225. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, March 28, 1956, 4:40–6:30 p.m.1


  • Secretary Dulles
  • Under Secretary Hoover
  • Assistant Secretary George Allen
  • Mr. Rountree
  • Secretary Wilson
  • Deputy Secretary Robertson
  • Admiral Radford
  • Colonel Goodpaster

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and carry forward the development of a line of action in the Middle East. Secretary Dulles handed the President a memorandum setting forth a series of specific actions to be taken.2 After reading the memorandum, the President indicated that he was inclined to agree with all of the suggestions, but thought they might be grouped somewhat differently around certain main efforts. For example, one of these might be to build up King Saud as a figure with sufficient prestige to offset Nasser. To do this would probably require a settlement of the Buraimi issue, for which we might ask as a quid pro quo a better attitude on the part of the Saudis toward Iraq.

Secretary Dulles reviewed in some detail the first group of proposals in his memorandum. The President interjected that we should make sure we concert the overall plan with the British—i.e. with Eden and Lloyd.

In a discussion of the possibility of greater U.S. support for the Baghdad Pact, Secretary Dulles said that the U.S. cannot join the Pact without giving some security guaranty to Israel, and that if we were to do so, our action would quickly knock out Iraq. Admiral [Page 424] Radford said there were reports that if we do not soon join the Pact, it may disintegrate.

There was some discussion of giving a security guaranty to the Israelis directed essentially against Egypt. If Egypt were to attempt to liquidate Israel, there is no question that war would be forced upon us. Secretary Dulles and Admiral Radford pointed out that in such a case the result might be that we would have to occupy the entire area, protect the pipelines and the Suez Canal, etc.

The President said he recognized that the matter must be very delicately handled, and carefully concerted and balanced. Drawing on the action suggested by Secretary Dulles, and other possibilities, there was discussion as to the type of thing that might have to be done, the possibility of working out a favorable settlement in Buraimi from the Saudi point of view, informing the U.K. of increased support for the Baghdad Pact, offering Israel some selected type of arms, for example, radar, obtaining Israeli agreement to a more moderate stand and to territorial adjustments, all the while taking steps designed to bring Egypt into a better position.

The President asked who might head up in Washington, with a few top level field agents, an effort such as this. A top flight man, able to give constant attention to the matter, would be needed. Secretary Dulles said he is giving thought to this question. He does not believe the task can be handled as an additional duty for the established elements of the State Department.

In further discussion, Admiral Radford referred to the question of whether Egypt might be receiving support from other areas, for example, India. The President said that, although he did not feel the Soviets were prepared to risk general war over their intervention in the Middle East, it might be that we are seeing only the “surface of the iceberg” in the Middle East, and that the well springs of their difficulty lie elsewhere. Secretary Dulles said that since his talk with Eban some weeks ago,3 and since clear evidence has been given that this Administration is not going to “cave in” on the Israeli question, the Israelis are showing a much less arbitrary and truculent attitude in discussions with him.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman Files, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted on March 29 by Goodpaster. Regarding the time of the meeting, see footnote 1, supra. Another version of the conversation is supra.
  2. See Document 223.
  3. See Document 151.