641.74/3–2851: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Gifford ) to the Department of State 1


5100. We understand full Cab will probably on April 2 consider Egyptian defense proposals drawn up by JCS with advice of [Page 351] Stevenson and Fon Off. (We have been unable obtain substance these proposals but suspect they are along lines Cairo despatch 2042, Feb 27.2) Stevenson meanwhile postponing return Cairo.3 Head Fon Off African Dept tends feel Cab will either approve proposals substantially as drafted or drop them altogether as he thinks it unlikely it will feel competent temper with plan which represents much hard work and careful consideration by JCS and top Fon Off officials. Fon Off officials feel Morrison appreciates international implication of problem and note that Bevin while now less influential will be able add his weight in constructive way. Also possibly significant is fact that Parliamentary critics of govt in sterling debate last week avoided specific reference defense negots and are certainly conscious govt’s difficulties in dealing with Egypt on this question with all that is at stake for UK national interest.

At same time it is undeniable that Cabinet seriously concerned over obviously difficult Parliamentary situation and danger that further concessions to Egypt may be challenged. Apart from govt’s anxiety over possibility of adverse vote is knowledge substantial criticism within Labor ranks of UK policy on Egypt. This is predicament which will have to be worded out by govt according to its own best lights.

Furthermore, Fon Off and Stevenson not at all sanguine Egypt wld accept offer. They fear already difficult situation wld be complicated by Egyptian insistence Sudans aspirations.

In above circumstances I do not believe it wld he wise or constructive for me at this time to approach Morrison as suggested Deptel 4344, Mar 23.4 We are, however, taking every appropriate occasion to stress at Fon Off Departmental level importance US attaches to early satisfactory [Page 352] defense settlement with Egypt. Will review situation with McGhee next Monday with view to determining what helpful further action we can take.

  1. Repeated to Cairo.
  2. Not printed, but see footnote 3, p. 347.
  3. Caffery had reported in telegram 927 from Cairo, March 9, that Stevenson “tells me he is leaving Sunday for London and hopes to see Bevin Monday. [British] Chiefs staff will consider Fay id [the British base in the Suez Canal Zone] business same afternoon and Bevin will probably take him before defense committee on Friday 16th and probably to Cabinet meeting on Monday 19th. Stevenson hopes return Cairo 21st.” (641.74/3–951)
  4. Not printed; it reported the Department of State’s concern that majority opinion in Parliament seemed clearly opposed to any further concessions to Egypt as reported in telegram 5043 from London of March 21 (641.7494/3–2151). It further stated that “While we appreciate difficult situation in which Brit Govt finds itself this time we consider settlement treaty problem with Egypt of urgent importance and earnestly hope there will be no recession from progressive position which UK understood to have adopted in recent months. Situation Iran is having serious repercussions Egypt and other ME countries and we believe it important agreement be reached with Egypt soonest possible, otherwise dangerous and explosive situation might well be created consequences of which wld be difficult counter.” Ambassador Gifford was informed that at his own discretion he could “put above views informally to Morrison or anyone else in FonOff you believe appropriate.” (641.7494/3–2351) Regarding the Anglo-Iranian dispute over nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, see p. 544.