Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) to the Secretary of State

Pursuant to your suggestion of November 12, I attach a secret office memorandum, entitled “Replies of the President,”3 recording [Page 12]the substance of remarks and comments made by the President, the Ministers and Consul General and myself during this half-hour visit.

Appended to the memorandum is a substantially verbatim transcript of the statement read to the President by Minister Wadsworth,4 as spokesman for the group, outlining their common problems in the area.

This statement concludes with four specific basic questions in the policy field with respect to which the Ministers and Consul General would greatly appreciate your directives in elaboration of the general guidance given them by the President.

In brief, the President:

Recognized the importance of the Arab countries “in our positive postwar foreign-policy thinking” and the desire of each “to run its own show” applying freely “the principle of equality of opportunity and the Open Door.”
Indicated his agreement as to the existence of parallelism between our policies and those of Russia in the area.
Approved, in principle, the signature with the Arab countries of “the same sort of standard treaty of friendship and commerce as we have signed with other American and European countries.”
Agreed, in principle, that Arab Governments’ requests for “competent American technical experts—be they financial, technical or military—will be sympathetically received.”
Confirmed his willingness to receive the King of Egypt so soon as mutually agreeable arrangements therefor be concluded.5
Commented that, for his part, he would be happy to receive during the coming year official visits from the Presidents of Syria and Lebanon.
Gave the Ministers and Consul General considerable helpful comment on the thorny problem of Palestine.

I venture, in concluding this memorandum, to ask your special guidance as to whether the Syrian and Lebanese Ministers in Washington may now be told that they may inform their respective Chiefs of State of the President’s comment (paragraph 6 above) and ask them respectively to suggest one or two dates on which they might find it convenient to make these visits. Mr. Wadsworth confirms my assumption that each of the two Presidents would wish to make his visit independently of the other but that they would no doubt consult together before suggesting possible dates therefor.6

I should also appreciate receiving your approval to my sending to interested offices in the Department and in the field a copy of the [Page 13]group’s prepared statement together with a résumé of the ensuing conversation along the lines of the seven numbered paragraphs above.7

In the circumstances I venture to suggest that you read the two attached relatively short but important papers. The Ministers and Consul General ask me to say that they would appreciate highly your finding the time to do so at your convenience.

Loy W. Henderson
[Annex 1]

Summary of Remarks Made by Mr. Wadsworth to President Truman on November 10 on Behalf of Himself and of Mr Tuck, Colonel Eddy and Mr. Pinkerton

“Mr. President, there are three things we want most to say and four matters on which we want and most need your guidance.

“Of the three things we wish to say, one is quite simple. The second is a relatively short review of Arab policies, and the third is a bit personal.

“The first is that each one of us appreciates this opportunity to meet and talk with you and to tell you something of our common problems.

“The second is that we believe the countries of the Arab world, especially if taken as a whole, well warrant a more important place in our positive postwar foreign-policy thinking than is normally given to them as a simple counterpoise to Zionist ambitions or because they lie at the strategic center of the British Empire or of the great world air routes of the future, or because they happen to contain the two cradles of civilization and the greatest known undeveloped oil reserves of the world.

“All these we feel are important, but to us it seems vital to recognize that the whole Arab world is in ferment, that its peoples are on the threshold of a new renaissance, that each one of them wants forth-rightly to run its own show, as the countries of the Western Hemisphere run theirs, without imperialistic interference, be it British or French, in their internal affairs.

“They say: ‘You have your Pan-American Union; we want our Arab Unity.8 Relations between your countries are based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality; that is the principle upon which we wish to base our relations with each other and with all other nations. We need foreign skills and capital and technical experts, [Page 14]but not foreign dictation. We want treaties of friendship with all countries, treaties of alliance and special privilege with none. In our dealings with foreign governments and interests, we want to be free to apply freely the principle of equality of opportunity and the open door’.

“That, Mr. President, we, your representatives, believe is the basic picture. In it the United States can play a leading role. Our moral leadership is recognized today. The governments to which we are accredited want most of all to know whether we are going to implement that leadership, whether we are going to follow through after our great victory or leave the field, as we did at the end of the last war, to others.

“In the latter event, the governments to which we are accredited know from bitter experience and present trends that Britain and France will make every effort to consolidate their pre-war spheres of influence; they look especially to us to support them in their efforts to block any such development. If the United States fails them, they will turn to Russia and will be lost to our civilization; of that we feel certain.

“On the other hand, there need be no conflict between us and Russia in that area. On the contrary, Russian policy has thus far closely paralleled our own. Like ourselves, the Kremlin has accorded unconditional recognition of the full independence of Syria and Lebanon and seeks equality of treatment, now denied us both, in Egypt and in Iraq.9 We venture to suggest that if you are looking for a field in which our policy and that of Russia can be made to dovetail with minimum friction, there is none better.

