Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of African Affairs ( Palmer ) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs ( Henderson )

top secret

As requested by Mr. Satterthwaite,1 we are giving below AF’s comments on the five points of the agenda prepared for the North African Conference to be held at Paris on May 24th:

“The effects on the political situation in French North Africa of such steps as have been taken since last year as a result of our pressing the French for a more far-sighted policy toward Tunisia, Morocco, and, to a lesser extent, Algeria.”

We suspect that there is going to be a difference of opinion on this point at the conference, with most of the North African officers maintaining [Page 693] that there has been little effect because we have not pressed the French enough and the Embassy taking a contrary view. We hope that this discussion will indicate the need for further talks with the French.

2. “Suggestions for the further implementation of a policy of encouraging the French and the North Africans to reach a general entente which will result in political stability and the ultimate good of France and North Africa.”

We are informed that the Planning Staff paper on French North Africa2 will shortly be released to the field after one or two minor changes and will be available for the Conference in Paris.

3. “The best estimate of the effects on French North Africa of the following possible solutions for the final disposition of Libya:

  • “A. Independence of a United Libya.
  • “B. British trusteeship over Cyrenaica and Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania.
  • “C. British trusteeship over both Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (whether a single trusteeship over a United Libya or individual trusteeships over two separate areas).
  • “D. Other possible solutions, such as American, Arab League, or Egyptian trusteeships.
  • “E. French control (possibly under a trusteeship agreement) over the Fezzan in any or all of the above cases.

“The Conference should bear in mind that (a) to date, the French have favored an Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania because they fear that either independence or a British trusteeship would have disturbing effects on French North Africa and make French control there much more difficult; (b) almost all information available to the Department indicates that the majority of Tripolitanians will oppose by all means at their disposal a return of Italian administration to their country; and (c) any trusteeship agreements may contain a specified time limit for the independence of the territories. Even if they do not, it will probably be made very clear that the object of the trusteeship is to prepare the area for independence in the shortest possible time.”

AF’s opinion is that, next to independence and Arab League or Egyptian trusteeships, the worst solution for Libya,3 from the point of view of the French, would be Italian trusteeship because of our belief, on the basis of all evidence available, that the Arabs will oppose the return of the Italians with violence. We think that the Conference will confirm this belief. If such is the case, it would be very helpful to us in reaching the U.S. position and in talking to both the British and the French. If the Conference does not confirm this belief and has [Page 694] good reasons for believing otherwise, we would, of course, want to know that as soon as possible.

4. “The steps which (a) the French should take, (b) will probably take, to minimize as much as possible the political effects on French North Africa of the above possible solutions for the final disposition of Libya.”

Even if that solution is found for Libya which is the least harmful from the point of view of the French (and this, in AF’s opinion, would be British trusteeship), we believe that the French should meet this problem intelligently in advance by liberalizing their own policy toward French North Africa. We believe also that this can be done best by implementation of the Department’s policy on the subject, namely an announcement of long-range plans which would lead the area toward self-government. We do not believe, however, that, to obtain the best effect, the agenda should contain what may seem to be preconceived ideas, particularly as we feel fairly confident that the conference will come to this conclusion on its own accord.

5. “There have been increasing indications that the North African Nationalists, in collaboration with the Arab League, will make a serious attempt this year to present the case of North Africa, or some part thereof, to the General Assembly. Discuss the probability and present the best estimate of how the case may be prepared, what the Conference thinks the French position will be, and what it thinks the U.S. position should be.”

No comment.4

  1. Joseph C. Satterthwaite, deputy director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  2. Dated March 22, p. 682.
  3. Marginal note: “I disagree to this. There could be a number of worse solutions for France. L[oy] W. H[enderson].”
  4. Handwritten comment at foot of document: “I agree with the agenda. In my opinion the Dept’s representative should play the role of observer and make no attempt to influence decisions. We want the real field’s point of view. L. W. H.”