S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, “Near East (NSC 155)”

No. 145
Statement of Policy by the National Security Council1

top secret
NSC 155/1

United States Objectives and Policies With Respect to the Near East*

(Parenthetical references are to paragraphs in the Staff Study)

general considerations

1. The Near East is of great strategic, political and economic importance to the free world. The area contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world; essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict against Communism; the Suez Canal; and natural defensive barriers. It also contains the Holy Places of the Christian, Jewish, and Moslem worlds, and thereby exerts religious and cultural influences affecting people everywhere. The security interests of the United States would be critically endangered if the Near East should fall under Soviet influence or control. (3)

2. Current conditions and trends in the Near East are inimical to Western interests. During recent years the prestige and position of the West have declined. The nations of the Near East are determined to assert their independence and are suspicious of outside interest in their affairs. In particular, the influence of the United Kingdom has been weakened, with distrust and hatred replacing [Page 400] the former colonial subservience. France is also disliked and distrusted because of her refusal to free Morocco and Tunisia and because of her former role as a mandate power in Syria and Lebanon. Some of the distrust of the United Kingdom and France has devolved upon the United States, as an ally of both. Even more important, the Arab nations are incensed by what they believe to be our pro–Israel policy. In addition, acute political and economic instability; military weakness; widespread unrest; Arab–Israel tensions; the UK controversies with Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia; the French North African problem; and the Soviet activity are also unfavorable to the West. (4–13)

3. In the Near East the current danger to the security of the free world arises not so much from the threat of direct Soviet military attack as from a continuation of the present unfavorable trends. Unless these trends are reversed, the Near East may well be lost to the West within the next few years. (5)

4. Efforts to prevent the loss of the Near East will require increasing responsibility, initiative, and leadership by the United States in the area. Even though British and French influence in the Near East has declined, the UK retains substantial interests, experience, and security positions, so that the United States will need to act in concert with the United Kingdom to the greatest extent practicable, while reserving the right to act with others (e.g., France and Turkey) or alone. It is important to the settlement of outstanding political disputes that the United States convince the Arab states that it is capable of acting independently of other Western states and of Israel. (6, 14–18)

5. An organization of Near Eastern states in which the West would participate, or with which it would be associated, would probably enhance the security and stability of the area. However, until real progress can be made in settling present disputes and differences between the British and French and the local states, and until the present strong emotions of the Arab World emanating from the Israeli issue have been at least reduced, the possibility of cooperation with the Arab states generally in a formal defense organization seems unlikely. (6)


6. Availability to the United States and its allies of the resources, the strategic positions, and the passage rights of the area, and the denial of such resources and strategic positions to the Soviet bloc. (2–a)

7. Stable, viable, friendly governments in the area, capable of withstanding communist-inspired subversion from within, and willing to resist communist aggression. (2–b)

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8. Settlement of major issues between the Arab states and Israel as a foundation for establishing peace and order in the area. (2-c)

9. Reversal of the anti-American trends of Arab opinion. (2–d)

10. Prevention of the extension of Soviet influence in the area. (2–e)

11. Wider recognition in the free world of the legitimate aspirations of the countries in the area to be recognized as, and have the status of, sovereign states; and wider recognition by such countries of their responsibility toward the area and toward the free world generally. (2–f)

general courses of action

12. The United States should:

Assume an increased share of responsibility toward the area, acting in concert with the United Kingdom to the greatest extent practicable, but reserving the right to act with others or alone. (14–18)
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.2 (18)
Win the Arab states to a belief that we sympathize with their legitimate aspirations and respect their interests. (18)
Increase its efforts to achieve a settlement of the political differences among the states of the area, and between them and the Western nations. (18)
Seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels not antagonistic to the West, rather than attempt merely to preserve the status quo. (5–13, 32–33)
Stimulate measures of self-help, encourage the expansion of private investment, and provide somewhat increased economic and technical assistance. (32–34, 44–b)
Render limited military assistance. (14–18)
Encourage and be prepared to participate in collective efforts to increase the stability and strengthen the security of the area. (15–18, 32–43)
Support leadership groups which offer the best prospect of orderly progress towards free world objectives. (33, 44–c)
Make clear to the nations in the area the basically hostile intentions of the Soviet regime. (44–e)

specific courses of action

13. Saudi Arabia. The United States should strengthen its special position with respect to Saudi Arabia to an extent compatible with general U.S. policies in the area. (22)

