269. Telegram 54598 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1 2

[Page 1]

SUBJ:

  • Soviet Pressure for Iraqi-Kurdish Agreement
1.
During Secretary’s discussion on Middle East with Israeli FonMin DirGen Rafael April 10, latter asserted Soviets had played decisive role in Iraq-Kurdish agreement. According Rafael, Iraqis were extremely reluctant to settle Kurdish problem but Soviets insisted, indicating they wanted peace in proximity df USSR’s borders. Iraqi negotiators had literally asked Kurds to state their terms for agreement and then signed without further discussion.
2.
Rafael volunteered the same comments on subject during conversation April 10 with DepAsst Sec Swank (septel), offering this alleged Soviet action with Iraq as illustration of powerful influence Rafael thinks USSR could bring to bear in Cairo if so disposed. (Latter point also made by inference in conversation with Secretary.) Rafael added Israeli info, which he called totally reliable, indicates Soviets put into balance (A) further Soviet arms assistance to Iraq, (B) Soviet oil cooperation with Iraq, and (C) probably also promises of Soviet support for bigger Iraqi role in Persian Gulf affairs.
3.
Rafael expanded his thesis in Swank conversation to suggest that Moscow has traditionally alternated its Middle East attention between penetration into Red Sea as gateway to East Africa and into Persian Gulf as avenue to South Asia, and when stymied in one direction, shifts back to other. Rafael asserted Soviets in 1950s had not calculated potential setbacks to their efforts in [Page 3]Egypt or enormous investments required. Said that Israel as early as 1966 anticipated Soviet shift of interest to Gulf; he said so himself to Secretary Rusk and urged US fill British vacuum, but was told US would not take on UK commitments east of Suez. Rafael predicted to Swank that Soviet pressures which produced Iraqi-Kurdish agreement were only first manifestation of new Soviet drive for influence in Persian Gulf.
4.
COMMENT: We realize Israelis have good sources on Kurdish matters but believe Rafael has exaggerated Soviet role in recent Iraqi-Kurdish agreement. Addressees’ views would be welcome.

END

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL NEAR E—USSR. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Moscow, Paris, Tehran, and Cairo. Drafted by Theodore H. Wahl (NEA/IAI); cleared by Seelye, H.H. Stackhouse (NEA/IAI), William H. Gleysteen, Jr.(S/S), Emory C. Swank (EUR), and G. Norman Anderson (EUR/SOV); approved by Davies. In telegram 1491 from Tehran, April 15, the Embassy reported that the Iranian Government concurred that Soviet influence on Iraq was strong and increasing. (Ibid.) In telegram 2909 from London, April 16, the Embassy wrote that the Foreign Office thought Soviet influence had been important, but not necessarily decisive. (Ibid.)
  2. The Department conveyed the Israeli Foreign Minister’s opinion that the Soviets had been critical to the recent Iraqi-Kurdish settlement.