Arms for Iraq despite suspicion they might be used against civilians

A Saracen APC ( Peripitus -CC License – via Wikimedia ) – Hunter ( Tim Felce – CC License – via Wikimedia )

11 April 1963

On 11 April 1963, British Ministers approved a substantial batch of arms exports worth £6 million to Iraq, in the full knowledge that the equipment might be used in an  assault on Kurdish civilians.  It included Saracen armoured personnel carriers, artillery ammunition and 22 Hawker Hunter ground-attack aircraft.  This was done after a briefing which noted that the Saracens were ‘possibly for use if needed against the Kurds’ and the aircraft ‘again, possibly for use against the Kurds.’ Two months later, on 10 June, the Iraqis began their attack on Kurdish areas and British officials noted that ‘the (Iraqi) army are now apparently engaged in the clearing out and destruction of Kurdish villages in the Kirkuk neighbourhood.’ A Cabinet briefing from the Foreign Office noted belatedly that ‘news of the fighting may provoke public criticism of our decision to supply Iraq with arms.’1


  1. Foreign Office sources cited in Mark Curtis, Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses, Vintage, London, 2004, pp. 89-91.

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© 2019 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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