Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459

No. 81
Memorandum by the Acting Regional Planning Adviser, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hoskins), to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Byroade)1



  • Re-appraisal of US Policies in the NEA Area
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Part I—General Comments

Major Impressions

(1) The following major impressions of my recent trip to the Middle East confirm and emphasize various points outlined in Part I of BOP’s April 7th memorandum, especially paragraphs 5 and 6. These impressions may be summarized as follows:

There is a continuation of the gradual deterioration of the free world position in the Middle East as reported over the past several years after each of my trips to the field. My recent trip is no exception since this time I must again record a lower standing not only of the position of the US, of the UK and of the French but now also of Turkey as well. Turkey’s weakened position, which can be temporary, stems from the fact that a growing number of people in the Arab states feel that Turkey has decided to orient itself heavily toward Europe and NATO rather than primarily as a Middle East and Asian power. Furthermore, they feel that Turkey has been induced to accept and to help enforce decisions, several also of which she had had no part in making, which are not in their opinion, in their long term interest. For the moment, and only in some Arab circles it should be clear, Turkish support of any idea or plan is almost the “kiss of death” and our propaganda people broadcasting to the area should bear this in mind.
The tides of neutralism and nationalism, with which communism has successfully allied itself to an increasing degree, continue to rise. One impressive development since my trip last year is the surprising increase in the number of acknowledged communists in the Middle East and their growing influence, despite the Moslem religion which many, including King Ibn Saud, felt would form an effective barrier.
Distrust of the motives of the western powers in proposing a Middle East Command (MEC) is general throughout various Arab states and is confirmed by their unwillingness even to consider joining any type of MEC which puts foreign troops on their soil in peace time, especially prior to any settlement of the Egyptian issue.
There is little if any constructive progress in recent months to report toward the solution of the continuing difficulties in Morocco and Tunisia, in Egypt and the Sudan, in the Arab States and Israel, in Iran or in Kashmir. Several of these issues, including Egypt and Iran, are now even more bogged down than they were, with no prospect of immediate solution. This also confirms BOP’s estimate in paragraph 9 of the April 7th memorandum.
US influence throughout the Moslem world has been weakened and continues to be weakened further:

By our continuing moral, material and military support of Israel. Greater and more favorable Israeli publicity in the US has continued to be supplemented at intervals by well publicized vice-presidential or cabinet officer speeches which stress Israel as the sole or main bastion of democracy in the Middle East. The fact that such speeches do not necessarily represent [Page 258]the official views of our government is completely overlooked, and for different reasons, by both Arabs and Jews in the area.

By our apparent support for what Arabs consider outdated and undemocratic colonial policies of France and the UK which run contrary to the growing feeling for nationalism in various parts of the area.

By a gradual but growing distrust of US policy, not only, it should be noted, in the Arab world but also in Israel. This is reflected in a continuing diminution of US prestige. Starting with disappointment at American policy, this feeling has grown to dislike and distrust and now in some cases has reached outright hatred of the US.

At the same time, and despite the unfavorable facts described above, it is only fair to say that there are two mitigating factors which continue to operate in our favor:

Whether we admit the fact or not, there remains a considerable number of individuals, mainly those educated in American institutions in the area, who continue their effort to differentiate between the US Government and the American people. This small but informed group continues to have an almost subconscious faith in the basically sound qualities of the American people and of our ultimate support for the efforts of dependent peoples everywhere to win their independence. They may not express such views publicly but they will still do so in private conversations with Americans whom they trust.

There is a recognition, at times grudgingly given, of the ultimate economic and military strength of the US as we eventually demonstrated it in two world wars. They admit the success of our efforts to strengthen Western Europe, Greece and Turkey against the USSR and against communism generally. This admission exists despite our failure in China and our lack of evident success to date in Korea.

