278. Telegram 9048 From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]

Subject:

  • Dismissal of Hardan Tikriti
1.
Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council October 15 dismissed Vice President Hardan abd al Ghaffar al Tikriti from all of his “military and civilian positions.” Hardan, who was on official mission to Spain when decision taken, had what local press termed “stormy session” with reps from Iraqi Embassy when he transited Beirut last night. Reportedly Embassy officials advised him not return Baghdad, but to no avail.
2.
Though there has been no official explanation of Hardan’s dismissal, we had been hearing rumors recently of deep trouble within ruling Baath party leadership over the failure of Iraqi troops in Jordan to intervene [Page 2]on Fedayeen side during this September clash with JAA. Hardan, who went to Mafraq during crisis, apparently played decisive role in keeping Iraqi forces from intervening, even though GOI had officially placed its units at Arafat’s disposal. In Beirut, Michel Aflaq, founder of Baath party, strongly criticized GOI for remaining aloof and directed strong attack against Hardan and the military wing of the party. During fighting, Arafat sent telegram to President Ahmad Hasan al Bakr saying “history will not forgive those who failed support Fedayeen being massacred by Jordan Army.”
3.
There has long been schism between military and civilian wings of ruling Baath party in Baghdad. Hardan, former head Iraqi Air Force, has apparently enjoyed Bakr’s support. However, Iraq’s failure to participate in Jordan civil war gave strongman Saddam Husayn at Tikriti, Assistant SecGen of Baath Party and Vice Chairman of RCC, long awaited opportunity assert himself and other civilian “hawks” at expense military “doves.” Observers here believe Bakr opted make Hardan scapegoat rather than get into open conflict with civilian wing of party. Question now is whether Bakr can retain nominal leadership of party and government or whether Saddam will replace him. Though betting here about even, we inclined feel Saddam’s penchant for anonymity will keep him from overtly assuming power in Baghdad.
4.
The regime in Baghdad has had surfeit of problems lately. Government lacks funds execute development projects and has exerted increasing pressure on IPC to increase offtake. March 11 settlement of Kurdish problem jeopardized by GOI decision postpone census, scheduled for October 25, to determine areas where Kurds are in majority and should have autonomy. Iraqi dinar has dropped from $2.80 to $2.20 on Beirut open market. GOI experiencing difficulty with Poland over project exploit Mishraq sulphur deposits.
5.
Evidence of trouble with Iraqi Baath surprise few observers here and most expect Hardan’s [Page 3]dismissal is only first of many changes to come.
Buffum
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 IRAQ. Confidential. Repeated to Amman, Kuwait, Tehran, Jidda, Brussels, Ankara, Tel Aviv, London, Moscow, and Paris. Although identified as the Iraqi Vice President, Tikriti was in fact the Minister of Defense. In telegram 361, March 31, 1971, the Embassy in Kuwait reported that Tikriti had been assassinated in the city of Kuwait, and that the government and public “assumes that murder was planned in Baghdad and executed by Iraqi govt assassins.” (Ibid.)
  2. The Embassy reported on the recent turmoil in Iraq’s Ba’ath party, which had resulted in the dismissal of Hardan Tikriti at the instigation of Saddam Hussein and others in the Revolutionary Command Council.