62. Paper by the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Russell)1
U.S. POLICIES TOWARD NASSER
What should be U.S. policy toward Nasser in view of his July 26 speech at Alexandria, his seizure of the Suez Canal and his basic objectives as revealed by these and other recent actions?
Up to the present time there has been room for divergence of opinion as to whether Nasser is: (a) a progressive military dictator attempting to modernize Egypt’s political, economic and social conditions and promote its leadership in the Arab world; (b) a symbol and leader of several centuries of accumulated Arab frustration, resentment and bitterness; or (c) an aspirant for power on a large scale, utilizing without scruple and without regard to the interests of his own or other peoples the tensions, resentments and capacities for trouble that exist in the Middle East and Africa. At different times during the past four years the balance of evidence has pointed to first one and then another of these possibilities. Developments of the past few weeks, however, point clearly to the conclusion that Nasser is an international political adventurer of considerable skill with clearly defined objectives that seriously threaten the Western world, though probably with no definitely planned tactics or timetable.[Page 141]
In May, 1953, Nasser appeared as the author of a small book called “The Philosophy of the Revolution”. Some of the actual writing was done by a journalist friend, Mohammed Heikel, after a weekend which he spent with Nasser, but there is no doubt that the ideas and the final form of the statements are Nasser’s. Attached (“A”)2 are excerpts from the book which throw a sharp light on developments of the past year. Briefly, they make clear that Nasser intends to make full use of the resources of the Arab world, notably the Suez Canal and the oil, the resources and turmoil of the entire African continent, and the support of Muslims in Indonesia, China, Malaya, Siam, Burma and elsewhere, “to wield a power without limit”.
In retrospect it is apparent that Nasser’s efforts to build a solidarity of the Arab countries, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, even at the expense of economic progress in Egypt; his rage at Iraq’s participation in the Baghdad Pact; his lip service in private talks to a Palestine settlement while exacerbating the problem in public speeches; his firm insistence upon obtaining the entire Negev; his skill, for a period at least, in playing off the Soviet bloc against the West; his shrewdness in attacking at one time Britain and at another time the U.S. but rarely the two at the same time; his public dispatch of Ambassador Hussein to accept the U.S. offer to assist on the Aswan Dam, after having shown no interest for six months, at a time when he was aware that the Secretary of State was no longer in a position to make firm arrangements; and, finally, using the “turndown” as a pretext for seizing the Canal and thus, if successful, putting Egypt in a position to affect the economy of Western Europe, the countries of South Asia and elsewhere—all fit into the pattern elucidated in “The Philosophy of the Revolution”.
If this is a correct analysis, it must be assumed that Nasser considers that he has only made a beginning and that his action, to the extent possible, will be guided by the objective of building as much personal power as possible upon the exploitation of the tensions and resources of all of the Middle East and all of Africa. It must be concluded that Nasser is not a leader with whom it will be possible to enter into friendly arrangements of cooperation or with whom it would even be possible to make any feasible accommodations.
It would follow from this analysis that Nasser does not wish to become a stooge of the Kremlin. His role is a more ambitious one. He undoubtedly sees himself as a “third force”, able to do business on equal terms with both the West and the East. He would, however, be a “third force” whose objectives, although of a different [Page 142] kind, would be as inimical to the interests of the West as those of the Kremlin. His movement would not have the elaborate ideology or skillful long-term planning of the Communists but it would be motivated by ancient, deep and powerful hatreds that are directed primarily against the West and not against the Soviet bloc.
While the hatreds, frustrations and resentments of the people of the Middle East and Africa certainly exist and there is no easy way of dealing with the problems which they create, it is to the interest of the West that they be dealt with as nearly separately as possible and that no leader of the Hitlerian type be permitted to merge the emotions and resources of the entire Middle East and Africa into a single onslaught against Western civilization.
On the basis of the foregoing, and regardless of the outcome of the London conference on the Suez Canal, the U.S. and the U.K. should lose no time in implementing policies designed to reduce … Nasser as a force in the Middle East and Africa. To the extent possible, this should be done in such a way as to incur a minimum of resentment on the part of the Arab world and the “uncommitted” nations generally… .
