11. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State 1
1120. When Ambassador Johnston and I paid courtesy call on Prime Minister Nasser this morning visit ran to fifty minutes. Johnston thanked Nasser for the help of Fawzi, Dr. Selim and General Riad. Nasser agreed to keep Riad here for extra day to work with Johnston and colleagues. After some talk re economic future of Egypt (Johnston’s visit to High Dam et cetera) Nasser introduced subject Iraq-Turkey Pact which took up three quarters of time. In friendly but determined and self-assured way, Nasser spoke in following sense:
- Announcement of Iraq-Turkey pact had been “shock” to him. He had thought that US understood and shared his point of view and his concern re timing. To his disappointment, US had decided to move independently by instigating pact; he felt free now to move independently also.
- Nasser said, “It is possible that you may get away with pact and that Nuri may remain in power for a few months, but your pact will be only a piece of paper and will gain you nothing from point of view of area defense because you have not taken into account the “internal front” about which I have talked to you so often and which I have been so carefully moving along the road to believing in good faith of the West”. Nasser predicted that within six months pact would have caused Communist and nationalists in Iraq to be drawn together by same old fears of foreign domination, British and American “imperialism” and “colonialism” et cetera, as in past. He said, “Everyone thinks of Nuri as a British agent. The Turks are under your influence. The result is inevitable”. He went on: “What happens in Iraq in this regard will also happen in Syria, Jordan and in Egypt. We though will hear the old cries against foreign domination and interference. It is in interest of all that I should work to prevent the re-awakening of anti-West and anti-US sentiment by trying to get Arab States to keep within bounds acceptable to their nationalists”.
- Although it was not easy to interrupt him, I made clear the Department’s position (paragraph 1 Department’s 1251, February 4)2 [Page 16] about pact being welcome as realistic constructive development and necessity for realistic defense arrangements in ME. I said that Department failed to see how pact could conflict with role of Arab League.
- Nasser nodded and said, “That is just what Nuri says. I am a soldier, a politician and a psychologist and I cannot agree that this pact is the way to assure a realistic defense system. Such a system must have genuine support of ME people and such support will only be forthcoming for a defense system based on ACSP without foreign participation.” Re foreign participation he said, “Why should you worry? Egypt, Iraq and Jordan have treaties with UK”.
- I said that he had given Nuri six months but what if popular reaction in Iraq did not turn out to be in accord with this estimate? Would it not be better for Egyptian press to cease incitements to rebellion in Iraq in terms very close to those of Communist lexicon and to let matters take their natural course in Iraq. I said that in a sense he was predicting what would happen and then trying to make sure that it did happen. He did not seem impressed.
- In sum Nasser appeared to be as devoted as ever to his “thesis” that “internal front” must be solidified before “external front” can be dealt with. He feels US has let him down and is responsible for what has happened. He is convinced that his way is only way from point of view of psychology of ME “people” and he seems confident that his stand has captured for him profound support among Nationalists of Egypt and other ME countries.
- Comment: Interview caused Johnston and me to agree that, however wrong or right his ideas may be, Nasser displayed this morning sincerity, honest devotion to his principles and a sense of leadership which must be rare among heads of state in ME.