Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright) and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Jernegan) to the Acting Secretary of State1



  • Conversation with Secretary Dulles on Morocco and Tunisia

The paper on France which was prepared in late November for your conversations with Secretary Dulles2 is still largely current with the exception of the section on North Africa where of course events of major significance have occurred both in the area and in the UNGA in New York.

In Tunisia, the situation has remained uneasy, and indeed became aggravated when, on December 5, the Secretary-General of the UGTT (anti-Communist Tunisian labor union), and the leading nationalist still operating in Tunisia, Ferhat Hached, was found murdered near Tunis.3 There is still no proof as to the identity of the murderers, but the event has redounded to the disadvantage of the French Protectorate in Tunisia even though French officials had no part in the assassination. Since then, French security measures have been tightened but minor incidents continue, and the atmosphere remains hardly conducive to the resumption of Franco-Tunisian negotiations which we desire to see. On December 15 it was announced from Paris that the Bey of Tunisia would that day sign some sixty miscellaneous dahirs (decrees) which had been awaiting signature, some for as long as two years, and in addition would approve the first two of the seven major dahirs of the French-sponsored reform program submitted last spring and heretofore resisted by the Tunisians. However, in fact the [Page 143] Bey did not sign these measures, and relations now appear worse than ever. Rumors of French plans to depose the Bey are unconfirmed, and we have indicated to the French that we are pleased to note from their public statements that they do not plan action of this nature, which we believe would further worsen the situation.

In Morocco, on December 8 there occurred the most serious disorders in forty years of the French Protectorate, during which at least eight Frenchmen were brutally murdered, and an unknown number of Moroccan rioters shot by police and troops.4 The reports of the Moroccan dead vary from fifty to several hundred with the lower figure probably much more nearly accurate. Following the restoration of order in Casablanca, where the major riots occurred, Morocco remains in a state of uneasy calm. The French have blamed the riots on the nationalists acting in collusion with the Communists, and have arrested a very large number of persons of both parties. The Independence Party, principal nationalist group, always technically illegal though formerly tolerated, has now been banned and is in the process of being driven underground. There have likewise been wholly unconfirmed rumors in Morocco of French plans to depose the Sultan, a step we consider would be an irretrievable error on the French part.

Events in Tunisia and Morocco are undoubtedly closely linked with UNGA consideration of the North African items in New York, and the latter is responsible for the disorders in the area in the French view. During the debate on both cases in Committee 1, from which France was absent, the United States Representative, Dr. Jessup, indicated our confidence in France’s intentions to bring the Tunisian and Moroccan peoples along the road to self-government in accordance with her declared intentions. While the entire question of UN discussion of the North African question is anathema to the French, and they do not accept UN competence in these matters, they nevertheless have been pleased with Dr. Jessup’s speeches, and with the United States position in general.

On the question of resolutions, the French Government cannot of course support any resolution. However, the French Delegation in New York agrees with our estimate that it is inevitable that some resolution will be approved, and accordingly they have tacitly agreed that the United States should support a mild resolution, and seek to obtain the support of others. Accordingly in both cases we have backed a moderate Latin American resolution calling on the two parties to resume negotiations, and have opposed stronger Arab-Asian proposals (in the Tunisian case proposing the creation of a good offices commission of the UN to investigate conditions in that Protectorate). In both cases Committee I approved the Latin American text (as of this moment plenary action has not taken place on either case). In the case [Page 144] of the Moroccan resolution, unfortunately from our viewpoint, a Pakistani amendment was passed which went somewhat further than we wished by placing Morocco in exactly the same category as Tunisia (the French position, in which we concur to a limited degree, is that Morocco is less ready than Tunisia to take on self-government at this time). This resolution was passed over our opposition in committee, but we are considering the possibility of supporting it in the plenary.

During the UN debates on these items, the United States Delegation has done everything possible to be of assistance to the French, and has materially aided France especially with the Latin American Delegations. There is considerable evidence that the French in Paris and in the United States realize and appreciate what has been done. Perhaps because of the explosive local situation, however, United States policy and motives continue to be viewed with suspicion by the French on the spot, especially in Morocco, and it has accordingly been suggested to the Secretary that he might care to mention to Foreign Minister Schuman in Paris that we consider such an attitude anywhere unfortunate.

  1. This memorandum was prepared by McBride.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. For documentation on this topic, see pp. 852 ff.
  4. For documentation on this topic, see pp. 604 ff.