249. Letter From the British Chargé (Scott) to the Secretary of State1

Dear Mr. Secretary: When we discussed the Middle East the other day you said you would like to have Mr.Macmillan’s views on the next steps to be taken about Alpha.2 I telegraphed this to Mr.Macmillan, and later telegraphed some proposals, including a circular telegram of instructions to United States representatives in Arab countries, which were passed to a member of my staff by Mr.Russell.3 I have now received a reply from Mr.Macmillan.

Mr. Macmillan asks me to inform you that he agrees with your view that we need to keep up the impetus given by your speech and by the British supporting statement,4 and says he will be very ready to coordinate the next steps closely with you. He says that a visit from Mr.Russell would be very welcome at any time.
Mr. Macmillan agrees that the preliminary reactions in the countries concerned are as favourable as could have been expected. On the other hand, the Arab attitude has clearly not yet been determined, and it looks as though decisions may be taken at the Arab League meeting on September 3. He has been wondering whether there is anything more we can do to prevent these taking a [Page 434] negative form. All the evidence suggests that the attitude of Egypt will be decisive. The Iraqi Prime Minister has said that his attitude will depend on that of Egypt. The Syrian and Jordanian Prime Ministers have both stressed the importance of consultation with other Arab States, and clearly await a lead from Egypt. Mr.Macmillan thinks we must therefore do our utmost to see that Nasser’s lead is not a negative one, or at least that he does not demand a closing of the doors. He is in a strange frame of mind, and Mr.Macmillan is not confident that he will behave helpfully. In particular, there is the danger that he may feel compelled to take an extreme line through fear of being outbid by the Iraqi Prime Minister, with whom he is already competing over Morocco and other matters. Mr.Macmillan suggests therefore that we should make an immediate approach to Nasser. The object would be to inform him that we have reason to think that the Iraqis (and others) will adopt a constructive attitude towards your proposals if Egypt gives a lead in that sense. We could add that we should use all our influence with Iraq and other Arab States in that direction.
The second purpose of the approach should, Mr.Macmillan thinks, be to give Nasser a little more confidential background about our ideas than he has hitherto received, and to reassure him over certain points on which there seems from various statements to be danger of misunderstanding. In the first place, it is worth considering whether we might now indicate to him in confidence, as an example of the kind of ideas we have in mind, the principle (but, of course, not any application) of the triangles in the Negev. We would not ask him to commit himself in any way to this principle.
Other points which might be made are:
that the statement did not, as has been alleged, ignore the possibility of the return of some refugees to Israel;
that we have an open mind as to how the compensation for refugees would be administered, and would be glad to discuss this with the Governments concerned;
that, of course, the proposed treaties of guarantee have nothing to do with Middle East defence;
that we fully realise that this is only a beginning and that all the problems cannot be solved at once. All we are asking is that the parties should be willing to embark on a process of seeking solutions which might lead to a radical improvement of relations and eventually to an overall settlement.
In view of the above, our representatives might conclude by saying that for all these reasons we hope Nasser will agree as to the importance of avoiding any open rejection by the Arab League of your initiative. Mr.Macmillan concludes by saying that he would be glad to hear your views so that agreement may be reached on instructions for a joint approach in Cairo.
Mr. Macmillan has also studied the circular telegram of instructions to the United States representatives in Arab countries and has only one comment to make. It is about your suggestion that “views might be exchanged as to a person or commission designated by a government or person agreed upon by both sides.”5 Mr.Macmillan fears that if the parties chose an unsuitable government or person the operation might pass out of our control. He has therefore suggested that the relevant sentence should read “the exchange of views of various parties might therefore be achieved through a suitable person or commission designated by the United Nations or through those governments who are prepared to contribute towards the achievement of a settlement.”
I took the opportunity this afternoon of mentioning these points briefly to Mr.Hoover for whom I am sending copies of this letter. I also understand that Mr.Russell has discussed Mr.Macmillan’s views with a member of my staff.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Scott
  1. Source: Department of State,S/SNEA Files: Lot 61 D 417, Alpha Volume 12. Top Secret and Personal.
  2. Reference is apparently to Scott’s conversation with Dulles on August 29. The memorandum of this conversation, by Elbrick, isibid., Central Files, 684.86/8–2955.
  3. Document 238.
  4. Dulles’ address is printed in Department of State Bulletin, September 5, 1955, pp. 378–380.
  5. Quoted from Document 238.