740.0011 European War 1939/22731
The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt
My Dear Mr. President: I refer to your telegram of January 7, 1942 and my letter of January 17, 1942 regarding a suggestion made by the American Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at Tangier to the effect that an approach be made to the High Commissioner for Spanish Morocco, General Luis Orgaz, looking toward the continued neutrality of Spanish Morocco and Tangier. As you will recall, the Chargé d’Affaires indicated that General Orgaz might agree to oppose Axis use of Spanish Morocco provided the United States should be willing to guarantee him material support.
In accordance with your request, the Department of State, in consultation with the War Department, undertook to explore the possibilities of this suggestion. An officer of the Department made a special trip by air to Bermuda in January to discuss the matter orally with the newly-appointed Naval Attaché at Tangier, then en route to his post. Subsequent developments, notably the checking of the British offensive in Libya, made it appear that the moment had not yet arrived for a direct political approach to General Orgaz, but it was felt that a foundation for future action might be laid through an economic agreement which would assist the High Commissioner in meeting the urgent supply problems of the Spanish Zone of Morocco. General Orgaz had indicated on several occasions that he would welcome such assistance, and it was believed desirable to strengthen his position in order to facilitate any later independent action which he might be disposed to take. (I believe you were informed, in a general way, of this development.)
Accordingly, the Department authorized the Chargé d’Affaires at Tangier to ascertain the attitude General Orgaz would take if this Government should propose an agreement along the lines of the economic understanding in effect for French North Africa. The Chargé d’Affaires was instructed to suggest that Spanish Morocco would be permitted to purchase in the United States, for export on Spanish vessels, various foodstuffs and other non-military articles, under guarantee that none of these commodities would be re-exported from Morocco. In return, the United States would expect facilities in obtaining various products of Spanish Morocco. It would be understood, of [Page 470] course, that the execution of any such arrangement would depend upon the continued neutrality of the area.
General Orgaz appeared to welcome this tentative approach, which he discussed personally with the Spanish Government in Madrid. On April 30, 194240 he informed our Chargé d’Affaires at Tangier that he was able in principle to accept our suggestions as a basis for negotiation.
In the light of this reply, the Department, together with the Board of Economic Warfare, has been considering certain specific proposals which might be made to the High Commissioner and which may be summarized as follows:
- The United States would permit the purchase and export of a list of essential, non-military commodities in quantities not exceeding the normal import requirements of Spanish Morocco and under guarantee that re-export of these or similar commodities from Spanish Morocco would be prohibited.
- The Spanish Moroccan authorities would make available to the United States a number of products of the area, notably lead, zinc, manganese, copper, cork and antimony, in amounts approximating the annual export surplus of those articles. An American buying commission would be admitted to Spanish Morocco to make purchases and explore the possibilities of extending the program.
- Spanish shipping would be provided for the transportation, in both directions, of the commodities involved.
Although certain details of these propositions remain to be worked out, we propose, if you approve,41 to go ahead along these lines.