Commentary Magazine


Nasser and the Iraqi Communists:
Arab Nationalism Meets the Soviet Advance

A year ago, Iraq seemed a pillar of the U.S.-sponsored Baghdad Pact; six months ago, it seemed an attractive rival to Nasser’s Egypt. Since then, this perspective has become confused or worse. Walter Z. Laqueur discusses recent developments and the outlook for the future. 

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A British Middle Eastern expert named Tom Little, in a book written several months ago which has just been published, declared: “The chasm between Cairo and Baghdad has been bridged by the Iraqi revolution, and the philosophy of President Nasser has bloomed on the banks of the Tigris.”

It is no longer so clear that the chasm has been bridged. The tenor of recent exchanges between the two capitals has been hostile. Fairly typical is a Cairo Radio attack on Fadhil al Madawi, the pro-Communist cousin of Iraq’s President Kassem and presiding judge of the People’s Court in Baghdad: “You may rave, al Madawi, but the man whose place should be in dock has no right to sit in the judge’s chair. The man who remained hiding in his house until 4 P.M. on July 14 [the day of the Baghdad revolution] has no right to try the heroes of July 14. . . . The man who was to be tried by a military tribunal on July 17 for stealing 500 coalbags from army stores has no right to place himself above army officers whose clean hands held guns to purge the country of corruption and graft. . . .”

This is the kind of language Cairo radio uses when it deals with “Zionism” and “Western imperialism.” Evidently the philosophy of President Nasser is no longer blooming on the banks of the Tigris.

“The conflict between Communism and Arab nationalism,” wrote the Egyptian weekly Rose el Yussef as 1958 ended, “was inevitable; the Communists felt that they were slipping and therefore opposed unity under Nasser.” Earlier, Colonel Nasser himself had voiced alarm over Communist activities in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. And in the first week of 1959, Rose el Yussef’s editor again echoed Nasser in the hope that the Soviet Union “would not, for the sake of the Arab Communists, sacrifice the trust and respect it had won from the Arabs as a whole. The road to Moscow does not lead through the Syrian and Iraqi Communist parties.”

Sharp competition between Nasser’s followers and the Communists for Moscow’s support characterizes the latest phase of the continuing Middle East crisis. Baghdad is the main trouble center, and for once the Western powers are not directly involved on either side. The regard in which Arab Communists hold the West can readily be imagined, and Nasser told the editor of the London Spectator on January 9: “If I were to give up our neutralism, I should wake up in the morning as a general without an army.” This is an understatement. In fact, Nasser might never wake up if he halted his attacks on “Western imperialism.”

The new phase of Middle Eastern conflict began in the early morning hours of July 14, 1958, when a military junta overthrew the Iraqi monarchy and the “pro-Western” government of Nuri es-Said. What started as a routine military coup, Latin American style, soon became something much bigger. For all the ingredients of a revolutionary situation were present in Baghdad. The Hashemite monarchy and the Nuri government were extremely unpopular, and the whole political and social structure of Iraq was—to put it mildly—antiquated. Power resided in the hands of a small group of professionals and several hundred semi-feudal sheikhs. Most of the middle class, let alone the rest of the population, had no stake in Iraqi political life and had been antagonized in some degree by the authoritarian regime. Nuri’s government was perhaps less oppressive than other Arab dictatorships—it was certainly less efficient—but it had no mass support either. An old-fashioned regime, it could not compete with the streamlined plebiscitarian dictatorships that had emerged in Cairo and Damascus. Major economic development projects were under way, but economic progress, however beneficial, could not alone stem the tide of revolution. What Iraq had desperately needed for years was not so much economic development as sweeping political and social reforms, reforms tantamount to a bourgeois revolution. The events in Iraq since the July coup are a direct consequence of the years of procrastination.

Foreign policy, as well as domestic rot, was involved. The Baghdad Pact with the West was universally detested, and a radical Arab nationalism acted as a common denominator uniting the opposition groups. Although these interpreted Arab nationalism differently, it did not matter too much while they were in opposition. The deep popular resentment that was felt toward Nuri’s foreign policy, coupled with the explosive social situation, was more than enough to trigger a revolution.

