422. Editorial Note

On November 21, at the 267th Meeting of the National Security Council, Secretary Dulles, in the course of his report to the National Security Council about the Geneva Meeting of Foreign Ministers, offered the following analysis of the Near Eastern situation:

“Lastly, Secretary Dulles said that he would touch on the problems of the Near East. In the main, our policies toward that area had been run from Washington by Under Secretary Hoover, although Secretary Dulles had likewise been involved while at Geneva.

“Secretary Dulles expressed the view that there could be little doubt but that the Soviets had deliberately opened a new cold war front in the Near East.Molotov had been very evasive when the Secretary had questioned him on Soviet policy toward that area, and had kept insisting that the arms deal with Egypt was a simple commercial transaction from which no serious political repercussions were to be expected. It was obvious, continued Secretary Dulles, that the Soviet moves in the Near East confronted the West with a very grave situation. . . . We needed to watch this situation very carefully. For some 25 years we had observed the Communists going to work to bring China under their control. We had done nothing about it until it was too late. We could not afford to repeat this mistake with regard to the Middle East or Africa.

“Secretary Dulles then said he did not believe that the Arab governments were entirely happy over the prospect of possible future dependence on the USSR. It was obvious that they wanted to play off the West against the Soviet bloc, but if they were compelled to choose one or another, they wouldn’t be very happy to choose the Soviet bloc. On the other hand, they might be forced to make such a choice if the West became identified with Israel in active hostilities between Israel and the Arab States. The only solution that Secretary Dulles could perceive for the short-range problem was a general solution of the quarrel between the Israelis and the Arabs. Such a solution he believed by no means impossible. Our policies and those of the UK were pretty much alike, though Secretary Dulles expressed some distaste for Prime Minister Eden’s recent speech on the Near East situation. He said that Eden had tried to drag him into supporting this speech at the very last minute, but that he, Secretary Dulles, had bucked at full endorsement. After all, Secretary Dulles pointed out, his own speech of August 26 on this situation had been discussed for weeks in advance with the British and his proposals cleared with them before the speech was made.

“Nevertheless, Secretary Dulles said that no significant cleavage between the U.S. and the UK on Near Eastern policy could be permitted. It was plain enough that the United Kingdom was trying very hard to swing support over to the side of the Arabs and to regain the lost British position with the Arab States. While this was understandable, it was simply impossible to ignore the position of the Israeli Government. If we did so the Israelis might move in such a way as to bring down the whole house.

[Page 798]

“This reminded Secretary Dulles that he had had a serious talk with Foreign Minister Sharett at the State Department this morning. [See supra ] Secretary Dulles had urged Sharett to remain calm and to avoid incidents involving the Arabs even if provocation existed. It had been a good talk. The Israelis had presented us with a large request for arms. Accordingly, in the course of his conversation Secretary Dulles had referred to the fact that the U.S., along with the UK, was setting up a group to exchange views on arms requests from Middle Eastern countries before any action was taken. [See Document 418] Apropos of the Israeli-Arab situation as a whole, Secretary Dulles said that while he regarded it as extremely dangerous, it was not more so than other difficulties which we have encountered and surmounted.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File,NSC Records)