554. Memorandum of Discussion at the 303d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 8, 1956, 9–11:25 a.m.1
[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]
1. European Oil Supply Position in View of Developments in the Near East
Upon taking his place at the table, the President informed the Council that the first item on the agenda was a discussion of the European oil supply position. Mr. Robert B. Anderson, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, would make a report to the Council, but wished to leave the meeting after this subject had been discussed.[Page 1071]
Mr. Anderson stated that he would discuss three major aspects of the subject, beginning with an analysis of the precise oil supply situation as of today. He informed the Council that the Suez Canal was now thoroughly blocked by at least eight or nine ships which had been sunk in it. The Iraq pipeline had been sabotaged and three of its pumping stations destroyed. The Aramco tapline was still intact, but it was touch-and-go as to how long it would remain in operation. In the light of these developments, Mr. Anderson said that our first requirement will be for 350,000 barrels of oil a day to be delivered from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast of the United States. In addition, there will be a requirement of 450,000 barrels daily from Venezuela and from our Gulf Coast for Europe. Only approximately 700,000 barrels of oil a day can be generated from the Gulf Coast. With maximum use of all free world shipping, perhaps 800,000 barrels of oil can move each day from the Middle East around the Cape to Europe. Even if all these potentialities are realized, Europe would still be faced with a deficit of between 10 and 15% of its requirements. On the other hand, if we lost control of the Aramco tapline or fail to secure oil from the Middle East in the amounts mentioned above via the Cape route, the deficit in Europe would increase rapidly above the 10 to 15% level.
Mr. Anderson, who had been working with the oil companies, then informed the Council of the availability of crude and refined products in Europe at the present time. There was approximately two weeks’ crude supply, and approximately a month to six weeks’ supply of refined products on hand. The American oil companies estimate that it will take something between six months and a year to rehabilitate the Iraq petroleum company’s pipeline, including the destroyed pumping stations. The British believe that this task can be accomplished sooner.
The second major aspect of Mr. Anderson’s report concerned the dollar problem. If the European nations were to secure oil from the United States and Venezuela to make up the deficit, this will require the generation of dollars. Prices for crude oil are rising rapidly, but not as rapidly as prices for shipping oil in tankers.
Mr. Anderson then reminded the Council that some months ago the Middle East Emergency Committee of industry personnel had been set up under the Office of Defense Mobilization, to make plans for the control of shipment of oil from the Gulf Coast to Europe in the event of an interruption of normal Middle Eastern supplies. There were British and French counterparts to the Middle East Emergency Committee. Mr. Anderson added that the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), composed of seventeen European countries, had recently met and made the following four recommendations to the seventeen member governments: [Page 1072]
- A recommendation for equitable sharing of shortages among the European countries.
- A recommendation for the equitable distribution of such petroleum supplies as were on hand at a given time.
- A recommendation that rationing machinery be set up in each of the member countries.
- A recommendation that each country establish a petroleum advisory committee to advise each government on the relevant problems.
Mr. Anderson then informed the Council that differences of opinion existed among the heads of our American oil companies with respect to the best means of dealing with the present crisis. Many believed that the United States Government should not act in the matter of assisting to get oil to the European countries until the situation in the Suez Canal had been clarified. Others were concerned that U.S. Government participation in getting oil to Europe would be regarded by the Arab nations as tantamount to U.S. support for aggression against Egypt. To make matters worse, as of yesterday the Government of Saudi Arabia had prohibited the offloading of any ships with oil destined for the United Kingdom or for France. This government was also planning other measures with respect to Bahrein Island, which was under a British mandate. Accordingly, Mr. Anderson pointed out that if we now proceeded to implement the program developed by the Middle East Emergency Committee, such action would be regarded by the Arabs as U.S. participation in the aggression against them. While there was little doubt that we could get oil to Great Britain and France by the simple collaboration of the American oil companies without invoking the program outlined by the Middle East Emergency Committee, this course of action might invite difficulties under the existing anti-trust laws of the United States. In essence, said Mr. Anderson, this constituted the issue which the Council would have to consider.
The President first inquired whether any oil could be got from Sumatra or elsewhere in Indonesia. Mr. Anderson replied that some oil was produced from Sumatra, but most of the 350,000 barrels a day which landed on our Pacific Coast came from the Middle East.
