Report of the Near East Regional Conference in Cairo1


Summary of Conclusions

Conference discussions of the many aspects of United States policy in the Near Eastern area were directed toward the proposition that the basic objective of that policy must be the maintenance of peace and the development of area political and economic responsibility, stability and security; the enhancement of United States prestige and that of the United Nations, and the orientation of the area toward the United States and Western powers and away from the USSR. The deliberations developed many conclusions, as reflected in the report of the Conference. The principal ones reached are:

1. Economic Survey Mission and Palestine Relief Agency

Steps should be taken to focus the attention of the Syrian and Lebanese peoples on the possibilities of Point IV, rather than on PRA, in view of the fact that major projects under the latter scheme are to be confined to Arab Palestine and Jordan. Syria and Lebanon have been anticipating that considerable work would be undertaken in each country and the contemplated program will come as a shock to them. A major problem is to bring the host governments and Israel to the realization that responsibility for the refugees is primarily theirs. It was felt that great difficulty will be encountered in convincing the refugees themselves that they should attempt to settle permanently in the countries in which they are now located.

2. Future Settlement in Palestine

There is little likelihood of an early over-all settlement in Palestine, but our policy of creating conditions favorable for a settlement through the economic and social strengthening of the Arab States is considered to be the correct one. We should maintain this active interest within a framework of strict impartiality toward the Arab States and Israel. As far as Jerusalem is concerned, we should continue our bona fide effort for internationalization, while doing all we can to reconcile the conflicting interests of both sides with the legitimate demands of the world community.

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3. Regionalism

(a) The Arab League

The Arab League, whatever its potentialities may be for contributing to political stability and to economic and social reforms in the Near East, can find little place in United States foreign policy until it puts its house in order.

(b) Syrian-Iraqi Unification

No new factors have arisen which would alter the position previously announced by the United States on this subject: The United States, while neither opposing nor favoring unification, is convinced that such a union should be in accordance with the wishes of the people concerned and not as a result of force or outside interference.

Continuing efforts should be made, within practical limits and in accordance with conditions prevailing in each country, to persuade as may be appropriate the various Arab governments and the British and French Governments as well, to refrain from interference in Syrian affairs. Only thus would the Syrians be assured of opportunities to work out this problem for themselves.

(c) Near East Regional Defense Pact

The conference considered the conclusions reached at Istanbul that it would be impractical and undesirable for the United States to encourage any Near Eastern regional defense pact. Developments since the Istanbul conference confirmed the continued validity of the position.

The United States, moreover, should not encourage any regional grouping directed against any other state in the area but should give its support to such regional arrangements as promise to bring about political stability, peace, and improvement of economic conditions.

4. Internal Trends

(a) Communism

The Near East is vulnerable to communistic exploitation should the USSR set out with determination to intensify its activities in the area. The natural deterrents to the success of such a drive, such as religion, a modern social system, a flourishing economic life, and a democratic political structure, are weak or lacking. The deterrents that exist are of a negative nature, such, for example, as the apathy of the uneducated class, the general absence of a large middle class and the opposition to change of the small political-economic hierarchy in each state.

Only in Turkey where there is a strong general dislike of anything coming from the USSR, and in Greece where our aid has removed the immediate threat of communism is the democratic position strong. In Cyprus, however, the Greek communist movement is a serious matter. In Iran the factors favoring communism have increased in [Page 4] recent months. In the Arab states and in Israel communism is a potential rather than an actual danger, although there are indications that the communist leaders in Beirut are preparing to intensify their activities.

Throughout the Near East we still have the opportunity of preventing a communist conflagration. This will require in the border states continuing our aid to Greece and Turkey and taking such action in Iran as the situation and our national objectives demand. In the Arab states we should seek to create conditions which make the democratic way of life more attractive to the local people than communism. This should take the form of encouraging the improvement of economic, social and political conditions. The PRA projects are an excellent beginning. The implementation of Point IV should carry these a long step further. In our efforts we should aim at steady progress at a no faster pace than the people are themselves willing to travel in order not to explode the social system. The same principles are applicable but in a lesser degree to Israel where there already exists a large reservoir of technical skill and experience.

