The Ambassador in Egypt ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State 1
The return of Sir Ralph Stevenson, British Ambassador, from the London talks on current Anglo-Egyptian problems has passed by with relatively little attention locally.
The current calm in Cairo political life is illustrative of the control which the government can exercise when it is so determined. The local focus on the Jubilee Celebrations in connection with the Fouad [Page 333] I University has almost completely eclipsed the political issues which were so important in the weeks past.
The following summarizes current British Embassy thinking following the return of the British Ambassador from London:
The British now feel reasonably confident of being able to keep things on an even keel until February. They are not sure of exactly what the locale or circumstances of the adjourned talks will be. They have found Salaheddin slightly less difficult in London than in Cairo. They are not completely unaware of the fact that Salaheddin’s exposure in the United States to the “actualities” may have been at least partially responsible for a more reasonable attitude.
Salaheddin and Amr Pasha2 have entered into a pact to keep their own government uninformed on British thinking until Salaheddin’s return on or about January 10. Then Nahas and Seraggedin3 will be the only two Cabinet Ministers to be informed. Until that time, the British feel reasonably secure that their proposals will not be broadcast to the public. This may well be the crucial period in Anglo-Egyptian relations. The reactions of Nahas and Seraggedin to Bevin’s “tentative” thinking on possible lines of settlement will be the determining factor on the future course of the Anglo-Egyptian conversations.
The British feel that the critical point will be the manner in which Salaheddin describes his conversations. If he paints them in a favorable color (i.e. that the British have shown a more reasonable attitude and are ready to make a deal) there is a good chance that Nahas and Seraggedin will “buy the package”. On the other hand, if he quickly succumbs to the native air of Egypt and damns the British from right to left, this may well jeopardize the entire future of the negotiations.
While educating the Egyptians, Mr. Bevin has also been talking to his own Chiefs of Staff. These conversations have taken the line that in 1956 Britain is through in Egypt, come what may. Therefore the COS should begin to adjust their thinking to this basic fact. Concessions might well be made with this in view. 1952 is to be the critical year, in Mr. Bevine’s thinking, therefore concessions should be geared to take this into account. Nothing substantial to be given until after 1952 but full scale evacuation plans should be laid with 1956 in view.
The Chiefs of Staff are also being urged to take into consideration the serious manpower shortage developing in Great Britain and the fact that the labor reserve of Egypt (estimated up to one million) might well be tapped under favorable local circumstances. There is the possibility that serious training of Egyptians in administrative [Page 334] and technical skills could be used to the ultimate advantage of the British.
One of the many obstacles to complete evacuation is the British Treasury which estimates the total cost of evacuation at £200 million, and says that there is no possibility of obtaining the money. In many ways it would be cheaper to sell the base, lock, stock and barrel, to the Egyptians, except for the fact that irreplaceable materials are stored there.
The British now believe that more thought must be given to Turkey’s position vis-à-vis defense and the Canal (with perhaps some wishful thinking that Turkey might help out in current negotiations).