The President then asked Mr. Anderson whether he could take any action to increase U.S. oil production for a period of six months, making it perfectly clear that there would be a cut-back after this interval. Or, asked the President, would the independent oil companies make a terrible fuss when the cut-back was instituted at the end of the six-months period? Mr. Anderson replied that this would be very difficult indeed to do, and suggested that it would be better for the oil companies, rather than the Government, to call for an increase in U.S. production.[Page 1073]
The Vice President inquired how the oil companies were in a position to make a significant increase in oil production in as short a time as six months. Mr. Anderson replied that in point of fact the increase could be achieved very promptly. The President agreed, but wondered whether, if this were done and the price of oil rose, there wasn’t danger that the stripper wells would come back into production. Mr. Anderson answered that in any event we could anticipate that the independent oil operators would charge that the Government always bailed out the big companies whenever they got into trouble. Moreover, he added, the independents would be airing this complaint at a time when the Congress would be in session.
The President suggested that what Mr. Anderson was looking for was some means by which to secure an increase promptly in U.S. oil production without at the same time getting the United States in a position, in the eyes of the Arab world, of bailing out the British and the French. Mr. Anderson agreed, and said that the real question was simply whether we invoke the program drawn up by the Middle East Emergency Committee or not. The President stated that as he saw it, just as soon as a cease-fire was achieved in Egypt the Arab states will all be eager to sell their oil again, since this was the main source of their revenues. The President then inquired whether anyone else around the Council table had any different ideas to contribute.
Secretary Wilson observed that no matter what happened there was bound to be an oil shortage of some months’ duration in Western Europe. It was his suggestion that we set about ensuring increased production of oil in the United States without immediately disclosing what we propose to do to assist Great Britain and France.
Mr. Anderson prophesied that the rationing of petroleum may soon be required in Great Britain. Both the British and the French are extremely anxious to know what the United States proposes to do. If we do not inform them, the British and French may insist on holding on to every bit of oil available to them, and permit the shipment of none of this oil to other European nations to whom they normally would make such shipments. The President wondered whether it would not be possible to ensure the shipment of necessary oil to the neutral nations of Western Europe (excluding Great Britain and France) without arousing the wrath of the Arabs. Mr. Anderson replied that this would be very difficult because most of the other European nations do not have sufficient facilities to receive and store large amounts of petroleum at any one time.
Secretary Hoover commented that the Department of State had a very vital concern in this whole problem. In fact, hours and days are vital in getting this operation started. Even if we begin to increase U.S. oil production right now, it will still be very difficult to [Page 1074] move that oil earlier than a period of fifteen to thirty days. Secretary Hoover predicted that there was going to be harsh rationing in Europe, which was bound to give rise to extreme anti-American feeling there on the ground that we will not seem to have done what is plainly in the vital interests of Western Europe.
The President interposed the observation that anything that succeeds in stopping the present hostilities in the Near East was very much in the vital interests of Great Britain and France. In reply, Secretary Hoover pointed out that the British and French have agreed to get out of Egypt as soon as the UN police force move in. Moreover, the United States is ready, as Ambassador Lodge had stated in the UN, to transport the UN police force to Egypt. Accordingly, it was absolutely crucial, in Secretary Hoover’s opinion, to get the necessary increase in U.S. oil production. He then advocated use of the OEEC machinery just as soon as possible. Use of the OEEC machinery would, he believed, avoid the appearance that the United States was focusing attention on oil supplies solely for Britain and France. Furthermore, it should be possible for us to go to King Saud and promise him that none of his oil would go to France or Great Britain and that no British or French ships would go into his ports. In conclusion, Secretary Hoover again suggested that operations start immediately.
Dr. Flemming informed the Council that if the program devised by the Middle East Emergency Committee should now go into operation, it will operate under the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. Accordingly, the U.S. Government would be provided with an opportunity to control the schedules of shipments. We could, furthermore, use the OEEC machinery to guide us in making decisions as to the appropriate distribution of oil going to Europe.