(b) Reactionary Forces

Incident to the implementation of various American programs in the area, the problem is to introduce into Near Eastern political and social systems a compelling degree of liberal thought and desire for social justice without forcing a too rapid change of the existing order which might create an opportunity for communism to develop rapidly. There are some signs that the ruling classes are commencing to accept the inevitability of social advancement in their own best interest.

(c) Attitudes toward Minorities

Conditions concerning minorities were considered encouraging. The situation of the Jews in Iraq, who were discriminated against but not persecuted as Jews, has materially improved since last October. It was estimated that probably 25 to 50 percent would leave Iraq for Israel under the conditions of the legislation now in its final stages. All restrictions against Jews have been lifted in Egypt.

Discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel was reported but the current trend was toward better treatment. At present no special minority problem exists in connection with the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

(d) Shifting Centers of Political Power

In the Arab States no effective change seems likely in the near future. In Israel there is the possibility of a slight shift to the right. Turkey’s internal situation is stable. The threat to Greece has decreased, with United States aid, but the coalition which will emerge from the recent elections will face a measure of political instability and the Communists may be expected to enter the political field. The situation [Page 5] in Iran remains precarious and needs immediate reforms to restrain serious unrest.

5. Military Aid to Greece, Turkey and Iran

A continuation of such aid, plus economic assistance needed to prevent the spread of communism is necessary to the security of Greece, Turkey and Iran, and consequently to the security of the entire area.

6. Relationship of GTI States with Each Other

In general such relations are very good, and though Iranian distrust of Turkey is still apparent, our representatives find no sound reason for it. Greek–British relations are at times troubled over the Cyprus question, and Turkish–Greek relations could be endangered if Greek agitation of this issue were to show signs of achieving results. It is important that we encourage the GTI states to develop their confidence in and cooperation with each other.

7. GTI Relations with Other Great Powers; British-American Relations

Greek relations with the United States are naturally excellent, and the British, too, have considerable prestige in that country. French influence is confined mainly to cultural matters, and Greek-Italian relations seem likely to improve. Our relations with Turkey are excellent. Britain and France, through their alliances with Turkey, are also highly regarded in that country. Signs of revival of the traditional friendship between Turkey and Germany are apparent, and Turkish-Italian relations seem satisfactory. Iranian regard for the United States is high, despite their feeling that we are neglecting them. Their relations with Great Britain, whom they fear and dislike, are correct and are handicapped by the unsettled A.I.O.C. concession issue, and by Iranian claims to the Bahrein Islands. Our relations with the British Colonial Government in Cyprus are good. Generally speaking, Anglo-American relations throughout the area are very satisfactory.

8. Great Power Position in Other Near East Countries

The overall objectives of the United States and British Governments in the Near East are substantially the same and, therefore, a common approach to the problems and collaboration whenever possible should bring results mutually desired. The missions in several Arab states report that since the Istanbul conference there has been evidence of increasing desire on the part of the British to collaborate with American officials working in the same area. There is need, however, to develop this situation. The delegates felt that much could be accomplished in this respect by concentrating on the points of agreement with the British and minimizing the points of difference.

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The conference felt that in those instances where it locally appeared possible we should attempt a similar cooperation with the French. A like opportunity exists, but in a much smaller degree, as regards the Turks.

9. Future Role of United States in the Near East

The delegates believe the way is open for the United States in the future to play a more positive role in the Near East. Opportunities for this should increase as the ill will generated by the Palestine conflict recedes into the background and as the realization grows that the United States Government is acting in an impartial manner as regards Israel and the Arab states. In such circumstances United States missions can exert their influence in the manner in which American national interests demand.

All delegates felt that in the countries bordering the Soviet Union some continued military assistance, and economic aid when needed, should be extended to bolster their resistance to Communism. In the Arab states there was general agreement that there was a need to restore the prestige of the United Nations. This might be initiated through PRA and possibly Point IV multi-lateral programs, or through publicizing United Nations achievements in varied fields.

