Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 144
Memorandum of Discussion at the 153d Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, July 9, 19531

top secret eyes only

The following were present at the 153rd meeting of the Council: The President of the United States, Presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Deputy Director for Mutual Security; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (for Item 1); General Collins for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; Colonel Paul T. Carroll, Acting White House Staff Secretary; Ralph Clark, Central Intelligence Agency (for Item 1); Commander Perry Johnson, USN, Central Intelligence Agency (for Item 1); J. J. Hitchcock, Central Intelligence Agency (for Items 1 and 2); the Acting Executive Secretary, NSC; and Hugh D. Farley, NSC Special Staff Member.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

[Here follows discussion of the following agenda items: electromagnetic communications, significant world developments affecting United States security, and the situation in Korea.]

4. United States Objectives and Policies With Respect to the Near East (NSC 155)2

In introducing the report, Mr. Cutler observed that it had been revised to reflect the views which the Secretary of State and the Director for Mutual Security had brought back from their trip through the Near East. The chief new points in the present report were as follows: (1) MEDO was no longer played up as a likely defense arrangement in the future; (2) Egypt was no longer considered to be the nucleus of an area defense organization, and the so-called northern tier of states had been substituted for it; (3) a new look had been taken at the Suez base problem; and (4) the report [Page 395] advocated greater independence and greater responsibility in the area by the United States vis-à-vis Britain.

After Mr. Cutler had read the General Objectives and the General Courses of Action in NSC 155, he asked the Secretary of State to comment.

Secretary Dulles replied that he really had nothing to add to the comments he had made upon returning from his recent trip. He merely wanted to take the occasion, therefore, to stress one or two points which constituted changes from our previous policies toward the states of this area.

The first was the impracticality of the MEDO concept. It was too complicated, too much like NATO, and it obviously would not work. Something less formal and grandiose was needed as a substitute.

Secondly, Egypt must be discounted as a strong point for the foreseeable future, because it was so engrossed in its own problems that the free world could not depend upon it as the cornerstone of a Near East structure. On the other hand, the so-called northern tier of nations, stretching from Pakistan to Turkey, were feeling the hot breath of the Soviet Union on their necks, and were accordingly less preoccupied with strictly internal problems or with British and French imperialism. Secretary Dulles also expressed the hope that the missing link in this northern tier–namely, Iran–would some day join to eliminate the gap in the northern tier.

Accordingly, the Secretary summed up his view that separate bilateral arrangements with the states of this area were much preferable at the moment to arrangements modelled on NATO. Even so, it was dangerous to exaggerate even this possibility, but every effort should be made in view of the terrible repercussions on Europe of the loss of the Near East to the Soviets and the great advantages which would accrue to the Soviets if they secured this prize. In short, the present policy was more modest, more realistic, and more apt to produce results.

At the conclusion of Secretary Dulles’ remarks the President said he had one observation to make. Without desiring to defend all the details in the concept of MEDO, he pointed out that we should not minimize the very great advantages which we derive from such multilateral defense arrangements in which the United States participated. He said that we might well want bases in the Near East at some future time, or that we might even wish to station troops in the area. The great advantage of the NATO type of defense arrangement was in providing for such contingencies. The President added, to illustrate his point, that if some arrangement had existed whereby the Western powers and the United States could have sent armed forces to the Suez base area, say, in January 1951, we [Page 396] might have been spared the terrible fight between Egypt and Great Britain. Whatever the difficulties, such pacts as he had in mind, said the President, permitted us greater flexibility, and we must not allow the MEDO concept to disappear entirely from our thinking. It should be reconsidered if at some future time it appeared more practicable.

In reply to the President, Secretary Dulles said that the State Department was now engaged in trying to devise a formula which would permit the stationing of United States and British forces in the Suez Canal area in the event of the threat of an attack. The general idea of the formula was that any of the Arab States which believed itself threatened by external aggression would have the right to call for the assistance of one or more of the Western powers. This formula was to be achieved by bilateral negotiations, since these were more likely to succeed than arrangements based on the Arab League or on MEDO.

Secretary Dulles also pointed out that he would certainly discuss the Suez problem again with the Marquess of Salisbury when the latter reached Washington for the Foreign Ministers conference. Time was of the essence, continued Secretary Dulles, because the Egyptians had warned him when he was in Cairo that they could keep the lid on until after we had talked about this problem again with the British, but that thereafter trouble would begin if no settlement were reached. Unfortunately, continued Secretary Dulles, Mr. Churchill has been absolutely adamant on holding the Suez base, and whether he can be induced to take a more flexible position was a question. The British were convinced that the Egyptians would ultimately give in if the British stood pat. We, on the other hand, believe that if the British do stand pat, Egyptian guerrillas will attack the base.

