Washington, April 20, 1972, 2359Z[Page 1]
- Davies-Lopinot Talk on Iraq and Persian Gulf
- State 567657
Summary: Davies gave us assessment significance Soviet-Iraqi treaty and discussed prospects for stability in Persian Gulf and US policy there.
- Iraq: French Embassy Counselor Lopinot called on DepAsstSec Davies April 18 for review of situation in Iraq and Persian Gulf. Lopinot noted Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein would soon visit Paris and Quai eager for US assessment significance recent Iraqi-Soviet treaty. Noting US presently uncertain whether Soviets or Iraqis exercised the most initiative in bringing off treaty and referring to Brezhnev’s 24th Congress indication general Soviet interest in signing pacts with other countries, Davies gave Lopinot assessment along lines reftel. Davies noted speculation that treaty may in some way reflect Soviet-Iraqi desire to gain influence in the Persian Gulf, but said it doubtful Iraq in present state of political stability provides sufficient base for such an undertaking. Davies also pointed out treaty less specific in military field than was earlier treaty with Egypt. In summary, Davies said that main importance of treaty may be symbolic and psychological. In response to question Lopinot said French, while still evaluating treaty [Page 2] development, are looking at same considerations Davies had outlined.
- Lopinot noted Saddam’s strong internal position in Iraqi power structure but agreed that overall political structure Iraqi is weak and that Army, decimated by Baathist purges, relatively ineffective. Davies noted Kurdish problem also weakens effectiveness Iraqi regime. Lopinot said he understood there is “personal agreement” between Barzani and Saddam to do nothing to weaken one another’s leadership position. In response to question, Davies said we do not believe Communists in Iraq are any stronger than they have been in recent years and that Soviet posture toward Iraq motivated by power relationship rather than ideology. Lopinot noted Iraqi regime’s cautious attitude toward criticizing King Hussein for his West Bank plan and agreed that relatively moderate Iraqi posture towards Jordan may reflect felt need for balance against Syrian membership in car. In response Lopinot’s question on possibility opening US Interest Section Baghdad, Davies replied that under 1967 agreement we are authorized Interest Section but strictures placed in past on level of US representation had made it undesirable to have someone in Baghdad. Now it seems reasonable that we should have someone representing us in Belgian Embassy. Lopinot asked what IPC’s position would be on Soviet or other interests efforts to market North Rumalia oil. Davies said we understood IPC would seek to obstruct through legal procedures marketing of North Rumalia oil. Lopinot noted that Italians had concluded barter arrangement with Iraq calling for Italian import of Iraqi crude oil. Lopinot asked if in our opinion Soviets will want their own “Bahrain agreement” with Iraq for use of naval facilities. After reassuring Lopinot that our naval presence in Bahrain which dates from late 1940’s represents no change in US policy or objectives, Davies said we foresee no change in Soviet role Umm al Qasr, where Soviets will undoubtedly continue to seek periodic use of Iraqi facilities which they have helped develop. Lopinot, who spent 5 years in Baghdad prior to Washington assignment, said Soviet-Iraqi relationship not always easy and that late Vice President Hardan Tikriki had complained frequently of Soviet failures to live up to promises, particularly with regard to military equipment and spares delivery.
- Persian Gulf: In response to question on Iraqi role in Gulf, Davies said some Iraqis had long felt that Iraq [Page 3] has “manifest destiny” in Gulf, but that we doubt Iraqi threat to Gulf is credible. There have been some arms shipments to dissident groups, but we do not anticipate significant near term change in Iraqi role in Gulf. Davies reminded Lopinot that hand of Baath party had been heavy in 1965 Bahrain labor disturbances but that most recent disturbances appear to have resulted from local problems and no strong evidence of Iraqi or outside instigation. As to Soviet role we foresee Soviets attempting to extend diplomatic and commercial presence into Gulf and perhaps offering scholarships or technical assistance. We see no immediate Soviet threat but Soviet objectives are long term in nature and bear watching. Davies pointed out Soviets in past offered significant scholarship help to exiled Omanis and that several Soviet-educated Omanis whom he had met during December visit to Muscat urged counter-balancing US educational aid.
- Davies said on his December trip he was impressed by change of attitude of Gulf leadership from uncertainty to considerable confidence in future and their ability to cooperate together. Gulf states have established economic base and Bahrain seems particularly well organized bureaucratically. Gulf leaders recognize realities of Iranian power and need to cooperate with Iran. Davies was impressed by “rationalism” of Gulf leaders. Abu Dhabi is disorganized but Zayid appears to be rapidly learning realities of modern world and establishment UAE could serve to bring outside professional and bureaucratic expertise to make trucial states federation work. Oman is emerging into 20th century under well-educated, young sultan who in military sphere seems in improved position with respect to Dhofar insurrection but recognizes need for civic action to eliminate popular support for rebels. Sultan is proceeding with Bedouin resettlement programs, experimental farms, development of schools, and establishment government broadcasting capability in Dhofar. Oman’s oil income provides minimum base for military and economic development expenditures, and recent fisheries arrangements with American consortium offers further hope for economic growth. Saudi-Abu Dhabi boundary problem and fact that Saudi Arabia has not recognized UAE remain problems in the area. There also still some feeling against Iran’s seizure of Tunbs, but Ras al-Khaimah’s entry into UAE tends to make this more a philosophical than a practical problem. In response to question [Page 4] Davies said UAE agreement in principle to establish relations with Soviet Union appears to reflect Zayid’s somewhat simplistic approach to international politics and we understand Faisal felt this step disruptive to security prospects for area. Lopinot asked if there were not possibilities for coups d’etat in area. Davies said there is always possibility of coups or assassinations in any of the states of the area, but the Gulf does not appear to us to be necessarily doomed to go through a period of destructive change. Noting that Saudi Arabia seems to have developed its own form of political stability, Davies said the Gulf area is one about which we are “cautiously optimistic.”
- Davies said US policy is to establish diplomatic presence in lower Gulf and Oman, to urge states of the Gulf to cooperate with one another, and to encourage our European allies and our own private sector to develop ties with the new states and to provide technical assistance where possible, on a reimbursable basis, in many cases. Lopinot said that Minister of State Lipkowski is now visiting Gulf and that while France has not yet entered into diplomatic relations with new states it plans to accredit Ambassador Carton in Kuwait to the Gulf states in the near future.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL IRAQ-USSR. Confidential. Repeated to Tehran, Amman, Ankara, Brussels, Cairo, Jidda, Kuwait, London, and Moscow↩
- Deputy Assistant Secretary Davies provided the French with the U.S. estimate of the significance of the Iraqi-Soviet treaty and the fundamentals of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf.↩