Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 100

No. 56
United States Minutes of Meeting, Washington, The White House (Cabinet Room), January 8, 1952, 11 a.m.1

top secret
TCT MIN–3

Present:

  • U.S.
    • The President
    • Mr. Short
    • Mr. Murphy
    • Mr. Lloyd
    • Secretary Acheson
    • Mr. Matthews
    • Mr. Perkins
    • Ambassador Gifford
    • Mr. Bohlen
    • Mr. Knight
    • Mr. Berry
    • Mr. Allison
    • Secretary Lovett
    • General Bradley
    • Admiral Fechteler
    • Secretary Snyder
    • Mr. Willis
    • Mr. Harriman
  • U.K.
    • Prime Minister Churchill
    • Mr. Eden
    • Lord Cherwell
    • Lord Ismay
    • Ambassador Franks
    • Sir Norman Brook
    • Sir Roger Makins
    • Mr. Shuckburgh
    • Mr. Leishman
    • Mr. Colville
    • Mr. Pitblado
    • Mr. Gore-Booth
    • Mr. Mallaby
    • Field Marshal Sir William Slim
    • Admiral Sir Roderick McGrigor
    • Air Marshal Sir William Elliott
    • Sir Kenneth McLean
    • Mr. Burrows
    • Mr. Tomlinson

    1. Middle East Command

    At the President’s invitation Mr. Churchill opened the discussion.

    Mr. Churchill said that he wanted to make clear the current position of the UK in the Middle East. This position has been deeply altered by the disappearance of the Indian Army as a British military instrument as a result of Indian independence. Of course, UK communications with Australia and New Zealand remain always possible around the Cape but this is a long and inefficient route. [Page 172]The Prime Minister then briefly referred to the current difficulties in Iran;2 mentioned the unstable situation in the Near Eastern countries and referred to Israel over which the British have no control. Turning to Egypt,3 he said that the UK was there to perform solely an international duty by keeping the Canal open for international trade. More traffic is going through the Canal now than ever before. British forces are not in the area for promoting in any manner British imperialist interests. As the British are performing an international task in the Canal Zone, the burden cannot be left indefinitely on their shoulders alone. According to the Prime Minister the US proposal for a four-power pact (i.e., UK–US–French–Turkish sponsorship of the MEC) is the best thought to date in relation to this area and the UK wishes to support it in every way. The sooner the four-power proposal is implemented, the better. Referring to the MEC, Mr. Churchill declared that the Turks would be more likely to participate wholeheartedly if they were directly under General Eisenhower’s command within NATO. He then referred to the importance of the US sending a symbolic brigade to the Suez Canal area and stressed the great importance of the four powers all sending token forces to this area. He thought that such a proof of solidarity should bring the difficulties with Egypt very quickly to an end. He said that the Egyptian situation was tying up British forces badly needed in Europe and elsewhere, that the UK was completely unprotected, and that he was most anxious to redeploy UK forces now in Egypt where they would be more useful. Hence the importance of the four powers sending token forces to Egypt which would quickly adopt a reasonable attitude when faced with such a common front. Concerning the Middle East Command itself, he said that, should the US so desire, the UK would be willing to appoint a British Commander for the MEC. Indeed, he thought that this would be natural in view of the size of the British forces in the area and of the task which they are now performing. Nevertheless, he wanted to make quite clear the UK did not desire or expect national benefits therefrom and re-emphasized that the British are only discharging an international duty, and a most painful one, in the Canal Area. Mr. Churchill also stressed that a British commander of the MEC must not be considered as compensation for British “losses” elsewhere (i.e., the MEC is not part of any quid pro quo).

    Mr. Eden then referred to the command set-up itself and to the talks thereon between France, the UK and US in Rome.4

    [Page 173]

    Mr. Acheson mentioned the political factors involved. He said that it is most important politically to move forward with the establishment of the MEC. Obviously, Greece and Turkey would have to be full members of NATO before this could be complete.5 However, the US is most eager to work closely with the British and French so that the MEC can be set up by March or April. With reference to NATO command arrangements for Greece and Turkey, they would have to be separate from the MEC. At one time the US had thought that the two-hat concept would be possible with the same officer commanding both the MEC and the Eastern Command of NATO. Now the US has come to the conclusion that such an arrangement could not work and that the NATO command must be quite separate and distinct from the MEC.

