Us Reaction To 1963 Baath Coup Since

US Reaction to 1963 Baath Coup

Since the 1963 Baath coup has come up here twice this week, I thought readers might be interested in the three pieces of correspondence below, from the Foreign Relations of the United States, which is now being put on line. FRUS is anything but complete, and critics complain that it left out the whole 1953 US coup against Mosaddegh in Iran.

This correspondence shows that even in February of 1963, US officials were aware that they might be accused of fostering the coup, and wanted to take steps to avoid being seen as its instigator. But they also were obviously relieved that Qasim was gone, and were positively eager to work with the Baath. This optimism and eagerness seems counter-intuitive, unless they just preferred anyone at all to Qasim, but I personally think that it came of their conviction that the Baath would be anti-Communist in a way that Qasim never was.

The IPC, mentioned below, is the Iraqi Petroleum Company. A much later State Department memo explained, “IPC has six shareholders: British Petroleum (BP), Shell Petroleum, and Compagnie Francaise des Petroles (CFP), each with 23.75%; the two American oil companies, Mobil and Standard Oil (New Jersey), are equal partners in the Near East Development Corporation and jointly own another 23.75%; and the C.S. Gulbenkian Estate owns the remaining 5%.” From 1961, IPC was limited to the Kirkuk fields, since Qasim had essentially cut these investors out of the rich Rumaila oil fields down near Basra.


149. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Iraq/1/

Washington, February 5, 1963, 9:17 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1-3 IRAQ-US. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Killgore and Davies on February 1, cleared by McGhee, and approved by Strong. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Ankara, and Basra.

209. Baghdad’s 362./2/ Chargé, members Country Team and all participants highly commended on excellent and detailed estimate Iraqi situation at year’s end. We sympathize with staff’s desire break US public silence in face of attacks from Qasim and agree validity of number of points made in Embtel 362. We concur situation in Iraq disturbing but as yet by no means clear Iraq actually becoming Soviet base.

/2/Dated January 22. (Ibid. 787.00/1-2263)

Department considering carefully whether on balance US interests would be served this particular juncture by abandoning policy of avoiding public reaction to Qasim’s charges while objecting through normal diplomatic channels. Through our posture, US has sought maintenance American presence in Iraq, and, concomitantly, avoidance of open controversy with Qasim regime; readiness to respond to any Iraqi desire improve official relations; and continuance official and unofficial American contacts with view not only of influencing Iraqi attitudes but also of acquiring valuable intelligence. If we are at some point to undertake line of action Embassy proposes, a more specific objective would be required and there would have to be probability of success.

Qasim’s latest remarks perhaps deliberately designed provoke US reaction which could then be used as “proof” US hostility to Iraq and serve as basis for increased level of attacks which, having reacted once, we could not well ignore. US statements cannot be disseminated without distortion within Iraq, and shortwave broadcasts would not have impact on wide group. Qasim would have freedom within Iraq to twist US representations to provide basis for increasing tempo of anti-US campaign and intensifying harassment of Embassy and Consulate Basra. We cannot be sure Qasim might not proceed to length of expelling various officers of our missions, thus threatening reduce “presence” which constitutes important US asset [1 line of source text not declassified].

Qasim regime not highly regarded anywhere in Arab world. Our position and prestige in other Arab countries determined by factors other than our relations with Iraq or Iraqi propaganda. Department believes you should continue press for meeting with Prime Minister for presentation along lines Deptel 148, December 3./3/ Should harassment of mission operations accompany rise in Qasim’s critical propaganda, Department would wish consider counter moves./4/

/3/In telegram 148 to Baghdad, December 3, 1962, the Department of State provided guidance to Chargé Melbourne for a forthcoming conversation with Qasim. The Department indicated that it was mystified about Iraq’s receptivity toward false allegations of U.S. hostility toward Iraq and of U.S. support for the Kurds, and affirmed the U.S. desire to continue friendly relations with Iraq. (Ibid., 787.00/11-2762) For text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iraq. The Chargé was unable to obtain the proposed audience with Qasim.

/4/On February 7, the Department of State sent the White House the Embassy’s analysis of the situation in Iraq and its recommendation that the United States actively move to counter Qasim’s continuing public criticisms of the United States. The Department indicated its disagreement with the proposed course of action. (Memorandum from Brubeck to Bundy; Department of State, Central Files, POL 1-3 IRAQ-US; for text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iraq)


154. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, February 9, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 IRAQ. Confidential. Drafted by Killgore (NEA/NE) and cleared by Talbot, Knox (EUR/BNA) (in draft), and Bracken (NEA/GTI) (in substance). Attached to the source text is a “Proposed Statement on Recognition of New Iraqi Republic Regime,” drafted on February 9 by Davies (NEA/NE). Talbot forwarded this memorandum to Rusk on February 9 with a recommendation that he sign it. (Memorandum from Talbot to Rusk; ibid.)

Request for Contingency Authority to Recognize the New Iraqi Regime

A coup d’etat reportedly led by Colonel Abdul Karim Mustafa was mounted in Baghdad in the early morning of February 8, 1963. Former Prime Minister Qasim is reported dead. Affirmations of support for the new regime have come from military and civil leaders in all parts of Iraq. Barring the unforeseen, the new regime seems likely promptly to establish itself in full authority in the country.

