The Ambassador in Egypt ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State
529. Mytel 513 November 22 repeated London 76. Recent goings on in House of Commons1 have resulted in definite setback for chances of success of negotiations regarding retention of Suez strategic base, with or without US. British Ambassador, who fully understands Bevin’s difficulties, protesting mightily to London against sacrificing given word as well as strategic defense this region to political expediency. British influence in Egypt is at this juncture at an all-time low. US prestige is higher than it has been for years. As Department is aware, US was target for most of mud that was slung (and there was plenty slung) since the beginning of Palestine war and prestige was at an all-time low on publication Life and Saturday Evening Post articles. There has been a radical change in our regard during past few months in press and among public. From public we have received many favorable comments, and press has not contained a real attack against us for long time and on occasion favorable comment. However, although we are riding high now we could easily fall off or be pushed off, if we are not able to maintain our present attitude: on one hand, neither flattering Egyptians and never telling them that we favor their so-called nationalist aspirations (we have repeatedly told them we favor retention of British base for instance) but on other hand convincing them that we are fair and just and inherently interested in their economic welfare; helping them raise their standard living, etc. In other words if we are to be any use in helping to retain Suez base we can only do it if we make Egyptians believe that our intervention is helping their [Page 324] long time interests, bolstering up their sovereignty and even soothes their national pride. Obviously this is not easy. In other words again what is needed is a new look and obviously the British alone cannot create it; and we can create it only if we carry on along the lines just set out.
As to price and (it will be higher since the recent Commons goings-on) it will include armament, Egypt participation in any pact on an ostensibly full sovereign basis, some sort of security guarantee, at least a facade of military consultation, and something on Palestine.
I repeat that what we offer must be something Wafd can sell to ite clamorous clients.
For obvious reasons Stevenson and I both are apprehensive under prevailing circumstances about London conversations. Another failure there would set back the clock again and time may be running out if we are to avoid serious disturbances.
Sent Department 529, repeated London 81 for Ambassador’s eyes only.
- See the editorial note, infra.↩