Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 156

No. 29
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Second Secretary of Embassy in Lebanon (Meyer) 1

ST D–5/5


  • Lebanon


  • United States
    • The Honorable John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State
    • The Honorable Henry A. Byroade, Assistant Secretary of State
    • The Honorable Douglas MacArthur II, State Department Counselor
    • Lt. Colonel Stephen Meade, U.S. Army
  • Lebanon
    • Col. William A. Eddy, Middle East Consultant for TAPLINE and ARAMCO
    • Dr. Park Johnson, Presbyterian Field Representative
    • Dr. William Stoltzfus, President Beirut College for Women
    • Dr. Alford Carleton, President Aleppo College
    • Reporter: Armin H. Meyer, Second Secretary of Embassy
Deteriorating Situation in the Near East. Dr. Carleton opened the discussion by remarking that he and his three associates represented altogether over 100 years of association with the Near East. They regretted to report that the situation in this area is worse than it was several years ago, that frustration is deeper, and that there exists fundamentally a keen sense of insecurity. They feared that this disintegration is not only detrimental to United States interests, but is tragic for the area itself. At the root of the trouble, of course, was Israel, against whom the Arabs are conducting a cold war of much greater importance to them than the cold war against Russia. Dr. Carleton reported Colonel Shishikli had told him recently that not one significant case can be cited where the United States has said no to Israel. Unless America does something, Dr. Carleton said, it is no use to talk to the Arabs at all. Colonel Eddy later asserted that the United States has lost its [Page 82] “bargaining power” and that the situation is reaching the bottom, as in Iran, where the local inhabitants do not expect anything and cannot be bargained with. He stated that at the forthcoming meeting of Arab Finance Ministers, discussions would take place to use oil as a weapon against the West. The alternative to remedial action by the United States was “awful”, according to Colonel Eddy, who believes the Shishikli, Naguib and Chamoun regimes may be America’s last chance. Dr. Johnson said the Arabs have lost faith in disinterested help from America. No Arab leader can stick his neck out to collaborate with the West, he said.
Jerusalem. Colonel Eddy reported that he passed through Jerusalem two days after the Secretary’s party and found there utter sadness at the Secretary’s having contributed to the violation of the UN resolution regarding Jerusalem by dining with Israeli officials in Jerusalem. Colonel Eddy also recalled that the U.S. Ambassador had acceded to Israeli wishes by attending the inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem. If we are not able, Colonel Eddy said, to do anything for the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Arabs can see no help from us. When Dr. Carleton suggested the Israelis should be pushed back, the Secretary asked who would do it. The Secretary also asked what was Jordan’s attitude toward internationalization. Dr. Carleton explained Jordan opposed simply because they have no faith in UN and that if UN took over Jerusalem’s administration, the entire city would soon be an annex to Israel. Colonel Eddy was also sure that Israel would score a fait accompli. He agreed that practically it would be most difficult to carry out internationalization, but he insisted that the United States should not meet the Israelis in Jerusalem. He reiterated that Israel was clearly violating a specific UN Resolution. The Secretary pointed out that UN Resolutions are only recommendations, and that the tendency is for each interested party to expect the other fellow to live up to the resolution with which the interested party is concerned. He noted that the Arabs were first to oppose the 1947 resolution and did so with violence. Now they want to return to that resolution which they could have had five years ago.
Asylum in U.S. for Arab Refugees. When Mr. Byroade asked just what the United States could or should do, one suggestion made by Dr. Stoltzfus was that the United States might offer to take in a token number of Arab refugees to show our good will. Such a gesture would soften Arab attitudes. The Assistant Secretary replied that this proposal has been given thorough consideration and the answer usually was that such a move would be a sign to the Arabs that we do not really understand their problem. Dr. Johnson suggested that it not be a single isolated proposal but that [Page 83] it be a part of a whole program. Compensation, he said, is a psychological as well as a financial problem.
United States Attitude. The Secretary declared that there is not the slightest tendency for the present administration to be pro-Jewish, since it is not under any obligation whatsoever to Jewish interests. What the administration must do, he said, is what is good for the United States. It is not easy, the Secretary pointed out, to view favorably the steps of what one might call a pro-Arab policy. It would require, for example, a position against the United Kingdom in Egypt and that meant turning over about the only strong point in the Near East to chaos. Not only would that strength be wiped out but there would indeed be, as General Robertson had told him, a state of war between Egypt and the United Kingdom. It would be impossible, therefore, to have both a pro-UK and a pro-Arab policy. The Secretary indicated that there is a present British tendency to work out an alliance with Israel, basing their thinking on hard-headed military realities concerning the Suez and the Near East. The question arises shall the United States see these strong points (Suez and Israel) wiped out in the Near East. In the ensuing uproar, Colonel Eddy gained the floor and said that as a former U.S. military observer he could state that never would Israel serve usefully as a striking force for us. All that would happen would be that the perimeter of hate would be enlarged. Israel conceivably could move into Amman, Damascus and Beirut, but staying there would be another question and United States forces would be required to occupy every Arab village and town in the event of global conflict. The Secretary stated he was not advocating this course of action, but it appears to be current Churchillian theory, and he posed the theory in order to get answers from the visitors present. He added that the British even had an occasional thought about occupying Cairo and Alexandria. Dr. Carleton this time gained the floor and declared that any linking of the Suez and Israel issues would be fatal. Israel, he said, must be frozen in its tracks. The Secretary reiterated that he was merely looking for answers. Past U.S. policies were bad, and he was asking provocative questions to obtain useful ideas.
Secretary’s Thinking re Israel. The Secretary then outlined his current thinking on the Israel question and wondered whether this thinking was sufficiently drastic. Specifically, he believed:
The presence in the Arab world of the Secretary and his associates was in itself a noteworthy and helpful measure.
Under legislation currently being sought from Congress, increasing aid is planned for the Arab States. This is a break with the past.
The United States Government should consider some form of guarantee against Israeli expansion. Colonel Eddy insisted it be a U.S. not a UN measure.
Something should be done to create a military balance between the Arabs and Israelis. Israel now is much the stronger, which in itself is an inducement to aggression. He realized also that by building up Arab military potential, we run the risk of stoking the fires for a second round against the Israelis.
Formal peace is not possible in the near future. It will have to come bit by bit, gradually.
Full internationalization of Jerusalem would require troops which we are not willing to commit. Therefore, some sort of international control other than outright internationalization appears most practical.
Joint border controls should be promoted. The Secretary mentioned progress in this direction during his visit to Israel and Jordan.

Colonel Eddy thought that the Arab boycott of Israel was the last phase of past developments in that issue and that the elimination of the boycott should not be pushed until Israelis expansion has been frozen. The Secretary replied that perhaps the control of Israel’s subsidy could be used to stop Israeli expansion and he noted that this tool has already had a salutary effect on Israeli immigration. Decrease in subsidy, furthermore, has caused unemployment to rise in Israel, which while not a happy thing, was in this case a stabilizing factor.

All the above things, the Secretary said, might ease the tensions, eventually permitting us to proceed with building strength in the area. The time factor, however, is important, and better results would be likely if the Egyptian stumbling block can be removed.

In closing, the Secretary thanked the four American “Near East hands”, and said he appreciated the opportunity to put up the problems to them in the general quest for solutions.

  1. This conversation took place at the American Embassy in Lebanon.