The leaders of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command and the members of the Cabinet have a nationalist orientation with a strong Pan-Arab bent. They appear to be anti-Communist. We have neither evidence nor reason to believe that the United Arab Republic will wield any undue influence in Baghdad. In our opinion the new regime is likely to be an improvement over that of former Prime Minister Qasim, which had few friends either internally or externally.

Our Chargé d’Affaires at Baghdad is under instructions to convey informally to the leader or leaders of the Revolutionary Command friendly overtures from the United States Government after he has first satisfied himself the Command is in firm control of the country./2/ He will explain United States criteria for recognition of a new Government and will indicate that the United States would welcome public affirmation that the new Iraqi regime intends to carry out Iraq’s international obligations. He will also ask for assurance that the new regime will safeguard American citizens and interests in Iraq./3/

/2/Telegram 220 to Baghdad, February 9, conveyed criteria for recognition of the new regime. (Ibid.) The criteria are taken from a memorandum from Lawrence Hargrove (L/NEA) to Killgore, February 8. (Ibid., L/NEA Files: Lot 70 D 165, Iraq)

/3/Melbourne executed these instructions on February 10 during a conversation with Foreign Minister Talib Husain Al-Shabib, who assured Melbourne that U.S. citizens and interests would be protected and that Iraq would honor its international obligations and follow a nonaligned foreign policy. (Telegram 409 from Baghdad, February 10; ibid., Central Files, POL 16 IRAQ)

The desired public Iraqi affirmation may be forthcoming soon. It would appear to be in our interest to grant early recognition to the regime when the prerequisites to recognition have been met. For this reason we should like to have contingency authority to recognize. Six Arab countries, including Jordan and Kuwait, have recognized the new regime, and we are now undertaking close consultations with the British, Turkish, and Iranian Governments on the recognition question.

In requesting this authority I must state the possibility that Saudi Arabia may wish to defer recognition and may seek to persuade the United States to delay. Should our policy on recognition diverge from that of our Saudi friends, we may expect criticism from them beyond that already levied against us because of our policy on Yemen. On balance, the advantage lies in prompt recognition when circumstances otherwise warrant.

Finally, as you recall, our Ambassador to Iraq was withdrawn at Iraqi request in June 1962. Following our recognition of the new Iraqi regime, assignment of a new Ambassador will be required./4/

/4/The United States announced its recognition of the new Iraqi regime at noon in Washington on February 11. (Circular telegram 1398, February 10; ibid.) For text of the U.S. statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, p. 598.

Dean Rusk/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.

157. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, February 13, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL -3 IRAQ-US. Secret. Drafted by Strong and cleared by Talbot and McGhee.

United States Relations with Iraq

Within the framework of non-alignment, Iraq is likely to wish to conduct friendly relations with the United States. Our posture should be that of a friend whose presence is known and appreciated but is not overshadowing. Any indication of interference in Iraqi internal affairs must be avoided. We must also be careful to avoid creating the impression that we sired the regime or are now trying to father it. This philosophy will be worked into the telegram which will be sent in pursuit of (2) below.

Apart from the instructions already sent, we have the following in preparation:

(1) Arms policy toward Iraq (must be limited).

(2) Economic assistance policy.

(3) Instructions to the Embassy at Baghdad to discuss with the new authorities the dates problem.

(4) Telegram to London seeking UK views on IPC (Iraq Petroleum Company).

(5) Reminder to the Embassy quietly to encourage the new regime to release, or to handle expeditiously the case of, our Army Attache’s local employee.

Without seeking to smother Iraq with kindnesses or create misconception as to what we are willing and able to do, we have in mind looking into whether Iraq needs PL 480 because of drought, offering counter-insurgency and police training after the Kurdish problem is settled (as we think it will be), and if the new regime has immediate budgetary problems, we would support an Iraqi request to IPC for a loan. We shall of course encourage American businessmen to seek opportunities in Iraq and we shall as appropriate encourage the Iraqis to do business with them. We are keeping an eye on the Shatt al-Arab situation and shall speak to the Iraqis if need be.

In general, we shall wish to avoid advising Iraq on the conduct of its Arab policy (we should avoid any reference to the Fertile Crescent and should not push Iraq as an alternative to Nasser) but we shall encourage a constructive Iraqi role in the Yemen problem. We shall watch closely Iraqi policy toward Kuwait. With regard to Turkey and Iran, we shall try to foster good relations between them and Iraq.

In the world arena, we shall take pains to explain our views to the GOI and encourage as positive approach as possible on cold war issues. In the UN it would be appropriate to support selected Iraqi candidacies.


As yet there have been no clear indications of Iraqi policy in this field. The new Iraqi Government has a large number of issues to square away, but oil will no doubt be high on its priority list. While awaiting signs of Iraqi intentions we are seeking a UK assessment of the situation and an indication of its thinking for the future. Next week we plan to discuss with the American shareholders the question of what the IPC approach might best be, but there would appear to be merit in letting the Iraqi Government take the initiative. We think the company should proceed cautiously in formulating its proposals.

A fundamental underlying all the foregoing is that while the new regime appears to be a vast improvement over Qasim, we cannot consider that it will be pro-American or that it will be free from internal pressures of an extremist nature. It remains to be seen how cohesive it remains, and how responsibly it acts./2/

/2/On February 15, the Department of State sent the White House a paper entitled “Implications of the Second Iraqi Revolution.” (Memorandum from Brubeck to Bundy; ibid., POL 26 IRAQ; for text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iraq)

E.S. Little/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that indicates Little signed the original above Brubeck’s typed signature.

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