162. Message From Robert B. Anderson to the Secretary of State, at Karachi1

No. 110
1.
… I met with Nasr, Zacharia and Ali Sabri from 2100 to 2430, 4 March. Nasr appeared tired and said he had been in conferences since early morning, terminating with a conference with Ghazzi of Syria. He expressed himself as being surprised by the removal of Glubb and that his first reaction was that it had been planned by the British for his benefit and timed with the arrival of Selwyn Lloyd. We refused to take any such idea seriously. He states he had asked Lloyd if it were so inspired by the British and was informed that it came as a surprise to them also. He had reached the conclusion, and said that he had recent intelligence reports to confirm his belief, that the removal of Glubb was demanded by a group of free officers in the Jordanian Army exerting pressure on the King.
2.
He appeared disappointed at his conversations with Selwyn Lloyd2 stating that nothing new had emerged and that he was still vague (in his mind) as to British objectives in the Middle East and particularly their intentions with reference to further expansion of the Baghdad Pact. We had been previously informed that Nasr felt he had some assurances from Lloyd that there would be no further efforts to enlarge the Pact membership at this time. I asked him directly if such assurances had been given and he replied that they had not, stating that Lloyd had only said that he would have to consult with the other members of the Pact before making any commitments with reference to enlarging the membership. We discussed the further implementation of the Jordanian Water Plan at this point following the suggestions included in Russell’s cable (out Message No. 5)3 and considerably amplifying the arguments along the line that probably no more favorable time would present itself for exerting Egyptian leadership in this direction, and emphasizing that such action would be favorably received by local public opinion and be highly indicative of his capabilities for Arab leadership. We asked if this would not be possible at the next meeting of the Council of the Arab League which occurs in about 10 days. Nasr said that he had just been discussing the matter with the Syrians and that it was going to be difficult if not impossible at this point [Page 296]for the Syrians to approve the Plan. He further stated that if he exerted his leadership in this direction he would lose a substantial amount of popularity with the people in Syria and Jordan. We assured him that we would exert our efforts and urge others to do likewise in restoring his standing with the people of these countries. He replied that he would not be so worried about taking the action if it were not for the existence of the Baghdad Pact.
3.

I asked Nasr specifically if he would move forward with both the implementation of the Jordan Water Plan and settlement of differences with Israel, if he were confident that no efforts would be exerted to enlarge the membership of the Baghdad Pact in the Arab States. Unhesitatingly he said that he would. I then asked him if he would be satisfied with an assurance that there would not be efforts to enlarge the membership of the Pact and at the same time he give assurance that he would proceed forthwith toward an early implementation of the Jordan Plan and an early settlement of differences with Israel. He implied [replied?] by saying that a year ago he had that idiotical [identical?] assurance by telegram from Eden and that thereafter the British had in fact put pressure on Jordan to join the Pact. …

