774.5 MSP/1–753

No. 1072
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

top secret


  • Grant Military Aid for Egypt


  • The President
  • Mr. Harriman
  • Mr. Acheson

Following my conference with Mr. Harriman yesterday afternoon, he and I called upon the President at 10:45 to present the problem and our recommendations to him. At his request, I outlined the problem and made my recommendations, and Mr. Harriman then added his observations and his recommendation. I sketched for the President the present situation in Egypt, the great importance of supporting and strengthening Naguib and his regime as the best hope for a western orientation of Egypt, the solution of the Sudan and base problems with the British, the creation of the Middle East Defense Organization and the establishment of peace and an increased degree of stability and security in the Middle East. I referred to Mr. Caffery’s cables and stressed the critical nature at the present time and the succeeding two or three weeks of the discussions which were going on with the British in London. I recognized quite frankly the difficulty of an outgoing administration taking an initial step of considerable importance without the ability to carry this step through or to work out in sufficient detail and make public the subsequent steps, of which this may be a part. I recognized the legitimate concern of the Israeli Government, but pointed out that the best hope for peace in the Middle East depended upon the Naguib regime, which was in difficulties, and that all chances of peace and the security of Israel would be greatly threatened by a collapse of the Naguib regime and the rise of uncontrollable nationalism in Egypt.

Mr. Harriman stressed, as he had last night, the importance of doing what I had suggested and said he would unhesitatingly support the recommendation if this Government had sufficient time to carry the whole program through. He thought that, under the circumstances, it would be unwise to act at this time and that we should leave the matter with our thoughts upon it for the incoming administration. He said that he would recommend to the President the immediate granting of economic assistance to Egypt, and if the President would work at once with officers of the State Department in making this available without delay, he thought that up to [Page 1955] $10,000,000 could properly under the existing law be made available for wheat purchases with the counterpart going to the Point IV programs in the field of irrigation.

The President, after discussing the matter thoroughly with us, concluded that it would not be wise for him to make the finding of eligibility for Egypt for military grant assistance. He recognized that the step should be taken as a part of the program which I had outlined and hoped and trusted that his successor would take it. He approved Mr. Harriman’s recommendation for economic assistance and said that he would support us both in carrying this through promptly. I recalled to the President that he had found Egypt eligible for reimbursable military assistance and that we were proceeding under that authorization within the limits of what Egypt could afford. He expressed approval of our actions in this regard. He did not believe that their modest purchase program would raise security problems unless the Egyptians wished to get extensively into the airfield, which might require some further consideration.1

Mr. Harriman is ready to proceed along the lines authorized by the President, and Mr. Jernegan should get in touch with him at once.

  1. The Department informed Cairo and London in telegrams 1369 and 4556, respectively, Jan. 9, neither printed, that the President had decided not to find Egypt eligible for grant military aid at that time, but that the Department was urgently considering a program of immediate economic assistance. (774.5 MSP/1–953)

    On Jan. 15, Edwin M. Martin, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Mutual Security Affairs, informed General Olmsted of the President’s decision of Jan. 7 regarding grant military aid for Egypt. (774.5 MSP/12–2952)