14. Arab–Israel Tension. The United States should: [Page 402]

Make clear that Israel will not, merely because of its Jewish population, receive preferential treatment over any Arab state; and thereby demonstrate that our policy toward Israel is limited to assisting Israel in becoming a viable state living in amity with the Arab states and that our interest in the well-being of each of the Arab states corresponds substantially with our interest in Israel. (23–26)
Use our influence to bring about, by political, economic, and psychological measures a progressive reduction in tension between the Arab states and Israel leading to conditions under which ultimate peace may be secured. (23–26)
Reaffirm the May 25, 1950 Tripartite Declaration; and make clear the determination of the United States to take effective action, including the use of sanctions against an aggressor. (16)
Seek progress in solving the Arab refugee problem through: (1) resettlement in neighboring Arab countries; (2) to the extent feasible, repatriation to the area now controlled by Israel; (3) to the extent feasible, emigration to countries outside the Near East; (4) settlement of problems concerning development projects, blocked Arab funds, and compensation for Arab refugee property. (26)
Use our influence to secure Arab–Israel boundary settlements, which may include some concessions by Israel.
Discourage further large-scale Jewish immigration to Israel. (26–b)
Help to restore normal commercial intercourse, and surface and air transportation between Israel and the Arab states. (34, 40)
Cooperate in seeking a fair settlement of the status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places in Palestine, acceptable to the states directly involved and to most nations of the free world. (26–d)

15. Egypt. The United States should:

In concert with the United Kingdom and Egypt, seek an early negotiated settlement of the Suez Canal Base and related defense questions. Such a settlement should provide for withdrawal of British forces, but under conditions to insure the continued maintenance of the base and its availability to the Western Powers in the event of hostilities or grave threat thereof. (20)
Take such steps, and secure the necessary commitments, as to best insure that the Suez Canal remains open to international trade. (19–21)
As progress in reaching an Anglo-Egyptian settlement warrants, extend economic and military assistance to Egypt. (19–21)

16. Area Defense. The United States should:

Develop secretly plans for the defense of the area with the United Kingdom, Turkey, and such others as may be desirable. (31)
Take leadership in bringing the countries of the area into an organization in which the Western powers participate (or with which they are associated) and which is designed to influence the political orientation, increase the internal stability, and strengthen [Page 403] the defense of the area, recognizing that the political base for such an organization does not now exist and must first be brought into being. (27–31)
Seek to secure participation in such an organization, whenever politically practicable, of such other Asian and African states, particularly Pakistan, as might contribute to the security and stability of the Near East.
Provide limited military assistance to promote U.S. security interests, to increase confidence in the United States, and to help in developing indigenous forces which can improve political stability, internal security, and the maintenance of pro–Western regimes, and ultimately contribute to area defense. We should select certain key states for this type of assistance, choosing those who are most keenly aware of the threat of Soviet Russia and who are geographically located to stand in the way of possible Soviet aggression. In this regard, special consideration should be given to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. (27–31)
Seek to obtain transit and base rights where required within the area, and, upon the threat of and during general hostilities, the right to operate forces in the territories of the various nations of the area. (29)
If more formal commitments with respect to defense arrangements in the area should appear desirable, submit appropriate proposals for Council consideration.3

17. Economic Aid. The United States should:

Give somewhat increased economic aid so as to provide a base for necessary economic development, encourage the concept of self-help and mutual cooperation, and contribute to the settlement of disputes in the area. Maintain flexibility in the use of available funds on a regional basis so as to take advantage of changing developments in an unstable area. (32–43)
Encourage Near Eastern governments to recognize that the bulk of the capital required for their economic development can best be supplied by private enterprise and public banking facilities, and that their own self-interest requires the creation of a climate which will attract private investment. (37)
Continue to provide limited financial assistance towards the settlement of the Arab refugee problem. (34)
Continue limited technical assistance with emphasis on increased food production, and better health, education, communications, and transportation. Encourage private foundations and industry to provide technical assistance for the same purposes. (34)
Encourage the wise use by each country of its oil royalties to promote a more stable and viable economy. In this regard, consideration should be given to the establishment of an area-wide development fund, in which the West would participate, and through [Page 404] which states having no oil resources might benefit from those who have. (37)
Progressively reduce the amount of economic aid furnished to Israel, so as to bring it in to impartial relationship to aid to others in the area.

