430. Message From President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Eden and Prime Minister Mollet1

Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I have just learned from the press of the 12-hour ultimatum which you and the French (UK) Government have delivered to the Government of Egypt requiring, under threat of forceful intervention, the temporary occupation by Anglo-French forces of key positions at Port Said, Ismailla and Suez in the Suez Canal Zone. I feel2 I must urgently express to you my deep concern at the prospect of this drastic action even at the very time when the matter is under consideration as it is today by the United Nations Security Council. It is my sincere belief that peaceful processes can and should prevail to secure a solution which will restore the armistice condition as between Israel and Egypt and also justly settle the controversy with Egypt about the Suez Canal.


Dwight D. Eisenhower3
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Misc. Papers—U.K. (Suez Crisis). A note on the source text indicates that at 3:30 p.m., “Identical messages delivered by phone to Paris and London Embassies for Immediate telephonic delivery to Eden and Mollet.”
  2. This sentence does not appear in two earlier drafts of this message in Department of State, Phleger Files: Lot 58 D 517, United Nations Aug.–Nov. 1956. Draft #1 contains the sentence: “It is my earnest plea that you should not take this drastic action.” Draft #2 contains in its place the sentence: “I feel I must urge upon you what seems to me the great unwisdom of taking this drastic action even at the very time when the matter is under consideration as it is today by the United Nations Security Council.” The change between draft #1 and #2 was made during a telephone conversation between Dulles and Eisenhower which began at 3 p.m. The transcript prepared in the President’s Office records the conversation as follows:

    Dulles called the President with suggested text of message to be sent to British and French and made public here. It referred to the undesirability of the ultimatum of 12 hours they have issued.

    “In one place it referred to an ‘earnest request’ that they do not issue it because of the matter being before the UN. The President asked that the sentence be made ‘May I urge the unwisdom of taking this action at this time’ … in other words to save ourselves, if we could, from a complete slap in the face … not to put it in the form of a prayer that would not be answered. Doesn’t think it will make much difference either way. Doesn’t think either country will pay any attention.

    “President asked if all the State Department agreed on it. Dulles said yes. Then the President said, ‘I think we almost have to (send the message). At least it establishes us before the Arab world as being no part of it (the invasion).’” Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. (Ellipses are in the text of the quotation.)

    The editor has been unable to determine who made the final change in the sentence before it was transmitted to Eden and Mollet.

  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature