Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 158
STB MIN 2
Lord Salisbury opened the discussion by inquiring as to the nature of the reply which it was contemplated the President would make to General Naguib.2
Secretary Dulles said that as he saw it we could take one of two lines; the first alternative would be to indicate approval or disapproval and the second alternative would be to send a non-committal response. He thought the latter course might have certain disadvantages.
Lord Salisbury stated that he also saw two possible courses and that the first of these courses would be for the President to comment in detail on the proposals. He said although this was what the Egyptians might prefer he thought it would be unwise as it could cause embarrassment to the U.S. and the U.K. as it would in effect place the U.S. in the position of being an active mediator. This in turn he felt would offer to the Egyptians innumerable opportunities to play us off one against the other in which practice he stated the Egyptians were experts. He thought it would open up possibilities of driving a wedge between the U.S. and U.K. and he did not think this course would be likely to result in rapid progress.
He said he did not mean by this that U.S. participation in this matter was unwelcome. In fact, the U.K. had welcomed it and it was the Egyptian side which had rejected the idea of the U.S. participating in the discussions. He said in view of the circumstances he thought perhaps the U.K. should handle the matter as approaches to the Egyptian Government through two channels could very easily “cross wires”. For these various reasons he felt the President should not make detailed comments to Naguib on his proposal. On the contrary, he felt the reply should contain the following elements: (a) warm thanks, (b) indication that we felt the reply constituted an advance in certain respects, (c) that the U.S. will transmit the Egyptian proposal to the U.K. and (d) a suggestion that the Egyptians might take it up with the U.K.[Page 1677]
Lord Salisbury repeated that this would avoid creating opportunities for the Egyptians to play us off one against the other.
Secretary Dulles observed that if the U.S. in effect advised the Egyptians to resume contact with the U.K. the Egyptians might attach to this the implication that conclusions had been reached at this meeting. He inquired if Lord Salisbury meant that the U.S. should indicate in its reply that the U.S. had no responsibility in the matter.
Lord Salisbury said he felt that the major responsibility must continue to rest with the U.K. and that he felt it was important that in our reply Naguib not be given the impression that the U.S. feels that the U.K. should accept the Egyptian proposals. He felt as far as we should go would be to indicate that the Egyptian proposals in our opinion contain features which we believe may make agreement easier. He again referred to the Egyptian skill at playing one party off against the other and also at “clutching at straws”. He said the U.K. had made certain proposals (handed to us Saturday) which General Robertson felt could lead to a satisfactory result. He observed that the U.K. proposals and the Egyptian proposals contain certain common elements. He asked General Sir Brian Robertson to elaborate on this point.
Sir Brian stated that the portion of the Egyptian proposals relating to technicians and management of the base seem generally satisfactory and appear to reflect Egyptian acceptance of what the British have been trying to obtain on this side of the question for some time. He observed that this perhaps reflects the results which can be obtained by the utilization of patience and firmness. He said that the proposal that the technicians be in civilian clothes was awkward as the U.K. feels they should be in uniform. He implied, however, that he felt this question should be susceptible of resolution without undue difficulty. He said that if the technicians were in civilian clothes they would have no special status. They would be at the mercy of any Egyptian policeman, they would be difficult to administer and control and he thought less incidents would be likely to arise if the men were in uniform. He pointed out that a majority of the technicians would, in fact, be soldiers.
Secretary Dulles inquired as to what was meant by uniform, whether it was meant in a generic sense or in the uniform of the British Army.
Sir Brian replied that the first position of the U.K. would be that they should wear the uniform of Her Majesty’s Army. He repeated that he felt this question could be worked out with the Egyptians.
Sir Brian then turned to the subject of availability or as he put it the reactivation of the base. He commented that the Egyptian phrasing was fairly ingenuous and seemed to indicate that they were trying to [Page 1678] do something on this question. He felt, however, that the Egyptian formula was inadequate. He said there must be no doubt whatsoever with respect to the availability of the base and that politically the British Government must have a good answer for Parliament on this point. He indicated that at the moment he would not take a hard line on this point but that he much preferred the U.K. formula.