Secretary Humphrey agreed with Dr. Flemming, but warned that we could not start this kind of operation without clearly indicating that the United States was right in the middle of it. Accordingly, Secretary Humphrey said, he was opposed to doing anything more than taking the steps which Mr. Anderson had earlier suggested. Mr. Anderson pointed out that the United States and Canada were, so to speak, associate members of OEEC. Any way you looked at it, he went on, there was bound to be a shortage of oil in Western Europe. The real question, therefore, was whether we prefer to let this shortage increase over a period of time, or immediately involve the United States Government in the problem by putting into action the program devised by the Middle East Emergency Committee.
The President reiterated his point that the vital problem now was to induce Egypt to agree to a cease-fire. To do this will be much more difficult if we presently announce that we are going to get oil [Page 1075] to Great Britain and France. While this was very hard on the State Department, it was true just the same. Secretary Hoover replied that we had just sent a message to President Nasser through Dag Hammarskjöld last evening, a message which we do not believe Nasser is in a position to turn down.2 Accordingly, we believe that we will have the Egyptian situation under control within the next 24 to 36 hours. In view of this, Secretary Hoover stated his belief that the program of the Middle East Emergency Committee should now be predicated on the likelihood of immediate success for the UN action.
Secretary Wilson took a different position, and recommended against any move involving the U.S. Government which would impair this Government’s bargaining position at the present moment. Secretary Humphrey agreed with Secretary Wilson, who went on to state that the situation should be left alone for a little while. He warned that the British and French will soon be urging that the United States ration petroleum supplies as only fair if these countries have to resort to rationing. This would cause a lot of trouble for this Government.
Secretary Humphrey said he was sure that the committee of private oil industry people would secure greater efficiency in the matter of shipping oil. On the other hand, he believed that the most unfortunate aspect of this whole crisis was the clarity with which it pointed to a serious lack in the logistics system of the Western powers. It indicates to the Arabs what a singularly strong position they are in by virtue of their control of so much oil in the world. Accordingly, the United States would have to do what it could for Europe in the near future, but not at the present moment; that is, not until the British and French Governments have got back into a position of compliance with the directives of the United Nations.
The President pointed out that if we really get the Arabs sore at all of us, they could embargo all oil, which would ruin our present Middle East Emergency Committee plan which still counts on some 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Middle East sources. Mr. Anderson agreed, and said that furthermore, if the Arabs got sore enough, we could also lose what we are now getting from the Aramco tapline. Mr. Anderson thought it would not be amiss if the State Department talked to Ibn Saud and asked him to what countries he was willing that his oil be sent. After all, Saud is, in a certain sense, cutting off his nose to spite his face when he threatens to cut off oil presently going to Bahrein. The British and French get very little of [Page 1076] their oil from Bahrein Island. Secretary Hoover commented that he had received another useful suggestion from Mr. Anderson, namely, that if our European friends come here to Washington in the next ten days, we should invite King Ibn Saud to visit us after their departure. The President expressed approval of this proposal, and pointed out philosophically that the way of the peacemaker is proverbially hard. For this reason he believed that the first thing to do is to try to avoid aggravating either side in the controversy any further. If all of this was an hour-by-hour proposition, the President believed we would be best advised to let our Middle East Emergency Committee study further action. With a smile, the President added that despite his stiff-necked Attorney General, he could give the industry members a certification that what they were planning and doing was in the interests of the national security. This might assist them with respect to any involvement with the anti-trust laws.
The President asked Secretary Humphrey if he had any objections to such a course of action. Secretary Humphrey replied in the affirmative, and said that he would prefer to see us do only what Mr. Anderson had earlier suggested, namely, to open up our coastwise shipment of oil to all foreign-flag vessels and to undertake to increase oil production in the Gulf area. For the time being, however, he would oppose programming oil shipments to Europe. The Emergency Committee’s program could be got in readiness to move just as soon as the gong sounded and the British and French evidenced compliance with the orders of the United Nations.
Secretary Hoover stressed the matter of timing, and said our decision would have to be based primarily on a feel for public relations; that is, on when this Government believed it could move with due regard to Arab opinion on the one hand and the British and French viewpoint on the other.
Dr. Flemming stated that he would put the machinery into operation. He pointed out that foreign-flag tankers could then carry oil from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. Thereafter, when the UN police force has been installed in Egypt, we will go on from this point to effectuate the program of the Middle East Emergency Committee. Dr. Flemming followed up his proposal with a statement of the crude oil inventory of the chief Western European nations.