He emphasized that it was not necessary for the British to exercise pressure directly if they could achieve their objective by exerting pressure indirectly. Later, Nasr said that not only had the British assured him by Eden’s telegram that he would not try enlarge the Pact’s membership in the Arab States without consulting Egypt, but pointed out that just a few days ago our own country in the declaration between the President and Eden reaffirmed its interest in the Pact and specifically stated that we regarded it as an instrument having political and economic significance.4 This he pointed out to me was entirely contradictory of our statements that our interest stemmed from it being an instrumentality of defense against Russian aggression. I again asked him if he would be content with assurances which I might be able to give him after consultation with the British that there would be no present efforts to enlarge the Arab membership of the Pact, if at the same time and within the context of those assurances he gave equally emphatic assurance that he would proceed to secure approval of the Jordan Plan and to settle differences with Israel at an early date. Nasr asked why we would want to give assurances in this matter rather than make a public declaration of our intentions concerning the Baghdad Pact. I replied by telling him that we would not want to make any such assurances with reference to the Pact unless it was within the context of his own assurances [Page 297]that he would proceed with the Jordan Plan and the Israeli settlement. That I doubted that he would want these latter two items included in the text of the public statement and therefore had suggested possibility of private assurances from both sides. While Nasr did not definitely commit himself on this point he agreed that it held possibilities and said that so far as he was concerned he would not worry about the approval of the Jordan Pact [Plan] and would be much less concerned at making a settlement with Israel if “he had this danger removed from his back”. In every meeting which I have had thus far with Nasr he seems as much preoccupied with the Baghdad Pact as any other single thing. I therefore asked him tonight whether he was really concerned with the Pact or whether he was more concerned with the rivalry of Nuri Said. Nasr stated that his primary concern was the fact that there were two schools of thought in the Arab world: One adhering to and one opposing the Baghdad Pact. The existence of these two schools of thought would continue so long as there were efforts to enlarge the Pact membership. Further conversations, however, developed quite clearly that he feels that if Britain and the U.S. announced there [their] intention not to enlarge the Pact it would seriously weaken the influence of Nuri Said and thus would be greatly to his advantage. He made the point that the Baghdad Pact divides the Arab world in such a way as to make it extremely dangerous for any single Arab leader to take bold action either in support of the Jordan Valley Plan or in settlement with Israel. Undoubtedly in our judgment, his concern is largely directed toward rivalry with Nuri, Nuri’s machinations and financing of activities against him, and particularly Nuri’s activities with regard to Syria.

4.

We then got into the problem of the Israeli settlement. I expressed appreciation for the work which he and Ali Sabry had done … during my absence, stating that this was definite progress specifically pointing to courses of action leading toward a settlement. I pointed out, however, that we were confronted with the fact that his country was receiving arms continuously from a Soviet Bloc country and that in the eyes of world opinion this represented Egypt receiving arms from Russia. That while we appreciated his concern in molding Arab public opinion and the decisive factors he attributes to the Baghdad Pact, it was necessary that some definite actions be taken by Egypt which would establish their alignment with the Western free powers at the same time that we took action helping him to mold Arab public opinion or minimizing his fears with reference to the Pact.

That we could not morally afford the time of weeks and months which [he] has apparently envisioned as necessary to prepare the Arab world for a settlement with Israel. That pressure was increasing [Page 298]on us to provide some arms to Israel in order not to permit such an imbalance as would jeopardize the country’s survival. That this pressure would count [mount]. That we had been thinking of ways to establish confidence in Israel and other free nations of his sincerity in wanting to achieve peace. That several possible courses of action had occurred to us such as the deployment of U.N. military elements in the area, resort to other United Nations actions, giving limited defensive arms to Israel, and a number of others. That we realize that certain of these ideas would likely find opposition in Egypt. That we had thought of the possibility of asking Israel to appoint a private citizen to represent them in talks with Nasr, Ali Sabry or Zacharia in Cairo, under the very best security arrangements possible. That this might be sufficient evidence of sincerity to provide some additional time to condition public opinion and at the same time reach a substantial resolution of issues between the respective countries. That our thoughts on these various possibilities have been of an exploratory nature but that if both sides were genuinely sincere we had to take clear, specific and desirable steps which would establish mutual confidence, lessen tensions, slow down the pressure for additional arms and provide some means of securing a reasonably early settlement of the broad problems. Nasr did not disagree with these suggestions although he indicated that some of them would create problems and concern on the part of the Egyptians. The question of his meeting, or allowing Ali Sabry or Zacharia to meet with a private citizen of Israel, he did not comment on. Instead, he suggested that it would be necessary for us to meet tomorrow evening.5 This we plan to do.

5.
We also stated during conversations that if both sides really wanted peace rather than war, there would surely be found ways of achieving a settlement and that if both sides were not genuinely sincere we ought to realize that we might be working at a fruitless task. Nasr quite spontaneously interrupted to say that so far as Egypt was concerned he wanted to make quite clear that his country wanted peace and would not engage in any attack on Israel except in the defense of their own territory and forces. This was perhaps the most spontaneous reply that Nasr has made along this line and was certainly as categoric as any statement he has made at any time.
6.

