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

103. Subject: Iraqi-Iranian Relations. Ref: Baghdad 52 (Notal).2

1. Summary: Possibility of Iraqi-Iranian rapprochement increased by efforts of Egyptians and French to give Shah more objective appraisal of Baath regime. Iraqi actions of past two years support conclusion that this regime is increasingly pragmatic, nationalistic, determined to be non-aligned and that radical rhetoric is becoming form without substance. End summary.

2. Egyptian Ambassador al-Naggar told me Jan 30 that he was optimistic on possibility of Iraqi-Iranian rapprochement following Shah’s visit to Cairo. He said Sadat had given Shah objective analysis of Baghdad regime which al-Naggar believes Shah does not get from his Embassy, SAVAK or those around him who fear to express views which contradict those he has previously expressed. Al-Naggar said Shah’s main question to Sadat was whether present Baghdad regime represented nationalist regime or was tool of Soviets, aimed eventually at overthrowing Iranian regime. Egyptians are convinced that Iraqi regime is nationalist and gave Shah analysis upon which this conclusion based.

3. Al-Naggar said Egypt was playing active role as go-between, but not as mediator. He said high level Iraqi-Iranian meeting in process of being set up. Egyptians had passed message to Shah in Europe and now awaiting his reply. He hoped Foreign Minister Hammadi, of whom he has low opinion, would not be chosen to continue negotiations.

4. French Ambassador Pierre Cerles told me PM Chirac had also discussed Iraq with Shah and passed message from GOI during his recent visit to Iran.

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5. Comment: It has been evident for some time that, from Baghdad vantage point, usually cited Iraqi-Iranian differences such as seizure of Tunbs (which Iraq willing to turn over to Arab League), Shatt al-Arab (Iraq apparently willing to accept thalweg if face saving formula can be found to negotiate new treaty), frontier demarcation, and even Kurdish war are not main issues nor difficult to resolve.3 Basic issue is profound historical and ideological difference accompanied by total lack of mutual confidence. Baathis are convinced Shah is determined to overthrow their regime and Shah, according to many observers, is equally convinced Baath regime backed by USSR is out to get him. What efforts of Egyptians, French and others may succeed in doing is giving Shah more realistic appraisal of Iraqi regime. Iraqi actions during past two years, including resumption of relations with Iran, FRG and UK; public rapprochement with conservative Arab leaders; extensive economic deals with U.S., West Europeans and Japan; and most recently reception of David Rockefeller, contract for two Sheraton hotels and purchase of eight more Boeings give substance to Egyptian analysis. It is more important that Iraq’s neighbors be aware of this substance rather than allowing their attention to focus only on radical rhetoric which regime still finds necessary to spout for domestic political reasons. Rhetoric is clearly becoming increasingly meaningless as gauge of Iraqi policy.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D750040–0466. Secret. Repeated to Abu Dhabi, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Islamabad, Jidda, Kuwait, Kabul, London, Moscow, New Delhi, Paris, Tehran, and Tel Aviv.
  2. According to telegram 52 from Baghdad, January 18, Iraqi efforts to negotiate a settlement with Iran had reached a new level: Foreign Minister Hammadi traveled to several Arab countries January 11–13 with messages from President Bakr in an effort to generate Arab pressure on Iran and he left for Istanbul January 16 to meet with Khalatbari. (Ibid., D750020–1002)
  3. According to Khalatbari’s report of his initial talks with Hammadi, transmitted in telegram 1068 from Tehran, February 4, these issues brought the meeting to an impasse almost as soon as discussions began. (Ibid., D750040–0631)