NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State

top secret

Chronological Summary of Correspondence and Exchanges of Views Leading up to the Discussions With the British on the Middle East, With Texts of More Important Documents Attached as Annexes

In a note dated July 301 (Annex 1) the British Chargé d’Affaires in Washington informed the Department that his Government had decided that they must, on financial and manpower grounds, withdraw British troops from Greece and reduce those in Italy to 5,000. After consultation with the War and Navy Departments, this Department instructed Ambassador Douglas2 (Annexes 2 and 33) to make strong representations to Mr. Bevin that British troops be retained (a) in Greece until after final consideration of the Greek case by the Security Council and the General Assembly, and following that, after realistic appraisal and full and frank exchange of views by the US and UK Governments, and (b) in Italy until a study had been made of the status of our respective forces by the military authorities of both countries. For Ambassador Douglas’ guidance in discussing this matter with Mr. Bevin, we pointed out that while we were aware of the critical nature of the British financial position, we did not feel that the full story had been conveyed to us, and we feared that we were being faced with the first of a series of actions stemming from new policies unknown to us. The British, we felt, must be made to understand that if these actions presaged a basic revision of British foreign policy involving a progressive withdrawal from previous commitments and previously held positions as a result of internal political pressures and not economic necessity alone, the United States must be told now of such probable course.

In a telegram dated August 34 (Annex 4), Ambassador Douglas reported that Mr. Bevin, in reply to our representations, had said that the reduction in British overseas forces had not yet been definitely fixed, that such reduction did not imply any change whatsoever in British foreign policy, and that if a change were at any time contemplated we would be given ample notice and full opportunity for consultation. Ambassador Douglas added that on the basis of conversations [Page 489] with members or the Labor, Liberal and Conservative Parties, he (Ambassador Douglas) felt that the proposed reduction in a British overseas force was “in response to a widely held view in Britain, quite irrespective of party affiliations” The reductions which Mr. Bevin has in mind, however, are substantially less than those advocated by the left wing back benchers.

In a Parliamentary Debate on August 6, Prime Minister Attlee stated “I must emphasize that despite this acceleration in the rate of withdrawal from overseas stations, and although certain calculated risks are being taken, there is no change in our foreign policy or in the defense policy which underlies our foreign policy”.

On August 75 (Annex 5), Ambassador Douglas was requested to inform Mr. Bevin of the grave apprehension of American officials in Greece and Italy over the proposed withdrawal of British troops. With respect to Greece, we reiterated our view that British troops should not be withdrawn until after final consideration of the Greek case by the Security Council and the General Assembly, and pointed out that at that time the matter could be reexamined in the light of circumstances then existing and a decision taken in full awareness of the future course of US and UK action regarding the Greek situation. Mr. Bevin replied that he understood our position as well as the serious consequences which might follow, and gave assurances that no action was contemplated in the near future with respect to either Greece or Italy.

On August 22 [20], the British Embassy transmitted to the Department a personal message6 (Annex 6) for the Secretary from Mr. Bevin stating that while he was suggesting to the British Chiefs of Staff that they discuss the matter with the US Chiefs of Staff, he and his colleagues, after most careful and anxious thought, had decided that on every ground it was essential that the withdrawal of British troops from Greece be completed during the Autumn and from Italy by December 31. He added that what was most necessary was to stabilize the situation in Greece through prompt increases in the effective strength of the Greek army as desired by the Greek Government and considered by the British military as “justified and desirable to enable the Greek armed forces to continue to conduct effective operations against the bandits”.

The Secretary, commenting to the Department from Petropolis7 (Annex 7) on Mr. Bevin’s message, stated that he did not accept either [Page 490] the premises or the categorical position taken by Mr. Bevin; that he could not reconcile Mr. Bevin’s stated essentiality of British withdrawals by Autumn with the drastically changed conditions that have occurred since March, and that he felt Mr. Bevin must realize that the problem is much larger than the mere offset of British withdrawals by an increase in the Greek army as Mr. Bevin suggested. With respect to Italy, the Secretary stated his concern rested with the maintenance of at least a status quo in that area. The Secretary concluded with “they are far too casual or free-handed in passing the buck of the international dilemma to the United States with little or no consideration for the harmful results”.

On August 27, the Department transmitted to the Secretaries of War and Navy8 the text of Mr. Bevin’s message and the gist of the Secretary’s comments with the request that the matter be referred to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff for study of the military implications of a British withdrawal from Greece and for consultation with the British Chiefs of Staff with a view to formulating positive military recommendations to both governments. It was further suggested that the possibility be explored of removing British forces of an even larger number than contemplated from areas where the withdrawal would have less significant consequences.