Secretary Wilson warned that we must avoid thinking that we can deal with the Arabs as we would deal with businessmen. The Arabs are moved by emotion and not by the judgments of businessmen.
Secretary Humphrey pointed out, with respect to the money and dollar aspect of Mr. Anderson’s earlier report, that the French have already come over here some three weeks ago and have arranged with the International Monetary Fund to pull out all their gold and [Page 1077] dollars. They have already drawn on these to the limit. Overtures from the British suggest that they will presently follow the French example. To Secretary Humphrey it seemed clear that if the United Kingdom did not look out, it would bust itself to a point of bankruptcy and of no return.
The President remarked with a sigh that he wished we could have a complete history of this cabal in which the British and the French were involved. A step-by-step analysis of what they had done would be very illuminating. The President then severely criticized the conduct of British and French military operations against Egypt, pointing out that there was no excuse for the long delay in the landing of British and French troops in the Suez Canal area once they had made the decision to do so… .
Secretary Hoover commented that the Anglo-French cabal had not only “kidded” the United States; it had also kidded the nations of the British Commonwealth and, to some extent, the British public too… . The President agreed, and stated that this Government officially should keep out of the oil supply problem until we were assured that the cease-fire was in effect.
Mr. Anderson said that he felt compelled to state that it was difficult to encourage the oil companies to do their best, in view of their great anxiety about violation of the anti-trust laws if they followed a course that we suggested was in the national security interest. The President said with a smile that if the heads of these oil companies landed up in jail or had to pay a big fine, he would pardon them (laughter).
The Attorney General said that at the very least we owed it to these people to have a representative of the United States Government work with them. Mr. Anderson warned that he was not an official of the U.S. Government. To this the Attorney General replied that it would then be necessary to have a representative of the Department of the Interior work with the committee. We owed this, in all fairness, to the committee. The President said that this was OK with him, and asked that ODM or Interior make the necessary arrangements.
The National Security Council:3
- Discussed the subject and possible U.S. actions related thereto, in the light of an oral report by Mr. Robert B. Anderson.
- Noted the President’s approval of the following courses of
action: [Page 1078]
- Authorize the movement of U.S. Gulf Coast oil to the U.S. East Coast in foreign-flag tankers.
- When a cease-fire has been arranged in Egypt and when the UN police force is functioning in Egypt, consider putting into operation the plan of action of the Middle East Emergency Committee.
Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization, for appropriate implementation.
2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security
[Here follows a report by Allen Dulles on the situation in Hungary.]
Mr. [Allen] Dulles then moved on to the situation in Egypt. He described Nasser as still in control of the Egyptian Government. His prestige had been severely shaken four or five days ago as a result of the complete defeat of the Egyptians by the Israelis, but his prestige had now been considerably restored as a result of Soviet support. In any event, Egyptian disillusionment with Nasser was not likely to be strong enough to bring him down. Internal security in Egypt was still under Nasser’s control and appeared to be reasonably good. His military situation was certainly poor, but not hopeless if, as is likely, he is planning now to wage a guerrilla war. Nasser has withdrawn Egyptian Army forces into the cities and towns where, of course, the British and French will be reluctant to attack because of inevitable civilian casualties. The Egyptian Air Force is practically gone, and virtually every airfield knocked out. Some Egyptian planes managed to escape to Saudi Arabia and perhaps to Syria. The Egyptian Navy was now negligible. Mr. Dulles then pointed out that, thanks to Soviet aid, Nasser might presently reverse his willingness to give the United States carte blanche to do what was necessary to save Egypt.
Mr. Dulles at this point turned to the military situation in the Suez Canal Zone. He indicated that Anglo-French control extended from Port Said as far down as Qantara. On the other hand, French reports that they had taken Ismailia were false. In the future we should take Anglo-French communiqués with a grain of salt. The Egyptians had done a pretty complete job of blocking the Suez Canal. After giving details, Mr. Dulles pointed out that the Egyptians had the capability of cutting the Sweet Water Canal. If they did, the whole area would be deprived of fresh water, and the task of the British and French would be made much more difficult.
