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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 02, 1958


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    A report based on military intelligence information and on Zhivkov's conversation with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
    "T. Zhivkov’s Report at the Bulgarian Plenary Session on the Middle East Crisis," October 02, 1958, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Fond 1, Record 5, File 353. Document obtained by Dr. Jordan Baev; translated and edited by Dr. Momchil Metodiev and Kalin Kanchev. Obtained by the Bulgarian Cold War Research Group.
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T. Zhivkov's report on the situation in the Middle East, October 2, 1958

Meeting Minutes


Presidium of the Plenum: Todor Zhivkov
[1], Dimitar Ganev [2], Georgi Tzankov, Anton Yugov [3], Encho Staykov [4], Ivan Mihajlov [5], Boris Taskov [6], Rayko Damyanov [7], Boian Bulgaranov [8].

Enough CC members are present at the Plenum. Only twelve CC members are absent, some of them are abroad, some are unavailable; also seven CC Candidate members are absent. I declare the session open.

The agenda is distributed to the comrades. The following items on the agenda are proposed:

1. Report on some issues of the international situation presented by comrade Todor Zhivkov.

2. Report on the political and organizational work in the Bulgarian Armed Forces presented by comrade Misho Mishev

3. Report of the regional Party committees in Sofia and Vratza
[10] on their initiatives to fight drought, measures for wintering cattle and steps for ensuring higher crops in 1959. Report is to be presented by comrades Ninko Stefanov and Ivan Raykov.

4. Report on improved initiatives among the Turkish population in the country, presented by comrade Pencho Kubadinski

Are there any other proposals for the agenda? No, there are not.

I would like to ask the comrades, who agree on the agenda, to raise their hand. Only CC members can vote. There is a majority. Anyone against? None. The agenda is unanimously approved.

Comrade Zhivkov has the floor to present his report.

During my vacation this year, I paid a weeklong visit to comrade Khrushchev
[12] in Crimea on his invitation.

That meeting was a good opportunity to exchange views on a number of different issues, or so to say, it was a good opportunity to touch base.

It should be noted of course that my meeting with Comrade Khrushchev took place more than a month ago and since then many new developments have been taking shape.

But what did the meeting show?

The meeting proved that the BCP CC's assessment of the British-American intervention in Lebanon and Jordan, as framed at our July 19th Plenum, has been correct.

Also correct was our assessment of the broader intentions and plans that the imperialists pursued through this action:
• To partially preserve the crumbling structure of colonialism in the Middle East and to perpetuate the status-quo in Lebanon and Jordan;
• To wage military interventions with the ultimate goal to crush down the Republic of Iraq;
• To eliminate the United Arab Republic and to stamp down the national liberation movement of the Algerian people.

We were also correct to conclude that the overwhelming opposition of the international community and the intensification of the resistance inside the Arab countries brought the plans of the American imperialists to a halt. Our determination to oppose the aggression even with military power – a possibility demonstrated through the joint military exercise of the Bulgarian and Soviet armed forces – also contributed to the change in the American strategy.

Our subsequent conclusion that the collapse of the American plans for the Middle East should be considered an important victory for the socialist camp also appears to be accurate.

After the failed attack at Suez against Egypt and after the collapse of the American plans to invade Syria, this is our third consecutive victory – one that has been accomplished without a single shot being fired from our side.

This victory will bring us closer to the collapse of the strategic, economic, political plans of the American and British imperialists in the region. It will speed up the failure of the Dulles
[13]-Eisenhower [14] doctrines and the collapse of the Baghdad Pact [15]. More importantly however, it will bolster the national liberation movements in the Arab world as well as among all colonized and dependent nations around the globe.

Comrade Khruschev also appears to share our main conviction – the American imperialists are not ready to go to war.

Our decision to build up our military, economic, and political preparedness in order to avoid being surprised by the course of events, was also correct. All measures that we have already taken have proven to be worthwhile.

What is the current situation in the Middle East and what are some of the possible future developments in the region?

First, with the collapse of the regional strategic, economic and political plans of the American imperialists, and with the victory of the Iraqi Revolution, the issue of unification of the Arab nations gained new momentum.

The Arab World of 80 million people has been intentionally divided into 18 countries – a strip stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf. The imperialists intend to keep the Arab countries weak in order to control them and to exploit their abundant natural resources.