“So much for major Arab policies. The third thing we wish to say is, as I mentioned, on the personal side. In each of the countries to which we are accredited our relations with the Chiefs of State are peculiarly intimate and cordial. It is not that Wadsworth, Eddy, Tuck, or Pinkerton, as an individual, is the personal intimate of the King, President, or Amir, but that the Chief of State in each case has made an intimate of the representative of the United States. They look to us for honest, politically disinterested advice, information and good counsel. It is that which makes us want very especially your personal guidance on four questions.

“First, we should like to be able to tell the governments to which we are accredited that we are prepared to sign with them the same sort [Page 15]of standard treaty of friendship and commerce as we have signed with other American and European countries.

“Second, we should like to say that we have your personal assurance that their requests for fully competent American technical experts—be they financial, agricultural or military—will be sympathetically received.

“Third, we have already received here the Prince Regent of Iraq and the Prince-Viceroy of Saudi Arabia as official guests of this government.10 The other three independent Arab Chiefs of State, that is the young King of Egypt and the Presidents of Syria and Lebanon, hope keenly that you will find it convenient to receive them here during the coming year.

“Finally, we want on our return to be able to reply frankly to their questions as to what American policy is toward political Zionism.11

[Annex 2]

Replies of the President

General Vaughan received the group in the President’s office and they were presented to the President. Mr. Henderson stated that the Ministers realized that the President’s time was extremely limited and they had decided, if it was agreeable to him, that it might be advantageous for one of their number, as spokesman for the group, to make a brief statement to him outlining their common problems.

Mr. Wadsworth, the Minister to Syria and Lebanon, would speak on behalf of his colleagues.

The President expressed his approval of this procedure, whereupon Mr. Wadsworth read to him the attached statement.12

During the reading of the statement, the President made a number of comments. For instance, when Mr. Wadsworth stated: “The countries of the Arab world, especially if taken as a whole, well warrant a more important place in our positive postwar foreign policy thinking,” the President interrupted with the remark that he entirely agreed with that statement.

When Mr. Wadsworth said: “The whole Arab world is in ferment, its peoples are on the threshold of a new renaissance, each one of them wants forthrightly to run its own show,” the President said: “I know that.”

When Mr. Wadsworth concluded his paragraph on Arab policies by saying that the Arab governments “wanted to be free to apply [Page 16]freely the principles of equality of opportunity and the open door,” the President said: “So do we; we want this to be the basis of our relations with China and with every country of the world.”

When Mr. Wadsworth said: “If the United States fails them, they will turn to Russia and will be lost to our civilization,” and added: “There need be no conflict between us and Russia in that area,” the President said that he would like these countries to turn toward both Russia and the United States. He agreed that there was no reason for a conflict between Russia and the United States in that area. When Mr. Wadsworth followed with the remark that no better field could be found “in which our policy and that of Russia can be made to dovetail with minimum friction,” the President intimated his agreement.

When Mr. Wadsworth reached the four particular questions set forth in the attached statement, the President answered each question individually in substance as follows:

Question 1 (treaties)–In response to this question the President said: “You may tell them that.” He added that the United States was prepared to enter into treaties of that character with all countries.

Question 2 (the dispatch of technical experts of a financial, agricultural and military character to the Near East)–In response to this question, the President said: “You may tell them that too.”

Question 3 (proposed official visit to the United States of certain Chiefs of State)–The President commented: “The King of Egypt was to visit us this month.” Mr. Tuck explained to the President the reasons for which the King of Egypt had not come at the time expected, but added that he was still most anxious to visit the United States and would advise the Cairo Legation at least one month in advance of the proposed date in the hope that it would prove acceptable to the President. The President intimated his consent.14

Mr. Wadsworth commented with respect to the desire of the Presidents of Syria and Lebanon to visit the United States, that they wished personally to assure Mr. Truman that their countries, which are different from all other countries in that they have no treaty relations with any countries, wish to sign their first treaties with the United States and to use such treaties as models for their treaty relations with other states; also that they wished to assure him that they wished their closest relations with any foreign power to be with [Page 17]the United States. President Truman replied that he would be glad to see the two Presidents in the United States and he hoped that the visits could be arranged.

Question 4 (political Zionism)–The President smiled and said: “That is the sixty-four-dollar question.” He said that it is the kind of a question that he simply couldn’t answer at the present time. This question had been causing him and Mr. Byrnes more trouble than almost any other question which is facing the United States. The Democratic and Republican parties last year, during the campaign, had made certain pledges with regard to the future of Palestine which did not give consideration to the international political situation in that area. He was working on the matter at the present time and would discuss it with Mr. Attlee.15 It was hoped that something could be worked out with Mr. Attlee as a result of discussions with the British, with the Jews and with the representatives of the Arab governments to which the Ministers are accredited.

