208. Note From the British Ambassador (Makins) to Secretary of State Dulles 1

On Selwyn Lloyd’s instructions, I enclose for your personal and confidential information, three copies of a paper on the situation in the Middle East which has been approved by the Prime Minister.

Selwyn Lloyd asked me to explain that it represents their ideas reached after a good deal of thought. He himself, as a result of the visits which he paid2 after seeing you in Karachi, is very worried about the need for urgent action.

Roger Makins 3
[Page 384]

[Enclosure] 4

Ever since the signature of the Suez Canal Agreement we have taken the view that the revolutionary regime in Egypt under Colonel Nasser was disposed to work with the West and could be brought to cooperate in the task of securing peace in the Middle East. We and the United States Government have hoped that Colonel Nasser would take the lead in the search for a Palestine settlement. We showed willingness to help him over his long term plans for the welfare of the Egyptian people, notably the Aswan Dam. Although he has opposed the Bagdad Pact because of the prominence which it gave to Iraq, we have hoped that he would eventually be reconciled to the need for common defence arrangements for the Middle East. We have relations with the West despite his acceptance of the Bandung policy of non-alignment.

These hopes have in recent months become increasingly difficult to sustain. I am afraid the time has now come for a reappraisal of the situation.
Since Colonel Nasser decided to obtain arms from the Soviet Union his attitude to the West has steadily deteriorated. Although he is severe with the Egyptian Communists and anxious not to be compelled to rely solely upon Soviet support, he is, I believe more deeply committed to the Soviet than we have thought. He is already becoming a prisoner of his arms policy and may no longer be in a position to free himself from Soviet control. Like Mussolini before him, he has become beholden to a ruthless power. His pride will not allow him to extricate himself. This will be relentlessly exploited by the Russians whose technicians and experts are entering Egypt in increasing numbers (in hundreds) and on whom Colonel Nasser is now dependent for the repairs and spare parts for the armaments which he has obtained.
The popularity which the acquisition of Soviet arms has gained to Colonel Nasser in the Arab world is tempting him to seek fresh successes against Israel and there is evidence that he may contemplate an attack this year. The efforts which we and the United States Government have made over the past two years to obtain a Palestine settlement through Colonel Nasser have recently failed. We are driven to the conclusion that he is not prepared to take any real initiative towards a settlement. Why should he? As champion of the Arab cause against Israel he consolidates his position with the Arabs. The more intransigent he is towards Israel the stronger he becomes. Egyptian propaganda has been openly directed [Page 385] against the Western position in all parts of the Middle East and Africa even where no direct Egyptian interest is involved. Their attitude towards our relations with Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states and Libya suggests that they are determined to eliminate British and other Western influences from the whole area. With the aid of Saudi money they are inflaming anti-Western feeling.
A final illustration of his double dealing is to be seen in his action since my conversation with him in Cairo.5 He protested on March 1 that he did not wish to attack the British position in the Middle East nor was he in any way hostile to our bilateral agreements with Arab states. Since that date there has been propaganda directed to the Persian Gulf states against British and the International oil companies. Another attempt has been made to detach Jordan from British association. An offer has been made to Libya to replace the British subvention.
Accordingly I have come to the conclusion that we must change our policy towards Egypt. Many things which we have hitherto done or refrained from doing out of concern not to alienate Egypt must now be reconsidered.
The following steps seem to me to be those open to us to counter Egyptian policy in the Middle East. The order in which they are set out has no significance.
Increased support should be given to the Bagdad Pact and its members, notably Iraq. This involves a further request to the United States to support and if possible to join the Pact. If a decision to join is still out of the question, the possibility of a declaration of intention should be considered.
Increased aid should be given to the member countries. We ourselves should consider whether there is anything further that we can do, particularly to strengthen the machinery of the pact itself by the creation of an effective international secretariat, and the provision of more technical assistance. The United States should be asked to develop their “solid support”.
Iraq and Jordan should be drawn closer together. This process has already begun as a result of the meeting of the two Kings. Its momentum must be maintained.
Saudi Arabia should be detached from Egypt. This involves reinforcing the existing fears of King Saud and his family as to the ambitions of revolutionary Egypt. He must be made to realise that Egypt is aiming at the overthrow of monarchical institutions in the Arab world and the establishment of a union of Arab states under Egyptian hegemony.

Further support should be given to Libya in order to prevent her falling under Egyptian or Communist influence. The further support over the development plan is primarily a task for the [Page 386] Americans. We, in addition to our large existing subvention, might help over the loan for the Tripoli power station and the English school.

. . . . . . .

Whatever policy we pursue, we must expect continuing and increasing hostility from Colonel Nasser. He will intensify his efforts against Jordan. We must expect renewed attempts to overthrow the Hashemite monarchy there. There is already fresh evidence of this. Further attacks upon Nuri, including possible assassination, must also be expected. The attack upon us in the Gulf will be strengthened and a general campaign will be launched to stir up hatred against the West and against any Arab leaders who cooperate with the West. It is important not to under-estimate Colonel Nasser. Egypt has powerful means of influencing Arab opinion and is capable of making a lot of trouble for us. It is quite possible that we should suffer some casualties in the conflict. If, however, we postpone taking firm action against Egypt, worse consequences will follow.
We must also consider the possibility of more direct action against Egypt herself. The possibilities are as follows—
We could withhold all military supplies, including instructors and spare parts for British equipment.

We could withdraw our offer of financial support over the Aswan Dam.

. . . . . . .

We could withdraw our tripartite guarantee of Egypt against Israel aggression.
We could encourage the Sudanese to make trouble for the Egyptians.

We could ask the United States to taper off their economic aid to Egypt.

. . . . . . .

Since the object of our policy must be to isolate Egypt and to strengthen our position in those Arab countries where we have interests, it is essential that the steps we take should be seen to be directed to the defence of Western interests and not designed to uphold the interests of Israel. One way to strengthen the Egyptian position is for our efforts and those of our friends in the Arab world to become identified with what Arabs regard as undue tenderness towards Israel. For this reason I have omitted any mention of forcing the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba or insisting upon freedom of [Page 387] Israeli vessels to navigate the Suez Canal. Our policy towards the Arab/Israel conflict must be concentrated upon keeping the peace through United Nations action, and threat of possible action against an aggressor under the tripartite declaration. It will also be necessary to give some defensive arms to Israel.
I do not believe that it would be permissible for us to carry through successfully the new policy towards Egypt set out in the preceding paragraphs unless we and the United States work wholeheartedly together. The timing and presentation of these various steps requires careful thought. Above all, the United States and United Kingdom must clearly be seen to be acting together. … But in the meantime immediate steps must be taken to hearten our friends, particularly under the Bagdad Pact.6
  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, Eden to Eisenhower Correspondence 1955–1956. Vol. I. Top Secret; Personal. The source text bears a notation indicating that Dulles saw it.
  2. Reference is to Lloyd’s visits to the capitals of the Baghdad Pact countries and to Israel.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Top Secret.
  5. See Document 157 and 175.
  6. On March 22, Ambassador Aldrich in London reported on a conversation with Selwyn Lloyd during which he asked about the probable U.S. reaction to the British paper. Aldrich refused to speculate, “but in effort to draw him out inquired whether he envisages proposed policy as frontal attack on Nasser and consequently various specific steps put forward as in nature of package plan. His thinking apparently is along line frontal attack, but he envisages priorities among various specific projects.” (Telegram 4148 from London; Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–2256)

    On March 23, Dulles acknowledged receipt of this paper and informed Makins that he anticipated “detailed talks between American and British officials.” (Letter from Dulles to Makins; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Unlabelled Folder)