Turning to the situation in the other Arab countries, Mr. Dulles indicated that the Government of Jordan was trying to keep out of hostilities, although Iraqi and Syrian troops were now deployed in [Page 1079] Jordan. Indeed, none of the Arab countries seemed particularly anxious to involve itself in a war with Israel. They talk big, but they have few military capabilities. Indeed, the Egyptian Government has already advised them that this is not the time to attack Israel, although Cairo has ordered sabotage operations from both Jordan and Syria.
Mr. Dulles warned that we must watch the situation in Syria with the utmost care, since this was the potential key to Soviet operations in the Near East if the USSR actually decided to intervene.
As for Iraq, it has so far only sent troops into Jordan. Nuri was in a most difficult position. He doesn’t want to do very much, but he has to do something in order to keep public opinion in Iraq in line. Mr. Dulles went on to comment that the Israelis could readily use fedayeen activities on their borders as an excuse to strike at Jordan or Syria if they so desired. Destruction by sabotage of the Iraq petroleum company’s pipeline had been very thorough. It might be possible to get some oil flowing through this pipeline again in three months, according to Aramco estimates. Full-scale restoration would be a much longer time. Moreover, further extensive sabotage operations have been ordered by Cairo. In view of this, we should watch the situation in Kuwait, because the British have tended to neglect adequate security measures in this important area. Admiral Radford commented that the British had now put troops in Kuwait and have shown an appropriate concern for the situation there.
Mr. Dulles then turned to the Soviet position, saying that the questions that we are all asking are how far will the Soviets go in this situation and what will they do? Mr. Dulles reminded the Council of Ambassador Bohlen’s warning that the Soviet people had been thoroughly conditioned for any action which the Soviet Government may decide to take.
It was certainly clear that the Soviets are doing their utmost to stiffen the backs of the Arabs in order to prevent a psychological breakdown. In support of this statement Mr. Dulles summarized Foreign Minister Shepilov’s recent activities. He added that the Soviet delegation in the United Nations had been urging the Arabs to hold out pending the arrival of Soviet volunteers to assist them. Indeed, both the Russians and the Chinese have made clear statements to the effect that some kind of volunteers will be sent. Mr. Dulles further noted that the language of recent Soviet statements was such as to pave the way for unilateral Soviet action if they chose to undertake it.
As to what the Soviets will do, as contrasted with what they say, this was a much more difficult question. It would certainly be hard for the Soviets to provide the Arab states with material and [Page 1080] military aid. Accordingly, the CIA was inclined to think that for the time being the main Soviet emphasis would be on keeping the pot boiling. They hope that the cease-fire, if it occurs, will come unstuck. Nevertheless, the intelligence community by and large was adhering to its earlier estimate that the Soviet Union was not likely to take actions in the Middle East which they believed likely to induce general war. The real problem here was the possibility of chain reactions which might ultimately lead to general war without being so intended.
Mr. Dulles pointed out the great difficulty which the Soviets would encounter in an effort to get Soviet volunteers into Egypt. On the other hand, a good source has just informed us that the Soviets have asked Turkish permission to send five Soviet warships through the Straits.
After further speculation as to the various courses of action the USSR might follow, Mr. Dulles returned to his worries about the situation in Syria, where, he said, it would be easy for a coup to occur under Soviet auspices. It was possible that the Soviets would attempt to airlift paratroops as well as technicians into Syria despite the lack of airfield facilities in that country. Admiral Radford interrupted to state that one or two of the Syrian airfields were capable of servicing MIG aircraft.
Mr. Dulles concluded his comments on the Near East by again calling for a careful watch over Iran and Iraq. The Soviets might well try to frighten the Shah of Iran and to upset the Nuri regime in Iraq.
Admiral Radford said that he felt personally that the situation in the Near East as a whole was even worse than Mr. Dulles had suggested. He stated his belief that the Soviets were now in Syria and were absolutely determined to delay or prevent any solution of the crisis in the Near East. After all, he argued, the Soviets are perfectly well aware of the world oil situation and of the fact that sooner or later the United States will have to assist Europe, and that this will turn the Arabs against us. The presence of the Soviets in Syria seemed to be proved for Admiral Radford by the shooting down of an allied plane flying at an altitude of 45,000 feet. Such a feat would be impossible for the Syrian Air Force. Finally, Admiral Radford expressed his belief that the Russians were likely to encourage the Syrians to attack Israel. Moreover, the Russians may have much more air in Syria than we currently estimate.
