295. Telegram 12737 From the Department of State to the Embassies in Iran, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union1 2

[Page 1]

REFS:

  • (a) Tehran 0428 (b) Moscow 0557
1.
We believe Soviets and Iraqis signed military agreement last September when Iraqi Defense Minister was in Moscow. Agreement was substantial, perhaps largest yet, and probably brought grand total of Soviet military aid extensions to Iraq well over three quarter billion dollar level. Grechko’s December visit probably resulted in follow-on within framework of basic September agreement. Delivery schedule probably will extend over several years and include ground equipment and aircraft. While we understand Soviets apparently ready to sign friendship treaties with all corners, we have no information supporting speculation that treaty or undertakings in Indian or Egyptian styles signed with Iraqis.
2.
Soviets probably were no longer able to resist Iraqi pressure for getting arms supply off ad hoc basis and under comprehensive umbrella agreement as Soviets have done with Egypt and Syria. We also would underline point [Page 2]made in Moscow’s 557 relating to Soviet stance on Iranian seizure of Gulf islands as clear indication of lack of leverage either side has in non-bilateral matters and of Soviet dedication to maintaining good relations with Iran. In this regard, while we can understand Iranian concern in face of new Soviet-Iraqi arms deal (basically because of Iraqi recklessness and ambitions in Gulf), we do not think Soviets have increased military aid to Iraq as part of aggressive policy in Gulf aimed at Iran. However, as investment increases, Soviets may become even less inclined to jeopardize relationship with Iraq and therefore less able to resist Iraqi pressures for even more military and economic assistance. In sum, our view is that Iraqi arms deal designed to placate Baghdad, not to pose threat to Shah.
3.
In passing, should also be noted inclination to work both sides of street characteristic feature of Soviet policy and not restricted to Iran-Iraq situation. Soviets, for example, pursuing this potentially perilous course in [Page 3]two Yemens.

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  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 4 IRAQ-USSR. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by James M. Ealum (INR/RSE); cleared by Benjamin M. Zook (INR/RSE); Philip H. Stoddard (INR/RNA); Miklos; Seelye; and Jack R. Perry (EUR/SOV); approved by Sisco.
  2. The Department recognized that the Soviets had augmented their military aid to Iraq, but it did not accept that this meant Moscow was launching an aggressive Gulf policy aimed at Iran.