The Ministers told the President that they understood the difficulty of the problem, that what he had just said was of tremendous help to them. There was a fear among the Arabs that an attempt might be made to bring about a solution of the Palestine problem as a surprise without giving them a chance to participate. The President replied that both President Roosevelt and he had given assurances that the Palestine problem would not be disposed of without full prior consultation. He added that, of course, the final solution might not be agreeable to everybody, but that at least all would have an opportunity to state their side of the case.

The President continued that he hoped that the Ministers would return to their posts and would explain that the question was a burning issue in the domestic politics of the United States and that the American Government would try to work out the whole matter on an international plane. He reiterated that no unilateral decision would be attempted. He pointed out that if Palestine could only take some refugees from Europe16 to relieve the pressure, it would alleviate for the time being the situation in Europe, and it might satisfy some of the demands of the “humanitarian” Zionists and give us an opportunity to turn our attention to a permanent solution of the political problem. In his opinion, there could be no immediate solution. Palestine would probably be an issue during the election campaign of 1946 and 1948 and in future campaigns.

[Page 18]

Mr. Henderson observed that the arrangement just made with the British for a joint commission to study the Jewish problem and the contribution Palestine can make to its solution might well go far into taking the Palestine problem out of domestic politics, particularly if we were able to obtain the services on the Commission of national figures who would take an objective view of the whole situation in the Near East. The President agreed and said the problem should be put on a high plane above local political issues.

The President then observed that it had been arranged between him and President Roosevelt that he should visit all these countries of the Middle East and other countries on an extended tour as Vice President. He was to have left last April. He regretted immeasurably that this had been impossible.

Mr. Henderson said that he hoped that the President would find it possible before the Ministers said their final farewell to him to assure them that the State Department had been reflecting his policy in instructing them that the Government of the United States had no intention of withdrawing from the Near East as it did after the last war and of becoming a mere passive bystander in that area, but that the United States intended to continue to carry on an active policy in that part of the world. The President said that he could give such assurance, that in spite of campaigns waged in the press by various isolationist publicists with the purpose of discouraging the American people from assuming international responsibilities, so long as he was President of the United States, the Administration would continue in the course he had already outlined. (The President was apparently referring to his recent New York speech.17)

The President wished the Ministers and Mr. Pinkerton continued success in their work.

  1. Annex 2 to this memorandum.
  2. Annex 1 to this memorandum.
  3. In telegram 1679, August 31, 1945, 8 p.m., the Secretary of State had informed Cairo of Presidential approval of an official visit by King Farouk, the date fixed tentatively for November 1 (883.001 Farouk/8–3145). The King, however, was unable to make the visit at the suggested time.
  4. On December 29, 1945, notes were sent to the Lebanese and Syrian Ministers conveying President Truman’s invitations to the Presidents of Lebanon and Syria to visit the United States.
  5. Copies of the statement and of the résumé were sent to Cairo, Beirut, Jidda, and Jerusalem under cover of letters from Mr. Henderson, according to notes dated February 19, 1946, attached to the two documents.
  6. For documentation on the attitude of the United States toward the question of Arab union, see pp. 25 ff.
  7. The reference is to the incorporation in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance of August 26, 1936, and in the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of Alliance of June 30, 1930, of stipulations that the British Ambassadors in Egypt and Iraq were to have precedence over the diplomatic representatives of other powers. For further information on this subject, see memorandum of October 29, 1945, by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, p. 21.
  8. For information on the visit to the United States by Prince Abdul Ilah in May and June 1945, see footnote 13, p. 5; for documentation on the visit of Amir Faisal July 31–August 1, 1945, see pp. 1000 ff.
  9. For documentation on the attitude of the United States toward the Arab-Zionist controversy concerning Palestine and toward the question of Jewish immigration into Palestine, see pp. 678 ff.
  10. Supra.
  11. In telegram 2286, December 11, 1945, 8 a.m., Minister Tuck, who had returned to Cairo, advised the Department that he had informed King Farouk the preceding day “of my recent conversation with President Truman with regard to the proposed visit to the United States. I said the President would be happy to receive him officially and any tentative date which the King would propose for a visit would be submitted to the White House and if it worked in with the President’s plans an official invitation would be forthcoming.

    “The King expressed his sincere pleasure with this arrangement and promised to inform me as soon as he felt he could undertake the journey.” (883.001–Farouk/12–1145)

  12. President Truman and British Prime Minister Clement R. Attlee, in November 1945, held discussions in Washington, primarily on the control of atomic energy; for documentation on these discussions, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, pp. 61 75, passim.
  13. For documentation on interest of the United States in the relief and rescue of Jews in Germany and German-occupied territory, see vol. ii, pp. 1119 ff.
  14. Delivered in Central Park, New York City, on October 27, 1945, in connection with the celebration of Navy Day; for text, see Department of State Bulletin. October 28, 1945, p. 653.