Memorandum by the Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African
Affairs (Byroade) to the Secretary of
- Anglo-Egyptian Problem: Proposed New Approach2
As in 1946, at the time of Bevin-Sidky negotiations, the Sudan is still the principal stumbling block to negotiations on future arrangements for the Suez Canal Base.3 It is clear that our informal attempt to persuade the British Government to move from its extreme position on the Sudan have not succeeded. Our somewhat less strenuous efforts vis-à-vis Egypt have also not succeeded. It is our judgment that continuance of the present stalemate would lead to riots and disorders which the Egyptian authorities might not be [Page 1839] able to control. These in turn could well result in the use of force by the British, not only to protect the Base but also to protect United Kingdom and other foreign nationals in Egypt. Since the use of force would have the most serious consequences with respect to the Western position in the Middle East and since the alternative, i.e., total evacuation of the Base, would not achieve our objectives, it must be concluded that a new approach is necessary if there is to be any hope of producing a deal with Egypt.
At the present time the United States has a position of high respect and influence in Egypt. This is due in part to the efforts of Ambassador Caffery and in part to the usual fluctuation in popularity as between the United States and the United Kingdom. The British recognize our position in Egypt and have endeavored to exploit it for the purpose of supporting whatever position they believe correct. It is becoming more and more difficult to give support to the British in the measure they desire since we are less and less convinced of the correctness of this position.
It is our belief that the time has come when we ought to make greater use of our position in Egypt to see whether we can evolve a deal which would be acceptable both to the United Kingdom and to Egypt. It will be recalled that in November and December 1951, Ambassador Caffery had a number of meetings with the then Minister of Interior, Serageddin Pasha, regarding possible elements for an agreement on the Canal Zone Base.4 They discussed the possibility of technicians replacing British forces and even made some mention of a joint Anglo-Egyptian air defense scheme, provided that to all outward appearance the planes had Egyptian markings. Perhaps the United States should now try to work out directly with the Egyptians a settlement to the Anglo-Egyptian problem. In view of the desirability of some privacy and informality our efforts should be short of formal good offices. It would, of course, be necessary that the general approach as well as specific details be agreed with the British prior to going to the Egyptians.
Since the Sudan is the principal stumbling block, we must find some way to offer a salable concession to the Egyptians on this point. In addition, we might also have to offer some assistance to Egypt to develop its armed forces, probably in the form of training missions and token equipment. The latter could perhaps be done in conjunction with the British. In essence we would try to devise an approach which would give the Egyptians sufficient [apparent omission] on the Sudan at this time so that they would not continue to insist on UK recognition of the title as the sine qua non to [Page 1840] negotiations on the Base issue. The approach would not actually split the Sudan and base problems but would provide the means whereby there could be a shift of emphasis.
While it is quite possible that with the frozen positions of the British and the Egyptians a settlement of the Anglo-Egyptian problem is not attainable, we believe that so long as it remains theoretically possible to find a solution we should err on the side of trying every within-reason approach. In addition to this belief we consider that from the point of view of US interests we should not lose sight of the necessity for building up a “record” for ourselves in attempting to find a reasonable avenue to solution. The “record” might be most useful if a stalemate, with all that implies, is reached. We may well need this “record” for the maintenance of our position with other Near Eastern States.
Proposed New Approach
Assuming that it has been possible previously to work out an agreement with the British on a government-to-government basis, we might go to the Egyptians along the following lines:
The United States would recognize King Farouk as King of the Sudan within the framework of self-determination by the Sudanese at an early date and would assist in the development of the Egyptian armed forces through training missions and token equipment within an appropriate program to be agreed upon, if Egypt, for its part, would:
- defer detailed discussions on all phases of the Sudan problem with the UK for the time being;
- proceed with negotiations on the Base question with the view to reaching an agreement on the replacement of British land, sea and air forces with technicians (mostly British, but perhaps a few Americans) and on a joint Anglo-Egyptian air defense scheme; and
- participate without commitment in discussions relating to Middle East defense.
