Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray) to the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius)

Mr. Stettinius: I wish to refer to the attached memorandum of a conversation7 which you had with the British Ambassador on November 1 last and to the aide-mémoire which he left with you stating that the British Government “are anxious to coordinate closely their policy in the Middle East with the United States Government” and that the British Government “would accordingly greatly welcome the visit to London of one or more high American officials for the purpose of an informal exchange of views both on current questions in the Middle East and on some problems that may arise after the war, in the hope of securing full mutual understanding.”

In this connection Lord Halifax mentioned that it would be very helpful to the Foreign Office if I were to proceed to London and if Colonel Hoskins, who is now there on a special mission were kept there “to attend the conference”.

I have gone over this matter very carefully with Mr. Atherton8 and we are in full agreement that it should be handled in the following way:

With regard to the matter of my proceeding to London, which was mentioned orally to you by Lord Halifax, we believe that he might be in turn orally informed that the Department would, of course, be prepared to authorize its Political Adviser on Near Eastern Affairs to proceed to London at an appropriate moment accompanied by other competent officials of the Department for the purpose of consulting with officials of the British Government on Near and Middle Eastern matters.

We believe, however, that the timing of such a visit and the circumstances under which it should be made require careful thought and planning.

It will be noted that the British have in mind discussing both economic as well as political questions affecting the Near and Middle East. It will also be noted that in listing the Near Eastern countries which would be the subject of discussion they contemplate excluding Turkey and Egypt and omit mention of Ethiopia.

With regard to the economic matters which would come under discussion, reference is made to the Middle East Supply Center and to [Page 9] certain thoughts which the British have in mind looking to a gradual modification of the activities of that organization, and to the eventual establishment of a Middle East Supply Council as a consultative body representative of the Middle East governments and other governments with major interests in that region.

We have an undoubted interest in any suggestions affecting the future of the Middle East Supply Center but before discussing them with the British we should, I believe, consult with Mr. James M. Landis, who has only recently proceeded to Cairo in the capacity of Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East and as principal civilian representative of the United States at the Middle East Supply Center. As you are aware, Mr. Landis has already taken a swing-around in his area, proceeding as far east as Tehran, and his views on any suggestions the British may have to advance would be essential and authoritative.

There is, furthermore, the very important matter of reaching some agreement between this Government and the British Government on Middle Eastern petroleum questions. A draft of such an agreement is being considered in the Department at the present time and has been furnished informally to other interested departments for their consideration and suggestions. A visit to London by a selected group of Near Eastern experts from the Department might be made the occasion of sounding out the British Government on this question.

With regard to political as well as economic questions affecting countries in the Near and Middle East which the British would wish to discuss, Mr. Atherton and I are of the opinion that we should express our desire to include all Near Eastern countries in the discussions and add that we would appreciate being furnished in advance by the British with a full and detailed agenda of the matters to be considered, including an outline of the British position with regard to these matters. In that way we would be in a position to give careful consideration to all British proposals and suggestions and to formulate a definite policy acceptable to this Government in advance of any conversations in London. To proceed to such conversations without such preparation on our part would, I believe, accomplish no useful purpose and might lead to confusion.

If you are in agreement with this mode of procedure, I suggest that we might proceed to draft, for your approval, an appropriate written reply to the aide-mémoire left with you by the British Ambassador.

With regard finally to the suggestion that I might proceed “quickly” to London to be present in certain discussions with Colonel Hoskins, I may say in confidence that this would, in my considered opinion, be a great mistake.… As you of course appreciate, this is a question [Page 10] loaded with dynamite,10 both domestically and internationally, which has been discussed, and will be finally decided, on the highest political level. No conversations could or should be undertaken on that subject prior to such high-level decisions and without precise authoritative instructions which are not now available.11

Wallace Murray
  1. Supra.
  2. Ray Atherton, Minister to Canada, was on consultation at the Department, at the personal request of the Secretary of State, during the period of the latter’s absence while attending the Tripartite Conference of Foreign Ministers at Moscow; for correspondence regarding the Moscow Conference, October 18–November 1, 1943, see vol. i, pp. 513 ff.
  3. Reference is to Arab-Zionist controversy. For correspondence on this subject, see pp. 747 ff.
  4. In a memorandum of November 9, the Under Secretary of State informed the Adviser on Political Relations as follows: “I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestions and would appreciate it if you would prepare a written reply as you suggest. In the meantime, when I see Lord Halifax, I shall explain to him orally that we do not feel you should go to London just at this time, although we are in favor of conversations of the type mentioned after proper preparation has been made for them.” (800.24/1388)