214. Annex to Watch Committee Report No. 3191

SC 00358/56


There are strong indications that the UK and France may launch military action against Egypt in the event that their minimum objectives cannot be obtained by non-military means. There are a number of indications that they do not expect to achieve these minimum objectives by non-military means. However, there is no firm evidence that they have as yet reached a final decision on this matter.
The likelihood of a British-French resort to force would increase in the event of provocation such as an interruption of the flow of traffic through the Suez Canal. An interruption might develop within the next few days as a result of the Suez Canal Company’s action authorizing its pilots to resign.

In reaching its conclusions, the Watch Committee considered the following:

Nasser’s rejection of the proposals of the Menzies mission, eliminating one more possible peaceful solution, and British and French failure to accept Nasser’s counterproposal for another international conference.
British notification to the UN Security Council of the Suez problem, without requesting action.
British and French reiterations of their readiness to resort to force against Egypt if peaceful efforts to establish international control of the Canal fail; on 12 September Eden asked Commons to give him freedom to use whatever means are required to “restore” [Page 489]the Suez Canal situation and declared that under no circumstances would the UK accept “abject appeasement” of Nasser.
Eden’s sponsorship of a US proposal for an international association comprising users of the Canal to maintain traffic, hire pilots and receive tolls for transit. Egypt would be paid for the use of certain facilities. Eden warned that interference with operations of the users’ association would force its members to take steps to assert their rights either through the UN or “by other means.”
Further Soviet warnings that military action in the Canal situation would have serious international consequences which might not be localized in the area. There has been a studied Soviet avoidance of any commitments to Egypt of direct military support. There are unconfirmed reports, however, of additional Soviet military advisers arriving in Egypt as extra “crew members” on Soviet vessels. Soviet military matériel shipments to Egypt continue with 12 Soviet Bloc ships in the Alexandria port between 2 and 5 September.
Continued buildup of British and French forces in the Eastern Mediterranean; joint British-French amphibious exercises off Malta; readiness of the British 3d Division at Southampton, for possible use in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the departure of its engineer equipment for the Mediterranean; the reported plans to move the British 10th Armored Division in Libya forward to Tobruk. There is no information, however, that French forces in Algeria or British forces on Cyprus are actually loading or that the limited air and sea lift in the Eastern Mediterranean is being augmented.
Continuing tension in which incidents or provocations in Egypt could be used to justify UK-French armed action, such as interruptions to the flow of traffic through the Canal caused by the departure of British and French Canal pilots or incidents connected with the evacuation of British and French nationals from Egypt.

  1. Source: CIA Files. Top Secret; Noforn; Limited Distribution.