233. Memorandum From C. Douglas Dillon to the Secretary of State1


  • Estimate of Objectives Sought by Macmillan and Salisbury
As a result of conversation during your absence with Lange last night I feel that both Macmillan and Salisbury still regard military action as the only satisfactory solution to the Suez problem, and are desirous of undertaking such action as soon as politically feasible. In order to make such action politically feasible they probably feel it necessary to do two things: (1) dislocate Labor opposition, and (2) tie the U.S. in closer to them.
My feeling is based on the following remarks and attitudes:
In reply to questions about what might happen when and if the Suez question was taken to the Security Council, both Macmillan and Salisbury at first showed great reluctance to speculate taking refuge in your remark that we should only take “one step at a time”, and that present objective was to unite the 18, or as many of them as possible, in the Users Association.
Nevertheless, when pressed a bit regarding the possibility of a Soviet veto in the Security Council, Macmillan remarked to me “I hope to God Russia does veto such an approach”. Macmillan made clear that what he feared was a Russian amendment to a resolution from the Security Council to the effect that in no event should force be used to solve the Suez problem.
In response to my inquiry as to what the effect of a Russian veto would be on the Labor opposition, both Salisbury and Macmillan with evident relish stated that such a result would undoubtedly fragment the Labor opposition and would satisfy a substantial part [Page 522] British liberal opinion which would have been shocked by the use of force without a prior appeal to the U.N.
When Mr. Phleger mentioned the Hammarskjold memo2 and indicated that this might lead to the creation of a negotiating body which might be able to reach a settlement with Nasser, both Macmillan and Salisbury reacted strongly against this suggestion, saying that it would be absolutely impossible to continue to drag this affair on for very long. Both of them said that a solution must be reached relatively soon.
Macmillan also repeated his very strong language of a month ago saying that a success by Nasser would mean the end of Great Britain and must be opposed at all costs. He was talking of this, however, in a financial context and said that England was prepared to sell all of her foreign assets, including all of her American securities if necessary to gain victory. He said the present affair was a case of all or nothing.

If the above estimate does truly represent the ideas of Macmillan and Salisbury, and if these views are shared by Eden, it would appear that the way might be prepared for action in about a month. Such action would, I assume, only take place as a result of a grave incident within Egypt. I also assume that it is not out of the question that such an incident could be arranged by the British without too much difficulty.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Misc. Papers—U.K. (Suez Crisis). Top Secret. An attached chit from Macomber to Howe, September 25, indicates that Dulles and Hoover read this memorandum.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 227.