The struggle for Arab unification is a progressive endeavor. Many social problems and issues of self-determination today are expressed through this struggle. It has distinctive anti-imperialist characteristics and clear progressive political, economic, and social content. It also fosters the collapse of the imperialist colonial system in that region. Therefore, the Arab unification is an issue of paramount importance and its significance should never be underestimated.

Second, there are two tendencies, two strategies in the struggle for Arab unification

What are these two strategies and what forces stand behind them?

A/ One of them is the strategy adopted by certain nationalist circles – mostly from the military. It is expressed through their efforts to achieve unification following the Egypt-Syria model. It involves the elimination of the liberties and freedoms of the Arab people.

With the end of the Iraqi revolution, the efforts of Nasser's secret services have been directed toward quick incorporation of Iraq into the United Arab Republic. They are also trying to present the Iraqi revolution as an achievement of Nasser and his agents.

In pursuit of this strategy, Nasser relies mainly on Gen. Arif, the first deputy of Kassem, and on the Ba'ath Party (the party of the social democrats in Iraq).

Last August Arif and the Ba'ath party organized a demonstration in Baghdad which attracted a crowd of around 30,000. The rally called for immediate unification of Iraq with the United Arab Republic. The demonstrators carried posters of Nasser and Arif.

The Politburo of the Communist Party then organized a counter-demonstration which drew more than 500,000 people. They called for the establishment of a federation between Iraq and UAR, and insisted on broadening Iraqi-Soviet relations. The participants carried only Kassem's posters which deeply impressed the Iraqi government. Kassem, who also attended the rally, gave three separate speeches.

After the demonstration, Kassem had a meeting with the members of the Communist party Politburo. At that meeting, he expressed his willingness to work with the Communist Party and the National Front. He also laid out his plans to reorganize his cabinet and to dismiss Arif and some of the other reactionary ministers.

After the Syrian Communist Party, the Iraqi Communist Party is the second largest in the region. Before the revolution it was the only independent political organization in Iraq. All other political parties that had been represented in the National Front under the old regime managed to organize independently only with the end of the revolution.

However, the lack of political experience of the Iraqi Communist Party became clear during the revolution. For example, it put forward the wrong message “The factories belong to the workers”. With the end of the revolution, it failed to put its organizational structure on legal terms and was late to establish its own newspaper.

Today the Iraqi Communist Party pursues the right policy. Clearly, it has received some assistance in this regard.

The second strongest political party in Iraq is the National Democratic Party, led by Kamal Chadirji [16]. Kamal Chadirdji cooperates with our party within the National Front.

According to the latest reports, General Kassem is usually trying to cooperate with our party and the National Democratic Party. Since most of the NDP members are recruited from the military, the party has a strong influence among the high-ranking army officers.

Kassem has already dismissed Gen. Arif from his post as a Deputy-Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi army. For his part, Gen. Arif is also changing his tactics. Lately he has been making harsh statements against the imperialists.

B/ The other strategy for achieving Arab unification is based on the creation of an Arab Federation or Confederation. This is the strategy that we and all the communist parties and democratic forces of the Arab World support. It is directed toward broadening the liberties and freedoms of the Arab people and involves support for their democratic political and economic organizations.

C/ In view of the aforementioned political developments, what could be the possible policy or line of action of the American imperialists in the Arab World?

Until recently the Americans opposed the Arab nationalism as well as the liberation and unification struggle of the Arab people. They even provided support for the corrupt ruling elites in some of the Arab countries.

Because these policies failed to produce any results, the Americans today are trying to adjust their strategy accordingly. Existing facts suggest that they are trying to support certain nationalist leaders, mainly from the military establishment, thus choosing the “lesser of two evils”. These leaders are also trusted to keep the communist parties and the democratic movements in the Arab World under tight control.

In accordance with these policy changes, in some of his recent public addresses, Eisenhower made favorable references to the Arab Nationalism.

The Americans will continue to rely on the royal and feudal-like structures in many Arab countries in order to distort the anti-imperialist character of the Arab unification movement. It is not coincidental that King Saud of Saudi Arabia sought a rapprochement with Nasser, sending his own brother Faisal to Cairo in August.

Trying to implement their policy however, the Americans are likely to face serious challenges.

The first challenge concerns the oil – an issue of utmost importance for the monopolists. Western Europe's oil comes almost entirely from this region. The Americans are already in control of more than 50% of the oil production in the Middle East. While their ultimate goal is to get their energy supply at a reduced rate, the Arab people would like to be able to use and trade their natural resources as they see fit.

