Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs ( McGhee ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Webb )

top secret

Subject: British Relations with Egypt

It is my understanding that the President recently expressed his concern to you regarding the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, in the light of current telegrams from our Embassy in London.

It is believed that the President is referring to telegrams from our Embassies in London and Cairo with respect to a recent letter from Nahas, the Egyptian Prime Minister, to Mr. Bevin (Tabs A and B)1 and the British reaction thereto (Tabs C and D).2 Nahas’ letter deals with the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 which is valid until 1956. Briefly, the Egyptians now wish to revive previous conversations about the Suez and Sudan and desire early evacuation of both areas by the British. On the other hand, the British believe, that there is no great hurry and that the important problem is to choose the right moment for the negotiations. Meanwhile, the British feel that King Farouk will be able to exert a moderating influence on the fairly strong nationalistic position which the Wafdist Government, headed by Nahas, feels it must take.3

During a general conversation on this subject on March 20, between representatives of our Embassy in London and the British Foreign Office, the British hoped we would make it clear to the Egyptians that there was no use in attempting to play off the United States against the United Kingdom (with specific reference to arms shipments) and that General Collins would be able during his present visit to the Near East to talk frankly with King Farouk regarding the present world situation.4 (Tab C)

As these suggestions appeared reasonable and in line with the present policy of U.S.–U.K. cooperation in the Near East, Ambassador Caffery was authorized (Tab E)5 to comply with regard to the first [Page 289] suggestion, leaving the question of timing and method to his discretion. With regard to the second suggestion, Ambassador Caffery was informed the Department had no objection provided General Collins was agreeable and Ambassador Caffery was of the opinion that a useful purpose would be served.

Ambassador Caffery subsequently informed the Department (Tab B) that he would again approach the Egyptian authorities as suggested and that he approved a frank talk between General Collins and King Farouk.


It is recommended that you discuss this matter with the President along the foregoing lines.6

  1. Neither printed. Tab A was telegram 257 and Tab B was telegram 276, from Cairo, March 17 and 22 (641.74/3–1750 and 3–2250).
  2. Neither printed. Tab C was telegram 1530 and Tab D was telegram 1611, from London, March 20 and 24 (641.74/3–2050 and 3–2450).
  3. The Wafd Party, led by Prime Minister Nahas, came to power in Egypt after an overwhelming victory in the general elections of January 3, 1950.
  4. The main theme of Gen. J. Lawton Collins’ discussions with Egyptian officials and with King Farouk was to stress the necessity of the British retaining rights for military bases in Egypt. A copy of his report to the Secretary of the Army is in Department of State file 780.5/4–1750.
  5. Not printed. Tab E was telegram 239 from the Department of State to Cairo, March 22 (641.74/3–2050).
  6. An attached memorandum by James E. Webb recorded that this information was given to the President on April 18.