641.74/3–2852: Telegram

No. 971
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State1

top secret

4298. For immediate delivery to Perkins. Although I consider changes embodied Deptel 4762, Mar 26, constitute improvement in proposed message from Secretary to Eden, I nevertheless continue consider it would be unwise deliver it in atmosphere prevailing here at this time. I am still concerned about message both on gen grounds previously outlined mytel 4255, Mar 26,2 and because of specific passages which I do not feel are tailored to situation here. For example:

First sentence fifth para of text carries implication that inadequacies of opening plays thus far indicate UK does not desire “seriously” discuss all outstanding issues with view their early solution. This I think unfortunate. I am sure UK is fully alive to dangers of situation and fully as desirous reach solution as we, but is inhibited by what are regarded as certain questions of principle which loom large in public and Parl opinion here.
Logical conclusion next fol sentence same para is that if Egypts remain intransigent, Brit must come up with increasing concessions until Egypt appetite satisfied. I do not dispute thesis Brit shld be more forthcoming, but I think statement of this kind without any corresponding indication that we intend exert influence on Egyptians to make them more tractable will not be helpful here.
I think idea of public agenda is attractive one and may offer possibility of way out of present impasse, but it seems to me as presently drafted items will create misapprehensions in public minds. For example, first item wld seem state responsibility for defense Canal Zone will be exclusively Egypt prerogative and therefore wld seem preclude possibility (despite item 4) of MEC overall resp. Further, I presume item 2 is supposed to cover question Brit technicians, but as presently worded I fear it wld be publicly interpreted as covering only financial and military assistance. at same time, item 3 wld seem indicate all Brit forces (i.e. including technicians) wld withdraw. Finally, with respect item 4, our understanding of present state of play is that Hilali unwilling accept publicly that Egypt will play any role in defense of ME at this time. [Page 1784] How do I answer Eden’s anticipated inquiry as to how this obstacle can be overcome?
Re para 12 enclosure to message, Brit do not accept Egypt claim re King’s title as valid and I do not think they wld take kindly this statement.

Foregoing are some of difficulties re message which come to mind readily. I think it important Dept realize Brit are just as disturbed re this situation as we are and perhaps more so, as they are tying up large numbers of their troops and rendering ineffective large base to which they attach great importance. They are not dragging their feet arbitrarily and they are exercising all ingenuity at their command, within limitations of principles that are hard for them to abandon.

I feel it wld be much more productive at this time for me to talk to Eden about this situation, utilizing suggestions contained in message for purposes discussion. It may be that as result this conversation, I may be able to suggest lines of personal message from Secretary which wld be tailored to assist Eden in his problems with Cabinet. I realize time is short, but I think approaching problem this way wld be more productive toward goal we seek than transmitting present message which, in my considered opinion, wld not be helpful right now.

Please call me soonest possible after you receive this with your views. In that way I can try arrange see Eden before week end if necessary in order not lose time.3

  1. Repeated to Cairo as telegram 234.
  2. In telegram 4255 from London, Mar. 26, not printed, Ambassador Gifford thought it undesirable to deliver such a message to Foreign Secretary Eden because he believed the first 11 paragraphs of part A had, in essence, already been accepted by the British Cabinet, and because the Embassy had reason to believe that Eden was disposed to press for granting concessions to Egypt which were far in advance of the positions of the rest of his Cabinet colleagues. (641.74/3–2652)
  3. Ambassador Caffery remarked in telegram 1677 from Cairo, Mar. 29, not printed:

    “I am fully appreciative everything London has to say in its telegram 4298, March 28, as well as implications our overall relations with British, and perhaps I exaggerate importance of US interest in Egypt and the petroleum lands nevertheless I still believe message from Secretary to Eden should be delivered.” (641.74/3–2952)