Mr. Cutler informed the Council that the Defense Department had misgivings with regard to paragraph 16–f of the present paper, which called for consideration and exchanging more formal commitments with such Arab countries as gave convincing demonstration of a determination to defend themselves and of willingness to cooperate with the United States.

The President then suggested that the Defense Department explain its views.

General Collins replied that he was simply unable to understand the nature of the more formal commitments herein proposed, and stated that the Staff Study did little or nothing to indicate the nature of these commitments. Noting, however, that paragraph 16–d contemplated bilateral treaties with several states, General Collins supposed that paragraph 16–f at least contemplated something more than that.

[Page 397]

Mr. Cutler pointed out that the earlier sections of paragraph 16 referred to military assistance, whereas the commitments in paragraph 16–f indicated the possibility of sending token U.S. forces to certain of these countries or to the establishment of base rights for U.S. forces in them.

Secretary Dulles agreed with the views of Mr. Cutler as to the meaning of the paragraph, but said that the possibility of a situation arising in which it would be possible for the United States to make more formal commitments for the defense of the states of this area, now appeared to be so remote that he was quite willing to strike the paragraph and to substitute for it a statement that such commitments might be considered at some future time if conditions warranted.

. . . . . . .

After further discussion of the use proposed for these funds, Secretary Dulles warned the Council of the continued deterioration of Israel’s fiscal and economic situation, which was caused by the over-importation of goods. A serious financial crisis impended in Israel. We had already been obliged to loan them $7 million to prevent default, and Secretary Dulles anticipated that the Israelis would be back presently with a request for $100 million to stave off impending bankruptcy.

The President inquired whether we were being as tough with the Israelis as with any other nation.

The Vice President added that this question was precisely what disturbed him. As he saw the situation, the United States had been for some years under very heavy political pressure to subsidize an Israeli economy which could never balance itself. It began to look as though they would come back again and again for handouts from the United States, with no prospect of permanent stabilization or improvement.

The President remarked that he had had Rabbi Silver in yesterday and had pointed out to him quite frankly that under no circumstances would the United States favor the Israelis above the Arabs or vice versa. The whole objective of our policy, he had said to Rabbi Silver, was to try to induce these enemies to get along with each other. The President added that Rabbi Silver said that such a policy was fine with him.

Secretary Dulles went on to say that troublesome as was the present status of Israel, worse was in store thanks to their program for bringing to Israel some two million more Jewish refugees in the near future. Such a program, if carried out, thought the Secretary, would finish off whatever faint hope there was for economic stability. If we bailed them out of their present serious situation, we can only anticipate that they will go ahead and bring in additional refugees. [Page 398] It was precisely this prospect, moreover, that so worried and terrified the Arabs, who felt that if many more Jewish refugees were brought within the confines of Israel, that small country would explode and that the Arabs would be the chief victims of the explosion. If, said Secretary Dulles, we could somehow get the Israelis to put an end to their ambitious immigration program, this would do more than anything else to ease tension between Israel and the Arab States. As a matter of fact, Secretary Dulles pointed out, according to reports, Adlai Stevenson had taken a very tough stand on this question in recent conversations with Ben-Gurion.

Secretary Humphrey said that he had understood that the United States had told the Israelis that they would have to finance their immigration program with their present resources and credit arrangements.

Secretary Dulles replied that indeed we had said just this, but the question was, can we actually maintain this stand?…

There was general agreement with this position.

The National Security Council:3

Adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 155, subject to the following changes:

Insert a new subparagraph 12–b to read as follows, and re-letter the subsequent subparagraphs appropriately:

“12-b. Capitalize on such elements of strength as remain to the British in the area by such support of United Kingdom positions as may be consistent with U.S. principles and policy objectives.”

Delete subparagraph 16–f and substitute the following:

“If more formal commitments with respect to defense arrangements in the area should appear desirable, submit appropriate proposals for Council consideration.”

Appendix A, “Near East Financial Data”, should be revised to show only total economic aid to the area, without reference to specific states, in order that flexibility in the use of available funds on a regional basis may be maintained, as set forth in paragraph 17–a.

Note: The statement of policy in NSC 155, as amended, subsequently approved by the President and circulated as NSC 155/1.

[Here follows discussion of other agenda items, including the possibilities of reducing the United States civilian population in sensitive areas abroad, continental defense, the Volunteer Freedom Corps, and foreign reactions to administration policies.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted on July 10 by S. Everett Gleason, Acting Executive Secretary of the National Security Council.
  2. Regarding NSC 155, see Cutler’s memorandum, Document 134. For text of NSC 155/1, July 14, see infra.
  3. The following paragraphs were designated NSC Action No. 843 a-c.