Sir Brian then referred to the question of duration and said this was the most difficult issue as it involved not simply the agreement but the period of time their men could remain at the base. He said three years was far too short. We cannot assume that the world situation will change materially in such a short period. From the political point of view it would not be possible for the U.K. to exchange for the same time period; i.e., three years, the substantial treaty rights they now have for substantially less rights. As to the U.K. formula he particularly liked the insertion therein of the wedge, as he described it, on the subject of a regional defense organization. He said at first blush this might seem to be at variance with the Secretary’s proposal with regard to the grouping of the northern tier of countries but he did not think this was necessarily so. He said the important thing was to commit Egypt in some way and he added he felt there did not have to be a single regional organization or arrangement covering the entire area. He said he realized the U.K. formula would be difficult for the Egyptians to accept but he didn’t think its prospects were hopeless and he would like to “give it a try”. Furthermore, he doubted if the U.K. could accept less in substance. He added that if a precise time limit proved to be absolutely necessary ten years would be the correct figure.
General Hull asked how soon, in the event agreement could be reached, evacuation could start.
Sir Brian replied immediately subject only to the limitation of the arrival of ships.
Lord Salisbury commented that under the U.K. formula the Egyptians obtained “an enormous amount”. Most of the U.K. troops would be evacuated and the only real right the U.K. would retain would be the control of stores and technical base facilities. He said the Cabinet had gone into this matter very thoroughly and he felt the U.K. formula constituted the limit to which the U.K. could go politically.
Secretary Dulles inquired if the British claim any rights other than the rights under the treaty which he observed would expire in three years.
Sir Brian said it was not accurate to state that the treaty would expire in three years. He said as he recalled it the provision in essence was that at the end of three years either side could request revision for the purpose of developing a renewed agreement of similar character. If [Page 1679] agreement cannot be reached as to revision the treaty provides that the matter should be arbitrated by the League of Nations. He added that British lawyers are not clear on this specific function of arbitration whether the UN is or is not the successor to the League.
Secretary Dulles then asked if the British felt it will be possible to reach a settlement with the Egyptians without the U.S. promising aid, probably economic and military.
Sir Brian replied that certainly this would be a very great assistance and he thought it would “possibly be necessary”.
Secretary Dulles said he had asked this question wondering if it was practical for the U.S. to take a position of aloofness on this question.
Lord Salisbury observed that while he thought the U.K. proposal constituted a hand which the U.K. could play, that it would be helpful, of course, to play with an assist from the U.S. He added that, of course, the U.S. was interested in the sense that the matter under dispute involved a vital strategic area of the world.
Secretary Dulles said he was wondering what the President should say to General Naguib in response to the portion of Naguib’s letter referring to the question of aid. He wondered what we could say or whether that portion of Naguib’s communication should be ignored.
Lord Salisbury commented that the U.K. would have been very happy indeed for the U.S. to have participated in the actual discussions but that as we know the Egyptians had been the ones who had made this impossible.
Secretary Dulles said there had been another difficulty with respect to this matter which had not clearly emerged as the Egyptian refusal of U.S. participation had obscured it. He said he thought there had been a certain amount of misunderstanding between our two Governments on the question of the degree of flexibility which the negotiators should possess. The Prime Minister apparently had a different view on this from the President. We would have wanted to be certain that there was more flexibility than the U.K. had apparently given their negotiators.
Sir Roger Makins said that the point as he recalled it was how much flexibility the negotiators would have without the necessity of referring matters back to Governments.
Mr. Byroade said that we had understood that the negotiators were to be given flexibility without reference back to work out arrangements under which the base could be reactivated in from zero to sixty days.
Sir Brian said that the area in which he had not had great flexibility was on the question of technicians which now, however, appeared to be in fairly good shape. He said on other questions such as air defense and regional defense he had had considerable flexibility which [Page 1680] he had not yet been in a position to use as these questions had not yet been discussed in any detail with the Egyptians. The question had also not arisen to date in the negotiations on availability or duration.
Lord Salisbury commented that he didn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep in touch with each other while the U.K. was playing its hand with the Egyptians but he did feel that both of us should not be simultaneously approaching the Egyptians.
Mr. Byroade inquired if Sir Brian believed that the Egyptians would be willing at this time to enter formal negotiations indicating that our information is that they would be willing to meet formally only to approve arrangements worked out informally.
Sir Brian replied that he agreed informal discussions must precede any further formal meetings.
Lord Salisbury also expressed his agreement adding that informal negotiations were much better as it made it easier to avoid either side assuming frozen positions.
Sir Brian said that perhaps the U.S. could tell the Egyptians that he was being sent back to Cairo which would afford an opportunity for contact and that we might suggest that they endeavor to make such contact.
Mr. Byroade said that he was searching for some way in which use could be made of the concessions in the recent Egyptian proposal which he hoped would not be thrown away.
Lord Salisbury suggested that this could be managed by our informing the Egyptians that we had transmitted their proposal to the U.K. and they appeared to contain certain views common to those held by the U.K.