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Nobody outside Iraqi army headquarters had ever heard of Abdul Karim Kassem, Abdul Selim Arif, and the other colonels who came to power on July 14, and much speculation ensued abroad as to their political orientation. It was generally agreed that most of Iraq’s new masters had belonged to the Istiqlal, a right-wing and originally pro-fascist group that had turned neutralist after World War II and collaborated with the leftist opposition groups. Rashid Ali, the hero of an abortive pro-Axis coup in 1941, Mohammed Mahdi Kubba, Faiq Samarai, and Sadiq Shinshal were believed to be the Istiqlal’s leaders. Two left-wing opposition groups—Kamel Chaderchi’s National Democrats and the Ba’ath—were believed to hold the allegiance of other officers. The National Democrats had, during the 1930′s, influenced the Iraqi government in a populist, moderate socialist direction, but after the war the party had been seriously infiltrated by the Communists (whose own organizations had been outlawed). The Ba’ath, a vaguely socialistic movement founded in Syria, appeared relatively late on the Iraqi scene; it had never collaborated with the Communists.

The Western reception of the new Iraqi regime tended to be sympathetic once the initial shock of the coup passed. Official and unofficial observers reported to Washington and London that the colonels wished to restore order as soon as possible. Government spokesmen in Baghdad declared that they would seek friendly relations with both East and West, that they had no intention of nationalizing the foreign oil companies, and even that the Baghdad pact would not be abrogated. To be sure, there had been lynchings and ugly scenes in Baghdad, but the bloodshed and devastation were explained as unavoidable side-effects of a revolution. As one British eyewitness put it: “These riots appear to have no significance for the future; they were in no way expressions of official policy, and for the damage done to British property, the Republican government has promised compensation.”

When it appeared that the new rulers were in no great hurry to join Nasser’s United Arab Republic, sympathy toward the new regime became even more pronounced in some Western quarters. “Caractacus”1 pointed out that Iraqis were very much like the British or Americans:

Town life is much the same all over the world. In the rush hours there are traffic jams and people wait in crowds at the bus stops. In Baghdad it is on Friday, not Saturday afternoon and Sunday, that there are most loafers in the streets, that the biggest crowds come out of the cinemas. In the evenings, people sit about on what grass there is, walk up and down the streets. In summer the boys, and the men too, bathe in the river and play about; everyone drinks Coca-Cola; in winter there are the cooked-food stalls in the streets. Children coming out of school make the same noises everywhere. Iraqis do not play cricket, but they play football. People sit in tea shops; radios echo across the streets from open windows and cafés, with music, with the news. Iraqis worry about the same things we do, about jobs, taxes, holidays, hire-purchase instalments. The young men study to better themselves, students argue about politics, philosophy, art. The chief difference is that they have more faith in political action than we have, and they may be more hopeful that they can improve their future. There is more scope for technical advance ahead of them. But they are not really unlike us. The differences are striking at first sight, but superficial; the radio plays a different kind of music, the alphabet is different, the food is different, but music, words, food, all mean to them what they mean to us. . . .

An affecting picture, and utterly irrelevant. Surely residents of London and New York have even more in common with the people of Moscow and Leningrad, and that has not prevented the cold war. In any case, feelings of international solidarity seem insufficiently developed among Iraqi Coca-Cola drinkers. As the weeks passed, the Communist party emerged—through its main front, the Popular Resistance Movement—as Iraq’s leading, biggest, and best-organized political force.

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The reasons were obvious. The other political groups were not real parties, but small debating or dining societies of lawyers or college teachers. The political know-how of the army leaders was quite limited; they were unable to stage a mass demonstration, let alone organize a political movement with clear slogans and some sort of ideology. Quite naturally, they sought advisers and assistants. Within a short time, Communists were placed in many leading positions in the police, the economic ministries, and, above all, the organs which control the Iraqi press and radio.

The Ba’ath was the only serious competitor, and the Communists reduced it to impotence within three months. The Ba’ath urged fusion with the UAR, which the Communists opposed because it would mean the dissolution of all political parties, including their own. By November 1958, Colonel Arif and Rashid Ali (who had just returned from exile in Cairo) were in jail awaiting trial. All the other politicians regarded as potential rivals by the Communists—including such Cabinet ministers as Fuad Riqabi and Sadiq Shinshal—had been deposed or rendered harmless.

These measures all took place under the nominal leadership of General Kassem. Doubtless he and his fellow officers hoped thus to consolidate their own position, and expected to get rid of the Communists one day in the same way that they had discarded their erstwhile Ba’athist allies. In fact, however, their political inexperience and plain stupidity made them so dependent on Communist support as to alarm even those observers who had long denied the very existence of a Communist movement in the Arab world.

