Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Northern African Affairs ( Cyr )1


Subject: French Policies in Morocco.

Participants: Mr. Jean Daridan, Counselor of the French Embassy
Mr. Jean-Pierre Benard, First Secretary, French Embassy
NEA—Mr. Berry
AF—Mr. Bourgerie
AF—Mr. Cyr
AF—Mr. Richey
WE—Mr. Godley

After the usual amenities, Mr. Daridan stated that “we” are most unhappy about the New York Times article of February 22, 1951 [Page 1375] reporting the substance of a letter addressed to President Truman by El Abd Bouhafa, Secretary of the Abd El Krim Committee for Freedom of North Africa. The article reports that “in Cairo, Washington and Rabat ‘spokesmen for the United States informed us that your Government has made clear its disapproval of General Juin’s threats’, and that the United States did not support French colonial policy in Morocco. These assurances, Mr. Bouhafa added, have not been publicly stated.”

Mr. Daridan was particularly unhappy over the allegation in the article that a State Department official had privately corroborated the foregoing statements. He referred to previous assurances from the Department that no public statement would be made concerning the Moroccan rift without first informing the French, and wondered, under the circumstances, whether the Department might not wish to put out some sort of denial.

Mr. Bourgerie replied that nobody in the Office of African Affairs had seen or talked with Mr. Bouhafa in this vein. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bouhafa has been consistently avoided during the past several weeks.

Mr. Berry expressed the view that any sort of denial put out by the Department would serve to dignify the Bouhafa story and would serve to keep alive a public discussion of a subject which both we and the French wished to see closed. He went on to say that he was concerned over the reports of recent developments in Morocco and recalled in this connection that Mr. Schuman had recently informed Ambassador Bruce that the French Government is as concerned as the United States Government over the direction of the trend of events in Morocco. As the direction is contrary to that which we here, and the French in Paris, anticipated, we wondered if there was anything to the newspaper stories that there was a difference of opinion within the French Government itself on Morocco.

Mr. Daridan indicated that there may be some difference of opinion on this subject within the French Government. He agreed that generally it is all right not to dignify such press reports with a reply but he wondered whether that would be the right approach in this case. He inferred that he thought the United States Government should deny the foregoing press report.

Mr. Berry thereupon reviewed the United States Government’s traditional approach to dependent areas. He said that as a nation we liked to see the peoples in such areas progress. He wondered, “within the family”, whether General Juin was not acting more as a soldier than a diplomat in dealing with the Moroccans. In this country, he said, we would dislike very much to see an outbreak in the Arab world against France; we do not like the prospect of airing the Moroccan problem in the UN; and we are sorry to see selfish groups, whoever [Page 1376] they may be, try to use the United States to promote their selfish motives. Mr. Berry declared that it should be possible to find a solution to the Moroccan problem in Morocco.

Mr. Daridan agreed that General Juin may well be more of a soldier than a diplomat, but the Nationalists are the ones, he declared, who make reforms impossible. Mr. Daridan agreed with Mr. Berry that it should be possible to find a solution on the spot and he too hated to see the Istiqlal Party use the United States to promote its own ends.

Mr. Godley agreed with the views Mr. Berry had expressed. Mr. Bourgerie referred to the fact that the Moroccan imports problem had been aired in Congress; he hoped that the political problem could be settled without such an airing.

Mr. Benard expressed the view that we are all working for a solution of the Moroccan problem. The Istiqlal, however, are everywhere and at all times pretending that they have United States support of their position. He referred to the fact that a few years ago Azzam Pasha asserted in a press conference at the Shoreham Hotel that the late President Roosevelt had promised to help the Sultan of Morocco obtain independence. At that time, Mr. Loy Henderson had publicly denied Azzam Pasha’s statement and by such public announcement had taken the wind out of it. Now, he declared, a United States spokesman is alleged to have made a statement in the above mentioned press report. Mr. Benard felt that again a public denial is needed.

Mr. Bourgerie stated that no United States spokesman had made such a statement, but that the statement does in fact happen to be the United States’ view.

Mr. Benard replied that since the United States does not support France in this matter, does it support the Istiqlal. He indicated that unless we declare our neutrality publicly the Istiqlal will continue to claim that they have United States support.

Mr. Berry said that while it is true that the Istiqlal will likely repeat their claims, in his opinion we would be adding fuel to the fire by denying the claim.

Mr. Bourgerie added that if we say we do not support the Nationalists the State Department might thereby offend and get into an argument with the more liberal elements in the United States.

Mr. Benard felt that this was not the point; he insisted that there need only be a denial of the particular statement made in the foregoing press story. Mr. Berry compared this situation to the many charges which are leveled month after month at high officials of this Government who do not dignify all of these charges with answers. Mr. Berry said he would like to see the French make adjustments in Morocco in a way which would solve the problem.

Mr. Benard said that the French are worried by press stories such as the above when they appear in France or Morocco. In this case, [Page 1377] however, Bouhafa is trying to draw the United States into an internal Moroccan problem. The French, he said, are familiar with these tactics on the part of the Arabs and feel that there is need of a United States denial to counteract the press story in question.

Mr. Berry said he felt that the Department’s position would be not to dignify the press story with an answer but that if the French consider it important to make a denial we will think the matter over. Mr. Godley suggested that possibly something might be issued after a couple of weeks if the Nationalists continue to claim United States support.

Mr. Bourgerie indicated that our press guidance had been along the lines we previously mentioned to the French. He recalled that last Saturday it appeared that progress was being made in Morocco—then suddenly General Juin’s demand on the Maghzen was made. He referred to the fact that the Moroccan Section of the Council of Government is the only forum which the Moroccans have since they have no legislature. He referred to the fact that El Glaoui is not too scrupulous and in fact is quite repressive in his measures toward his people in Marrakech.

Mr. Daridan expressed the view that a solution in Morocco would be more probable if it were made clear to the Istiqlal that they do not have American backing.

  1. The memorandum was drafted on February 28.