Memorandum of Conversation, by the
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and
African Affairs (Byroade)
- Meeting with the President
- The President
- Mr. Charles Murphy—White House
- Mr. Henry Byroade—NEA
I called on the President at 11:15, Friday, August 8th, at his request, to discuss general problems in my area. Charlie Murphy was present during the discussion.
The President said he was eager to hear my views on the general Middle East situation. I expressed my appreciation for the opportunity to discuss certain of these problems with him which I felt might affect the security of the United States in the future. I listed the problems of most concern in the area which were the French problem in North Africa, the Egyptian situation, the Iranian situation, the question of Kashmir, the general range of Arab-Israeli problems, the Greek political and economic situation, and the question of possible defense organization for the area. I also referred to the current flare up between the Greeks and the Bulgars over the island in the Evros River.
As to the area in general, I stated that I knew the President was familiar with the general instability and fears throughout the area. I stated that fear of communism and Russia was not always first priority in the minds in some of the countries. I stated that some parts of the area reminded me too much of the China situation for comfort.1 In many places there was little contact between the government and people and no feeling of confidence on their part in their governments. Some of them could not stay in power but for the support of their army. I stated in this situation the position of the Three Powers was not good. The French position in North Africa and in the area under their former mandates was not good. The British position, which I felt was far more serious, was in my opinion slowly deteriorating. I stated that the U.S. position, primarily but not entirely due to the Israeli problem, was not very good either.
I referred again to the British situation, saying that I thought there was a great chance, in view of their deteriorating political position in the area, coupled with their general economic and financial situation, that we would see a general withdrawal of the British from the Middle East. If this happened the United States would be faced with some very fundamental decisions as to what we could do to help fill the vacuum thus created and maintain and strengthen the U.S. position in the area.[Page 264]
The President agreed with this general analysis, indicating that he thought the United States would soon face just such a set of circumstances. He stated that he was not surprised I had not returned from my trip in an optimistic mood.
The President inquired about Kashmir, saying that he had just heard India had made some move on this problem. I told him the only recent development was the agreement of India and Pakistan to meet on a Ministerial level near the end of this month in Geneva. I told him I was not very hopeful that a solution would be found at that meeting. I stated that recently Pakistan had made what appeared to us to be a good offer but that Nehru had refused. The President stated he wished Nehru would take care of problems such as this. … He referred to a recent attempt by Nehru to have other states join in a neutrality block. I stated we wished now to await the outcome of the Geneva discussions before deciding what to do next. I stated there was some chance we might feel a meeting between the two Prime Ministers would be in order and that we might need his help in arranging such a meeting. The President said he would be glad to help.
I told the President the situation in Egypt looked a little better each day. It was too early to predict what future trends in Egypt would be but there was some indication that the group in power might be willing to separate the question of the King’s title to the Sudan and the question of the Suez Base and the defense of the area. If this would occur the Egyptians were almost certain to make a request on the West for military equipment. The President stated that such a trend in Egypt would indeed be fortunate and would have a good effect on the rest of the area.
I told the President the situation in Iran was extremely serious and that there was a chance the country would be lost to the communists. I described the situation there in some detail, ending with my disappointment that the British had found themselves unable to act upon our last suggestion for over a week’s time and that before we could get together on a joint plan Mosadeq had seen fit to make public an unfortunate note to the British. The President was quite critical of the British for this type of usual delay on urgent problems. He stated that if it proved impossible to get together with the British on Iran we would have to see what we could do unilaterally.
The President referred to his interest in further development of parts of the area, principally along the lines of agriculture. He referred specifically to the river valleys in Iraq and Egypt. I added that I thought there were also possibilities of development in Northern Syria and that this might be connected with finally unblocking the refugee resettlement problem. The President agreed [Page 265]that this was one of the most important things to unstick in the whole area and hoped we would be successful.
I then told the President I wished to discuss with him at some length the Israeli financial problem.2 I told him of the request for emergency assistance that had been presented the first week I took office and of the fact that this request had been met. I stated that upon my return, Sharett was here asking for additional emergency assistance and described the line we had taken with Sharett. This was briefly to the effect that the time had come when the United States must insist upon being apprised of the full details of the Israeli financial situation and of the methods they propose to insure that frequent and unexpected crises did not continue to occur. The President stated that he had taken the same line with Sharett. I gave the President some of the main points contained in Mikesell’s report and indicated that we had come to the conclusion along with Mikesell that certain conditions should be attached to any further United States assistance. I outlined briefly what these were and told the President of the status of the note which we hope the Israel Government will present to us to indicate their commitment to take the necessary measures. The President fully agreed with the method of handling the situation. I told the President that I felt the American Jewish community in general would agree with the action we were taking and that I knew a large proportion of these people felt that it was time for the United States to adopt a sterner attitude regarding our assistance to Israel. The President indicated he believed this to be the case and stated he had lost no opportunity of informing American Jewish representatives that this was going to be our attitude in the future. The President said he fully approved the line we were taking.
At the close of the meeting, the President again indicated his deep concern about Iran and pointed out on his globe the extreme significance of the loss of that country to the West.
As I was leaving, Murphy indicated to the President that I had a copy of Sparkman’s letter to the President on the question of the release of the International Oil Cartel Report and that we had the matter under study.3Murphy also indicated to the President that we had been quite helpful in working with them on the Democratic Platform on questions affecting the Middle East. The President interrupted to say that he felt certain that we should release the oil report promptly, or at least a major portion of the Report. I indicated that the Report would undoubtedly be quite harmful in our [Page 266]area but that I understood he was faced with implications of a broader nature on the question of the release of the Report.