12. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Lebanese Ambassador (Malik) and the Secretary of State, Department of State, Washington, February 9, 19551


  • The “Northern Tier” Defense Organization and the Relation to it of the Arab States; Arab-Israel Relations
[Page 17]

After preliminary discussion of the current situation in Soviet Russia, Ambassador Malik raised the subject of recent developments in the Near East affecting the organization of the defense of the area. He said that “things are moving” in the Near East, a development which is in his belief due primarily to the policies and actions of the Secretary. Current developments, he said, are a direct consequence of the Secretary’s trip to the area in 1953, and his emphasis on the “Northern Tier” defense concept which had been formulated as a result of that trip. Ambassador, Malik then described briefly the clash of views in the Arab world after the announcement of the proposed Turkey-Iraq Pact and referred to Lebanon’s effort at mediation between Egypt and Iraq, and to Lebanon’s support in the Arab meetings of Iraq’s right to make a defense treaty with Turkey.

The Secretary said that he had been surprised at the vehemence of the Egyptian attack on Iraq’s action, since he had supposed that it had been widely understood throughout the Arab world that the association of Iraq with the “Northern Tier” was a logical and reasonable development. He asked what was the explanation of Egypt’s strongly adverse reaction. Ambassador Malik replied that the Egyptian attitude was due to a combination of a deep strain of neutralism in that country of a type which did not exist in any significant way in Iraq or Lebanon for example, coupled with Egyptian rivalry with Iraq and Turkey, the latter a rivalry which went back to the days of the Byzantine Empire.

Ambassador Malik then said that there were five questions which he had been instructed to ask the Secretary in connection with the statements of U.S. policy made to him by Mr. Jernegan on February 4:

With reference to the statement of U.S. policy made to Ambassador, Malik on February 4, what is the precise nature of the “improvement in Arab-Israel relations” which will be necessary before the U.S. can contribute effectively to area defense?
Would the United States look with favor or disfavor on the joining of all the Arab states in defense arrangements for the Middle East, with Iraq and Turkey proceeding with their own presently-proposed defense pact?
Would the United States have any objection to, or would it have any comment to make, on the calling of a Middle East conference composed of the Arab states concerned, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran to elaborate a comprehensive scheme for Middle East defense, if Lebanon could persuade Egypt to call such a conference?
Would the United States be willing to proceed immediately with economic and military aid to Lebanon, “short-circuiting our usual extensive red tape,” especially with regard to planning for the enlargement of the Port of Beirut and the development of a network of international highways which the Lebanon Government has had very much in mind?
What would be the attitude of the United States toward Lebanon as an individual member of a defense organization, whether that organization was all-embracing or included only some Arab states together with the non-Arab states of the area excluding of course Israel?

Mr. Dulles replied that he could not give an offhand answer to these questions. He said we are sympathetic in general to the idea of mutuality in defense matters, since no country, not even the United States, can stand alone in the world today. However, as to precise details of the type about which the Ambassador was inquiring, he would have to consider these questions carefully before formulating a reply.

The Secretary then said he wished to ask the Ambassador one question. The state of Israel is constantly stressing its isolation, and the fact that it alone has no security guarantees when all these developments, defense arrangements and military aid programs, are taking place in neighboring states. What would the Ambassador do if he were in the Secretary’s position? Ambassador Malik replied that in his personal and unofficial view what the Secretary should do was to continue trying to achieve peace between the Arab states and Israel, but that these moves should be made slowly. Too much haste would not be as productive of results as moving at a slow pace. The Secretary replied that he agreed that if conditions in the area alone were considered, this might justify a slow pace, but that there were other factors— e.g. political factors in the United States.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/2-955. Confidential. Drafted by Francis O. Allen.
  2. An earlier draft of this memorandum indicates that, as originally drafted, the last sentence was different and was followed by three additional sentences. The original language reads as follows: “The Secretary replied that he agreed that conditions in the area required slow rather than rapid efforts to achieve peace, but there was one factor that could not be forgotten. He wished to explain to the Ambassador on a personal basis, as he would not to anyone he did not know so well that our coming elections in 1956 posed a most difficult problem. Both political parties during that year will be under strong pressure to favor Israel, and it is therefore most important to make as much progress as possible this year under our current policy of impartiality. He felt it was to the advantage of the Arabs to move as far as possible now, in 1955, since in 1956 the atmosphere is likely to be such that it will be difficult or impossible for the Administration to act towards the Arabs in such ways as it is now in a position to do.”

    The draft was sent by the Executive Secretariat to John Hanes for the Secretary’s approval. Secretary Dulles made the changes that are reflected in the text printed here. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Memcons)