155. Memorandum of Telephone Conversations Between the President and the Secretary of State, Washington, August 31, 19561


8:35 a.m.

The Sec. commented [that] the Pres. had perhaps seen in the press the big fuss the Egyptians were making over internationalization in line with the Treaty of 1888.2 The Sec. termed it a silly performance. It appeared to him that the Egyptians were getting jittery. The Secretary read to the President a statement (draft) stating [Page 341] we were at cross purposes, etc.3 The President said he was going to say something along the same lines—something to the effect that as a facility it had been internationalized and its use was given to all the nations of the world. No one, he said, had ever questioned the sovereignty of Egypt over the area. He said he had made a formal statement the day before yesterday. This solution, while respecting the sovereignty of Egypt, did provide an answer. The President said for this reason, he could show he had already said that.

The Secretary likened the situation to an easement—where someone owned the property but a great many people could cross the property. The Secretary said it was amazing that Nasser should have made that great a fuss. The President said that he had not said “protest” but “regret”.

8:50 a.m.

The Sec. called the President back. The Pres. said Bob Anderson had with him a paper which he had never read which had to be translated. This paper had been slipped into his hands.4 The President wanted to know if there was any significance to this? The Sec. couldn’t quite recall it. The Pres. said he had given a photostat copy to Loy Henderson. The Pres. said it purported to be the “bad boy’s”5 (I think he said) minimum terms. The President asked that a copy (translation) be sent to him on a secret basis. (Bob Anderson to have one too)

The Sec. said he was sending to Pres. a statement on Suez Canal. I think it a highly technical legal question. [Here follows discussion concerning Nicaragua.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Memoranda. Transcribed by Asbjornson. Between 8:15 and 8:59 a.m. on August 31, Robert Anderson met with President Eisenhower at the White House. (Ibid., President’s Daily Appointments) No memorandum of this conversation has been found in the Eisenhower Library. A memorandum of August 31 by Newsom who was not present at the meeting, indicates that on August 31 Anderson reported to Eisenhower on the substance of his conversations with Saudi officials. Anderson later reported that the President expressed his satisfaction with the mission and urged that it be followed up as necessary and that particularly sensitive details be closely held. (Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Report of Special Mission to Saudi Arabia August 20–27, 1956)

    During the meeting between Eisenhower and Anderson, the two telephone conversations recorded here occurred. Less detailed accounts of the conversations, transcribed by Whitman at the White House are in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries.

  2. Reference is to Egyptian criticism of Eisenhower’s statement of August 29; see Document 150. Later on August 31, Dulles telephoned Eisenhower and read him a message from Byroade reporting Nasser’s démarche on this subject. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries) Byroade’s message is summarized in footnote 3, Document 150.
  3. Dulles subsequently forwarded the text of the statement to Eisenhower with the comment: “I would suggest sticking fairly close to this, as highly technical international law problems are involved.” The statement reads as follows: “We are, I think, at cross purposes. I referred to the Suez Canal as a waterway internationalized by the Treaty of 1888. That Treaty gives many nations rights in and to the Canal in perpetuity. Of course that does not mean that these nations own the Canal. It does mean that, under the Treaty, Egypt cannot now, or in the future, jeopardize those rights of other nations. Therefore, in the sense of usage of the Canal, it is ‘internationalized’. In my statement of two days ago, expressing the hope that the 18-nation proposal would prove. acceptable to all concerned, I noted that the proposal fully respected the sovereignty of Egypt.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Dulles–Herter Series)

    At the press conference which began at 10:30 a.m., Eisenhower read the statement with a few stylistic changes. A transcript of the press conference is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, pp. 719–727.

  4. Not printed. Later on August 31, Dulles forwarded to Eisenhower a copy of the translation under cover of a note which reads: “Here is a copy of the paper of which Bob Anderson spoke and of which you spoke to me over the telephone. I do not think it is particularly significant, being substantially a re-statement of the position which Egypt has officially taken.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Dulles–Herter Series)
  5. Reference is to Nasser.