Whatever their other differences, Colonel Nasser, the Ba’ath, and most of the old-fashioned and new-fashioned Middle Eastern experts of the West had all agreed that Communism had no future in the Arab domains. Glubb Pasha and other old-timers had considered Islam an unassailable bulwark. The younger experts, accepting one of Nasser’s basic tenets, cited Arab nationalism as a more formidable political movement with a real emotional hold on both elites and masses. Now, after a decade of deprecating Communist influence in the Middle East, a decade of describing Communism and Arab nationalism as mutually exclusive, Western newspapers were suddenly flooded with dispatches from Baghdad and other Arab capitals that all began and ended with Khrushchev-ante-portas.

The tocsin was sounded even in Cairo. Late in December, Nasser for the first time attacked the Syrian Communists; he said they were separatists who wanted the “Northern Province” to secede from the UAR. Al Nur, the Communist daily, was closed, and Khaled Bakdash, the Syrian Communist leader who had returned from Eastern Europe only a few weeks before, was again compelled to disappear.

In Cairo, meanwhile, the newspaper Akhbar al Yom (January 3) criticized the Iraqi Communists who “did not know anything about the [Baghdad] coup d’état until after the revolution, and who now brazenly demand to inherit it and who try to destroy all anti-Communist elements: the Arab nationalists should be crushed so that 2,000 Iraqi Communists shall have the chance to rule Iraq.”

Hassanein Heykal, Nasser’s closest confidant among Cairo editors, put it in a somewhat more conciliatory fashion (Al Ahram, January 4): “Communist activity in the Arab world has increased a little of late. In the past, Communist organizations have stood by the nationalist forces in the bitter struggle against imperialism, pacts, imperialist collaborators, and feudalism. The struggle has ended or is about to end. What will be the attitude of the Communists in the future? Will they be deflected from the clear nationalist line in order to raise red flags in the Middle East? Or will they keep their mouths shut?” According to Heykal, Moscow regarded these Communist activities with disfavor; had not Khrushchev himself told Nasser that Soviet sympathy with Arab nationalism was unshakable?

The indications were that the Egyptian rulers had at last realized that Communism had become a formidable danger to their own rule—in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. But the question remains: how can they combat Communism without losing Soviet support? For its part Moscow faces a similar dilemma: how to avoid disavowing Communist activities in the Arab world, how to work for Nasser’s overthrow in three or five years without antagonizing him now. It is a difficult political problem which deserves attention, for much the same dilemma faces the Soviet leaders in their contacts with nationalists throughout Asia and Africa.

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In the last years of Stalin’s rule, Moscow was quite hostile to the so-called “national bourgeoisie,” the leaders of the national movements of the East. A gradual change began in 1953, culminating in 1955 in the “Spirit of Bandung,” the Khrushchev-Bulganin trip to India, and the Soviet rapprochement with the Arabs. The Soviets were now willing on the whole to cooperate closely with the “awakening East” regardless of the class character of the leaders of the Eastern movements. For the “national bourgeoisie” and its representatives (Nehru, Sukarno, Nasser)—so the ideological argument ran—still fulfilled a progressive function, in contrast to the Western bourgeoisie, which was beyond redemption.

This political approach has been pursued actively for four years now and has reaped an abundant harvest: Soviet economic, political, and cultural ties with non-committed nations have been strengthened; Soviet and Communist prestige have increased greatly; important political support has been given by Asian countries to various initiatives of Soviet foreign policy. Yet, from the very beginning it was obvious to Moscow that a policy of befriending non-Communist movements in the East had distinct limitations. It could help to neutralize such nations as India, Indonesia, and Egypt; but it could not swing these countries into the Soviet bloc.

It would be premature to say that all the possibilities of the Bandung spirit and the various Afro-Asian solidarity committees have been exhausted, but there are many indications that the Soviet advance in the East has slowed down. From Laos to Ghana, Asian and African statesmen have recently begun to attack the Communists and to take administrative measures against them. Nehru was attacked (albeit in a polite way by Soviet standards) in a long article in the new Cominform monthly, and Nasser turned against the Arab Communists. As Hassanein Heykal naively put it: “The Communists did good service in the struggle against imperialism, but now the struggle is over, and they should shut up.”