While expressing agreement with Admiral Radford in general, the President commented that he just couldn’t help believing that the Russians would play their game short of anything which would induce the United States to declare war on them. Furthermore, the President said, it remained wholly inexplicable to him that any state in the world, Syria included, would play with the Russians after [Page 1081] witnessing what had happened in Hungary. It is for this reason, continued the President, that we must go on playing up the situation in Hungary to the absolute maximum, so the whole world will see and understand.
The Vice President agreed with the President’s proposal, and said that in carrying it out we should not neglect Asia. Mr. Dulles indicated that the Free Europe Committee was already engaged in preparing a White Paper which would give the world all the facts about what had happened in Hungary from the beginning.
The President proceeded to quote from his most recent message from Nehru,4 commenting that Nehru seemed to be falling for the Moscow line—buying their entire bill of goods.
The Vice President stated that the great message which we must get across to the rest of the world was that no state could afford to play in with the Soviet Union unless it wished to be taken over.
Governor Stassen expressed the thought that the Soviet request on Turkey to transit the Dardanelles might well presage a Soviet landing in Syria or Egypt. This was an especially grave matter and he therefore suggested the advisability of a UN embargo on the shipment of any further forces into any Near Eastern country by any other nation. Governor Stassen explained that he did not believe that the Soviets really intended to ship forces which would open an attack. What they really meant to do with these forces was to secure a foothold in Syria or elsewhere in the Near East from which they could never thereafter be dislodged.
Both Secretary Hoover and Admiral Radford inquired of Governor Stassen just how he imagined we could make such a UN embargo stick. Governor Stassen admitted that this might be difficult, but said at the very least we would put the Soviets in the position of violating a UN-instituted embargo.
Secretary Hoover changed the subject by stating that he would like to report to the Council in the first instance on some of the immediate things which this Government must do now, and thereafter certain other actions which were of intermediate-range character. As for the immediate steps, the first one was to get the United Nations police force established in Egypt. Secretary Hoover reviewed developments on this problem, and stated that they were satisfactory and were moving rapidly toward the objective.
Our second move was to get the UK and French forces out of Egypt. Here the State Department felt that it was significant to get even a token Anglo-French force moving out. This was the immediate objective.[Page 1082]
The third move was to get Israeli forces moving back to the armistice line. Secretary Hoover reminded the President of the message which he had sent to Ben-Gurion last night,5 and went on to say that he had had a very rough session with the Israelis at the State Department last night.6 Although we had treated the Israelis very roughly, they had had no comeback.
Fourthly, there was the oil situation, which seemed to be under control and which Secretary Hoover said had been adequately covered by Mr. Anderson’s earlier report.
Secretary Hoover covered this phase of his report to the Council with the prophecy that the Soviets would do everything in their power to prevent the achievement of a settlement in the Near East. On the other hand, if there were actually a Soviet attack on a UN police force stationed in Egypt, Secretary Hoover believed that such an attack would be tantamount to a Russian attack on the whole world. He paid warm tribute to the achievements of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Mr. Hammarskjöld, he said, had matured greatly in recent months. The only question seemed to be his physical endurance. He had had no sleep for three days. Secretary Hoover added that Mr. Hammarskjöld seemed without question to be on our side.
Describing the above as the immediate problems, Secretary Hoover then turned to problems which hereafter would soon be facing us. First of all, the UN police force was going into the Suez Canal Zone… .7 The President suddenly interrupted to point out how rigid was Anglo-French thinking on the composition of the UN police force. In his conversation on the telephone with Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister had expressed extreme reluctance to agree to the proposal that this police force would have no British or French troops as a component. When the President asked Sir Anthony how he proposed to exclude Soviet troops from the UN forces if he insisted on British and French components in the UN police force, Sir Anthony had indicated that this problem had not occurred to him, and that he would have to give it some thought. The President said he was absolutely astounded.
Secretary Hoover continued his remarks by pointing out that there would be no great problem for the UN police force to take over that portion of the Suez Canal Zone which was already in British and French hands. What, however, was to happen when the UN police force met the Egyptians in the area of the Canal Zone still under their control? There was no answer to Secretary Hoover’s [Page 1083] question, although Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that the UN forces be stationed in Cairo rather than in the Canal Zone.
