131. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1


  • Improving Relations with Other Nations

On April 5 you asked me to explore ways of improving relations with Angola, Mozambique, Somalia and Iraq.2 I gave you a preliminary report on April 6 of our present thinking on bettering relations with these countries and promised to follow up with more complete proposals.3 This memorandum offers some further thinking on steps we are considering or undertaking in pursuit of improved relations with these four nations.

[Omitted here are sections on Angola, Mozambique, and Somalia.]

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Iraq for some time has been seeking to re-orient its economy away from the Soviet Union and toward the West and generally to reduce its isolation in the Arab world. Since your election, certain Iraqi officials—including the Foreign Minister—have indicated to private American citizens interest in improving the U.S./Iraqi relationship, but have stopped short of suggesting a restoration of diplomatic relations. These messages have been conveyed to me at the suggestion of their Foreign Minister. As I have told you, we have responded both through U.S. sources and through Foreign Minister Fahmy of Egypt.4

Should matters develop satisfactorily, we will tell Baghdad that: (1) we remain prepared to resume diplomatic relations without conditions; (2) if the Iraqis believe this is premature, we would be prepared to have a dialogue on more senior, policy-making levels and would in this connection welcome the assignment of a more senior Iraqi diplomat in Washington; (3) Iraq might consider sending a special representative to Washington to discuss our relationship; and (4) I would be ready to talk privately with the Foreign Minister at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, or at any other convenient occasion.

At the same time, we will make clear to the Iraqis that the U.S. will not support Kurdish resistance activities wherever and whenever they occur. Memories of our involvement in the last stage of the Kurdish rebellion against the Iraqi Government remain fresh, and the Iraqi Foreign Minister has given this as a reason for not restoring diplomatic relations.

Any highly visible move on our part to improve relations with Iraq could arouse Iranian and Saudi suspicions and complicate our increasingly warm relationship with Syria. Iraq has been doing its best to bring down Asad. We would want to consult with Asad, the Saudis, and the Shah and probably keep Israel informed, should we move to improve relations with Iraq. We might also have problems in justifying publicly in the U.S. a move toward warmer relations with Iraq at a time when Baghdad has been lending active support to international terrorist activities and has a poor record on human rights.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 46, Iraq: 12/76–5/77. Secret. Carter wrote “cc Cy J” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum. Attached but not printed is an April 28 covering memorandum from Acting NSC Staff Secretary Michael Hornblow to Tarnoff returning the memorandum with Carter’s marginal notes for Vance’s information. Under an April 19 memorandum, Thornton sent Brzezinski Vance’s memorandum and recommended that Brzezinski sign an attached covering memorandum to Carter. Brzezinski approved the April 21 covering memorandum and forwarded it and Vance’s memorandum to Carter. (Ibid.)
  2. Reference is to an April 5 handwritten note from Carter to Vance and Brzezinski. Carter wrote: “To Cy and Zbig, We should move without further delay to probe for better relations with countries like Somalia, Iraq & even Mozambique & Angola. Let’s meet soon, inventory our opportunities & obstacles, & decide on action. J.C.” (Ibid.)
  3. In the April 6 report, Vance told Carter that he had “sent word to the Iraqi Foreign Minister that we would be interested in having discussions with them. We have not heard back from that feeler.” Vance also noted that he had endorsed a proposal to meet with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, but that: “We will have to be careful to consult the Syrians, whose animosity towards the Iraqis runs deep.” (Ibid.)
  4. Carter wrote in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph: “Why not ask Iran, Saudi A.—Syria, Israel—or tell them we need to improve relations with Iraq—to avoid disruption of peace efforts—.”
  5. Carter wrote in the margin below this paragraph: “Cy—Let’s also monitor endangered relations with others—Pakistan, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Peru, etc & let me help if necessary—J.C.”