Nobody in Moscow had ever assumed that a Communist India or Indonesia or Egypt ever would be built under the leadership of the “national bourgeoisie.” Even in the heyday of Soviet-Arab friendship, an authoritative Soviet spokesman, Konstantin Ivanov, wrote (Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn, No. 3, 1958) that “as Marxists we do not want to make a fetish of Arab unity, and do not want to close our eyes to the fact that it may be exploited temporarily to impede the progressive development of the Arab peoples” (i.e., their development toward Communism). In contrast to many Asian politicians, the Soviet leaders never assumed that the alliance with Asian and African nationalism would last forever; on the day that the local Communists became strong enough to take over from the nationalists, they would reach the parting of the ways. This conclusion (reached by Ivanov) represents the ideal theoretical solution from the Communist point of view.

In practice, the nationalist-Communist alliance tended to fall apart earlier. Asian and African nationalist leaders may not be very experienced, but they have a sound sense of political self-preservation; sooner or later, they perceive the growth of a menace to their own rule.

In this context, Iraq is an exception. For the Soviets it represents a lucky combination of an explosive social situation, a strong Communist party which (unlike its rivals) emerged intact from underground, and extraordinary incompetence on the part of the ruling military junta. Even so, a Communist victory in Iraq would be a mixed blessing from the Soviet standpoint, for it would almost automatically provoke an anti-Communist reaction elsewhere in the Arab world. In effect, it would make Communist progress more difficult.

We may assume, therefore, that the Iraqi comrades will be advised to take a back seat, to wield effective power behind the scenes rather than ostentatiously demonstrate their strength. There is precedent for this tactic. In Bulgaria, the Communists shared power for several years after 1944 with the Zveno, a group of officers who were permitted to stay in the limelight and maintain the fiction of a national front. From Moscow’s standpoint, this prescription is indicated in Iraq as well. Nevertheless, one may doubt that it would work for any appreciable length of time. For the Communists in an underdeveloped country are the most dynamic party; either they make constant progress, or they lose followers. Their leaders can perhaps be restrained, but discipline is not the chief characteristic of the rank and file, which for the most part joined the party only recently.

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Relations with Egypt also pose problems for Moscow. To break with Nasser now would be inopportune: though the Communist movement in Syria is of considerable importance, the party has little influence as yet in Cairo—which matters much more. The Soviet leaders may be able to maintain friendly, even cordial relations with Nasser, who needs them as much as they need him. For one thing, the UAR’s economic dependence on Communist-bloc trade and grants is unlikely to diminish in the near future. More important, Nasser simply cannot switch to a pro-Western orientation overnight after having made his career on an anti-Western platform.2

Thus, Nasser and his colleagues will continue to act as if Communism and the Soviet Union had nothing to do with each other, and Moscow will—up to a point—behave as if that assumption were correct. (Nasser remains useful to the Russians so long as he does not arrive at a complete rapprochement with the West.) However, events in the Middle East have a momentum of their own. The emergence of an openly Communist regime in Iraq, and the spread of Communism elsewhere, would certainly weaken Nasser’s position and affect his relations with the USSR. What he would do then is anybody’s guess. He might ask Washington to intervene in a last-minute attempt to save his position, as Camille Chamoun did in Lebanon last summer. But he might try to outmaneuver his Communist rivals by moving even closer to the Soviet Union.

We must remember that the differences between Communists and nationalists in the East, and particularly in the Arab world, are much less clear-cut in real life than in textbooks. Asian Communists are not real Marxists by Western standards; their basic tenet is anti-imperialism, a theory (or emotion) that is by no means a Communist preserve. On the other hand, Nasser and many other leaders of the Arab national movement do not really qualify, by either background or outlook, as “representatives of the national bourgeoisie.” Improbable as it may appear, it is not impossible that some of the petty-bourgeois nationalists will decide to join the Soviet camp if they realize the tide is running against them, or if they think it would serve their own interest or that of their people. Such an outcome would largely depend on the Communists themselves—on how painless the transition could be made.

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A survey of Western reactions to all this should best begin with West Germany and Italy. In these two countries, business circles, political journalists, and some diplomats have been talking for several years about their special mission in the Arab world. Some of the less discreet writers even mentioned the prestige formerly enjoyed by the Axis powers among the Arabs. Colonel Nasser has had an excellent press in both Germany and Italy, and the new Iraqi government was warmly welcomed. Such Middle East experts of the Nazi era as Giselher Wirsing declared that Washington had been stupid to cold-shoulder Nasser, the West’s great hope in the Middle East.

Now, there is much less optimism in West Germany and Italy. The businessmen were first to feel the pinch. Instead of increasing their trade and strengthening their positions in Iraq, the West Germans and Italians were among the first to be squeezed out. And Colonel Nasser informed the West Germans that the Russians would have a monopoly as far as the first stage of the Aswan Dam was concerned: German economic assistance was not desired.

