553. Memorandum of a Conversation, Secretary-General Hammarskjöld’s Office, U.N. Secretariat Building, New York, November 7, 1956, 10 p.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Middle East Situation

PARTICIPANTS

  • UN Secretary-General, Mr. Dag Hammarskjold
  • Mr. Andrew W. Cordier, Exec. Assistant to the SYG
  • Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, Under Secretary
  • Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge
  • Mr. James W. Barco, USDel
  • Mr. W. Park Armstrong, Jr. Special Assistant, Intelligence, Department of State

Mr. Armstrong opened the meeting by telling the Secretary General that the Acting Secretary of State and his immediate advisors on the Middle East situation were so convinced of the need for the greatest possible speed in introducing UN forces, even if token, into the Suez Canal area, that the Acting Secretary wished to convey to the SYG certain information bearing on this factor. Mr. Armstrong stated that he was authorized to disclose to the Secretary-General certain information from sources which the US Government regards as completely reliable and that he would request the SYG’s treatment of the information on a confidential basis and as transmitted to him personally. Mr. Armstrong then proceeded [Page 1069]to brief the Secretary-General for approximately 15 minutes on the following points, going into detail in respect to each of them:2

1.
The highly tentative and brittle character of the cease-fire and the remaining Egyptian military capabilities for attack or harassment.
2.
Certain evidence of the conviction of the Egyptians that they will receive further Soviet support and assistance and the effect this may have on Egyptian willingness to violate the cease-fire or introduce further conditions.
3.
The urgency of commencing operations to clear the Canal, the condition of its blockage, and the varying estimates of the time which would be required for clearance under optimum effort.
4.
The Egyptian control of approximately two-thirds of the west bank of the Canal and the source and much of the length of the so-called “Sweet-Water Canal.”
5.
The highly explosive situation on the eastern border of Israel and the grave danger of provocation of that country by renewed and large-scale fedayeen activities.
6.
Evidence of the intransigeance of the Israelis in respect to Sinai and the danger of this attitude hardening with the passage of time.

Mr. Armstrong then offered to answer any questions the SYG might have with respect to the foregoing points.

The Secretary General stated that he was impressed by some of the evidence presented to him which he had not known of before, and said that this would indeed argue for the utmost speed in carrying out the resolution which the GA had adopted earlier that evening. He said that he did not have any specific questions, but would like to point out what his present plans and rough time-table were.

The SYG stated that he had that evening sent a priority message to Cairo to raise with the Egyptian Government the acceptability of the nationalities which would compose the UN force.3 He expected that he would get a prompt and probably favorable reply in regard to a first contingent composed of Canadians and Colombians. Assuming this, he had already sent General Burns and ten officers to Cairo to begin planning and to represent him with the Egyptian Government. He said that his current thinking was that the first units of a UN force could be gotten into motion and on the way by next Wednesday (November 14).

[Page 1070]

At this point Ambassador Lodge interjected a question, asking if the SYG meant a week away. The SYG said “no,” he meant three days away, and then, realizing that he had foreshortened the calendar, laughed and said that doing two days work in one as he had been recently had caused him to lose track of the days and that he really meant Saturday, November 10.

There followed some general discussion of transportation of units of various countries to Egypt (the SYG felt that it would not be psychologically helpful if US aircraft appeared in Egypt, and would prefer RCAF aircraft to handle the ferry leg from Italy to Egypt), necessary preparation of troop units for the climate and health conditions of the Canal Zone, etc. Mr. Armstrong suggested that these units which are most likely to be in the first wave should immediately start taking shots for the endemic diseases of the Canal Zone.

The conversation turned to the proffer of Czechoslovakian and Rumanian units for the UN force. The SYG indicated that he anticipated little difficulty in turning them down and said that he did not believe Egypt would press for their inclusion.

The meeting terminated at about 10:40 p.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR Files: Lot 58 D 776, Middle East Crisis 1956 (Arab-Israeli Crisis). Secret. Drafted by Armstrong.
  2. Attached to the source text is an unsigned, undated memorandum entitled “Factors Which Render It Essential That United Nations Force Get to Egypt With the Least Possible Delay”, which bears the handwritten marginal notation: “From Mr. Hoover’s Office”. The document lists, in different order, the six points that Armstrong enumerated for Hammarskjöld during this conversation.
  3. Text in Delga 27, November 7, not printed. (Ibid., 320.5780/11–756)