Secretary Dulles said he wanted to talk frankly for a few moments with respect to some of the background of U.S. thinking on this problem. He said some people in the U.S. Government have the impression that the U.K. in this case has reverted to the old type hardboiled approach formerly employed in dealing with Arab States. He repeated in this discussion several times the point that we realized the U.K. has had more experience in dealing with that part of the world than has the U.S. He stated, however, that as the U.S. may have to provide one of the assets in this settlement (i.e. aid) it is necessary for us to form some judgment of our own. In our view times have changed and this old type of policy will not succeed. We are apprehensive that it will only create a wave of anti-Western feeling affecting all of our interests adversely and that the final result might be the undermining of the entire Western position in the Arab world. The result then might be that Western objectives in the Arab world would be lost as the Arabs might turn to the Communists for help. He inquired if a fundamental difference of approach such as he described did in fact exist. He added that one of the reasons the U.S. hesitated in this matter is that it seems [Page 1681] to us that the U.K. is more uncompromising than the conditions in the area warrant and that there is need for more recognition that the new forces in the area can’t be suppressed by force or by the old way of dealing with these people.
Lord Salisbury replied that he didn’t feel this line of criticism was in accord with the facts. He cited the U.K. post-war record of dealing with its colonial possessions referring to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and the evolutionary process now going on in the African colonies.
Secretary Dulles said he appreciated all of that but in this particular area, i.e., the Near East, he sensed a tendency to swing back to the old methods which perhaps could be characterized by Churchill’s statement a few years ago to the effect that he was not His Majesty’s principal Minister for the purpose of liquidating the British Empire. Despite the various steps which Lord Salisbury had mentioned the Secretary wondered if a politically uncompromising position might not have been assumed with respect to the remainder of the Empire. He said he recalled during the discussions on the Sudan domestic political considerations were cited as inhibiting U.K. freedom of action.
Lord Salisbury again referred to the steady political evolution in the British Colonial Empire. He said the problem in Egypt was a different one. The British were in Egypt under a freely negotiated treaty. He said he knew the Egyptians said it was a treaty made under duress but that he had been in the Foreign Office himself at the time and could vouch for the fact that it was freely negotiated. He said the troops the U.K. had in the zone at the moment were the minimum required to protect British rights and interests under the treaty which Egypt had repudiated. He said the U.K. had no imperialistic designs on Egypt. The British were in Egypt to protect a vitally strategic area. If the British were to walk out it would not be in the interest of the U.K. or of the entire free world.
Lord Salisbury added that on the Sudan the anxiety in Commons arose because of a desire not to let the Sudanese down. He said they were tried and long friends of the British and that there had been good feeling between the two and he thought on the part of the Sudanese rather a contempt for the Egyptians. The feeling in Commons constituted an expression of a fear that the Sudanese were being sacrificed.
Lord Salisbury continued that he personally could be described as a “natural evolutionist”. He felt strongly that the U.K. was moving with the times much more so, for instance, than the French. He said the British position in Egypt is sui generis. He said the British position in the Zone area was considered vital by all of the Commonwealth. He suggested that we make an inquiry of the Australians on this point if we had any doubt on this score.
Secretary Dulles said that our military agreed with the U.K. with [Page 1682] respect to the importance of the availability of the base. He said, however, that we are worried that the British may lose out because political considerations may limit what the U.K. otherwise would do on the merits of the case.
Lord Salisbury replied that political and strategic considerations in the case of Egypt were mixed. He said, for instance, he was certain that Conservative M.P.’s would stress the strategic side of the problem. He reviewed the facts that many English people have fought in the area, know first-hand its strategic importance and also had not formed very high impressions of the Egyptians. He concluded by saying that a large body of British opinion holds that the Suez Zone base is a bastion of the free world for which the British have fought and that the British should not abandon all that they have fought for in that area.
Sir Brian stated that as he saw the situation we were nearly in agreement on a wide field in regard to happenings of the immediate future (i.e., evacuation, the matter of technicians, etc.). He added this is the result of immense U.K. concessions. He said there seemed to be three differences only one of which, the question of wearing uniforms, was immediate and he did not feel insolvable. The other two differences related to the future and were critical ones. He inquired if the Secretary meant that he felt the U.K. was uncompromising because it was unwilling to accept the Egyptian position on these two further points (availability and duration).