In other European countries, the appraisal of the Middle Eastern situation was somewhat more realistic, largely thanks to the flow of full and reliable information in the press. (If an international Pulitzer Prize for political reporting from the Middle East were being awarded, such Swiss experts as Dr. Hans Tuetsch and Arnold Hoettinger, as well as the contributors to Le Monde in Paris, would be worthy recipients.)

In Britain there is a curious split. Public opinion is on the whole anti-Nasser, but many Middle Eastern experts, especially those of the younger generation, advocate a pro-Nasser policy. Of course, the older hands, the Glubbs, Kirkbrides, and Longriggs, still think in terms of Britain’s imperial mission, detest the parvenu Nasser and his mendacious propaganda, and cannot forgive the new rulers in Baghdad for having committed high treason and regicide. But the younger generation of commentators (in the Manchester Guardian, the New Statesman, the Spectator, etc.) seems convinced that an accommodation with Nasser is both possible and desirable. They believe with “Caractacus” that “we must deal with the Arabs truthfully, honestly, and sincerely, as we have never done before.” Such praiseworthy sentiment is linked with the assumption that the establishment of Israel was a fatal mistake that will end in mass slaughter, and with the belief that those Arab rulers who do not see eye to eye with Nasser (such as Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba) should be discouraged in their opposition. In the writings of these younger commentators, correct, albeit belated, insights appear side by side with a “tough realism” that on closer inspection is often revealed as mere opportunism or lack of principle.

The Arab world that Glubb, Kirkbride, and Longrigg knew has passed on, but these old Arab hands did know, at any rate, all that was to be known about Egypt and Jordan in the 1920′s. The same does not apply to many correspondents and editors who now interpret the Middle East for influential sections of the British public. (Recent comment, for instance, would lead one to believe that the New Statesman had expected the fall of Nuri es-Said; this is by no means correct.3) Their lack of comprehension of the Middle East may be rooted in what Leon Trotsky used to call the curious inability of the Anglo-Saxon political genius to understand the momentum of revolutionary situations. In any case, there is a surprising blindness with regard to the limitations of Colonel Nasser’s type of Arab nationalism—particularly in the domestic field—and a consistent tendency to underrate the attraction of Communism for the Arab elites.

Such views have had a certain effect on British public opinion, especially on the left, but it is doubtful that the Foreign Office has been greatly affected. Efforts have been made to normalize relations with Colonel Nasser, and some progress has been made (particularly in the economic field). But it is realized that there are narrow limits to any such realignment, and that there cannot be a reorientation until Colonel Nasser displays some willingness to coexist peacefully with the West.

American policy-makers may have slightly more room to maneuver, but Assistant Secretary of State William M. Rountree learned to his own cost in Baghdad recently that the Communists already rule the streets, and that an agreement with General Kassem’s government would be of limited value. The school of thought in the U.S. Foreign Service that favors closer relations with Nasser would probably be more numerous had Nasser not systematically and needlessly humiliated U.S. diplomats in the United Arab Republic. Other American officials have their doubts about Nasser: they would be willing enough to put up with “positive neutralism,” but they also remember that it was Nasser who invited the Russians into the Middle East, and they are not certain how much his own regime has already been infiltrated by Communists.

In any case, Washington’s freedom of action is limited. Even if the “support Nasser” thesis is accepted, open American help for Nasser in his drive against the local Communists, or in his ambitions for Arab unity under UAR leadership, would be self-defeating; it would be a source of embarrassment to Nasser and play into the hands of the Communists. In the circumstances, American approaches to Nasser must be restricted to the economic and cultural fields, aiming at the normalization of relations until Nasser and the political climate in the UAR are ready for political negotiations and possible agreements.

Israel’s thoughts on the current events are unlikely to influence the situation in Baghdad or Cairo, but are nevertheless of some interest. Israelis argue that the degree of Communist domination in Baghdad has been exaggerated; that this is a trick by Nasser’s supporters in the West aimed at changing the attitudes of Washington and London toward the UAR; and that, in any case, Nasser is the least likely candidate to combat Soviet influence in the Middle East.