    Mr. Lovett concurred in Mr. Acheson’s statement.

    General Bradley then said the US Joint Chiefs of Staff thought that, all things considered, the best way of placing Greece and Turkey in the NATO Command framework would be through the extension of Admiral Carney’s command to include these two countries. From the military point of view it would be better to set up a fourth command under General Eisenhower but, in view of Greece’s and Turkey’s stand, for political reasons, the Joint Chiefs of Staff thought the easiest and most practical solution resided in extending Admiral Carney’s command. At a later date should it become apparent that Admiral Carney is over-extended, it ought to be possible to split his command.

    Field Marshal Slim declared that the UK Chiefs agreed with General Bradley. The proposed arrangement would indeed place too large a military burden on Admiral Carney but there seemed to be no alternative to accepting General Bradley’s proposal in view of the position of Greece and Turkey. In case of war this command structure would have to be immediately changed. Field Marshal Slim then pointed out that, regardless of the intense interest of the Turks in being recognized as a European power, it was a fact which no one could change that they were geographically situated in the Middle East. Turkey is the only country in the Middle East which can make a real contribution to the MEC and a proper link between the MEC and Admiral Carney’s command must be established. Furthermore, a proper Turkish contribution to the MEC must be obtained. He did not think there would be any trouble on the latter score in view of the assurances received from the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Turkey by General Bradley and himself when they visited Ankara last fall. He then proposed as [Page 174]the link between the MEC and Admiral Carney that the “Commander of the Turkish Front” also be the deputy to the MEC Commander or, he added “something of that nature”.

    General Bradley declared that he agreed with everything Field Marshal Slim said excepting that he did not agree with the NATO Commander in Turkey holding any position in the MEC. The US could not accept this suggestion as it saw nothing but trouble in the two-hat concept. He proposed that we should see later what can be worked out. For the time being the two commands should be kept entirely distinct as otherwise there would be objections not only from Greece and Turkey but also “on the Northern flank”.

    2. Coordination of US–UK Policies in the Middle East: Egypt and Iran

    After saying that it was vital that the UK and the US understand each other on all these matters, the President asked Mr. Acheson to speak.

    Referring to Egypt, the Secretary of State said that he and Mr. Eden had discussed this situation at some length Saturday night on the Williamsburg6 and that he expected to have other talks with Mr. Eden while he was here. The prime purpose of these talks would be to work out a new four-power approach to Egypt. In view of the importance which the King of Egypt places on the matter this new approach should include his recognition as King of the Sudan. However, before granting this recognition to the King of Egypt, it would be necessary to assure ourselves of certain conditions beforehand. The King would have to agree to self-determination of the Sudan and to refrain from upsetting any Sudanese regime. He also would have to agree beforehand to accept the four-power proposal concerning the MEC. Althrough not mentioned as a pre-condition, Mr. Acheson said that the King of Egypt should cooperate in dispelling the existing misconceptions in Egypt concerning the nature of the original four-power proposal. He expressed confidence that he could reach agreement with Mr. Eden as to the course of action to be followed by [but] that it was not clear as to the best moment for breaking the present deadlock.

    Mr. Eden stated that he agreed with much that Mr. Acheson had said. However, the King of Egypt does not want the four powers to move now. He thought it was very important to make it quite clear [Page 175]that there had been full agreement at this meeting on the line which should be pursued by the US and UK in relation to Egypt and that this might so influence the Egyptian Government that it might advance the date when a new four-power proposal could advantageously be made. According to the British Foreign Secretary, the main complication for the UK in recognizing King Farouk as King of the Sudan lay in the fact that such recognition would be generally interpreted throughout Egypt as British acceptance of the abrogation of the Treaty of 1899 and of the resulting condominium over the Sudan. To make possible British recognition of King Farouk as King of the Sudan it would first be necessary for the Egyptians to return to the terms of the Treaty of 1899 and abide thereby.