On August 29, the representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff submitted for discussion in the Combined Chiefs of Staff a paper9 which indicated that they were not in a position to recommend postponement on the decision of the British Government to withdraw troops from Greece by October 31. As a means of offsetting the political effect of such withdrawal, they suggested augmentation of the Greek Army and Air Force.

On August 3010 (Annex 8), we informed Ambassador Douglas that the British Embassy had inquired whether it would be agreeable to our military authorities for the British members of the Combined Chiefs of Staff to discuss with them the contents of Mr. Bevin’s note. We had replied that we had asked our Joint Chiefs to study the matter and possibly discuss it with the British military authorities, but that we did not accept either the premises or the categorical position on deadlines taken by Mr. Bevin. On September 1, Ambassador Douglas telegraphed11 (Annex 9) that he had informed Mr. Bevin of our views and that Mr. Bevin had enumerated three considerations which made his government most anxious to proceed with the removal of British [Page 491] troops: (a) he (Mr. Bevin) had told Mr. Byrnes over a year ago, and Mr. Marshall at Moscow, that he could not keep troops in Greece interminably; (b) he was under great political pressure at home to withdraw the troops; and (c) his government did not know our policy toward the Middle East, for example, the disposition of Cyrenaica, Ambassador Douglas’ telegram concludes the following with “He (Mr. Bevin) put forward as a purely personal suggestion the following: That we jointly review the whole position in the Middle East, including Cyrenaica, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Persia for the purpose of arriving at a gentlemen’s understanding in regard to a common policy and joint responsibility throughout the area, with Britain acting as the front and ourselves supplying the moral support. He said he may put this to his Cabinet, but inferred that he would like to have our views to the above personal suggestion before doing so. …”12

In a letter dated September 513 (Annex 10), signed jointly by the Secretaries of War and Navy, the Department was informed that while the Joint Chiefs appreciated that the British troops in Greece were not able nor intended to withstand armed attack, their presence was symbolical of the determination of Great Britain and the western democracies to insure the continued independence of the Greek State. They therefore had a marked influence on the Greek internal situation, and their withdrawal would constitute grave danger, through augmented guerrilla attacks, of Greece coming under Communist control, thus placing the USSR in a position to interdict shipping through the Mediterranean and to outflank Turkey to the west, north and east. The relationship to western democracies of Italy and Iran would be lessened and access by the US and UK to the petroleum products of the Middle East, which are essential to their economic welfare and military potential, would be jeopardized. The letter continues by stating that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have not concurred in the proposals of the British Chiefs of Staff with respect to the timing of the withdrawal of British forces, and points out that the US Joint Chiefs feel that such a withdrawal would surely result in a marked deterioration of our overall strategic position in the Mediterranean and might well provoke a critical situation in Greece itself.

At this point in our negotiations with the British, the question of the withdrawal of British troops from Italy ceased to have importance in view of the decision of the USSR to deposit ratification of the Italian Peace Treaty, thus, in effect, providing for the withdrawal of both British and US troops before the end of the year.

[Page 492]

On September 8, the Department telegraphed Ambassador Douglas14 (Annex 11) the substance of the joint letter from the Secretaries of War and Navy as a basis of further discussion with Mr. Bevin. The Ambassador was asked to inform Mr. Bevin, in reply to the latter’s inquiry of September 1 concerning our policy with respect to the British position in the Middle East, that the “…15 fundamental cornerstone of our thinking is the maintenance of Britain’s position to the greatest possible extent. The US counts heavily upon continued close British-American cooperation in the Middle East. How this can best be maintained requires extremely careful consideration in the light of developments in the Middle East as a whole, taking into account the popular sentiment in the countries of the area and the external pressures and influences which may be brought to bear upon them”. The Ambassador was also asked to inform Mr. Bevin that the Secretary fully agreed with Mr. Bevin’s suggestion for a joint review by the US and UK of the whole position in the Middle East, with “a view to arriving at an understanding in regard to a common policy”, and that we were prepared to begin as soon as possible conversations which we felt should be divided into two steps: “First, on a military planning level to be arranged through the Chiefs of Staff and to take place in Washington, and, second, on a top political level at a place to be mutually agreed upon”. Pending these talks, we would of course hope that the British Government would postpone any steps looking toward the withdrawal of troops from Greece.