Our policy, as well as Soviet's policy, has always been politically correct and high-principled. We support the national and social liberation of the Arab people, which will secure their independence, sovereignty and democratic development. We also would like to cultivate friendly relations with them and to broaden our cooperation. We are not snatching at their oil, cotton and other natural resources. It is against our nature to plunder their resources. In our socialist camp we have enough oil, cotton and other resources.

The second challenge that the new American policy will face is Nasser. Right now it is hard speculate whether Nasser will go along with the Americans, as this would most probably compromise him throughout the Arab World. So far he has not given indications of such policy changes. On the contrary, he leads a typical anti-imperialist policy.

What kind of person is Nasser?

Nasser is a nationalist, a military person, lacking political experience and with the ambitions of a dictator. He seems to believe that he can command and lead people the same way as in the military.

If Nasser had some basic political experience, he would have demonstrated some wisdom with regard to the formation of UAR. It is clear that in its economic, sociopolitical and cultural development, Syria has greatly surpassed Egypt. An enormous front was created against Nasser in Syria after its unification with Egypt. The Syrian bourgeoisie, the social democrats and the Communist Party are now standing in opposition. Momentum is building against the present form of unification and for uniting Syria and Egypt on the basis of federation.

Third, future developments in the Arab East will be influenced, on the one hand, by the struggle for self-determination and unification of the Arab peoples and, on the other hand, by the class struggle.

Despite some variations and competing trends within the Arab unification movement, one thing is certain: the situation in the Arab East will be influenced by the self-determination and class struggle, which is naturally directed against the imperialists and in favor of the socialist camp. The Arab movement will be also a movement for freedom and national independence, for regaining the control over the natural resources, unlawfully snatched by the foreign financial monopolies.

[Source: Archive of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Fond 1, Record 5, File 353. Document obtained by Dr. Jordan Baev; translated and edited by Dr. Momchil Metodiev and Kalin Kanchev]

[1]Zhivkov, Todor (1911 - 1998) First Secretary (1954 - 1981), Secretary General (1981 - 1989) of the CC BCP, Prime Minister (1962 - 1971), Chairman of the State Council of Bulgaria (1971 B 1989). Under home arrest (1990 - 1996).

[2]Ganev, Dimitar (1898-1975) - Chairman of the Presidium of the National Assembly (1958-1964) of the PR of Bulgaria.

[3]Yugov, Anton (1904-1991) B BCP functionary since the late 20s'; Politburo and CC BCP member (1937-1962); Minister of Interior (1944-1949); Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria (1956-1962). One of the main Zhivkov's rivals for the BCP leadership, he was forced to resign from all posts in 1962.

[4]Staykov, Encho - BCP functionary since 1930s and CC BCP Politburo member.

[5]Mihajlov, Gen. Ivan (1897 1982) Deputy Prime Minister (1950 1971), and Minister of Defense (1958 1962) of Bulgaria, member of CC BCP Politburo (1954 1981).

[6]Taskov, Boris- BCP functionary and Politburo member (until 1959)

[7]Damyanov, Rayko - BCP functionary since 1930s. Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly (1947-1949), CC BCP Politburo member

[8]Bulgaranov, Boian, Gen. Lieutenant (d. 1972) - BCP functionary since 1930s; CC BCP Politburo member.

[9]Mishev, Misho (1911 1984) - Minister of Labor and Social Care (1966 1974), Chairman of Bulgarian Trade unions (1974 1981), Member of the Secretariat (1974), and Secretary (1979) of the CC BCP .

[10]Vratza - Bulgarian city situated on the northern slope of Stara Planina.

[11]Kubadinski, Pencho (1918 -1995) Member of CC BCP Politburo (1966-1989), Deputy Prime Minister (1962-1974), President of the Fatherland Front organization (1974-1989).

[12]Khrushchev, Nikita (1894 1971) - First Secretary of the CC CPSU (1953-1964), and Prime Minister of the USSR (1958 1964).

[13]Dulles, John Foster (1888 B 1959) - U.S. Secretary of State (1953 1959).

[14]Eisenhower, Dwight (1890-1969) - The 34th President of the US (1953-1961)

[15]The Baghdad Pact - adopted in 1955 by Great Britain, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan aiming at strengthening regional defense and preventing the infiltration of the Soviet Union into the Middle East.

[16]Chadirji, Kamil - Founder and Leader of National Democratic Party of Iraq. The NDP was abolished after the coup in 1963.


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