We would also say to the Egyptians that deferment of detailed discussions on the Sudan and our offer to recognize the King’s title would be for the purpose of permitting negotiation and agreement on the Base question, which is now being blocked by the Sudan impasse. We would add that as soon as the Base question is settled (or otherwise, as the time may be appropriate), discussions on the Sudan would continue and that we would hope that agreement could be reached on the various points at issue, i.e., interim status of the Sudan prior to self-determination, constitutional development, water rights, etc. We might indicate that if it were considered useful, we would be prepared to assist in such discussions.[Page 1841]
We would also tell the Egyptians that in our view the suggested approach and line of settlement is highly reasonable and that the United States has proposed it because of our conviction of its reasonableness. In addition we would say that Eden’s message to Sirry regarding the Mahdi’s visit (if it is sent. represents, as we understand it, the limits to which the UK can go at this time. We would also say that if the offer is turned down, we believe the results would be the continuance of the stalemate which in turn might lead to a situation involving disorders, riots and attacks against the British which the Egyptian Government might not be able to control. In such event, the British would probably react firmly to defend themselves against these attacks and the United States for its part would not only think them in the right in so doing, but would give them its support. Throughout this approach we would emphasize the theme that United States and Western collaboration with Egypt along the lines Egypt is constantly seeking is only possible if Egypt accepts certain realities, as well as those responsibilities which devolve upon it as a result of its strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
For tactical reasons it might be better not to let the Egyptians know at the outset that the approach had been discussed with the British. We might indicate that if the Egyptians would accept this arrangement, we would try to obtain United Kingdom agreement (this, of course, having been obtained previously).
Assessment of Recommended Approach
A. Advantages for Egypt
- The King’s title as King of the Sudan would be recognized by a Great Power.
- Egypt would be offered for the first time in a number of years the facilities to train and equip its armed forces (even though in a limited way).
- The basic cause for turmoil in Egypt, the presence of British troops, would be removed.
- Egyptians interests in the Sudan would not have been surrendered or compromised.
- A closer relationship with the United States would be established.
B. Disadvantages for Egypt
- Egypt would have lost out in its efforts to make the British acknowledge the sovereignty of Farouk in the Sudan.
- Egypt would probably receive far less than it would expect in the way of United States training and equipment.
- The joint Anglo-Egyptian air defense scheme would represent the continuation of foreign occupation.
- The leverage with respect to the Sudan which has been afforded by refusal to discuss the Base question would be lost.
- Egypt would probably not consider the price offered sufficient to withstand Wafd and other attacks, particularly regarding participation in discussions on Middle East defense.
- The possibility of closer US–UK relationship would be a difficulty.
A. Advantages for the United Kingdom
- The United Kingdom would be taken off the hook with regard to recognition of the title.
- The large military establishment in the Canal Zone could be substantially reduced.
- The door to discussions on Middle East defense and MEDO might be opened not only for Egypt, but also for the other Arab States.
- The United States would become further involved in the Anglo-Egyptian dispute and if the Egyptians rejected the approach, the United Kingdom could count more firmly on United States support.
- Constitutional development in the Sudan could proceed more easily and there would in fact be less pressure to reach agreement on the Sudan.
- The price in general would be small.
B. Disadvantages for the United Kingdom
- Disagreement between the United Kingdom and United States over the King’s title would become a public fact.
- United Kingdom agreement to United States recognition of Farouk’s title would probably cause acute political embarrassment to the British Government.
- Failure to agree to the approach would widen the differences between the United States and United Kingdom on the handling of the Anglo-Egyptian problem.
- United States training missions and token equipment would reduce Egyptian dependence on the United Kingdom for these purposes.
- The United Kingdom has no particular desire to see concessions made to the Egyptians because of their general attitude toward Egypt and because they fear that the Egyptians might try to raise the price.
A. Advantages for the United States
- Removal of the Sudan as a stumbling block to negotiations on the Base.
- Possibility of early agreement on Canal Zone Base.
- Egyptian participation in discussions on Middle East defense possibly leading to participation in MEDO.
- Opening the door to general Arab participation in MEDO.
- Strengthening United States position in Egypt.
- Closer working relationship with the United Kingdom.
B. Disadvantages for the United States
- Direct involvement in the Anglo-Egyptian dispute.
- Strong British popular reaction against US recognition of title.
- Impairment of United States position in Egypt and the Arab States if the approach fails and United States support is given to the United Kingdom.
- Further commitment of United States equipment and facilities.
- United States would be unpopular with large sections of the Sudanese opinion.
- “Last-gasp” nature of approach.
In summation, probably the biggest difficulty for the United Kingdom would be to agree to United States recognition of Farouk’s title. In any event, should the UK agree to this approach, it is extremely doubtful that Egypt would consider the price high enough, even at the risk of offending the US. However, it is believed that there are sufficient possibilities in the approach to take soundings with Ambassadors Caffery and Gifford.
That you approve the proposed new approach for the purpose of consultation with Ambassadors Caffery and Gifford.
- Drafted by Stabler.↩
- The following handwritten remark by the Secretary of State appears at the top of the memorandum: “This has to be reconsidered now. DA”↩
- For documentation regarding the Beven-Sidky negotiations, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. VII, pp. 69–78.↩
- For documentation regarding these conversations, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. V, pp. 421 ff.↩