10. Economic

(a) Point IV2

There is need for directing and servicing Point IV country programs on a regional basis, and for coordinating with United Nations and international specialized agencies, and the European Cooperation Administration efforts. Wherever a local program is extensive, there must also be unified direction to assure that the total program will be well integrated, without attempting to interfere with technical guidance.
We should cooperate with any government or organization which may be capable of helping to achieve sound economic development. For example, it may be possible to cooperate with the British Middle East Office. Cooperation should be informal, however, to avoid linking the Point IV Program with any failures or ill-will towards existing organizations.
Projects eligible for the program should be screened to eliminate those which are not considered economic, e.g. the Latakia Port project in Syria, and other projects generally defensible only from a nationalistic or political standpoint.
Training of nationals abroad is an integral part of Point IV, but maximum training should be undertaken within the various countries themselves, or other countries in the area, as experience has shown the latter method to be most effective for all except higher levels of technical training.
The inadequacy of local currency resources within the countries of the area may become a serious limitation in the attraction of foreign capital or even carrying out technical assistance projects. Only in Cairo, Beirut and Istanbul do there now exist even elemental capital markets; in many countries, Government funds cannot easily be expanded to cover new development programs.
Even though technical assistance programs may be successfully carried out in Near Eastern countries, it should be recognized that the flow of private American capital into such areas probably will be strictly limited by present political and economic considerations. However, there are encouraging indications that local investments are playing an increasing role in the development of the countries concerned, particularly in the cities of Cairo, Beirut, and Istanbul.
Since the Near Eastern countries are primarily agricultural, paramount consideration should be given to assistance directly affecting the welfare of the rural populations in the negotiation and execution of technical assistance programs.
Especially during the initial stages of Point IV, care should be taken to overcome any doubts or suspicions by recipient governments and populations regarding the United States intentions. In this connection provision for United States and local trade union participation in the implementation of the program would dramatize the broad democratic support of the program.
Appropriate inter-departmental machinery should be established in Washington for the purpose of coordinating and integrating United States technical assistance activity in the Near East. It would coordinate with United Nations agencies in its relief and resettlement activities concerning Arab refugees, and with the technical assistance activities of the United Nations and of the European Cooperation Administration where appropriate.
Existing educational institutions in the area should be utilized immediately to the maximum for both technical and vocational training.
Where country programs are extensive in scope and involve technicians from more than one United States Government agency, it should be the general policy to place a qualified director in charge of administration and program coordination, leaving technical guidance entirely to the substantive agencies.
As a general rule, technical assistance agreements negotiated with recipient countries should be informal and as simple as possible.
Where the inadequacy of local currency resources would limit otherwise economic and practicable programs, consideration should be given to meeting local currency as well as foreign exchange financing of technical assistance programs.

(b) Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaties3

FCN treaties with Middle and Near East countries are highly desirable as a means of creating a more favorable climate for private [Page 8] investment from abroad. Proposed FCN drafts submitted to countries in this area should be concise and clear and, where possible, should be negotiated in the capitals of the states concerned.

(c) Possibilities of Expanding Near East Exports

An effort should be made to expand Near East exports, and though it was recognized that the non-dollar markets at present offer a more promising possibility in that respect, it is apparent that expansion of exports to such markets will not ease the critical dollar problem. The most desirable solution of the latter problem lies in the expansion of exports to dollar areas, but substantial success in that field is dependent upon price reductions of many products. United States products, already handicapped by local dollar shortages, are also meeting increasing competition due to the practice of American authorities in Germany of promoting German products in the area.

11. USIE

Our USIE program is of great importance both as the best means of explaining our policy to the peoples of the Near East in terms they can understand, and in countering communist and other anti-United States propaganda.

Departmental offices concerned should give increased attention to providing materials better adapted to local understanding, particularly at elementary levels. The present program is not reaching all sections of the potential audience, a goal which can be attained with material more closely tailored to area needs. Emphasis should also be placed on America’s homelier qualities and methods of doing things, including our attention to social welfare and ethical and moral achievement, rather than stressing financial and technical strength only.

[Here follows section twelve, the last sentence of the Summary of Conclusions, which concerned consular affairs and policies affecting personnel in the Near Eastern posts.]

  1. Transmitted to the Department of State by the Ambassador in Egypt as enclosure 2 in his despatch 486 of March 16. The Summary of Conclusions printed here originally served as an introduction to the 134-page report prepared by Caffery, Rountree, and Berry.
  2. For documentation concerning the development of the Point IV program, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. i; pp. 757 ff.
  3. For documentation concerning the policy of the United States to modernize its treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation, see vol. i, pp. 681 ff.