Basic US Policies Now In Force

(2) Our basic American policies in the NEA area, which in our interest have tended to follow the middle-of-the-road, have signally failed to satisfy either side—either France and the UK or the African-Asian powers:

We continue to consider France the primary power in North Africa which must be supported to the greatest extent possible. On the one hand we have not felt able to give France the blank check she wanted us to give in advance of our knowing what reform program and what timetable she planned to offer. Nor on the other hand have we felt we could support extreme nationalist demands for immediate independence in either Morocco or Tunisia, despite local nationalist pressures for early self-government and for the eventual right to ultimate independence.
The UK, in the view of our Department of Defense, still has primary responsibility for stability and military defense in the [Page 259]Middle East. However, we must in all honesty recognize and attempt to reassess
  • —the growing military weakness of the UK made more difficult by her unsolved crises in Iran and in Egypt and
  • —the increasing unpopularity and distrust of the UK on the part of the governments and the people of the area.
Meanwhile, our Government, without wishing to take on any added military responsibility in the area, has made intermittent and at times inconsistent efforts to use its influence with both France and the UK and the local governments to assist in increasing stability in the area.

(3) Our relative lack of success with those policies suggests a need again to reappraise them and to analyze alternative possibilities.

Dilemma of United States Policy

(1) [sic] We still have, as pointed out in the April 7th memorandum, an unreconciled divergence of views within the State Department between two basic US needs:

Support of France and the UK wherever possible in the face of a threat of a diminution of their overseas influence or territories vis-à-vis the USSR and a growth of communism in the NEA area.
Keeping and increasing, where possible, the goodwill and friendship of African-Asian peoples, including those seeking opportunities for greater self-government and economic improvement.

(5) Furthermore our Department of Defense is still of the opinion that:

As a result of our military commitments to Korea, Indo-China and NATO, further calls for US military assistance are greater than our present capabilities.
The tax burden to the US of building areas of military strength in places other than where we are already committed is as great at the present time as to make it politically undesirable for us to expand further our promises to supply military equipment to other areas, especially if such initial deliveries are likely to become continuing ones for an indefinite future period.
The US cannot take primary defense responsibility for any additional areas of the world. However, in view of the importance of the Middle East to US security, token US forces, to gain political objectives, may at least be considered in specific instances.
The French and especially the UK must not be allowed to reduce their military responsibilities, by transferring them to the US, e.g., as the UK did in Greece and Turkey in 1947. Hence the US Defense desire is not to weaken anywhere abroad our two strongest NATO allies—France and the United Kingdom.

The Growing Need for Increased US Leadership in NEA Areas

(6) Despite our preference for no further and no greater foreign responsibilities, the US is faced with the lessened capabilities of [Page 260]France and of the UK to supply leadership in the NEA area because of their reduced military, material and personnel resources. This would seem to make a US assumption of greater leadership in the NEA area increasingly essential if not inevitable. Our military may not feel we can take on any new commitments but at least we should recognize the changed situation and the danger of a power vacuum in the Middle East which, whether we like it or not, will be filled by someone.

(7) The free world would welcome a real and recognizable success in the Middle East as a desirable boost to morale, since at present it is recognized as an “area of weakness” and not an “area of strength”.

A Possible Alternative US Policy—Building “Areas of Neutrality”

(8) Before committing ourselves to a policy of increased US leadership aimed particularly at making the Middle East an “area of strength”, we should consider an alternative and less expensive policy. This might be described as building in the Middle East, and perhaps in other important parts of the world, “areas of neutrality”.

(9) For one thing we must face up to the growing impossibility, financially and politically, of the US being able to supply arms to every country of the free world on the scale that has been found necessary in Greece and Turkey, e.g., $426 million (1947–1951) to Turkey.

(10) If it were possible, could we build “areas of neutrality” which are benevolently directed toward the free world? Politically and financially such a policy would be attractive since it would cost less in money and materials, especially military, then to build “areas of strength”. Of course such a policy would still require that the US maintain a strong military position at home. This would mean that, in addition to our own military forces, we would continue to stockpile strategic materials and atomic weapons as at present, supported by a strong NATO and, to be hoped, by a growing area of benevolent neutrality in other parts of the non-Soviet world.

(11) Obviously the danger in pursuing such a policy would be the loss from time to time of neutral areas to subversive communist activities, such as have already occurred in the Balkans and in Czechoslovakia.

(12) Despite its attractive features this alternative plan would on balance seem to be too dangerous a policy for the US to pursue in the Middle East. This is especially true in view of Russia’s need for large proven oil reserves which are available in the Middle East and which are at least not yet known to exist in Soviet territory.