Secretary Hoover went on to his second emerging problem, namely, what kind of longer-range solution we would envisage for settling the Canal issue. Should we plan on a continuation and development of the instrumentality of the Suez Canal Users Association (SCUA)? Or, alternatively, should we put the whole question into the hands of the United Nations? Secretary Hoover indicated that he had asked Secretary Dulles to give as much attention as possible to this problem while he remained in the hospital.
Thirdly, continued Secretary Hoover, there was the whole problem of how we conteract the growing Soviet influence in many of these Arab states.
At this point the President interrupted Secretary Hoover to say that Admiral Strauss had just sent him a note stating that moving pictures had been taken of Soviet tanks killing Hungarians in the streets of Budapest. The President asked whether such movies should not immediately be disseminated through our Embassies all over the world. Mr. Streibert answered that the USIA was already engaged in doing precisely this, and was trying to get the story out just as fast as it could. The President said it would be a good idea to send one of the best reels to Nehru. The Vice President advised sending one to Sukarno in Indonesia.
Secretary Hoover continued his account by alluding to still another problem, namely, how we could focus the violent anti-Soviet feeling throughout Europe on the Middle East and on the Arab states. He concluded by reminding the President that these were only a few of the problems which were facing the United States.
The President commented that obviously the main thing now was to get the UN police force into Egypt and the British and French forces out of Egypt. This action would pull the rug out from under the Soviet psychological offensive. The President reverted likewise to his suggestion that the moving pictures of Soviet atrocities in Budapest be given the fullest possible exploitation. Secretary Hoover counseled that we not forget that the Soviets have been pounding away on the point that the whole affair in Hungary was caused by the interference of the United States Government generally and of the Central Intelligence Agency in particular. Mr. Allen Dulles replied that the line to take in this matter was simply to state that this was an insult to the Hungarians.
Secretary Humphrey stressed the need of getting oil to Europe in the near future. If this were not done, Europe would soon be on her knees. He also wondered whether it might not be necessary for the United States to move into various Arab countries in order to [Page 1084] protect the oil wells. Admiral Radford commented that in any event we must be ready to do this if it proved necessary. The President said that it was ironical that all our plans on protecting the sources of oil had been predicated up to now on the desire of the Arabs to protect their wells from the Russians. Our plans for preserving the oil of the Middle East had never been drawn up in contemplation of the actual situation now facing us.
Governor Stassen stressed the necessity of providing real incentives to Nasser in order to induce him to work closely with the West. There should be a long-range settlement. We should see what we can do now to help get the high Aswan dam on the tracks. If we did not thus offer incentives to Nasser, he might very well decide to refuse the cease-fire and put his dependence on the Russians.
Secretary Hoover expressed disagreement with Governor Stassen’s suggestion of incentives, expressing the view that Hammarskjöld was quite right in insisting that we will discuss nothing until the UN police force was installed in Egypt. The President commented that if Egypt fought a UN police force they would in effect be fighting the United Nations and the entire world. Governor Stassen indicated that he had not meant that the Egyptians would attack the UN police force; they would simply refuse to admit it to Egyptian territory. Secretary Hoover said that this was precisely the reason why our plans called for the phasing out of the Anglo-French troops only as the UN police forces were phased in. He expressed himself as very dubious as to the efficacy of the carrot principle in dealing with Nasser. After all, we had been trying this for the last couple of years, and the failure had been pretty complete. Governor Stassen still insisted that a combination of the carrot and the stick was the best way to deal with Nasser. Otherwise, he predicted that Nasser would certainly stall on the cease-fire agreement.
The President observed that there was another question on which he sought the Council’s advice. How were we going to deal with the briefing of the Congressional leaders scheduled for tomorrow morning at nine o’clock in the White House?8 We would certainly need Mr. Allen Dulles on the intelligence side. Admiral Radford should be prepared to talk about the military situation, and Secretary Hoover on what had been occurring on the UN side as well as what we are now trying to do. Arthur Flemming should be [Page 1085] ready on the oil situation, and we should have the required maps and charts. The President described all the foregoing as constituting a briefing of the leaders on the situation. As to where we go from here, Secretary Hoover should be prepared to report on that. Above all, we should keep in mind, all of us who were involved in this briefing, that the real enemy of the United States is the Kremlin, not Cairo or Tel Aviv.