On September 9, Mr. Bevin outlined to Ambassador Douglas and Mr. Henderson his views on a number of Near Eastern problems. Mr. Henderson’s memorandum16 (Annex 12) written after the conversation, but in the first person, as if Mr. Bevin were speaking, contains the following pertinent statements:

[Here follow the second paragraph under “Greece”; the last two sentences under “American-British Discussion with Regard to the Problems of the Near East”; paragraphs two (except for the first three sentences) and three under “Egypt”; the last sentence under “Cyrenaica”; the first two sentences under “Transjordan”; and the last paragraph under “Iraq”, all included in Annex 1 to this document.]

On September 12 the Department telegraphed Ambassador Douglas17 (Annex 13) the information contained in a letter dated September 11 from the Secretary of War for use in further conversations with Mr. Bevin. The principle points brought out were (1) that it would present for us a serious question, vis-à-vis Congress, if we [Page 493] were forced to replace British troops with our own, and (2) the breaking of a common front in Greece through the withdrawal of British forces would undoubtedly cause a wave of resentment in this country against the British, which could have most serious effect in other areas where we have joint interests and could prejudice US support for continued aid under the Marshall Plan.

On September 12 the British Ambassador called on the Secretary and said that Mr. Bevin was anxious to have the talks take place in London. The Secretary replied that for a variety of reasons this was not desirable, one of which being that there would be little likelihood of publicity if the talks took place in Washington by members of the British Military Staff Mission and their opposite numbers in the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Ambassador concurred in the idea.18

In a telegram dated September 1219 (Annex 14), Ambassador Douglas reported Mr. Bevin as saying that he would like to withdraw one battalion of not over 800 men from Greece, leaving the remainder there until at least December 15. He felt that such a withdrawal would satisfy his own political situation and serve as a precedent for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Bulgaria. He added entirely personally that events between now and December 15 would in his opinion justify keeping troops in Greece longer. In a telegram dated September 13 to Ambassador Douglas20 (Annex 15), we agreed reluctantly to the withdrawal of one battalion provided (a) we were given definite assurances there would be no further reductions at least until December 15, and (b) the withdrawal was accomplished quietly without publicity in Greece and in a manner which would not create the impression that this was a start of a larger withdrawal movement.

In a note dated September 16 (Annex 16), Lord Inverchapel informed Mr. Lovett that “Mr. Bevin asks me to explain to you that he is doubtful of the desirability of starting these discussions on a purely military footing since our object is to coordinate policy over the whole area, taking into consideration political and economic implications as well as military. He thinks, therefore, that valuable time [Page 494] would be lost and nothing much gained by purely military preliminary talks. He suggests that the first stage should be discussions between our political and military experts, who would prepare recommendations for submission to Mr. Marshall and himself. Mr. Bevin will not be going to New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations and his first opportunity of seeing Mr. Marshall will therefore be at the Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London. As you know, it is now tentatively proposed that this meeting should begin on the 25th November. Mr. Bevin proposes that I should lead the British side in the initial informal talks and that I should be assisted by a senior officer of the Foreign Office and representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom expect to be ready to begin the conversations early in October.”21

On the economic side of the problem, Ambassador Douglas telegraphed22 the Department (see Part A–323) the Foreign Office’s intention to include “the improvement of standards of living in the Middle East as a preventive measure against Communism”, among the subjects to be discussed. It thus became clear that the Foreign Office contemplated including in the scope of the discussions a broad consideration of economic development matters in the Middle East, and Anglo-American collaboration on them, this was the subject of a memorandum given to the Secretary of State by Mr. Bevin in Moscow last March,24 and of several informal conversations between British Foreign Office and other interested British officials and our London Embassy. The Department replied to Ambassador Douglas on September 2625 that it was our intention to take the occasion of the discussions to indicate a favorable general response to Mr. Bevin’s memorandum and to suggest [Page 495] that the matter be made the subject of further exploratory discussion in order that the British ideas might be more definitely determined and the possibilities of useful action ascertained.

On September 17 [16]26 Ambassador Douglas reported that the Acting Head of the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office had recommended early preparations and exchange of agenda for the talks. Among items on the British list were Palestine, a British base in Cyrenaica, Anglo-Egyptian disputes, and improvement of Middle East living standards as preventive measures against Communism. The British felt that the US would probably wish to talk about Greater Syria among other matters.

In a letter dated September 22,27 Lord Inverchapel informed Mr. Lovett that his Government hoped to be able to commence the conversations about October 11. The Department replied orally to the Embassy that this date was satisfactory.