If possible, I would appreciate very much being advised by the Department and the Secretary with reference to such assurances that we might give Nasr to the effect that we would not propose to enlarge the membership of the Baghdad Pact in the Arab States without prior consultation with Egypt in the context of his giving us assurance that he will proceed diligently in his efforts to secure an [Page 299]early approval of the Jordan Plan and the early resolution of differences with Israel. We would also like to have your judgment of whether any statement along this line could be made by one or both countries. We made quite clear to Nasr in this connection that unless the problems of the Jordan Valley and the settlement of the differences with Israel could be resolved that we would of necessity have to reappraise our own position with reference to the Baghdad Pact because we would not want, under any circumstances, to lessen our defenses against the Soviets.6

. . . . . . .

10.
We also discussed with Nasr the dangers inherent in a situation where both countries were receiving arms and particularly where there were fanatical elements in both countries. Nasr reacts with almost a fatalistic approach to any suggestion that there is any danger of his country being attacked, whether accidentally or by design. He says that this is a fear which the Egyptians have continuously lived with and that regardless of any circumstances it is not as great now as at some times in the past.
11.
During the course of the conversations, the question arose as to what we might do in order to help Nasr with his orientation of Arab opinion to accept the settlement of differences with Israel and the approval of the Jordan Plan. In this connection we stated that if we were assured of a resolution of these problems we could in the context of that assurance probably proceed with such things as an economic survey in the Arab countries and to discussions with him and his associates of specific problems in the various Arab countries where he thought our efforts would be helpful in establishing the kind of atmosphere he wanted to achieve. Nasr seemed pleased by this suggestion.
12.
Our conversations tomorrow will probably revolve around the following:
a.
What kind of assurances can we give Nasr with reference to not enlarging the Arab membership of the Baghdad Pact at this time and what kind of assurances can he give us with reference to definite steps toward approval of the Jordan water plan and the resolution of differences with Israel.
b.
Whether or not he is agreeable to a private Israeli citizen coming to Cairo for talks.
c.
An organized program, possibly under U.N. sponsorship, for improving the administration of the armistice tensions along the armistice lines.
d.
What kind of proposals we can consider to avoid hostilities until a settlement can be achieved.
e.
What actions might be taken on both sides to achieve an Arab acceptance of the settlement of two problems under discussion.
13.
Drafted 1000Z, 5 Mar.
  1. Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson Talks w/BG & Nasser. Incoming Telegrams—Jan.–March 1956. Part II. Secret. Also transmitted to Washington for Hoover.
  2. See Document 157.
  3. Document 155.
  4. Reference is to the Anglo-American declaration issued at Washington on February 1, 1956. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 13, 1956, p. 231.
  5. See Document 164.
  6. Hoover informed Anderson on March 5: “Subject to any advice you may receive from Secretary suggest you tell Nasser you cannot give him firm position until after you have had opportunity communicate with Secretary but that you will recommend following to Secretary: U.S. will immediately hold conversations with U.K. and other members of Baghdad Pact and would expect be in position assure Nasser that at least during period necessary to work out settlement there would in fact be no further accession to Pact; if settlement achieved there would be public statements of policy of no further accession. We would, of course, expect during same period Nasser would make no effort to get any member of Pact to leave it.” (Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson talks w/BG & Nasser. Carbons of Incoming and Outgoing Tels)

    Secretary Dulles informed Anderson on March 6 that he “Agree [d] with Hoover cable (Dir 00820) on assumption that ’no further accession’ applies to Arab states and does not bind U.S. I further assume there will in fact be some assurances re. Israel at least privately and preferably a public statement on Johnston Plan.” (Ibid.)