Record of Informal United States–United Kingdom Discussions, London, Thursday Afternoon, September 21, 19501
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Participants: Foreign Office
Mr. M. R. Wright, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
Mr. G. W. Furlonge, Head, Eastern Department
Mr. T. E. Evans, Head, Middle East Secretariat
Mr. L. A. C. Fry, South-East Asia Department
Mr. L. Barnett, Eastern Department
Department of State
Hon. George C. McGhee (Items 12 and 19)
Mr. Samuel K. C. Kopper (All Items)
Mr. W. Sands (All Items)
American Embassy, London
Mr. Joseph Palmer 2nd (Items 12 and 19)

Kurds (Item 1 under Near East)

We said that while we were not alarmed, there seemed to be signs of increasing unrest among the Kurds in all the countries in which they are located, and that the situation was perhaps potentially dangerous. We felt therefore that it should be watched and that it might be desirable for the US and UK to exchange information in order to keep fully abreast of the situation.

The UK representatives indicated that they were not particularly disturbed by the Kurdish problem. They pointed out that the Kurds were always unstable and divided, and that, while the UK was aware that there was some unrest at the present time, it did not take the matter too seriously. The British representatives said, however, that they were always glad to exchange views and information with us and they agreed that the situation should be watched.

We informed the British that we were in the process of setting up additional consulates throughout the Near East and hoped that through these we could establish closer contacts with the Kurds and other tribesmen. It was agreed by both delegations that all approaches to the Kurds should be through the established governments of the countries concerned and that care should be taken not to build up the Kurds too much, as such action would lead to unrest. It was further agreed that the exchange of views and information between ourselves should be through normal channels, and that there is no need at this time to have special conversations on this subject.

Means of Encouraging Development of Progressive Government in Near East (Item 19)

Mr. McGhee said that the US has been hoping that the activities of the Palestine Refugee Administration2 would give the US and the UK a lever to bring about needed reforms in the Near East, especially in the case of land. As the situation is now, the governments in the area have no desire to make political, economic and social improvements and there is insufficient pressure by the inhabitants, who have neither the political consciousness nor the ability to force more progressive measures. While the US has no ambitions in the area arid while it is difficult for it to intervene in such matters, nevertheless the US [Page 208] is interested in seeing progress made toward progressive government in the area.

Mr. McGhee regarded the Islamic Economic Conference which was held at Karachi last year3 to be an encouraging step in the right direction. He felt that both the US and the UK should encourage the Pakistanis to take initiative in matters of this kind, since they can express points of view in the Moslem world which the US and UK can not. Although much of the Pakistani interest in matters of this kind is admittedly political in motive, nevertheless any influence which they can bring to bear in the interest of reform is all to the, good. The UK representatives agreed that the influence of Pakistan should be encouraged.

Mr. McGhee went on to say that the US has considered other measures to promote progressive government. In Greece, considerable success was achieved by having American officials make public speeches. However, this does not appear to have as much application in the Near East, where suspicions against the US are such that public utterances of this kind would probably not have the desired effect.

Mr. McGhee also outlined other media through which the US hopes that a progressive influence on the area may be exercised, notably through Point Four, through US universities in the area and perhaps through US private foundations, such as the Ford Foundation. He felt that such private enterprises should eschew the political and concentrate on the economic and social aspects of the problem. While he was not too optimistic regarding the prospects for bringing about more progressive government in the Near East, he nevertheless felt that both the US and UK should recognize that they have responsibilities in that direction.

Mr. Wright stated that the UK has this particular problem in the forefront of its thinking on the Near East and wants to try to contribute in every appropriate way to the development of progressive government in the area. There is, however, no panacea for the problem which can only be worked on gradually through the number of channels which are open to us. In this connection, the UK has paid particular attention to the calibre of its diplomatic representatives in the area. There are many opportunities for the right kind of representative to exercise hot only influence on the governmental level, but also direct personal influence in a given situation. He mentioned [Page 209] British Minister Kirkbride in Amman as a successful example. The UK was not enthusiastic about public speeches of their officials. He did not think anti-corruption speeches were particularly effective and felt that they gave rise to nationalistic reaction.