On September 24 (Annex 1727), Mr. Lovett replied to Lord Inver-chapel’s letter of September 16 stating: “In general we are prepared to accept Mr. Bevin’s suggestion of having the initial talks cover both the political and military fields. We feel sure that these talks can be arranged in such a manner that tentative exchanges of political views could take place almost simultaneously with discussions among the military in order that there may evolve a synchronization of ideas. Following these exchanges it would be extremely helpful if the recommendations resulting from these discussions could later be reviewed by Mr. Marshall and Mr. Bevin.”

On September 29 the British Embassy left with the Department informally a paraphrase of a telegram27 (Annex 18) from the Foreign Office covering the following points:

(1) “They (the Foreign Office) do not envisage the military talks as detailed staff conversations leading to a plan for the defence of the Middle East, and would like to make this quite clear. Their idea is to work out a common line of action in the political and economic field, based on an agreed appreciation of the strategical position. For this reason they consider that the military experts’ assessment of the strategic factors should be brought to bear on each political problem, but they are quite prepared to leave the details of the manner in which this should be achieved to be settled when the talks begin”, and (2): “Their idea is that in the West the talks should include the former Italian colonies in North Africa, but not Italy and not Greece and Turkey, on the last two of which separate discussions have been undertaken. In the East they consider that the discussions should cover countries up to and including Afghanistan, but not India or Pakistan.”

[Page 496]

The British Embassy was told informally on October 2 that the Department’s initial reaction to the Foreign Office’s latest message was (1) that we were not prepared to agree to the latest British proposal which subjugated the military talks to the political-economic talks, as we felt that the two aspects of the problem should at least be on a par, and (2) that we could not agree to the omission of Greece and Turkey which necessarily played such a vital part in Mediterranean and Near Eastern planning.

On October 6 the British Embassy informally notified the Department28 (Annex 19), that the Foreign Office now concurred in our views that the military talks should be considered as of equal importance with the political and economic. The Foreign Office had also stated that it had not intended that Greece and Turkey should be rigidly excluded from the conversations since it agreed that any strategic review would naturally include those countries.

In a telegram dated October 8,29 the Embassy in London stated that Michael Wright, Superintending Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office, and Mr. Greenhill of the Middle East Secretariat, were leaving for Washington on October 11, and were being proceeded by General Hollis, Brigadier Mallaby, and Air Vice Marshal Foster.

On October 9, the Department tentatively agreed with the British Embassy, subject to Mr. Lovett’s concurrence, that the talks should commence on October 14.


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

[Annex 1]
top secret
Participants: Mr. Bevin, Prime [Foreign] Minister.
Mr. Lewis Douglas, American Ambassador to Great Britain.
Mr. Loy W. Henderson, Director, NEA, Department of State.

On the afternoon of September 9, Ambassador Douglas and I had a somewhat extended conversation with Mr. Bevin primarily on the subject of the proposed withdrawal of British troops from Greece. During our talk, Mr. Bevin referred to the proposed discussions between [Page 497] the American and British Governments on the strategic situation of the whole Near East and set forth what appeared to be a number of somewhat tentative ideas with regard to the future British policies and principles in the Near East.

I shall endeavor to outline some of the ideas advanced by Mr. Bevin. Although I am unable to record Mr. Bevin’s exact words, I believe that the following represents with fair accuracy his ideas and his manner of expressing them. The first person is used as though Mr. Bevin were speaking:


I want to make it absolutely clear that it is impossible for me to reverse the decision of the British Government to withdraw all British troops from Greece in the near future. If the impression should be created that I have reversed such a decision, I could not continue as Foreign Minister for twenty-four hours. I am under pressure from all sides to get our troops outside of Greece. It would be just as difficult for the British Government to continue to maintain troops in Greece as it would be for the American Government to send troops to Greece. I informed Mr. Byrnes in the latter part of 1946 of our decision to withdraw British troops from Greece, and I made it clear again last spring that withdrawal would be effected in the near future. In fact, we had expected to have all British troops out of Greece two months ago.

I can, however, understand the desire of the United States Government that these troops remain for a limited time, and I shall do my best to persuade the Defense Committee to agree to leave our troops in Greece until the conclusion of the General Assembly and to agree that no definite announcement would be made in the near future regarding the withdrawal of our troops.

I am quite agreeable to discussing this matter personally with Mr. Marshall in case I should find it possible to come to Washington in the autumn, but it should be understood that I am not promising to reconsider the matter in case I do discuss it with him.

We have no intention at least at present to withdraw the British military mission from Greece.