    Mr. Chruchill then stressed the importance of making fully clear in the communiqué UK–US agreement as to the policy to be followed in relation to Egypt.

    Mr. Eden added that it would also be helpful if the communiqué made it crystal clear that the US and the UK had made up their minds to proceed vigourously with the establishment of the MEC. This should have many beneficial effects throughout the Middle East area.

    Mr. Truman requested Mr. Acheson to pursue his talks with Mr. Eden concerning Egypt and then referred to his grave worries over the Iranian situation.

    Mr. Eden spoke about the current negotiations between the International Bank and the Iranian Government and questioned the recent unfavorable answer from Mosadeq. However, he understands that the Bank intends to continue negotiations and will answer Mosadeq’s questions. Mr. Eden had seen the Bank’s representatives and the UK is entirely willing to have the Bank continue to play the hand which has been started. For the time being at least, there is no doubt that the right thing to do is to carry on with the procedure which has been initiated. However, Mr. Eden expressed doubts as to the chances of success. He added that the UK was fully ready to examine anything else which might bring the US and the UK in closer harmony with regard to Iran. In his opinion, the price of oil was the essence of current negotiations and US–UK agreement on this subject would be necessary before these negotiations could succeed.

    Secretary Acheson said it would be very helpful if Mr. Eden would work on this subject with US officials while he was in Washington. He thought that the Bank needed help both on procedure and on substance. He then commented on the conspiratorial manner in which it was necessary to deal with Mosadeq and to the latter’s idiosyncrasies which seem to center largely around his fear [Page 176]that he would be considered in Iran as “having sold out to the West”. Referring to the Iranian situation as a whole, Mr. Acheson expressed the conviction that it was necessary to introduce a new element of substance without delay as the old proposals were now worn out and were discarded automatically by Mosadeq as soon as mentioned.

    Mr. Snyder raised the point of how the International Bank would be able to withdraw from its position as a trustee for oil funds under the scheme now being discussed between the Bank and the Iranian Government. He said that, while it would be a simple matter for the Bank to accept this responsibility, it might be very difficult for the Bank to withdraw from it.

    Mr. Eden made the point that, while the Labor Government had taken the position that it refused to negotiate further with the Iranian Government, the New British Government, on the contrary, has expressed its desire to negotiate. However, if the Iranian Government remains obdurate, there will have to be some change in our approach to the Iranians as has been the case for Egypt.

    Mr. Churchill stressed that close US-UK cooperation in the Middle East should “divide the difficulties by ten”.

    The President declared that US–UK agreement was necessary for any settlement of Middle Eastern problems.

    Mr. Churchill said that the cards had now been laid on the table, that Mr. Eden and Mr. Acheson could proceed privately and perhaps he and the President might discuss the Middle East again, and in particular, the Iranian situation when he returned from Canada next week.

    [Here follows discussion of matters of common concern in Asia.]

  1. These minutes were drafted by Knight on Jan. 9. This meeting was the third in a series of four held by the President and the Prime Minister on Jan. 7 and 8. A joint communiqué by the two leaders, giving a brief account of the meetings, was issued as a press release by the White House on Jan. 9. (Department of State Bulletin, Jan. 14, 1952, p. 83) For further documentation on Prime Minister Churchill’s visit, see volume. vi, Part 1.
  2. For documentation, see volume x.
  3. For documentation, see Documents 947 ff.
  4. Regarding the November 1951 talks, see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iii, Part 1, p. 1312.
  5. For documentation, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 107 ff. and Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. iii, Part 1, pp. 460 ff.
  6. President Truman, Churchill, Eden, Acheson, and staff members held a conference aboard the presidential yacht Williamsburg on Saturday evening, Jan. 5, at which a large number of matters were briefly discussed. A set of notes dictated by General Bradley, dated Jan. 10, is in the Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 100. A memorandum attached to the notes reads: “General Bradley asked me to inform you that these notes are sketchy and are by no means complete.”