Mr. McGhee felt that a program of economic assistance for the area might give the required lever to obtain greater reforms. Mr. Furlonge pointed out, however, that the intense nationalistic and anti-imperialist views of the governments in the area represented limiting factors. Mr. Wright added that while, of necessity, we were backing reactionary regimes in the area, changes often led to worse situations. Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for example, which in some ways are perhaps the most absolute states in the area, are also perhaps essentially the most structurally sound. In the last few months, the UK has pressed the Jordanian Government for a diminution in absolute power. While these efforts have been successful, the continuance of a more absolute regime in Amman might have led to peace with Israel by this time.

Mr. McGhee felt that Syria might present a good opportunity to try out a program of economic assistance which might give us the necessary leverage to encourage progressive reforms. He felt that in many ways there was greater scope and opportunity in Syria than elsewhere in the area. Mr. Wright agreed, but he felt that the intense nationalistic and anti-imperialist sentiment within Syria would constitute a barrier. While the UK was in favor of economic assistance for the area, it was not sure that it gave the necessary lever for reform. He reiterated his conviction that it was necessary to work through all channels available to us in order to achieve the desired results. He thought the oil companies had a large role to play. Also, the UK attaches great importance to the British Middle East Office, which has worked quietly in the economic and social field. Moreover, there are some 500 UK experts in the Middle East which exercise a progressive influence. The IBRD could play an important role in the area. Unfortunately, however, the Bank’s requirements were too rigid, since it tended to apply Western European Standards to Middle East conditions. He hoped that both the US and the UK could express this point of view to the Bank to help persuade it that it must adopt a more flexible approach to the area. Mr. McGhee agreed that the Bank’s limitations were a barrier to progress in the area.

Additional Near Eastern Economic Assistant Needs (Item 12)

Mr. Evans opened the discussion by giving a résumé of the progress which has been made in the field of economic assistance to the Near East during the past year. With the exception of Egypt, all states in the area still had need for additional capital. However, many of the states in the area have received or have in prospect some form of [Page 210] assistance from the US, UK or IBRD. Ethiopia has an IBRD loan of seven million dollars in sight, which was granted in almost record time, Iraq has received both an IBRD loan and one from the UK; in addition, there has been a considerable increase in Iraq’s oil royalties. In Iran a US Eximbank loan is in prospect and the UK is also studying means of extending assistance. Saudi Arabia has also received an Eximbank loan. In Syria, the Lebanon and Jordan, considerable funds are being expended through PRA. However the needs of these three states are particularly acute and the UK would like to encourage an IBRD loan in Syria while Qudsi, who is receptive to the idea, is in power. The situation in Jordan is serious. Unless a program for the encouragement of exports can be successfully developed, Jordan will be bankrupt within the next few years. Jordan is anxious to join the Bank and the UK feels that it should be encouraged, although it is admittedly not a good bank prospect.

Mr. McGhee said that the US has the impression that the economic situation in the Near East is deteriorating. If true, this is most serious, and the Korean situation would seem to lend importance to the necessity of doing something about it. He felt that the IBRD methods for granting assistance in the area were too slow and that the amounts of capital which the IBRD could bring to bear upon the situation were too small to have the desired effect. For these reasons, the US has been giving consideration to the possibility of a grant program for the area. This is being studied at the present time and certain preliminary conversations with Congress have taken place. Although there were many justifiable developmental projects which had been worked out for the Near East, very little progress has been made in implementing them. Was the limiting factor funds, lack of desire, or what?

Mr. Wright felt that lack of funds was one of the limiting factors but that if the funds were provided, the other limitations, such as lack of desire, might diminish. He expressed the point of view that a three pronged program was necessary for the US and the UK to establish and maintain their influence in the area. (1) To maintain positions of strength in order to make clear to the states in the area that they would be defended and not liberated; (2) to view sympathetically their legitimate nationalist aspirations; and (3) to provide economic assistance. Regarding (1), he felt that the US could best assist by stationing token forces in the area and by participating in a minority role in any Korea-type action. Regarding (2), he felt that we had sometimes in the past paid insufficient attention to the legitimate nationalist aspirations of the area, but that there would be many more future instances in which the states in the area would come to us and in which we could lend a sympathetic ear to such aspirations. Regarding (3), he felt that grant aid should probably be given to at least some of the Near Eastern countries.