The Vice President expressed the hope that while we must deal with the Near East problem, we should also give the Congressional leaders a good stiff talk on Hungary. There has been too great a tendency to allow developments in the Near East to divert attention from Hungary. Let’s assure that the Congressional leaders do not leave without a knowledge of what had really happened in Hungary. The Vice President thought this topic should come last in the briefing, and also suggested that the movies mentioned earlier should be shown to the Congressional leaders.
The President commented that the present Congressional leaders have been acting in a wholly admirable fashion.
The Attorney General warned the President that the Congressional leaders were very likely to ask him whether, in view of what had happened, the Government should not move now to exclude the Soviet Union from membership in the UN. The President replied that if he were asked this question he would say that we couldn’t shoot from the hip, but state that this was certainly something to be considered.
The Vice President suggested that the briefing on the oil situation should be very short, perhaps no more than five minutes. This was a very complicated situation, which would involve domestic political considerations. Dr. Flemming pointed out that our present plans do not in any sense call for a rationing of gasoline. The Vice President said that he was glad to hear it, because if rationing was seriously discussed the result would be an inevitable rise in isolationist sentiment in the Congress and in the country.
Mr. Allen Dulles suggested that the Hungarian topic come first rather than last in the briefing of the leaders. The President and many other members of the Council thought this suggestion wise. The President went on to express the feeling that the Russians had jumped rapidly into the Near East situation not simply because the British and French had given them an opportunity, but because they have long hoped that somehow or other they could reach into the Middle East. Accordingly, we must be careful in briefing the Congressional leaders not to place all the blame for what had happened on Great Britain and France. Admiral Radford expressed warm agreement with the President’s suggestion. It was unwise to blame overmuch the British and the French. We should instead put the [Page 1086] Near East situation in its true perspective, and indicate clearly ultimate Communist responsibility for what has occurred in the Near East.
Mr. Allen Dulles … indicated the possibility that the Soviets might presently intervene in the Middle East.
The … question moved Governor Stassen to suggest again his proposal for a UN embargo on all shipments to any Near Eastern state. The President, on the other hand, insisted that the immediate thing to do was to get the cease-fire and to get it as quickly as possible. If necessary, the next step could be a UN embargo of the whole Near Eastern area, so that nothing could be got in. Dr. Flemming asked if he could make an inquiry as to whether the President believed that enough was being done on the side of civilian defense in the light of the dangerous possibilities inherent in the present situation. For example, what about plans for relocating sensitive Government agencies? The President replied that this was certainly a period of tension, and it might be a good idea for the departments and agencies to go ahead with the perfecting of their relocation plans.
The National Security Council:9
- Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to developments in Hungary and world reaction thereto; the situation in Egypt and elsewhere in the Near East; and Soviet capabilities and intentions with regard to the Near East.
- Noted and discussed an oral report by the Acting Secretary of State regarding current and possible future developments related to the situation in Egypt and the Near East generally.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Prepared by Gleason on November 9. The time of the meeting is from the record of the President’s Daily Appointments. (Ibid.) A talking paper prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and forwarded to Hoover by Rountree on November 7 for use at this meeting is in Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–756.↩
- Not found in Department of State files. During a conversation with Armstrong and Lodge on November 7, however, Hammarskjöld said that he had sent a message to Nasser; see supra.↩
- Paragraphs a–b and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1629, approved by the President on November 10. (Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council, 1956)↩
- Not Printed. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)↩
- Document 550.↩
- See Document 551.↩
- Ellipsis in the source text.↩
- The memorandum of conversation for the bipartisan legislative meeting at the White House on November 9 is in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Legislative Meetings. See footnote 3, Document 558. Prior to the meeting, the Department of State prepared remarks on the Hungarian and Suez situations for Hoover to make at the briefing. A copy of the memorandum, entitled “White House Congressional Presentation, November 9, 1956”, is in Department of State, Central Files, 764.00/11–1356.↩
- Paragraphs a–b that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1630, approved by the President on November 10. (Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council, 1956)↩