Into this picture has now come the drastic new factor of Soviet
penetration into the Near East and North Africa. Libya recently
announced that it had agreed to exchange diplomatic missions with the
USSR.4On September 25. Libya, as an Arab State and neighbor to
Egypt, is obviously susceptible to the influence of Egypt and appears to
be under strong temptation to adopt Egyptian tactics in the conflict
between East and West, not for any love for the Soviets but as a device
to get what it wants in the way of arms and other assistance.
The Libyan Prime Minister has told the British Ambassador (realizing the
Ambassador in turn would inform us) that Egypt has offered to supply
Libya with its requirements for arms from the
Despite the elements of bargaining that crop up here, I feel we should
move swiftly to accommodate the Libyan arms request in order to
forestall the spread of Soviet influence to Libya through the supply of
arms. Such a development would involve obvious dangers to our presently
safe and unhindered use of military bases there.
Our political position in Libya is basically a favorable one and I feel
there is still a good chance of persuading Libya that it has more to
lose than to gain in responding to Soviet advances. However, I think the
balance might slip rapidly against us if we are unable to counter the
prospect of Soviet arms with an attractive proposal of our own. Libya,
for reasons of prestige and security, is like other Arab states in its
determination to get arms without much regard to the source.
In view of the inroads the Soviets have made into Egypt through their
arms play and other offers of assistance, I think it is particularly
important to separate Libya from other Arab states which might be
tempted to follow the Egyptian example. It is likewise important to
place a barrier across the Soviet path into North Africa, for I am sure
that any Soviet designs on Libya will be made with an eye to the larger
game in French North Africa.
5Telegram 154 from
Tripoli, October 7, reported Bin
Halim’s approach of that date to Ambassador Graham.
Tappin believed that
Bin Halim was still
hoping for arms from the United States. (Department of State,
Central Files, 774.56/10–755) The Czech-Egyptian arms deal was made
public September 27.
6Tappin summarized his October
25 discussion with Bin Halim
in telegram 178, October 27. Bin
Halim claimed to have been rebuffed by the British
and although he and the King preferred Western arms he was under
pressure to accept or justify his rejection of the Egyptian offer.
Tappin’s feeling was that
“for lack of a nail a shoe was lost, et cetera.” (Ibid., 773.56/10–2755)
7The Department of Defense
agreed to the first recommendation and Tappin was instructed to join with Graham in
informing the Libyans of this on November 15. (Telegram 168 to
Tripoli, November 14; ibid., 773.5–MSP/11–1455) As a consequence of the
offer, the Egyptian offer was refused.
8Not printed. The Department of
Defense responded on December 20 in a letter from E. Perkins
McGuire, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) for Mutual Defense Assistance
Programs. He noted that any expenditure was impossible unless Libya
signed a bilateral agreement as required by Section 142 of the
Mutual Security Act of 1955 or the President specified such aid
under the provisions of Section 401. He urged the Department of
State to employ the second technique so that the $560,000 required
in fiscal year 1956 could be made available. (Ibid., 773.5–MSP/12–2055)
9Printed from a copy that bears this