Secretary Dulles replied that he agreed that the Egyptian proposal on duration was not acceptable. He said he didn’t know what might be acceptable. He felt that the U.K. formula on duration could be criticized on the ground that it could work out to be perpetual. He doubted, therefore, if the U.K. formula was practical although it might be desirable. He felt the availability provision of the U.K. proposal was also quite broad. He inquired, for instance, what is a threat? He said, for instance, would the building by the Soviets of a new air base near Turkey constitute a threat and if so would that appear to be reasonable to the Egyptians.
Secretary Dulles said he agreed on this matter of interdependence U.S. support cause the U.K. to take an uncompromising position on the present formula. He thought under such conditions U.S. support would not be useful as he doubted if success would result and on the contrary thought the situation then might end up in guerrilla warfare. He said that when he arrived in Cairo many observers on the scene there thought guerrilla warfare was then imminent.3 He said he had worked hard in talking with the Egyptians to restrain them from such action until after the U.S. and U.K. had held further talks. He said he [Page 1683] realized that some people thought that the absence thus far of a renewal of guerrilla warfare had been due to the fact that the Egyptians had been bluffing on this score or that they had been intimidated by a greater U.K. show of strength. He doubted the complete accuracy of either of these explanations.
Secretary Dulles said that he doubted if the U.S. Government should take a step, in the light of our political advice, which we felt might result in an uncompromising attitude on the part of the U.K. which in our judgment in turn would be likely to lead to a breakdown, to guerrilla warfare and to possible reprisals including such action as the reoccupation of Egypt. He added that the U.K. at one time had seemed to realize these possibilities as he understood at one stage they had been quietly arranging the removal of civilians from Egypt.
Secretary Dulles said that he was assured by Sir Brian’s explanation as it showed that some flexibility existed but he wanted to know how much real flexibility in fact existed.
Lord Salisbury replied that he felt the U.K. has not adopted a rigid attitude. He said the U.K. had made concession after concession. He felt, however, that the point had been reached where further concessions would mean giving away everything. He would have thought it was in the U.S., as well as the U.K. interest that this not be done.
Secretary Dulles said that he agreed with this but wondered what benefit there might be in it if the result was a conflagration in Egypt.
Lord Salisbury said he would agree with that statement but that General Robertson felt that he had a chance of reaching a settlement. This chance would be a better chance if the U.S. stood with the U.K. and not in the middle. He commented that imperialism is dead but there is now a good deal of interdependence and that complete independence is therefore in a sense also dead.
Secretary Dulles said he agreed on this matter of interdependence and had so stated to the representatives of the Associated States yesterday.4 He said that he had described to the Egyptians the U.S. bases in the U.K. and said to them that this in no way placed the British in a colonial status vis-à-vis the U.S. He had said to them that any nation attempting in these times to practice complete independence almost surely will lose its independence. He said George Washington had put this very well at the time this country was created when he said in essence that in every society it is necessary to judge how much liberty must be surrendered in order to retain the balance.
Secretary Dulles said, however, that in talking with the Egyptians he had been disturbed by their attitude. Their objective appeared to be to wipe out the last vestige of U.K. influence before being willing to cooperate with the West. He said they appeared to have no realization of the present dangerous international situation or of the strategic [Page 1684] importance to the West of the base. He said it didn’t do much good to say they were wrong because their attitude was one of facts of the case and therefore it seemed necessary to revise strategy to take this fact of the case into account.
Lord Salisbury said that he had put to us on Saturday formulae on these two points of availability and duration which the U.K. felt represented the limit to which they could go.5 He was asking for U.S. support thereon. He understood, however, the difficulties facing us and, therefore, felt it was unfair to ask for support of everyone in these formulae. He would, however, like to feel that he had our support for the broad principles underlying the formulae—to get back quickly in case of war to something in good enough condition to be worth getting back to and a duration long enough to permit proper military planning for the area.
Secretary Dulles said that we were certainly in agreement on the principle covered by the first formula (availability) but he felt even a reasonable person could take exception to the precise wording. He referred again to the “threat” feature. He said while it would be desirable to get this in it was always difficult to define “threat” and referred to the difficulties this raised at the San Francisco Conference on the UN where it was decided not to attempt to formulate a definition.
As to the second formula (duration) Secretary Dulles said that he felt as he had said previously that the wording could be interpreted as granting a perpetual right. He said as a matter of detail, he didn’t particularly like the reference to the members of the Arab Security Pact being organized with the assistance and participation of other friendly powers if this meant MEDO as it was defined last January. Secretary Dulles said that he was quite convinced that MEDO in that form was unattainable. He said this concept included so many Western participants that he felt it would remain a non-starter with the Arabs as he felt they would feel they would inevitably be placed in a subordinate position under such an arrangement. He said as to an area pact he was openminded as to whether it should be oriented on an Egypt or on a Moslem nucleus (Turkey, Pakistan or Iran) which he thought might be better.
