334. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State1

3627. Saw Nasser yesterday at his residence to take leave. He appeared several minutes late, explaining had worked through night till 7 a.m. and had just awakened.

[Here follows Nasser’s brief description of his work habits, followed by an hour-long discussion of current problems before his government and its philosophy. After describing his domestic policies as “cooperative capitalism”, Nasser turned the conversation to the subject of foreign affairs.]

But, said Nasser, however much importance may be attached to domestic policy there is no evading influence which foreign affairs exert on domestic affairs. For instance, only serious domestic opposition is growing strength of Communists who feel (1) that government would hesitate prejudice friendly relations with Soviet Union by moving against them, and (2) that elections should provide opening for their activity. Government does appreciate various forms of aid and support it has received from Soviet Union. Most of these are well known but perhaps USG does not know that Russians made offer [Page 632] about three months ago to exchange gold for equivalent of ten million Egypt pounds in order enable Egypt make purchases in Western Europe. Offer had not been accepted because Egypt did not wish become too closely identified with Russians and now situation such that not needed.

Regardless this satisfactory relationship with Soviet Government GOE understands expansionist aspect of international Communism and wants none of it in Egypt. However, GOE is in dilemma so long as it feels USG following hostile policy of which difficult foresee future developments. GOE hesitates take all-out stand against Communists and then find itself engaged on second front with USG. In these circumstances primary concern of GOE is intentions of USG.

“What is your policy toward Egypt?”Nasser asked. He would like to know even though the answer were unpleasant. In particular, he would like to know the answers to three questions. First and most important is our attitude to positive neutrality since this is cardinal point in Egypt policy and failure reach some understanding on it will inevitably leave us in opposition to each other.

Second question is our attitude on nationalism where impression given we are out destroy it. Third question is what “conspiracies” we had in mind re Egypt regime.

I shall not prolong this message by giving my rebuttals to implications in those questions except to note that I bore down hard on question re our “conspiracies”, maintaining that any action resulting from our difference with GOE had been straight and above-board and that we had in particular maintained a 100 percent hands-off policy in Egyptian domestic affairs which I challenged Nasser disprove. He admitted term “conspiracies” was perhaps one peculiar his own vocabulary and that what he had meant was not subversion but actions which might nevertheless be directed to weakening GOE. Perhaps he should have said “hostilities” instead of “conspiracies”.

Nasser said he had debated for long time whether bring up these questions for two reasons. First, he knew Communist issue always being used as device to get American attention and he did not want seem be doing so; problem real for GOE. Second reason was that he did not wish seem place himself in position of being down and out and asking for help; he was not. However, despite these misgivings, he had decided take occasion of my return to Washington to put his questions frankly in hope that he might be enabled see road ahead a little clearer.

In conclusion Nasser asked this talk be treated in confidence since he had spoken very frankly, especially on Communists.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 774.11/5–2057. Secret; Noforn. Received at 4:47 p.m., June 1. Repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Jidda, and Tel Aviv.