American-British Discussion with Regard to the Problems of the Near East

I agree with the suggestion of the American Government that it might be advisable for our discussions with regard to the problems of the Near East to begin in Washington at the military level and for these discussions to be reviewed later at a high political level. It might [Page 498] be possible in case I should come to Washington in the autumn for me to participate in some of the discussions at a high political level. It is not my intention to attend the General Assembly, although I have been named as head of the British Delegation. I am faced with so many problems at the present time that I do not wish to become bogged down in the debates at the General Assembly. I might be able, however, to come to Washington for a short time in order to discuss the proposals emanating from the Paris Conference, and my presence in Washington would give me an opportunity to go into matters relating to the Near East as well as other problems of mutual concern. Our future policies with regard to the Near East are at present being reviewed by the Defense Committee, and I am planning to lay certain concrete suggestions before that Committee within the next three days. I personally am convinced that it is in our mutual interests and in the interest of world security that the Governments of Great Britain and the United States should clearly understand each other’s views with regard to the future of the Near East and that they should, if possible, find grounds for a mutual understanding. I shall tell you frankly that although I am often told that the American Government desires to cooperate with us in the Near East, I find, unfortunately, that sometimes your Government adds to our difficulties.


In this regard, I wish particularly to refer to Palestine. During the past year there has been considerable bloodshed and loss of property as well as British prestige in Palestine. I consider that the United States has a share of responsibility for our troubles. Again and again when I have been endeavoring to make progress in the solution of the delicate Palestine problem, your Government has thrown us off balance by making public statements regarding the necessity of the admission of 100,000 Jews or regarding other aspects of the problem which have had a destructive effect on our negotiations. Furthermore, it is no secret that the terrorists in Palestine have received the bulk of their financial and moral support from the United States; most of the ships which have endeavored to smuggle illegal immigrants into Palestine have been purchased, outfitted and financed in the United States; organizations based in the United States have carried on extensive publicity campaigns with the purpose of encouraging the, Palestinian terrorists and the smugglers of illegal immigrants and of discrediting the attempts of the British Government to maintain law and order. The American Government has to an extent subsidized these activities by exempting from income tax donations to organizations so engaged. For a period of nearly two years, the British Government, [Page 499] without success, has been trying in a friendly way to prevail upon the American Government to take steps to prevent American encouragement of terrorists and illegal activities in Palestine.

The Special Committee of the General Assembly has now made its report to the General Assembly, and I note that the majority report recommends that the British Government undertake the implementation of its suggestions under the auspices of the United Nations. Can you imagine what chance I have of prevailing upon the British Government at a time when Great Britain is already facing so many grave internal and international problems to undertake a task of this kind? It is not our intention just now to make any statement regarding our attitude towards either the majority or the minority report of this Special Committee. We plan to wait until we see what the attitude of the General Assembly is. In case the General Assembly should adopt the majority report and ask us to implement it, we shall then answer to that request.


I am very much disturbed at the attitude shown in the Security Council by countries friendly to us during the discussion of the Egyptian complaint. The issue seems to me to be clear. Will the Security Council respect the sanctity of treaties or will it not? We have made concession after concession to the Egyptians and instead of appreciating our conciliatory attitude, they have used every generous gesture on our part in order to extract more. It seems to me that the members of the Security Council, in their anxiety to save Egypt’s face and spare Egyptian feelings, are encouraging not only the Egyptians but other nations to attempt to use the Security Council for the purpose of evading treaty obligations. I am particularly stubborn about one thing: that is, I do not wish in any circumstances the Egyptian case to be left on the agenda of the Security Council. If it does remain on that agenda, there will be an inescapable inference that Great Britain has acted, so far as the Egyptians are concerned, in a manner which justifies some kind of Security Council intervention. Furthermore, I wish to make it clear that we shall not move our troops out of the Suez in order to persuade the Egyptians to resume negotiations with us. We doubt that further negotiations with the present Egyptian Government would serve any useful purpose. The Egyptian Government is a minority Government and would not dare, in the face of the majority opposition, to enter into an agreement with us of a character which would be acceptable.

I made certain extremely generous offers to the Egyptians with respect to the Sudan. Those offers have been withdrawn, and we shall not make them again. The Egyptians have therefore by their own [Page 500] actions lost what they might have had in the Sudan. We consider the Sudan as potentially one of the most important British bases in the whole Middle East and Africa. If we are to remain in the Near East, we must have free use of the Sudan. It is not only vital from the point of view of communications, but also from that of supplies. If we have the Sudan, we shall have means of preventing Egypt, in case a world conflict should arise, from giving assistance to the enemy. The Egyptians are now aware of this fact and, therefore, their interest in the Sudan has been stimulated.

We are again laying plans to revive the Lake Tana project, which would increase greatly the agricultural resources of the Sudan. We have already taken the matter up informally with the Ethiopian Government, which appears to be willing to cooperate with us. We hope also to have the cooperation of various American engineering firms. In case this project is carried out successfully, the Sudan might eventually become a prosperous, self-supporting country.