Secretary Dulles said that it was still our goal to have an area defense organization but it would have to be a MEDO without the capital letters.
Sir Brian stated that he had chosen these words in an effort to get away from using the expression “MEDO”. He also had felt the expression “Middle East” should be avoided as no one agreed exactly on what this term embraced. He also had felt it was important not to mention Israel as this would almost certainly be unacceptable to the Egyptians. [Page 1685] He said his use of the phrase “other friendly powers” was intended to mean U.S. and U.K.
Secretary Dulles commented that as we had misinterpreted the formula it was certainly probable that Egypt would also misinterpret it.
Lord Salisbury replied that he was only empowered to discuss the wording of the proposals he had given us on Saturday. He said, however, he would seek authority for elasticity in the wording within the concept of these principles. He was certain that he could not go beyond the limits of the principles. He repeated that it was important that this matter be played as a single hand by the U.K.
Sir Roger Makins commented that the trouble is that while the U.K. may have or have had in the past general U.S. support that the other side has never believed this and that the lack of this understanding on the part of the other side has been a major cause of some of the U.K. difficulties in the area.
Secretary Dulles replied that he was quite prepared to admit the force of Sir Roger’s point and that the result may have been on occasion to afford opportunities to the other parties to maneuver between us. While this was a sound idea, it was difficult to express without implying on our part a complete surrender of our judgment.
Mr. Byroade said that he was convinced that it was wrong to tell the Egyptians that they would have to buy MEDO.
Secretary Dulles said we would try our hand at drafting a reply which the President might make to General Naguib taking into account the points made in this discussion that he would go over this with Lord Salisbury before he left the City.6 He commented that he felt on the question of duration that a ten year limit would be easier to obtain than the present rather open-ended formula.
Lord Salisbury indicated that he was prepared to discuss such an alternative in London.
Ambassador Aldrich expressed his concurrence with the point just put by Secretary Dulles.
Lord Salisbury observed that the ten year formula would be more difficult for the U.K. than the present wording.
Ambassador Aldrich suggested perhaps both ideas could be presented to the Egyptians.[Page 1686]
Secretary Dulles added that this was the type of point on which elasticity was needed.
Lord Salisbury observed that in the answer to Naguib he felt it was important not to give a detailed reply as this would place the U.S. in the position of a mediator. He also hoped the U.S. would not lead the Egyptians to believe that their draft constituted an acceptable basis for further negotiations although it did constitute an advance in some directions.
Secretary Dulles indicated that we might say it constituted substantial progress (and Lord Salisbury did not dissent).
Lord Salisbury said that what he would like to try to do was to marry the two proposals and he felt that they contained much that could be married.
- Attached to the source text was a cover sheet which stated that the minutes had been prepared by Raynor, but had not been approved or cleared. The Department of State transmitted to London a summary of this meeting in telegram 252, July 15. (641.74/7–1053) This telegram was repeated to Cairo. The minutes of the first part of this meeting were designated STB MIN 2 in the records of the Department of State. The minutes for the second part were designated STB MIN 2/1, and are printed infra.↩
- For the text of Prime Minister Naguib’s message to President Eisenhower, July 10, see p. 1696.↩
- Documentation on Secretary Dulles’ trip to the Middle East, May 9–29, during which he visited Cairo, is presented in volume ix .↩
- For a record of Secretary Dulles’ meeting with Bidault and the representatives of the Associated States, see STFA MIN 1, p. 1665.↩
- For a record of the first meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States and the United Kingdom, July 11, see STB MIN 1, p. 1631.↩
- On July 15, Secretary Dulles sent a memorandum to President Eisenhower, enclosing a draft reply to General Naguib, which he stated had been worked out “in consultation with Lord Salisbury and General Robertson” and which had their full concurrence. (Memorandum for the President, July 15, 641.74/7–1153) The enclosed draft reply, subject to minor changes, was then transmitted to Cairo in telegram 69, July 15 (641.74/7–1553) and delivered at 1 p.m. July 16. The text of President Eisenhower’s message, which stated that the duration of the agreement and the availability of the base would adversely affect U.S. security, that Lord Salisbury had been apprised of the correspondence, that the British and Egyptians should resume negotiations, and which promised economic assistance as part of an overall solution, is printed in volume ix .↩