865.014/7–2848: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3430. From the Ambassador, Palmer, Utter. It is more apparent than ever after our talks with French and British that we have reached impasse with regard Tripolitania. From their preliminary reactions, moreover, we cannot see any good prospect of selling either British or French on postponement, although we put forward every argument of which we could think in support of that proposal. After hearing British and French objections, we agree that postponement is undesirable. Although situation in Arab world is admittedly not conducive to obtaining support from that quarter, we feel that present international situation in general will secure support from other countries for UK and US strategic aims which might not be forthcoming a year hence.

In foregoing circumstance, we can see only one possible way out of present deadlock. If, as is apparent from Deptel 2898 to London1 US Government feels its security requirements in Tripolitania can only be met by British or US trusteeship, we should make up our minds immediately as to which of these alternatives we will work for and reject the other. If our decision is that we are prepared accept and press for US trusteeship, we shall have removed any outstanding difference with British and might even be able persuade French to acquiesce. If, on other hand, our decision is not to accept US trusteeship, we should inform British categorically to that effect at once, since it is apparent we shall never be able persuade British accept trusteeship themselves so long as we are potential candidate. In this connection it has undoubtedly occurred to Department that although financial and military burdens are undoubtedly important factors in British reluctance to assume this responsibility, fundamental British desire may well be to see US assume more positive role in Mediterranean with its reassuring effect on western European and Mediterranean countries. From indications which British have given us, we are convinced this is controlling factor. It is our opinion that British probably fear possibility US withdrawal from Mediterranean as much as or more than we fear possibility British withdrawal. In these circumstances, it is obvious that British will continue make every effort to tie US to Mediterranean by endeavoring persuade US accept a territorial responsibility.

On other hand there would seem to be possibility that if faced with [Page 929] clear-cut choice between British and Italian trusteeship, British could hardly refuse accept former, albeit reluctantly. We feel this is particularly true in view of attitude British chiefs of staff and Colonial Office, both of which are understood to be strongly opposed return of Italian rule. The chiefs of staff hold tenaciously to view that Mediterranean is essential to security of UK. In view British reluctance, however, we should be prepared assure British that we would propose them in Deputies and GA and that we would make every effort obtain necessary support among third states.

With regard French attitude, it is likewise apparent that French will not retreat from their present position so long as any possibility exists of our supporting Italian trusteeship. We feel there is at least a chance that if we informed French that we had excluded from our thinking any possibility Italian trusteeship and had made up our minds that solution must from a security point of view be US or British trusteeship (depending on our decision), they might be persuaded to acquiesce. Our hand would of course be immeasurably strengthened in persuading French if we indicated that in event we are unable marshal sufficient support for US or British trusteeship we might, as last resort, find it necessary support independence with treaty relationship. For their part, either US or UK, as case may be, would have to give French some reasonable assurance that its administration of country would continue for a more or less extended period of time (such as our ten year proposal) and that it would not grant Tripolitania independence before that date. It is recognized that we may have difficulty in selling British on such a time limit. Finally, we could use question of Fezzan as bargaining point.

We therefore urge immediate decision as to whether US prepared accept trusteeship over Tripolitania as urged by British. If decision is favorable, there will of course be no differences between US and UK. If decision is negative, we believe that British may accept trusteeship to keep out Italians and maintain Anglo-American position in Mediterranean. In order to persuade French re either alternative we must be in position inform them that US finds it impossible support Italian trusteeship. We feel that any further discussions with British and French on present level will probably be unproductive, since we cannot always be sure that US point of view will be effectively presented to Foreign Ministers.

Therefore, in case decisions on above lines reached, I suggest I discuss matter directly with Bevin and that Mr. Caffery hold similar conversations with Schuman.2

This has been discussed in general with Mr. Caffery who concurred.

[Page 930]

Sent Department 3430, repeated Paris 428. [Ambassador, Palmer, and Utter.]

  1. Dated July 23, p. 923.
  2. Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister.