771.00/5–852: Telegram

The Ambassador in Egypt (Caffery) to the Department of State1


1963. From Byroade.2 Fast schedule I am on will preclude any lengthy reporting of impressions while en route. As study is now under way in Dept on North Africa, however, will give you what I can now of conclusions for that area. In gen they will include little that is new as I have found situation closely in line with NEA briefing prior to my departure.

On Morocco, in gen believe situation, while calm at the moment, may be slightly more serious as to potential trouble than Dept is aware. Firm impressions are difficult as thinking of Amers in area differs widely. Most extreme view held by several is that situation has drifted so far that Fr by themselves will not be able to maintain stability regardless of what course they take. This group considers that Fr promises of reforms, regardless of specific program put forward, will no longer be accepted in good faith in view of past Fr failure to produce. Therefore they conclude that any action by Fr wld have to have public guarantee, or at least backing, of US or possibly internatl agency. Others consider that specific program put forward by French would suffice but only if Fr are able and willing to first obtain public support for program from the Sultan. They doubt, however, that Sultan can any longer publicly agree with moderate program and doubt as well that the Fr wld turn to the Sultan as a true rep of all Moroccan people. Fr informed me that they saw little possibility of using Sultan in this manner as they wld by this approach let down strong groups who had supported them, at times against the Sultan. Still others see hope in moderate elements in both the Fr and the Natlists and consider support cld be obtained from a middle-of-the-road program if advanced by the Fr. Alert businessmen I saw took an alarmist view in gen but this must be tempered due to their gen lack of [Page 128] objectivity and emotionalism. Some of them seem completely pro-natl.

It seems to me that each of the above groups have about equal basis for their views, when one confines his thinking to Morocco alone. Which line turns out to be correct will probably depend to a great extent on events from outside. If solutions in Iran, Egypt and Tunis are found which dampen extreme Natlism in Arab world in gen, situation in Morocco can undoubtedly be kept stable. On the other hand if these cases remain unsolved or further deteriorate more extreme group will probably be correct. Events in Tunisia of course have the greatest effect as there is constant communications between Natlist of these two areas.

Unlike Tunisia, our direct stake in Morocco is high. I spent considerable time becoming familiar with the air base project and seeing the fields at first-hand. In spite of construction difficulties of which you are aware, a base system that surpasses anything I saw in the war is already partially operable. The significance of this lay-out can hardly be appreciated without seeing it first-hand. There seems to be little danger that the fields themselves cld not be kept secure in event of trouble. Operation cld, however, become most difficult from sabotage of outlying installations and gen local non-coop.

The gap between the Fr and the Natlists seems to be slowly but definitely widening. Events in Tunisia have probably caused both sides to harden their positions. No one expects immed trouble. On the other hand all agree that unless the trend is reversed trouble will probably come later on this year. Many of the Fr seem honestly concerned and somewhat jittery over the prospects. Some say that the recent increase in Fr troops was for moral effect on Fr citizens as much as for handling local disturbances.

In long talk with Gen Guillaume I had impression that I was talking to a man who was about to retire. There is no doubt that his rumored illness is authentic. He seemed somewhat depressed in gen and lacked his characteristic energy and conviction. Altho I had arranged to see him alone we were joined by De Blesson who practically took over the conversation for him. I detected a hardness in De Blesson’s views that did not seem apparent in the Res Gen.

Believe time has come when the US must have a definite position as to what we believe shld be done in Morocco. Our middle-of-the-road course automatically makes us somewhat unpopular with both sides. It seems to me that the only course to be considered at the moment is for us to line up solidly behind the Fr after they have agreed to a polit reform program sufficiently advanced as to be acceptable by the Moroccans under the pressure of US-Fr solidarity. While the US must be cautious against accepting any direct responsibility in Morocco, time has come for us to have definite Views as to type of reform program which cld succeed in Morocco and manner in which we believe the Fr [Page 129] shld proceed to reach agreement. The Secy or whoever presents our views to the Fr can hardly hope to succeed if we only have gen vague ideas as to what the Fr must do. We shld proceed with this planning in both Wash and in the field and, of course, quietly. I presume your study in Wash will cover adequately the gen situation. On the more specific questions, such as type and timing of reforms I shld think the field shld be given responsibility to produce the first plan. Such a study shld be directed from Wash with considerable thought given to the terms of reference for Vincent. Unless you see reasons to the contrary, suggest you issue such instrs, allowing a reasonable time for submission of their views to the Dept. This shld place us in a position to deal with the Fr on a more intelligent basis. Whether we decide to put direct pressure on the Fr to accept our conclusions can be decided at a later date. My own view at present is that we shld lay our suggestions before the Fr at a fairly high level to see if we cannot get together before trouble starts in Morocco.

I am somewhat surprised that my concern over possible later trouble in Morocco is greater than my immed concern over situation in Tunisia. My visit to Tunis reminds me of trips to Berlin in 1947 where local concern and excitement were far less than in Wash. While one cannot know in a short visit to these countries what is going on in the minds of the people, I am somewhat reassured from my short visit here.

I found De Hauteclocque a strong individual but seemed to have moderate views. He also gives the impression of considerable ability. He seems understanding of situation saying that if he were a Tunisian he wld be a Natlist. He seems prepared to recommend to his govt sympathetic consideration of the attitude of the Natlists as long as they refrain from violence. I have reported separately his decision to release prisoners and the time schedule he envisages for negots.

Though nature and inclinations of the present Tunisian Cabinet are well known to us, and I was prepared I think to undergo somewhat of a snow job, I was surprised at lack of sensitiveness of Fr in our relations with Tunisians. There was no hesitancy about calling on the Bey. In appointement arranged by the Fr with Baccouche I was recd by him in his home alone without any Fr being present. Dinner given for me last night by Res Gen included Tunisian officials.

Both De Hauteclocque and Baccouche stated that the press and radio had made conditions in Tunisia appear much worse than they really were. Both stated to me separately that world pressures were causing undue and unwise haste in the negots. They both felt that chance of success wld have been greater if they cld have waited until after the coming of the religious holiday of Ramadan. Baccouche stated that we were correct keeping the Tunisian matter out of the UN. Also that the statements of the Secy and Gross had been helpful as far as the Tunisian people were concerned. He seemed fairly optimistic [Page 130] of successful negots but added that the Fr wld have to go much farther in the way of concessions than they have offered to date. I was unsuccessful in obtaining the names of either the Fr or Tunisian dels to the mixed commission. Baccouche wld go no farther than telling me that the Tunisian delegation wld be a representative one. The Bey incidentally seems to be very much less of a factor than do his several sons and daughters, who drive wildly through the crowded streets. Prince Chedly Bey, his eldest son, and daughter Princess Zakia, wife of former Min of Public Health are considered by Fr to be extreme Natlist tools.

As an example of situation Min of Commerce, a Tunisian Natl of Fr education, last night attempted to convince me that the Fr were in fact moving far too rapidly in granting freedoms to local populace. The Mayor of Tunis told me at dinner that he was optimistic as to coming negots. Later he sent me word that those were not his true feeling but that there were so many “ears” at dinner he was unable to speak frankly.

I feel unable to analyze what may happen in Tunisia. In retrospect it is feeling that the Fr cld have deposed and arrested Cabinet mins of local govt without greater resort to violence than has occurred. Whether the Tunisian Natlists, who have been somewhat disorganized by the above move, can accept the results of negots steered by the present pro-Fr regime is impossible to know. I do not believe that the extent of our contacts with Natlist leaders is good enough to provide the answer to the question. Altho the Neo-Destour, and other Natlist, have refused in advance to accept any BaccoucheHauteclocque reforms, my feeling is that they take as much as is given, stall a while, and then start agitating for a new wave of reforms.

I see nothing, therefore, for us to do at the moment but to watch the coming negots and situation here as closely as possible.

In the meantime we shld continue efforts here and in Paris to obtain details of positions taken by both sides so that we can be in position momentarily to exert influence if that shld be necessary in the negots. At the airport upon my departure Fr officials promised to send their detailed plan of reforms at once to our counsel. Before all this is finished the US probably will be forced to get into the details as we have already had to do in Iran and Egypt.

Had a chat with Lockette on airfield at Algiers. Problems there, of course, quite different as Fr are so numerous and so spread throughout entire area as to be in fairly firm control. He wld expect trouble in Libya only in event conditions on both sides of country get considerably worse.

In Libya one wonders if the experiment will really work or whether the present form of govt will gradually become a complete facade with real control assumed by a few behind the scenes. Understand there is [Page 131] little and often no interest among the people for procedures of new govt. Most officials consider their job in govt merely part time. The Parl, for instance, meets at 5 in the afternoon after business hours. There is resentment at Brit who have lingered on in position of control even if without [omission] Libyans cast a watchful eye towards Egypt and the Egyptian press and radio is a disturbing factor.

Point IV people seem to have good grasp of local situation and are popular at moment. They feel, however, time has come to really produce or TCA will come to be regarded as ineffective as UN program turned out to be. Their plea is for bodies and equipment long since ordered to actually arrive on spot.

In gen we seem to be popular in Libya. Altho while USIS [airbase] depriving Libyans of much of best farmland conduct of local reps such as Col. Easley has been such as to turn project into an asset locally. In gen the Libyans depend on us to somewhat embarrassing extent and it is necessary to gently remind them that our resources are not unlimited. I see no policy change to consider in Libya. We shld do more I think to help the govt succeed, perhaps by exchange of persons program and US technicians and advisors in key positions.

Arrived Cairo on schedule.

  1. This telegram was repeated to London and Paris.
  2. From the middle of April until early June, Byroade was on a visit to U.S. Missions in the Middle East, in connection with his new duties as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs. For additional information on his trip, see volume ix. Additional documentation is in Department of State file 110.15 BY.