Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 156: Telegram
The Ambassador in Egypt (Caffery) to the Department of State
2421. Personal for Smith from the Secretary. Have found situation in Egypt more serious than Department generally has recognized. Negotiations between UK and Egypt are at present suspended with seemingly little possibility either party assuming initiative in reopening talks. The base negotiations are stymied on technical points but these assume great importance in an atmosphere of mutual distrust.
Our observers here are convinced and I share their view that possibility of open hostilities in near future is real. British representatives here agree. From talks with the Egyptians I believe that while they realize chaos and destruction of their regime would inevitably be an aftermath of open hostilities they will choose that alternative rather than make concessions to the British which they consider would publicly be looked upon as infringing Egyptian sovereignty. Their emotions are so great they would rather go down as martyrs than concede.
Conversation with Stevenson and General Robertson indicate they are under instructions to negotiate solely along bases case A.1 They recently requested new instructions receiving in reply message from Churchill stating they had their instructions and to stick to them.
In analyzing the technical points of difference we find nothing that could not be solved but for a complete lack of trust and confidence among the parties. It is almost impossible to over-emphasize the intensity of this feeling. It may be pathological but it is a fact there just as sentiment is a fact in London. Attitude here in the short run cannot be changed.
In face of above we have outlined the President’s conception of importance of Egypt and the role she can play in the future. Stassen and I have in a general way talked of US assistance to enhance [Page 26] the position of Egypt if present difficulties can be surmounted. Have explained as well reasons why defensive arrangements in Middle East and maintenance of base for immediate use are considered essential from US point of view. I believe these talks held with both Naguib and members of RCC have been effective and believe (but cannot be certain) that they will do nothing drastic until I have had chance return to present my views to the President and JCS.
Caffery has sent you by despatch 2367 of May 72 the proposed British and Egyptian texts in matter under disagreement. A proposed US draft that might conceivably solve present stalemate is being sent in following cable. A third cable will give some of thinking behind US redraft. This series of messages not being repeated London. Caffery will inform London information he passes on to British here.