We feel it is necessary, if we leave Suez, that there should be a mutual defense treaty between Egypt and Great Britain. In spite of the explanations which we have received from your Government with respect to Mr. Johnson’s recent statement before the Security Council,30 we are convinced that the Egyptians will endeavor to interpret that speech as an indication that the United States does not believe that the conclusion of such a treaty would be advisable. We hope, therefore, that the United States Government will find a suitable occasion in the not distant future to make a public statement showing that in its opinion the conclusion of a British-Egyptian mutual defense treaty would be in the interests of world security.


In case we withdraw from Suez, we must have some base to fall back upon. We consider Cyrenaica as that base. If we decide to remain in the Near East, we hope that we can be assured of American support in retaining Cyrenaica as a base. It is likely that the Council of Foreign Ministers will be unable to reach an agreement with regard to the future of Cyrenaica. The question of Cyrenaica will therefore probably come before the General Assembly in the latter part of 1948. It is possible that the General Assembly will not be able to make a decision with regard to its disposal. In such an event, we would, therefore, be left in occupation. Since we bore the brunt of the fighting to obtain control of Cyrenaica, we believe that we should be permitted to [Page 501] stay there. If we should decide to remain as a force in the Near East, we must have Cyrenaica.


In addition to Cyrenaica, we feel that it is important for us to strengthen our bases in Transjordan. We hope that the United States will support us in this respect. Our treaty with the Government of Transjordan gave us the right to maintain forces in that country. Some time ago we abandoned any idea of bases in Palestine. Nevertheless, if we are to use Transjordan effectively, we must have means of obtaining access to that country across Palestine.


As you are aware, we have a mutual defense treaty with Iraq which gives us the right to use certain Iraqi airfields and to maintain certain troops at those fields. For some time we have been engaged in negotiations with the Government of Iraq with the purpose of amending that treaty in a manner which would be more acceptable to Iraq, as well as to the other Arab countries. We have made excellent progress in these negotiations in view of the friendly attitude of the Government of Iraq, and we hope to conclude them in the near future. The little sheikhdom of Kuweit is closely connected with these negotiations. As you know, Kuweit is at present something of a British protectorate. We are hoping that our arrangements with the Iraqis will provide that we can continue to make use of Iraqi air bases, particularly those at Habaniha and Basra. In return, we may permit the Iraqis to share with us the use of a great base in Kuweit. Kuweit is within a reasonable flying distance of our oil fields in Kirkuk and is less than a flying hour from Abadan, Basra and Bahrein. We would like to create in Kuweit one of our strongest military bases of the Near East.

It is possible that because of the feud between the Royal House of Saudi Arabia and that of Iraq, Ibn Saud will not relish the presence of Iraqis in Kuweit. Nevertheless, with American support, we might be able to smooth his feelings on the subject, particularly since it would be to his advantage to have a formidable military barrier between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

We are hoping, once our treaty relations with Iraq are adjusted to the mutual satisfaction of both of us, to proceed with the development of the Tigris and Euphrates River Basins on a scale that will open great quantities of fertile land, now desert, to farming. The development of these two great rivers would permit Iraq to support two or three times its present population and should make Iraq one of the richest countries of the Near and Middle East. Various British engineering [Page 502] firms have been studying ways and means of developing these rivers, and we hope the United States will cooperate with us in carrying out a scheme which, if successfully completed, would strengthen the prestige of both our countries in the Middle East.


I know that we do not see completely eye-to-eye with regard to the Soviet oil concessions in Iran. Personally, I would be relieved if the Iranians would grant some kind of an oil concession to the Russians. If they refuse categorically to do so, not even leaving the door open for further negotiations, the Russians will be furious. They will, of course, charge that the British and Americans are responsible for Iranian stubbornness, and charges of this kind will increase our tension with the Soviet Union and render my internal position here more difficult. I do not intend, however, to push the Iranians on this subject.

L[oy] W. H[enderson]

741.90/9–1647: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Hawkins) to the Secretary of State

[Annex 2]
top secret

5006. 1. It is apparent from recent talks with top officials in Eastern and Egyptian Departments Foreign Office (Embassy’s 4965, September 1531) that these officials attach utmost importance to high level US-British discussions regarding political and strategic aspects of Middle East. Garran, acting head Eastern Department, who is coordinating preparations for these talks, advised Embassy September 15 that Foreign Office suggestions regarding these discussions were approved by Bevin September 13 and were sent to British Embassy, Washington, for communication to Department by British Ambassador.

