182. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, Washington, September 7, 1956, 8:40 a.m.1


The Secretary mentioned the most recent communication from Eden2 which was received late last night. The Sec. said he did not think the note was very well thought out. Eden talks about the elimination of Western influence. The Sec. did not think you could go to war to preserve influence. He mentioned territorial rights, which was what Hitler had violated. The Sec. said some of his statements in the note were somewhat intemperate and the concepts not thought through. He mentioned the moral and persuasive tone at the end of the note. The President said that the last paragraph about the British having reached the end of the road was strongly reminiscent of Churchill and reminded him of Churchill’s arguments during the war. He said he felt as though “here is where I came in.”

The President said that the British had gotten themselves into a box in the Middle East. They have been choosing the wrong places in which to get tough. He mentioned Buraimi where they had only [Page 404] succeeded in incurring the hatred of the Saudis. The Pres. said it was pretty hard to attack Egypt so long as Egypt doesn’t get in the way of running the Canal. Nasser is apparently trying to pull the pilots out. Pres. said he did not know what the answer was. We were in an unfortunate position because we could not really take a stand. The Pres. said we did not want to alienate our friends and we did want to keep NATO strong but we can’t agree with these people in their extreme attitude.

The Secretary said he expected to hear further from Eden on the Secretary’s alternate proposal. Henderson had cabled they had doubts about the proposal.3

The Secretary mentioned his talk with the Congressmen on yesterday.4 The Sec. said they were all eager for us to sell oil and close up the Canal. The Pres. wanted to know where we would end up if we did this. Pres. asked what Richards said and Sec. said very little. Mansfield mentioned developing alternatives to Canal—building tankers, developing more oil, etc., but the Sec. said all this took time. Sec. said this was good long-range thinking but this all took time—3 or 4 years. Mansfield mentioned tankers in mothballs. President said we had a few old ones. He would talk to Defense about this to see if there was anything we could do. Sec. said we may have to do something like this. Pres. said he had read something by a Scripps-Howard writer about the Canal no longer being as useful as it once was and in a sense belittling it. The Sec. said he thought the Canal more a lifeline now than it had ever been before.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations. Transcribed by Asbjornson. Another memorandum of this conversation, transcribed at the White House presumably by Whitman, is ibid., Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. The two memoranda differ in detail. The memorandum printed here appears to contain a more complete version of the conversation.
  2. Supra.
  3. See telegram 623, Document 180.
  4. See Document 179.