129. Memorandum of a Conversation Between Secretary of State Dulles and Prime Minister Eden, 10 Downing Street, August 24, 1956, 11 a.m.1

The two of us were alone. I said to Eden that I felt that the point of view put forward by President Eisenhower in his letter which I had brought with me three weeks ago2 was as relevant today as then in its reference to the dangers of a military action. Eden said we are very much “on the spot”. We do not feel that Nasser can be allowed to get away with this, and if he does, it is disastrous for Great Britain. For example, the situation in Kuwait is still in hand, but it would not stay so long if Nasser defies the eighteen countries and nothing happens. The same goes for Iraq. We have to take military preparations, and it is very difficult to keep them in suspense. We have requested merchant ships and the like, but we cannot keep them indefinitely on a standby basis. The present plans are to move in a week or ten days unless the situation definitely clears up. Eden said he was going to try if possible to have [Page 286] that delay period somewhat prolonged and that he would be discussing it with the Cabinet today. They could not hold in suspense indefinitely.

I then raised the question of their posture vis-à-vis the United Nations and urged that this be taken into account, and if possible a situation created so that if force had to be used, the primary responsibility could be put upon Egypt through their perhaps using force to prevent transit through the Canal. He said he thought this should be studied. We also considered possible action before the United Nations Security Council to get some sort of an “injunction” against Egypt.

I mentioned that I was seeing Gaitskell.3 I said I would indicate to Gaitskell that it seemed to me at a time like this a show of national unity was important and made more possible, rather than less possible, a peaceful solution. Eden indicated satisfaction that I would reflect that point of view.

Eden spoke to me about the request of the Pentagon for information about their military plans, and said that this was somewhat embarrassing as if they told us their plans, we might then feel we had to raise objections or else be a party to what might seem to be an improper use of force. I said that I told Selwyn Lloyd to hold the request in abeyance and to forget it unless I advised otherwise after meeting with President Eisenhower next Monday.4

At this point, we were joined by others.5

John Foster Dulles6
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Misc. Papers—U.K. (Suez Crisis). Top Secret. Drafted by Dulles.
  2. Document 35.
  3. The memorandum of conversation between Dulles and Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell, which took place at 3 p.m. on August 24, is not printed. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 760)
  4. August 27.
  5. Dulles and his party left London for Washington at 6:46 p.m., August 24. (Secto 56 from London, August 24; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–2456) After stopping in the Azores, they arrived outside Washington at 6:15 p.m., August 25. (Dulles’ Appointment Book; Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.