162. Editorial Note
On the evening of July 17, President Eisenhower met with British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who gave him the message, supra . The President described this meeting in a diary entry of July 19, the relevant portion of which reads as follows:
“Mid-East.Anthony also was concerned about the Mid East. He has been talking to Foster about the so-called ‘Alpha Plan.’[Page 302]
“He feels that if any public statement is made by the United States that is interpreted in the region as slanted in favor of Israel, that we are going to lose a lot of Arab support. This support is already shaky and it could, in his opinion, switch toward the Soviet very markedly. The Arabs themselves, of course, are weak except that (together with Iran) they possess the world’s greatest oil reserves.
“He believes that if we could do something to meet Iraq’s military ambitionsbefore we make any announcement slanted toward Israel, that the effect of such announcement would be largely nullified.
“Britain had wanted to sell Centurion tanks to Iraq. But that country has been insisting that it was going to get them for nothing from the United States.
“In these circumstances the British were hopeful that we would buy Centurion tanks as part of our offshore procurement program and give the necessary number to Iraq.
“I told him I did not see much sense to us assuming full financial responsibility for such a proposition, but I did tell him that if Britain would provide a satisfactory portion of the costs, we might participate because we wereof course interested in strengthening the ‘northern tier’ of Arab States, of which Iraq is a part.
“Actually I think we should look up the financial status of Iraq. It is entirely possible that that country could afford to pay at least a minor portion of the cost, Britain could then assume a bigger portion and we could foot the rest of the bill. In this way we would really be implementing the thought behind theMutual Security Program.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File,Eisenhower Diaries)
Dulte 15 from Geneva, dated July 18, reported on this as follows:
“The President said he had told Eden it was impossible for us to put up the money to enable them to manufacture and give away Centurion tanks to the Iraqi. If, however, the British were prepared to carry a substantial part of the burden we might then do some of it. He said that in principle he favored the use in the Middle East of equipment of British design so as to minimize the burden upon us of replacement of spare parts in the event of war.” (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–1855)