The Israeli reaction is psychologically intelligible: Iraq is relatively far away, and Israeli political and military leaders are supremely concerned about Nasser’s tanks, MIGs, and submarines massed on their borders. Nevertheless, Jerusalem’s appraisal is incorrect. The news of gradual Communist domination in Baghdad appeared to be a “Red mirage” because it came so suddenly, but Nasser’s propagandists did not invent it. Furthermore, Egypt is not the supreme danger. Nasser’s policy of needling Israel, of sporadic attacks against border settlements, is extremely annoying, and there is always an outside chance that he will feel compelled to show that he can do more than his Baghdad rivals for the recovery of Arab Palestine. But this seems unlikely at present. In the long run, the emergence of a Communist regime in Iraq and the direct extension of Soviet power to other Arab countries would pose much more formidable problems for Israel than Colonel Nasser.

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Only some of the major elements in the present struggle for domination in the Arab world have been listed in this survey.4

It is an internal struggle among the Arabs, and loose talk (“it-depends-mainly-on-us,” etc.) should be discouraged. The fate of the Arab world, for the first time in centuries, now depends almost exclusively on the Arab leaders themselves. Whether this will remain so for many years is admittedly uncertain.

Already, political power in Iraq has partly passed into Communist hands, though they appear under the cover of a “national union” front and continue to reject the “Communist label” as a baseless calumny spread by imperialist hirelings. The development in Iraq is not irreversible. The Communists may make mistakes—overplay their hand or quarrel with their allies too soon. General Kas-sem may realize that the forces he helped to unleash are bound to submerge him. He may try to turn against the Communists or, if the situation is desperate, he may even choose to apply to Colonel Nasser for admission to the UAR (as the Syrian leaders did a year ago when they faced insurmountable domestic difficulties).

All this still seems possible, but it is far more likely that the Communists will consolidate their hold over Iraq and extend it to other Arab countries. They may suffer temporary setbacks, but much evidence indicates that they will make further progress, and not only in Iraq. They may choose a discreet and gradual approach, but these tactical considerations do not touch the core of the matter. Should there be a peaceful competition between Nasser’s Egypt and a Communist-dominated Iraq, all the odds would favor the latter. Not only do the Communists have the economic know-how the Cairo regime so sadly lacks, but Iraq is a rich country while Egypt is desperately poor and faces almost insoluble economic and social problems.

Those who invoke the spirit of “Arab nationalism” (which, they think, will prevail in the end) fail to realize that it is largely irrelevant to the issues at stake now. The Communists, too, are Arab nationalists. They, too, want Arab unity—but not under Nasser. In a struggle with the Communists, extreme nationalist slogans will help Nasser no more than they did Nuri es-Said. The Communists know that game, too; ever since Hitler, they have not allowed themselves to be outdone in nationalist demagoguery.

A Communist victory in Iraq would be a blow to the West and its repercussions would adversely affect the international balance of power. Whether it would also be a disaster for the Iraqis is less certain. The Communists may conceivably succeed in solving some of the economic and social problems other Arab governments failed to tackle. There would be much oppression, but there always has been; many Iraqis, at any rate, are willing to give the Communists a chance.

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Footnotes

1 Revolution in Iraq, by “Caractacus,” Gollancz, London, 1959. Caractacus—see the Annals of Tacitus—was the wise counselor of impetuous Queen Boadicea against the Romans. This book, the first thus far on the Iraqi revolution, is a strange mixture of acute observation, common sense, special pleading, and an almost incredible political naivety.

2 There is simply no analogy here to the position of Tito in 1948. Tito and his comrades were fighting for political and physical survival; an approach to the West was the only way out for them. Nasser, on the other hand, is still being wooed by the Soviet Union; his attacks on domestic Communists did not cause the Russians to stop their aid for the high dam at Aswan.

3 Reviewing a book by this writer in the New Statesman in July 1956, R. H. S. Crossman, the Labor M.P., quoted with disapproval what appeared to him an unduly pessimistic assessment of the Iraqi situation: “Of all the Arab countries Iraq arouses the strongest feeling of pessimism. The parallel with Czarist Russia is uncomfortably obvious. At the time of writing Communism in Iraq continued to be ‘under control’—but it will not remain so for many years, perhaps not for many months.” On which Mr. Crossman commented: “Such cocksure predictions are unconvincing. . . . I should have more confidence in Mr. Laqueur's judgment if he had been able to visit Iraq recently and paint the other side of the picture.”

4 No mention has been made, for instance, of the Kurdish problem, another potential source of conflict. A London Communist publishing house has just seen fit to publish a book (Kurdistan, Divided Nation of the Middle East, by S. S. Gavan) in which the old idea of an independent Kurdish state is again propagated. Relations between Kurdis and Iraqis (and even between Kurdi and Iraqi Communists) are so complicated as to defy description here.

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