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Comments on Three Important Problems in the Middle East Area

(13) Among various problems in the area, there are three important related ones that are pressing for solution:

Settlement of the Arab refugees from Palestine in neighboring Arab states.
Plans for a stronger regional defense against communism and a possible attack by the USSR.
Settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine.

(14) As to (a), the Arab refugees, a great deal of planning and considerable progress has been made looking toward a settlement of this problem. At the moment the prospects for a solution look brighter than at any time in the past. Ambassador Blandford reports that the Syrian Government has given him assurances that they will settle approximately 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and that the Yarmuk project in Jordan is likely to go through, which can settle eventually another 125,000 refugees. If these two projects materialize to the extent anticipated, the back of the Palestine refugee problem will have been broken. Furthermore, since a settlement of the Arab refugee problem, (a), is an absolute prerequisite to the solution of (b) and (c) above, it is most important that we do everything possible to assure that these two projects are agreed upon and carried to successful completion as rapidly as possible.

(15) As to (b), regional defense, the concept of the Middle East Command (MEC) as proposed last fall was not acceptable to Egypt and, as indicated above, was also viewed with varying degrees of misgiving and distrust by various Arab states. Aside from a feeling that this military command concept was being forced on them, the Arab states had two other objections—their unwillingness to have foreign troops stationed on their soil in peacetime and their objection to a Supreme Commander of United Kingdom nationality. The MEC plan has, I understand, now been replaced by a different concept, the Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO), a planning and training concept on which State and Defense have agreed. This revised concept, with a name that plays down the command idea, when finally worked out, may well prove to be considerably more acceptable to the Arab states of the area.

(16) As to (c), settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine, no progress has recently been made. In fact, before the US can make any substantial progress toward a settlement in the Middle East, several steps must be taken in this country. Besides stopping strong pro-Zionist statements by vice-presidential and cabinet members, a definite brake must be successfully applied to Israel’s ability to put sufficient pressure through American Zionists on the US Government to obtain the funds it needs for current operations. [Page 262]No doubt some funds must be given but a quid pro quo should be obtained in connection with each such financial advance. In Israel’s own self-interest we must insist that Israel take definite steps to put its financial house in order so that both of us can look eventually toward eliminating the necessity for further US aid. A first step in this direction was taken when, in return for recent financial assistance amounting to $24 million to meet pressing current debts, Israel agreed to a mission headed by Mr. Mikesell to study Israel’s financial situation and especially to get more facts and figures on its current unfunded debt. We need to be more frank in insisting that further American financial assistance to Israel can only be given when the end result will be to put Israel in a better position to control its expenditures and hence to become economically stronger. This in turn will allow Israel to make certain financial concessions to the Arabs which should help Israel to attain peace with its Arab neighbors. Israel will of necessity remain a “remittance state” until she has attained peace with her neighbors, has reduced her military expenditures and has put herself in a position to develop more normal trade relations with nearby countries.

An initial step in this direction is now under consideration. It is the unfreezing in Israel of Arab refugee bank balances. The next step that would logically follow would be at least preliminary discussions over the compensation Israel will pay for property of Palestinian Arabs taken over by the new state. Some action along these lines becomes increasingly advisable in view of the results Israel has recently gained in obtaining compensation from the West German Government for the property of Jews who were killed or driven out of Germany.

(17) At the same time we must keep equally alert for chances to press Israel’s Arab neighbors to a more realistic appreciation of the fact that Israel is there and is likely to remain there for some time. We must urge them to show a greater flexibility and a greater willingness to enter direct negotiations than they have shown to date.

  1. The source text is Attachment I to a memorandum by Hoskins to Byroade, dated July 25, not printed, and is a revision of an Apr. 7 paper on the same subject, Document 67. The covering memorandum suggests that since too many discussions with the British and French in the past had foundered because NEA had not held discussions and come to agreement with EUR and the Department of Defense and other agencies of the U.S. Government, no more discussions should be held with the other powers until agreement had been reached with other parts of the Department of State and other agencies. (Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459, N)

    Attachment II to the July 25 memorandum, “Suggestion of a possible solution of two NE problems: A stronger regional defense and a Syrian-Israeli peace”, is not printed.