109. Memorandum From Carl W. McCardle of the Senior Staff of Advisers in the Delegation at the Suez Canal Conference to the Secretary of State1
At the Reception at 10 Downing Street last night, Prime Minister Eden went out of his way to tell me “what a wonderful job Foster has done here”. He repeated that if the Suez crisis is settled, it will “be due to the job that Foster has done.”
A few minutes later Harold Macmillan reiterated to me Sir Anthony’s praise of your efforts. But he quite plainly had another point that he wanted to make and as a matter of fact urged me to help persuade you to do it. That was, as Macmillan sees it, the first stage of the battle has been won with the way you have handled the Suez Conference. The next stage is the one that worries him. In his opinion the only one who stands a chance of negotiation with Nasser is yourself. Macmillan says that you are the only one Nasser will pay any attention to. He said that it would be all right to have a Committee of Norway, Iran and Australia, but if we were to get any place with Nasser it would have to be you in charge of the negotiation. He went so far as to say that you were the “only hope”. He said that whatever success the London Conference achieved, it would be lost unless you undertook the negotiation with Nasser. I knew that Macmillan had already mentioned this to you, so I merely [Page 250]said I would confirm to you the strength of his feeling about the matter. I know the arguments against your getting involved personally in the negotiation with Nasser—the commitment of and possible jeopardy of your personal prestige, the fact that in order to bring the negotiation off effectively you might have to undergo a certain amount of diplomatic retreating, and finally the possibility that even with your conducting the negotiation, Nasser being the irrational type he is, it might fail. My own inclination is that for all these reasons, it is a thing you should stay out of. But I am bound to say that I have a strong feeling that if there is to be any successful negotiation with Nasser, you are the only one who can accomplish it.
Ivone Kirkpatrick in a conversation at the Reception was, as usual, quite blustery. He said in effect that we would, as he put it, “have to have a row” with Nasser. He said we might as well have it early as late. He compared Nasser to Hitler and the Rhineland and said it was just a question of how long all of us would have to go along appeasing Nasser “before we had the inevitable row”. I do not know to what extent Ivone was speaking in the official British view; but if he was, then the British like the French, as conveyed by Ambassador Dillon’s memorandum,2 feel sure that force is the only answer. I did say to Ivone that I did not believe that public opinion in the United States, or for that matter in Great Britain, would support a resort to force at this time. He snapped back that he did not care about public opinion, that it was the business of informed leaders to lead their countries in what they thought was the right course of action and not merely to “follow public opinion”.