3. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, July 27, 1956, 8:30 a.m.1
- Acting Secretary Hoover
- Mr. Allen Dulles
- Colonel Goodpaster
The meeting was concerned with Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal, and his speech yesterday relating to this. The President read [Page 6] State Department message from London No. 4812 reporting reaction in the British government.
In the discussion which followed, the President said this action is not the same as nationalizing oil wells, since the latter exhausts a nation’s resources and the Canal is more like a public utility, building them up. He asked if this action was a violation of international agreements, and Mr. Hoover said it violates the concession (which was not a treaty) and may result in interference with the use of the Canal, which is the subject of a treaty (to which Egypt is not, however, a party).
Mr. Hoover said it will be necessary to make a statement this morning, and thought it should be in terms of “viewing with grave concern”, not giving details. The President endorsed this view, commenting that we should give no hint of what we are likely to do.3
Mr. Hoover then said the basic problem is that the British will want to move very drastically in this matter, having in mind the worldwide impact on their position, including their relations with other countries. The President said that no nation is likely to allow its nationals to be held in what amounts to slavery, that operations of the Canal may suffer, and that we and many others have a concern over its operations (Secretary Hoover commented that two-thirds of the Middle Eastern oil passes through the Canal.)
Mr. Hoover said that Nasser’s speech is a sustained invective in the most violent terms against the United States and its officials containing many inaccuracies. The President thought we must challenge these inaccuracies, including in the statement a comment that the speech is full of inaccuracies about the United States. It should also make clear our great interest in the Canal since the commerce of the West with the East passes through it. In response to a question by the President, Mr. Hoover pointed out that Nasser had taken control of the Canal Company at the time of his speech. The President asked Secretary Hoover to prepare a statement, the shorter the better, discuss it with Secretary Dulles by phone, and then bring it to him. He was sure the British would want action in this matter in view of the large block of stock they hold and the importance to them of shipping through the Canal.[Page 7]
Mr. Hoover said he was considering whether NATO discussion of the matter might not be advantageous inasmuch as the Western European countries are deeply involved. The President said he saw a good deal in this idea. He went on to say that Nasser must be counting on support in the UN or from Russia. Mr. Hoover said, however, that Nasser’s actions are not based on reasoning but are irrational and emotional. Mr. Dulles said there is a note of desperation in Nasser’s action, relating to the Aswan Dam, and failure of the Russians to offer help when the United States turned the proposition down.
The President thought the statement should bring out that we regard the matter with utmost seriousness and are consulting with others affected. There should be one sentence making clear that Nasser’s speech was full of misstatement regarding the United States.4
Mr. Allen Dulles said that a quick check should be made to see if there are Americans who would be involved in Nasser’s statement that all employees must remain on duty, and the others agreed.
Colonel, CE, US Army
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster.↩
- At 10:59 that morning the Department of State received a telegram from Secretary Dulles which reads: “Suggest the Department or I here might make following comment: ‘The reckless attempt to confiscate a great international investment already in Egypt confirms that conditions are not propitious for embarking large amounts of foreign capital on another great development such as the Aswan Dam.’” (Dulte 6 from Lima, July 27; Department of State, Central Files, 874.2614/7–2756)↩
- At noon on July 27, the Department of State issued press release No. 413 which reads: “The announcement by the Egyptian Government on July 26 with respect to the seizure of the installations of the Suez Canal Company carries far-reaching implications. It affects the nations whose economies depend upon the products which move through this international waterway and the maritime countries as well as the owners of the Company itself. The United States Government is consulting urgently with other governments concerned.” (Department of State Bulletin, August 6, 1956, pp. 221–222)↩