeting with Secretary was “premature.” He emphasized that he was speaking personally because he had obviously not had time to consult his superiors. He believed following represented current attitude of GOI toward USG:

3. Taqa said Ambassador Shibib’s contact with Secretary in New York in April had been accidental since they were seated next to each other at SecGen Waldheim’s luncheon.3 Nevertheless, something positive had come out of that meeting regarding stated USG policy toward Kurdish conflict and GOI had appreciated USG stand during Security Council debate. However, ForMin recalled that Shibib had told Secretary that deep differences separated U.S. and Iraqi policies in Middle East and these would have to be narrowed before improvement in bilateral relations could take place. ForMin then recalled meeting last January with Senator Abourezk and me (Baghdad 003)4 in which he had emphasized that GOI had nothing against U.S. but only USG policies toward Arabs, and that to extent there were positive changes in these policies, GOI would respond. He also mentioned message to him of October 1972 from then Assistant Secretary Sisco suggesting dialogue and recalled that his answer then was that differences were too profound. He agreed that different analyses can arrive at varying conclusions about extent to which USG Middle East policy has changed recently, but as far as GOI concerned, changes were not yet basic and GOI had no confidence whatsoever that Israel would withdraw from all occupied territory.

4. Taqa then stated in strong terms that possibility of improvement in bilateral relations was now complicated by second problem: Iranian assistance to Barzani and Kurds which is seriously threatening peace in the area. If USG does not support what the Shah is doing, he said, it is difficult to believe that USG is unaware of it, and possibly USG is providing indirect assistance to Kurds through the Shah. Taqa said USG response to Shibib on this subject had been satisfying, but GOI strongly [Page 710]believes Shah has aggressive intentions against Iraq. It is difficult not to conclude that Washington knows of and supports Shah’s attitude. In answer to my question about what was contained in MFA note of August 25 on Iranian “aggression” mentioned in press ForMin said he would brief me on that.

5. He concluded his “personal” reaction to Secretary’s message by saying that for above two reasons, he frankly believed high level dialogue was “premature.” He feared his meeting with the Secretary would be “full of bitterness and sharp exchanges.” Apparently not wishing to go too far, Taqa then emphasized that GOI had nothing against U.S., only certain of its policies and this was evidenced by commercial dealings and fact that highest levels of GOI now seeking medical care in U.S. when they could go anywhere in world. Furthermore, when he is instructed to personally take up matter with me, such as President’s wife’s trip, this also meant something. He said GOI approved in principle of usefulness of dialogue with all countries and that we were in effect having dialogue now. It was, however, “premature” to have high level dialogue.

6. With regard to confidentiality of contacts Taqa said GOI policy was to be strictly above board and it would not be concerned if such meetings become known. He cited fact that when GOI signed contracts with American firms it announced it publicly. (This statement is simply not rpt not true. I can recall no case in which GOI publicly announced that contract signed with an American firm. Normal euphemism is “foreign” firm. ForMin’s sensitivity on this point does, I think, indicate great caution that he or others must use in their dealings with USG lest they become vulnerable to charge of being “pro-American.”)

7. Taqa then turned to current situation on Iranian border which was subject of MFA note to diplomatic missions August 25 (not including USINT). He said Iran has concentrated 3 armored divisions, 2 infantry divisions and 2 infantry brigades along the entire length of border. These troops as well as Iranian Air Force are on full alert. He noted that Iran had not denied reports of alert but related it to Iraqi military actions. This is ridiculous, he said, since Iraqi force engaged in internal action. Taqa said with some feeling that “if Shah or anyone else has idea of new Bangladesh in Iraq he is very mistaken.” Barzani is not representative of Kurds, he is in his last days, and those who are betting on him are betting on losing horse. Taqa said that Istanbul meeting had been result of Iraqi initiative and was to resolve all outstanding problems. Negotiations were proceeding “not badly” when Iranian troop concentration began and attacks hardened. In response to my question about alleged Iraqi incursions on August 4 and 8, Taqa said there had seen no Iraqi incursions and that if they occurred at all, there were very likely provocative acts by Kurds. Kurds had, he said, previ[Page 711]ously engaged in this kind of activity wearing Iraqi Army uniforms on Turkish border.

8. In closing, Taqa again emphasized that he had given me his personal views and that it is possible that the official reaction to Secretary’s message might be different in which case he would communicate it to me.

9. Comment: Although flattered, Taqa appeared to be apprehensive that his substantive communications channel with USINT had suddenly grown into suggestion for meeting with the Secretary. Since relations with USG known to be subject of intra-party conflict, my reading is that Taqa very fearful of getting out in front on this issue. Current serious difficulties with Iran obviously made it even more difficult to react positively since same elements within regime apparently remain convinced that USG aiding Kurds, directly or indirectly.

10. In view his strong remarks, it would be most helpful if I could convey USG position on Kurdish conflict to ForMin including explicit denial of any USG assistance. Despite Taqa’s negative reaction to “high level” dialogue, I strongly recommend that Department encourage use of this channel to ForMin’s office for exchange of substantive information.

Lowrie
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Box 14, Iraq—State Department Telegrams, To SECSTATE–NODIS. Secret; Priority; Exdis—Distribute as Nodis.
  2. Telegram 186614 to Baghdad, August 24, instructed Lowrie to give the Foreign Minister a message from Kissinger that he was interested in pursuing high-level discussions, since El-Shibib’s arrival in Bonn was delayed. (Ibid., From SECSTATE–NODIS) In telegram 543 from Baghdad, August 27, Lowrie sent a preliminary report on his meeting with Foreign Minister Taqa. (Ibid., To SECSTATE–NODIS)
  3. See Document 252.
  4. Telegram 3 from Baghdad, January 6, reported the meeting between Senator James Abourezk and Taqa, in which the latter explained the Iraqi position on the Middle East settlement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])