18. Editorial Note

On March 3, at the 239th meeting of the National Security Council, Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, reviewed developments affecting U.S. security, and presented a report on the Middle East. The memorandum of discussion reads as follows:

“Mr. Dulles described the Middle East as ‘in a boil’ at the present time. While the United States might be inclined to take developments in the Middle East more seriously than was really necessary, the situation was currently very complicated. In the first place, Colonel Nasser, the chief power in the Egyptian Government, was taking the signature of the Turkish-Iraqi pact as a hard blow to himself and to Egyptian interests. The same attitude was being taken by the Government of Saudi Arabia. The latter government had even been talking about the possibility of cancellation of its airbase agreement with the United States, but Mr. Dulles thought it was unlikely that such a threat would actually be carried out.

“On top of this had come the incident in the Gaza area of Egypt. This action had been apparently precipitated by the Israelis, though their reasons for doing so at this particular time were difficult to fathom. The resort to force, thought Mr. Dulles, might simply reflect the return of the strong man, Ben-Gurion, as Minister of Defense; but again, there was no clear and precise motivation which could be cited.

“Mr. Dulles then referred to a message by Lebanese Ambassador Malik to his home government, whence he had just been recalled for consultation. Malik described the signature of the Turkish-Iraqi pact as marking the end of an era and the disappearance of the influence of the Arab League in Middle Eastern affairs. Concurrently these events would mark the rise of Western influence in the several Arab states.

“Mr. Dulles described the situation in Syria as ‘ripe for a military coup d’etat’.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)