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Mr. McGhee inquired what contribution the UK might be able to make in any grant aid program for the area. Mr. Wright replied that the UK is already doing practically all that it can in the area by providing experts, assisting Iraq and Jordan financially, and making up the deficits of the former Italian Colonies. In the case of the latter, it wants to go beyond the present care and maintenance basis. Moreover, it is proceeding with the Owen Falls project and hopes to proceed with other of the Nile projects. The UK intends to go on making its maximum contribution, but doubts that it could do much more than its present obligations.

Role of Arab League in Future Area Programs (Item 10)

Mr. Kopper said that it seemed to have developed from previous conversations that the British were not enthusiastic about the future prospects of the League as a constructive force in the Arab East. Mr. Kopper agreed that the recent history of the League was not such as to encourage enthusiasm but that it was the hope of the Department that League activity might be channeled into some useful sphere of activity. We had particularly in mind its usefulness in area economic development.

Mr. Wright replied that the British were indeed not enthusiastic about either the history or the prospects of the League and that while nothing should be done to “kill it, we should not regret to see it die”. He admitted that perhaps there might be some economic activity in which the League could be useful. Mr. Furlonge interjected at this point that he was afraid there was a danger that whatever the League concerned itself with, it was likely to make as great blunders as it had in the political sphere.

Mr. Sands stated that Ambassador Blandford of the PRA had recently been encouraged by his talks in Cairo with Azzan Pasha on the possibility of the League’s cooperation in development matters.

It was agreed that careful study would be given on both sides to ways in which the League might be useful in social-economic relationships in the area.

Arab Unity (Item 11)

Mr. Kopper asked for the views of the British side on the subject of Arab unity. Mr. Wright replied that there had been no change in the British attitude on this subject since last year, when the position was established that, while HMG would do nothing to encourage activity of any of the plans for unity of the northern Arabs, they would equally do nothing to discourage such plans. Mr. Wright did not know of anything that had happened since then to change this point of view at all.

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Mr. Kopper stated that there did not seem to be any divergence in the views of the two sides and that there did not seem to be recent events which made it necessary to reconsider our positions. Mr. Kopper remarked that while political unity was a highly controversial subject that perhaps there was something which could be done to encourage more identity of economic interest among Arab countries.

Mr. Wright agreed that such identity was altogether to the good and that HMG had always encouraged it.

It was agreed that the tripartite declaration had done much to allay the fears of Ibn Saud, the Syrians and the Lebanese that plans for political unity would not be forced on unwilling countries.

Point Four for Near East (Item 13)

Mr. Sands opened the discussion by giving the tentative figures which the Point IV office and NEA have allocated to NE, AF, SOA and GTI (Iran). He gave a general breakdown of the other allocations and emphasized that all these figures were subject to revision.

Mr. Sands gave a résumé of the technical operation of bilateral agreements and mentioned the spheres in which they would operate, i.e., sending American experts to participating countries, training of local personnel, and use of limited amounts of demonstration equipment.

It was agreed that the procedures outlined would not conflict with British interests in Iraq, where satisfactory local arrangements had been made between the two Embassies. It was also agreed close consultation among US, UK and UN organizations of technical assistance in the area, to avoid duplication of requests, was necessary, and that PRA provided an ideal point of reference in this respect for the Near East, by personal arrangement, without identification of Point IV with the refugee question.

  1. Authorship not indicated in the source text.
  2. For documentation on the Palestine Refugee Administration, see pp. 658 ff.
  3. Reference is to the International Islamic Economic Conference held in Karachi, Pakistan from November 25 to December 6, 1949. The Conference was convened by a group of Karachi businessmen and was attended by delegate from Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Libya, Oman, Afghanistan, Algeria, Tunisia, the Maldive Islands, and Spanish Morocco Although the delegations represented commercial interests rather than governments, the conference was characterized as having a semi-official status and several official observers were present, including one from the Arab League (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1948–1950, p. 10504).