Appendix A


Near East Financial Data

The data on foreign aid for the Near East which follow have been furnished by the Office of the Director for Mutual Security, concurred in by the Department of State, and reviewed without objection by the Bureau of the Budget. The estimates for fiscal year 1954 do not reflect final Congressional action. Estimates for 1955 and 1956 are illustrative and subject to review in the light of relative priorities and over-all expenditure targets to be established for these years.

Table 1

New Appropriations

Fiscal Years
1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956
(millions of dollars)
Economic Aid 24 77 94 156 142 127
Palestine Refugees 27 50 60 65 25
Military Grant Aid 80 100 100
Total 51 127 154 236 307 252
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Table 2

Expenditures Based on New Appropriations Shown on Table 1

Fiscal Years
1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956
(millions of dollars)
Economic Aid 24 67 88 113 134 135
Palestine Refugees 20 35 36 44 65 25
Military Grant Aid 13 75 135
Total 44 102 124 170 274 295

Appendix B


Tripartite Declaration by the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States (May 25, 1950)

The Governments of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, having had occasion during the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in London to review certain questions affecting the peace and stability of the Arab states and of Israel, and particularly that of the supply of arms and war material to these states, have resolved to make the following statements:

The three Governments recognize that the Arab states and Israel all need to maintain a certain level of armed forces for the purposes of assuring their internal security and their legitimate self-defense and to permit them to play their part in the defense of the area as a whole. All applications for arms or war material for these countries will be considered in the light of these principles. In this connection the three Governments wish to recall and reaffirm the terms of the statements made by their representatives on the Security Council on August 4, 1949, in which they declared their opposition to the development of an arms race between the Arab states and Israel.
The three Governments declare that assurances have been received from all the states in question, to which they permit arms to be supplied from their countries, that the purchasing state does not intend to undertake any act of aggression against any other state. Similar assurances will be requested from any other state in the area to which they permit arms to be supplied in the future.
The three Governments take this opportunity of declaring their deep interest in and their desire to promote the establishment and maintenance of peace and stability in the area and their [Page 406] unalterable opposition to the use of force or threat of force between any of the states in that area. The three Governments, should they find that any of these states was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.

  1. Besides this statement of policy, NSC 155/1 includes a note by the Executive Secretary stating that the National Security Council and the Secretary of the Treasury had adopted NSC 155 at the 153d meeting of the NSC on July 9, subject to the changes made in NSC Action No. 843 (see supra). The President on July 11 approved the statement of policy as amended and approved by the NSC and directed its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, under the coordination of the Secretary of State. NSC 155/1 superseded NSC 129/1, Document 71.

    Two appendices, Appendix A, “Near East Financial Data”, and Appendix B, “Tripartite Declaration by the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States (May 25, 1952)”, are printed below. An NSC Staff Study on “United States Objectives and Policies With Respect to the Near East” is also included in NSC 155/1. The Staff Study is not printed because many of the paragraphs are the same as paragraphs in the statement of policy printed here.

  2. Includes Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula Sheikdoms. Iran, the subject of a separate policy statement (NSC 136/1), is not included. This paper takes into account the importance of Turkey and Pakistan to the Near East, particularly as regards defense of the area, but does not attempt full coverage of U.S. policies toward Turkey and Pakistan, which are included in other NSC reports (NSC 36/2, NSC 109, and NSC 98/1). [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Paragraph 12–b was a new addition made at the July 9 meeting of the NSC. After its addition, the subsequent subparagraphs were relettered.
  4. Appendix B. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Subparagraph 16f originally read: Consider exchanging more formal commitments with the countries which give convincing demonstration of a determination to defend themselves and willingness to cooperate with the West. It was changed in NSC Action No. 843, on July 9.