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

22. Re Department telegram 4090, June 172 and CA–10709, June 17.3 Saw Nasser last night in order re-establish contact following return from Washington and communicate contents reference telegram in answer questions posed by Nasser prior my departure.

[Here follow Nasser’s references to his travels, readings, television appearances, and the recent Egyptian election.]

Up to this point conversation was relaxed and affable but, upon my turning to real business of communicating substance of reference telegram, going became heavy. Our replies, said Nasser, were what he had expected and result will be continuing to go around “in vicious circle”. US policy regarding Egypt, he maintained, was based on false reports from prejudiced sources. Only case of irregular conduct by Egyptian official was Military Attaché in Libya. If we could furnish him complete list of all allegations of improper activity by Egyptians, he was confident he could refute every one. I replied strange that such large number of similar stories emanating from various sources in all neighboring Arab countries should be false; just too difficult to believe. Nasser, however, stood his ground and point was dropped on mutual unacceptability of two points of view.

Nasser also challenged our basic policy concept. Said there three forces at work in area: Communism, Western (principally American) domination, and nationalism. USG seeking dominate area by isolating Egypt and working with elements in other Arab countries who out of touch with people. We also attempting build up King Saud as Arab [Page 678] and Moslem leader. But we would find in end that we backing wrong people; that impossible isolate Egypt; and that nationalism would triumph. Furthermore, far from preventing spread of international Communism into area, our present policy is having effect of presenting USSR in increasingly favorable, and US in increasingly unfavorable, light. It is not Arab policy of “positive neutralism” but American policy itself which is cause of shift toward Russians.

This gave rise to spirited and protracted debate in which I told Nasser he was starting on wrong foot in attributing to USG desire to dominate Mid-East. Our policy in area sincerely based on promotion peace and stability in order protect Mid-East from falling prey to Soviet-Communist domination. Last thing we wanted do was dominate area ourselves. In fact, nothing would make us happier if, politically speaking, we could just forget whole thing. However, we clearly have responsibility to fulfill and, if we can’t collaborate with Egypt, we shall do so with others. What would Nasser have us do? Sit with our arms crossed and leave Russians unopposed? What frankly would he do in our place? Nasser admitted natural we should try make converts to our way of thinking but still insisted we were going about it in entirely wrong way.

Aside from foregoing general criticism of our sources of information, basic policy and tactics, Nasser also mentioned following:

Said he had decided two days ago to crack down hard on Communists but just at that moment had learned of anti-regime pamphlets being circulated in connection with elections which he convinced were of American origin. Fearing become involved in fight on two fronts, he had called off anti-Communist action.
GOE has positive information that American sources providing arms to opposition elements in Syria.
Some time ago Libyan request of arms from GOE was favorably acted on only to have Libyans use Egyptian acceptance as means extracting arms from British and Americans. Recently Tunisians made similar request but this time GOE saw through move and turned it down.
Nasser mentioned my comments to Fawzi re Egyptian press and maintained American press many times worse than Egyptian (Embassy telegram 3850)4 mentioning editorial in New York Times three days before in which reference made to “Cairo-Moscow axis.” Once again I refuted any attempt equate presses of two countries.
At one point Nasser asserted that all foreign policy, both basic and tactical, is made by him personally and spoke disdainfully of Fawzi and Foreign Office.

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Toward end of conversation I observed that, if check-list were made of all items we had discussed, would appear Nasser would put all our actions in “wrong” column, none in “right”. As human beings, we made no assertion of our perfection but, on other hand, we do try adhere to principles and exercise reasonable intelligence. In circumstances, I would suggest that Nasser might find it advisable do some basic re-thinking. Over long period of time USG has tried understand Egypt’s problems but so far this has been one-way street. How about taking another look at problem, beginning with asserted assumption of our desire to dominate area, which simply not true and I had reason know what I was talking about?

Nasser replied that Egypt’s policy for time being, say from 6 months to year, will be to let things ride and see what result will be. He had learned, he said, to curb impetuousness which formerly characterized regime. He also believed he was right and we were wrong and that in end, when natural forces had played role, we will find that nationalism will be triumphant and Egypt will not be isolated.

Foregoing is attempt report with some degree of orderliness conversation which actually surged back and forth very animatedly for better part two hours. What result may have been, or may be, difficult assess although no question but that direct and unvarnished replies to Nasser’s questions obviously hit under his guard and caused him come back swinging rather wildly. However, rules of game were observed and call terminated with usual courtesy.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 774.11/7–257. Secret; Noforn. Received at 2:23 a.m., July 3. Repeated to Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, Bonn, Damascus, Jidda, London, Moscow, Paris, Rabat, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis, and Khartoum.
  2. Reference should be to telegram 4092, Document 340.
  3. In circular airgram 10709, the Department of State conveyed to Middle Eastern posts and to the Embassies in London, Moscow, and Paris the text of the instructions sent to Hare in telegram 4092. (Department of State, Central Files, 123–Raymond A. Hare)
  4. In telegram 3850 from Cairo, June 25, Hare reported on a conversation with Fawzi, during which the Egyptian press’ “vilification” of the United States was discussed, as well as other aspects of U.S.-Egyptian relations. (Ibid., 674.00/6–2557)