The following conclusions emerge from the foregoing:
- The possibility of our establishing a cooperative relationship with Nasser no longer exists.
- While Nasser may regard himself as neutral between the Soviet and Free Worlds, it is only because he believes that through such a posture he can best promote his objective of creating a “third force” dominated by himself that would inevitably threaten the Free World.
- It is in U.S. interests to take action to reduce Nasser’s power… .
- The U.S. should act in agreement with the U.K. and as far as possible with France and other countries who can be brought to pursue the foregoing objectives.
- We should step up our efforts to strengthen the Baghdad Pact and specifically Iraq. Provided Israel can be induced not to react violently and provided it would not appreciably increase the extent of our current difficulties with the Saudis, we should consider making an announcement of our intention to adhere to the Pact.
- We should seek every practical opportunity to convince Jordan and Lebanon of our desire to assist them with economic aid and small amounts of military aid.
- … We should take steps to try to effect a relaxation and tension between King Saud and the Hashemite Houses of Iraq and Jordan.
- Should our efforts to negotiate a renewal of the Dhahran Airfield agreement fail, we should assess Saudi requirements in terms of internal security needs only and agree to sell arms on that basis.
- The U.S. should continue its present attitude on development of the Nile, using suitable opportunities to secure agreement of all states concerned in an integrated Nile Valley development scheme and offering to help on the technical side and in the matter of securing loans.
- We should prevent Israel from being overtly associated with the Western powers in any action which might be taken against Egypt.
- The U.S. and the U.K. should cut off completely the spare parts for Egypt’s military equipment (which is still a substantial part of its total) as well as of aircraft and endeavor to get other friendly nations to take similar action.
- If the situation in Egypt in relation to the Soviet bloc warrants such course, the U.S. should apply Battle Act provisions4 to international trade with Egypt.
- The U.S. should refuse to extend any Export-Import Bank loans to Egyptian companies.
- The U.S. and the U.K. should discourage tourist traffic to Egypt and thus deprive Egypt of substantial foreign exchange earnings.
Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Omega—Memos, etc. for July 1 to August 31, 1956. Top Secret—Omega. Forwarded to Dulles under cover of a memorandum by Russell, dated August 6, which reads: “As a result of discussion at a recent meeting of the Middle East Policy Planning Group, I undertook to prepare the attached paper on U.S. policies toward Nasser. I have discussed the general ideas included in the paper with Messrs. Rountree, Hare, and Bowie and CIA representatives who expressed no dissent. I am circulating it to them and calling a meeting of the Middle East Policy Planning Group to discuss it. I am handing you a copy at this time as I thought you might be interested in some of the material at an early date in view of the urgent nature of the Suez problem.” This covering memorandum bears the marginal inscription by Bernau, “Sec Saw.” No documentation has been found in Department of State files of the Secretary’s response, if any, to this paper and its recommendations.
At its August 1 meeting, the Middle East Policy Planning Group agreed that Russell, Mathews, and Fritzlan would prepare a paper on Nasser’s goals and strategy and the best means of combating them and reducing his power. (Memorandum of conversation, August 1; ibid., Omega—Meetings of MEPPG (Agenda, memos of conv., etc.) 4/9/56 to 6/30/56) The MEPPG discussed and approved Russell’s paper during a meeting on August 7. (Memorandum of conversation, August 7; ibid.)↩
- Not printed.↩
- A Department of State position paper entitled “Economic Sanctions,” dated August 9 and prepared in the Office of International Trade and Resources, recommended that the United States support the use of economic sanctions only if the Egyptian Government impeded navigation through the Canal, if economic sanctions were the only means of avoiding military action against Egypt by Great Britain and France, and if a sufficient number of countries intended to cooperate with the sanctions, thereby making them effective. If any of these criteria were lacking, the paper argued that the use of sanctions could be counterproductive in that it might alienate a large number of non-Western governments and could possibly lead to such retaliatory action as Egypt blocking navigation of the Canal or the Arab states hampering the flow of oil. (Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Omega—Background)↩
- Reference is to the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act of 1951, which provided for the control by the United States and cooperating foreign nations of exports to any nation or combination of nations threatening the security of the United States. (65 Stat. 575)↩