865.014/3–2149: Telegram

The Consul at Tripoli (Taft) to the Secretary of State


55. Returned from Benghasi evening March 18 after successful visit during which following information obtained:

There is serious lack of any understanding of philosophical meaning of word “trusteeship” or system word implies. Majority of Cyrenaicans believe synonymous with “colony”, that “domination”, based on desire to maintain strategic bases, will continue indefinitely and that independence not forthcoming. Administration published only one explanation in its Arabic language newspaper which had little effect on the cynical attitude of the Cyrenaicans who do not wish to accept either status or word. Article rebutted in opposition press by publication old photo of Italian mass execution without comment under headline identical to that over administration story. I saw no indications of any pending change in attitude on part of administration or military authorities from present complete control slightly disguised by using Emir when necessary through fictitious and mutually bothersome cooperation. Emir has refused draft constitution pending revision. It apparently follows and based on other Middle East British sponsored constitutions. He will return from Egypt on March 24. There will be no Cyrenaican delegation to UNGA.
Influence of Omar Mukhtar Club is growing in cities and chief administrator states “free elections held now their candidates would win in Benghasi”. Organization is looked down on by Emir and his group as proved collaborationists with Italians and it looks down on the Senussi as reactionary and conservative. Moslem brotherhood ideas and techniques are gaining importance but no signs of pending violent action on part of Club. It furnishes vital field for Communist infiltration and will probably be vehicle if such takes place. Members consider themselves only progressive element in country and are extremely dissatisfied with present conditions.
There will be no serious reaction to imposition of British trusteeship but it will not be accepted without rancour. Cyrenaicans object to imposition of trusteeship although they agree if given opportunity they would seek close ties with and protection of British.
Unity question still alive. Emir apparently would accept Tripoli request if Beshir Saadawi1 and Dr. Shukry2 had no connection therewith but as they are considered “agents Libyan League receiving money from that source to swing Libya into Egyptian orbit.” [Page 536] their presence is permanent bar. If native leader resident in Tripoli emerged and union requested under his aegis, merger would be rapidly effected probably under federal formula. Omar Mukhtar Club sets unity above all else and brushed personality difficulties aside.
Return of Italy to Tripoli would have reaction in Cyrenaica and some Cyrenaicans would join Tripolitanians in resistance. Return would be considered entering edge of wedge, and greatly feared, by Senussi. It would also be permanent bar to union. Nevertheless, while return of Italian Government to Cyrenaica is considered impossible, skilled Italian technicians and specialists will be welcome in the future.
Egyptian Consul General is being recalled at request of administration on account of black market activities and meddling in local politics. He has attempted to swing public opinion against administration and towards Egypt. He apparently has had some success with the Omar Mukhtar Club. French policy is mildly in support of administration but Consul states thus “of course Italy could do a better job than the British but strategic necessities, of value to all of Europe, require British presence here.”

Repeated to London, Rome. Paraphrase by pouch to Cairo.

  1. President of the Libyan Liberation Committee.
  2. Fuad Shukry, Advisor to the Libyan Liberation Committee.