2. Garran summarized these suggestions by saying that if US and British military should undertake talks without high level political advisers on hand, military would very soon be stymied by problems unsolvable without political advice. If step one were solely military it would probably result in series of questions for high level political discussion rather than in practical strategic answers. Consequently, British Government is suggesting via British Embassy, Washington, [Page 503] that an important British general and possibly Michael Wright, Assistant Under Secretary of State, Foreign Office, should arrive Washington about October 10 with a view to participating in talks between US military representative or representatives and a counterpart of Michael Wright, It is Foreign Office thought that political advisers would meet with military and that from their discussions would come series of recommendations agreed at official level which would be reviewed by Secretary and Bevin separately and which would be basis for agreement between Secretary and Bevin when these two meet.

3. Garran said that Foreign Office has recommended early preparation and exchange of agenda for talks so that both sides will have time to prepare necessary data. He thought that among items which British would put on their list were Palestine, British base in Cyrenaica, Anglo-Egyptian dispute and improvement of Middle East living standards as preventive measure against Communism. Garran said that US would probably wish to talk about Greater Syria32 among other matters.

4. Garran expressed belief that exchange of views on these problems is long overdue and hope that if US Government agrees British suggestions regarding form of talks policies formulated ad referendum at official level would be endorsed by US Government and British Cabinet.

[Annex 3]


The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Bevin) to the Secretary of State 33



The United States Government are aware of the great importance which His Majesty’s Government attach to the social and economic [Page 504] development of the Middle East, the raising of the general standard of living, and the improvement of methods and conditions of agricultural and industrial production. It is understood that the United States Government share these views.

The present economic situation in many of the Middle Eastern countries is certainly not healthy. Countries like Egypt, Iraq, and the Levant States are at present living to a large extent on the profits which they made during the war from the presence of Allied forces. Huge fortunes have been made and the gap between rich and poor has been increased while inflation has made the lot of the poorer people more difficult. In Egypt the situation has been aggravated by the pressure of increasing population. The result is a state of growing hardship and discontent. If, however, the various governments can be induced to carry out an honest policy of social and economic development resulting in a general increase in the economic prosperity of the peoples of the Middle East, this should contribute considerably to the internal stability and security of the area and reduce the danger of revolutionary developments and of Communist penetration.

One way in which His Majesty’s Government have attempted to assist the governments of Middle Eastern countries, and stimulate them to work out schemes of economic development, has been through the establishment of the British Middle East Office in Cairo with its Staff of agricultural, labour, health and statistical advisers whose services are at the disposal of any of the Middle Eastern countries who wish to consult them.

Many other opportunities are arising, and will continue to arise for assisting and advising the Middle Eastern countries in the execution of their economic development plans. The United States Government may be interested to know of the plans now being made for the development of irrigation in Iraq. The Iraqi Government recently asked Mr. Haigh, a British irrigation expert, to form an Irrigation Development Commission to report on the whole question of the proper use of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates and their tributaries in Iraq. The Commission has much work to do before it can produce its final recommendations, but its preliminary investigation shows the far-reaching possibilities for Iraq of a comprehensive scheme of irrigation and flood control. These possibilities are dealt with in greater detail in the attached note.34

There is of course much more to be done in Iraq, apart from the work of Mr. Haigh’s Commission. In other Middle Eastern countries, too, United States and British enterprises are assisting their development programmes. In Syria a British firm of consulting engineers [Page 505] (Alexander Gibb and Partners) have, at the Syrian Government’s request, recently undertaken a survey of the country and presented an interim report, containing recommendations for the economic development of that country. The same firm have been invited to undertake a similar survey in Lebanon. His Majesty’s Government have been interested to see that in Persia and Afghanistan the United States firm of Morrison–Knudsen are similarly engaged on a technical survey on behalf of the Persian and Afghan Governments while American interests are financing important development undertakings in Saudi Arabia as well.

All the development programmes of the various countries will call for extensive outside assistance, and His Majesty’s Government hope that they will be able, with the goodwill of the Middle Eastern countries, to make an important contribution to this end. Doubtless also United States activities in the area will be maintained and developed, in which case there will be considerable scope for Anglo-American coordination and cooperation in this important area. The plans of the Middle East Governments will of course require to be financed, and Middle Eastern countries are likely to be hampered by shortage of foreign exchange (although in some cases their increasing oil royalties should ease the position). It is hoped that it may be possible for substantial assistance to be afforded in suitable cases by the International Bank.35

Ernest Bevin
  1. Ante, p. 268.
  2. Lewis W. Douglas, Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  3. See Secretary of State Marshall’s telegram to Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and telegram 3304 to London, both dated August 1, pp. 273, 274.
  4. No. 4214, p. 277.
  5. In telegram 3396, p. 287.
  6. See p. 301.
  7. Not printed.
  8. For the letter to the Secretary of War, see p. 317; regarding the letter to the Secretary of the Navy, see footnote 1, p. 318.
  9. For further discussion of this paper, CCS 972, see the joint letter of September 5 from the Secretaries of War and the Navy to the Secretary of State, p. 327.
  10. In telegram 3799 to London, p. 319.
  11. No. 4743, p. 321.
  12. Omission appears in the original.
  13. Ante, p. 327.
  14. No. 3883, p. 330.
  15. Omission appears in the source text.
  16. Printed as Annex 1, infra.
  17. No. 3970, not printed, but see footnote 1, p. 336.
  18. The memorandum of this conversation by the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson) set forth also Secretary Marshall’s view that the talks should be separated into two phases, the first to “be an exchange of views at the military planning level on the strategic situation in the area.” The second phase should “be on a high political level,” to “be arranged after the military talks have taken place since they will have to be based on [in] considerable part on the military talks. The time and place of the high level political talks should be agreed upon later.” The Secretary of State suggested the possibility of starting the political talks in New York should Mr. Bevin attend the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly. Should Mr. Bevin not attend the meeting, then the political talks might be started after the military talks had made some progress (890.20/9–1247).
  19. No. 4952, p. 337.
  20. No. 3988, not printed, but see footnote 1, p. 337.
  21. The initial part of Lord Inverchapel’s note G.214/ /47 to Mr. Lovett read as follows: “Mr. Bevin asks me to thank you for the reply, which has now been delivered to him by the United States Ambassador in London, to his proposal for an informal review by our two Governments of our policy in the Near and Middle East. Mr. Bevin welcomes your general agreement with his proposal.

    “I understand, however, that the State Department suggested that these conversations should begin as soon as possible and should be in two stages: first, military discussions to take place in Washington, and second, high-level political discussions at a place to be commonly agreed.”

    The concluding two paragraphs stated: “I should be grateful if you could let me know whether Mr. Bevin’s proposals are acceptable to the United States Government.

    “Mr. Bevin wishes me to say that he is sure that the State Department will agree that the utmost secrecy should be observed regarding these proposed discussions.” (711.90/9–1647)

  22. No. 5006, September 16; printed as Annex 2, p. 502.
  23. The reference is to the “Chronology of Developments Stemming from Mr. Bevin’s Memorandum Regarding Raising the Standards of Living in the Middle East”, p. 505.
  24. Undated memorandum transmitted to the Secretary of State by Mr. Bevin on March 20; printed as Annex 3, p. 503.
  25. In telegram 4169, not printed.
  26. In telegram 5006, p. 502.
  27. Not printed.
  28. Not printed.
  29. Not printed.
  30. Memorandum of conversation by the Chief of the Division of South Asian Affairs (Hare), not printed.
  31. No. 5426, not printed.
  32. For the text of the pertinent part of Ambassador Johnson’s statement before the Security Council on August 28 and the “Explanations” furnished to the British, see telegram 3800, August 30, to London, p. 803.
  33. Not printed.
  34. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 738 ff.
  35. Transmitted with a memorandum of March 20, 1947, which stated: “When we met on the 18th March I promised to let you have a memorandum on Social and Economic Development in the Middle East.

    “I now enclose this memorandum with a special annex describing the work of the Haigh Irrigation Commission in Iraq. I hope you will be able to find time to give it your attention.”

    The original copy of Mr. Bevin’s memorandum to the Secretary of State has not been found in Department of State files. The copy used here was sent by the Department to the Ambassador in Egypt in instruction 1877, April 23, 1947.

    Messrs. Marshall and Bevin were at Moscow participating in the Fourth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers which met there from March 10 to April 24, 1947.

  36. Undated paper entitled “Development of Irrigation in Iraq”, not printed.
  37. The editor is unable to find in Department of State files a copy of Secretary Marshall’s reply to Mr. Bevin’s memorandum. Airgram A–901, September 25, 1947, to London, contains information that the Secretary’s acknowledgment, sent on March 27, stated that the memorandum was being forwarded to the Department of State for study (890.50/9–1647). In a note of July 3, the Secretary of State informed the British Ambassador that the memorandum was “receiving the careful attention of officials of the Department of State and that a further communication will be addressed to the Ambassador at such time as it is possible to complete the Department’s study thereof.” (890.50/3–2047).