Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)5

We have been revolving the Arabian problem. The salient facts seem to be: [Page 598]

There is now a pro-German government in Iraq which has control of the army.6
There is a Nationalist Government in Syria which probably will not do very much to resist German infiltration.
The position of Ibn Saud7 is still in doubt.
Palestine is garrisoned by British troops.

The heart of the anti-British, anti-American propaganda and the consideration which prevents Arabs either here or in Arabia from backing the Allies is their fear of increased political dominion by the Zionist groups.

The British cannot detach a force sufficient to take care of all these situations. They need that force for defense of Egypt on the west, for the Balkan campaign and for the defense of Singapore. The Persian Gulf–Tigris and Euphrates line of communication into Turkey is thus pretty well cut, unless there is some major reversal of Arab sentiment.

It seems to me that we can only attack this by an attempt to resolve the Zionist controversy, and when that is done, to put ourselves into a position to make certain effective promises to the Arabian groups. We can easily get our case stated in Arabia, partly through our missions and still more through interested Arabian groups here once we have something definite to say.

The head of the Zionist movement, Dr. Weizmann, is in the United States now. He ought to be able to see the main desideratum, namely, that if the Mediterranean is closed, the extermination of the Zionists in Palestine is only a question of time. If he does see this, it might be possible to get him to take a more reasonable attitude than has been taken heretofore, namely, that the British ought to put enough force into Arabia to guarantee the Zionist political dominion.

It seems to me that it would be pertinent, in any event, to have Dr. Weizmann in and put the situation up to him. I propose exploring this further with the Near Eastern Division and establishing at least tentative contact with Weizmann with a view to possibly taking the matter up with him should it seem possible that we can do anything.

  1. Addressed to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) and Under Secretary of State Welles.
  2. See pp. 486 ff.
  3. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, King of Saudi Arabia.