206. Letter From the British Ambassador (Makins) to the Secretary of State1

My Dear Secretary Of State: I reported our conversation of yesterday about the proposed Voluntary Association of Suez Canal Users, and I have now heard how the position is seen in London.

On Wednesday, September 12 at 2:30 p.m., the Prime Minister has to make a speech in the House of Commons announcing the policy of the United Kingdom Government on the situation caused by Colonel Nasser’s summary rejection of the 18 power proposals. This summary rejection will be a second blow to Western influence [Page 473]in the Middle East unless it is followed at once by a statement of a clear and decisive Western policy in the light of it.
Our initial reaction to Nasser’s action on July 26 was to make military preparations which, failing an agreed settlement satisfactory to us, would enable us to resume physical control of the Canal. We readily co-operated with the United States Government in promoting the London Conference and seeking a peaceful settlement. That effort has failed. Therefore our original plan of resuming physical control of the Canal would appear to be the next logical step.
It was at one time our understanding that the United States Administration considered that, in the event of the talks with Nasser failing, recourse should be had to the United Nations. That is indeed our view, and discussions have been taking place between us as to how to frame our request to the President of the Security Council for a meeting and a subsequent resolution. Her Majesty’s Government have made it clear that such action would be extremely dangerous unless they had complete assurance of United States support; it now seems that they cannot count on this in all circumstances.
Her Majesty’s Government have now received the alternative proposition of a Users’ Club. For that to be a practical alternative to going to the Security Council, it would be necessary for the Prime Minister to announce on Wednesday Anglo-American agreement upon this course. He would have to be able to say that the Users’ Organisation was to be set up forthwith with British, American and French participation at least; that all dues payable to the Users’ ships would forthwith be paid to the new organisation; that the new organisation propose to exercise the rights of members under the 1888 Convention; that pilots would be provided for its ships; and that it would call upon the Egyptian Government to provide the necessary co-operation to enable the organisation to function. It would have to be stated that if the Egyptian Government sought to interfere with the operations of the organisation or refused to extend the necessary co-operation on land, then the Egyptian Government would be regarded as being in breach of the Convention of 1888, and users could take such steps as seemed fit to them to enforce their rights. Anything short of that would not be regarded as an indication that we meant business.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Makins
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1056. Top Secret. Handed by Makins to Secretary Dulles during the conversation which began at 5:26 p.m.; see supra . A copy is also in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Dulles–Herter Series.