151. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, White House, Washington, August 30, 1956, 4:30 p.m.1

I said I wanted to be sure that my mind was working along with that of the President on the basic issues of the Suez matter. I said I had come to the conclusion that, regrettable as it might be to see Nasser’s prestige enhanced even temporarily, I did not believe the situation was one which should be resolved by force. I could not see any end to the situation that might be created if the British and the French occupied the Canal and parts of Egypt. They would make bitter enemies of the entire population of the Middle East and much of Africa. Everywhere they would be compelled to maintain themselves by force and in the end their own economy would be weakened virtually beyond repair and the influence of the West in the Middle East and most of Africa lost for a generation, if not a century. The Soviet Union would reap the benefit of a greatly weakened Western Europe and would move into a position of predominant influence in the Middle East and Africa. No doubt it was for this reason that the Soviets were seeking to prevent a peaceful adjustment of the Suez problem.

The President said he entirely agreed with me in this basic analysis. He realized how tough it was for the British and French but that this was not the issue upon which to try to downgrade Nasser. Every reasonable effort should be made to get an acceptable [Page 335] practical solution of the Suez dispute, but that this issue and the question of Nasser and prestige in the Middle East and North Africa could not wisely be confused.

I reported to the President on my meeting with the Latin American Ambassadors2 and the sentiment I felt there in favor of UN action. The President felt that it would probably not be possible to have the kind of action which the British wanted but that if the negotiations broke down, there should be some appeal to the UN. He said he might mention this in his press conference tomorrow.

[Here follows discussion concerning a canal through Nicaragua, (printed in volume VII, page 303), the possibility of inviting some people from behind the Iron Curtain to observe the United States election, and Yugoslavia.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles.
  2. According to Dulles’ Appointment Book, the Secretary met with the Latin American Ambassadors at 3:30 p.m., August 30. (Princeton Library, Dulles Papers) An account of this conversation is in circular telegram 164, August 31. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–3156)
  3. Macomber initialed for Dulles.