161. Memorandum From the Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State1

This morning I called on the President at 9:45 and reviewed the Middle East situation with him for approximately three-quarters of an hour.

I outlined to the President the situation confronting us with the French request to sell 12 Mystere–IV aircraft to the Israelis. After considering all of the arguments on both sides he agreed that we [Page 293] should take a position of offering no objection if the French wished to consummate the transaction, but that it should be fully understood that we assumed no responsibility whatsoever.
The Saudis still have a considerable amount of arms, including 105 mm. ammunition, which were involved in agreements made last summer. They have not yet been shipped. The Saudis recently requested a renewal of their export licenses. If we did not go through with our agreement, the Saudis would regard it as a major breach of faith on our part. The President suggested that we talk with Defense and CIA about alternate methods of delivery.
The Galilee incident between Israel and Syria was touched upon and I advised the President of the action we were taking in pressing both sides that it should not be allowed to degenerate into further hostilities. He concurred and had no further suggestions to make.
I told the President of the preliminary report that I had had from Anderson on his conversation with Nasser, including Nasser’s proposal that he would actively further peace efforts and an agreement on the Jordan Dam on condition that the U.S. and U.K. would not attempt to expand the membership of the Baghdad Pact.2 The President felt, as I did, that this would be a useful subject for Mr. Anderson to explore further with Nasser on his own responsibility before committing either the U.S. or the U.K. Governments.
I reviewed the state of the military planning between the U.S., the U.K., and the French,3 pointing out that the British had leaked to the press in London the fact that we were engaged in such activities. I pointed out that we had protested as strongly as possible to Ambassador Makins, and he had been equally disturbed by these reports.4 While the Pentagon felt that it was imperative to carry on detailed planning with the U.K. in the event that military action should become necessary, nevertheless they were most hesitant to carry on further talks if the matter was going to be of public record. We had agreed between the U.S. and the U.K. that we would only keep the French advised on a restricted basis and then only those operations which involved “showing the Flag”.
I advised the President that we were actively pursuing all possible courses which could be taken in the UN,5 as we felt that [Page 294] we should exhaust those possibilities before undertaking any plans under the Tripartite Agreement. We would try to put our action in such a way that if the Soviets vetoed it, they would be against peace in the Middle East. I stated further our feeling that we should go through the processes of the UN so that if the Russians vetoed the proposal we would be in a stronger moral position to take action under the Tripartite Agreement. The President agreed and said that we might rapidly be reaching the point where we would have to take military action in the area. He felt that the Russians did not want to get into a war at this time and under these circumstances would probably back down if forced to make a clear-cut decision. I agreed, but pointed out that we would have to think it through with extreme care if we wished to avoid the enmity of the Arab nations for many years to come.
The President discussed with me briefly a message which he had received this morning from Sir Anthony Eden regarding the problems in Iraq6 and a suggested revision of the draft answer we had submitted to him with regard to Sir Anthony’s previous message.7

[Here follows discussion of the situation in French North Africa.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President. Top Secret; Personal and Private. Goodpaster’s version of this conversation is Ibid., Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries.
  2. Anderson transmitted this preliminary summary of his conversation with Nasser on the evening of March 4 to Dulles at Karachi and to Hoover at Washington. (Message 106 from Anderson at Cairo; Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson talks w/BG & Nasser. Carbons of incoming and outgoing tels) See infra.
  3. See Document 143.
  4. No record of this conversation has been found in Department of State files, but see Document 169.
  5. See Document 166.
  6. Eden’s message of March 4 to Eisenhower noted “developments in Middle East which are causing me much concern.” Among these were the Soviet effort to “liquidate” the Baghdad Pact, recent events in Jordan, and Nasser’s role in support of the Soviets and in encouraging King Hussein to dismiss Lieutenant General Glubb. Eden believed that the United States and the United Kingdom could no longer continue “a policy of appeasement” in Egypt, and he recommended that the United States join the Baghdad Pact. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File) On March 5, Goodpaster forwarded a copy of Eden’s message to Hoover. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, Eden to Eisenhower Correspondence, 1955–1956. Vol. I)
  7. Eden’s message of February 18 requested Eisenhower’s assistance in supplying tanks to Iraq, the Netherlands, and West Germany. A copy of the draft response is Ibid., Central-Files, 787.5–MSP/3–556.