25. Operations Coordinating Board Report2
PROGRESS REPORT ON NSC 5436/13
UNITED STATES POLICY ON FRENCH NORTH AFRICA (TUNISIA, MOROCCO, ALGERIA)
(Policy Approved by the President, October 16, 1954)
(Period Covered October 17, 1954–June 1, 1955)
A. Summary of Major Actions
- Efforts to Bring About Political Progress. Secretary Dulles expressed to Premier Mendes-France, during talks in Washington last November, U.S. concern over the need for rapid progress in French-Tunisian negotiations and for French steps to create conditions of confidence that would allow French-Moroccan negotiations.4 The Paris Embassy and Department of State officials have reiterated these views to responsible French officials.
- In efforts to facilitate negotiations, the Department of State and its representatives urged Egyptian and other Arab leaders and [Page 89] Spanish officials to moderate their broadcasts beamed to French North Africa. At the U.N., the U.S. voted against the original Arab-Asian resolution on Morocco and in favor of resolutions postponing further consideration of the Moroccan and Tunisian items “for the time being”.
- Maintenance and Expansion of Military Facilities. The Air Force and Navy are making use of their Moroccan bases but Air Force operations are seriously hampered by lack of French agreement on several points. French Government agreement was obtained for the rotation of USAFE units into Morocco for gunnery training and for the conduct of short periodic air maneuvers by elements of the Strategic Air Command. The French Government has not agreed to desired increased ceilings for military and civilian personnel and further increases in unit ceilings. Agreements between representatives of the American and French Air Forces concerning joint operations of the Moroccan Air Defense Control Center have been reached but they may require confirmation at the government level. Precise and satisfactory agreements are yet to be reached to provide for adequate air defense of the area.
- There are a series of interrelated problems connected with the bases. They involve (a) the French insistence that it is required by prior agreements that Atlas Constructors, the American prime contractor in Morocco, start phasing out within the near future, (b) conclusion of agreements on tax relief and status of U.S. forces. In addition, there are the problems of (a) the French desire to utilize the airfield at Nouasseur for commercial traffic; (b) the French proposal that certain facilities for French use in Algeria and Tunisia be financed under NATO infrastructure; (c) the settlement of claims of reimbursement of cost of French contractors; (d) French inspection of construction; and (e) the shortage of on-base dependent housing. The French have not replied to requests for new facilities in Algeria and Tunisia, designed both to bolster air defense of the Moroccan bases and to implement NATO naval planning; recent discussions indicate French opposition to the peacetime stationing of U.S. troops in either Algeria or Tunisia.
- On April 28, Generals Twining, Cook, Le May and Everest discussed most of these problems with Defense Minister Koenig5 who, in the interests of obtaining an early settlement of these outstanding issues, proposed that he, Foreign Minister Pinay and Vice-Premier Palewski meet with Ambassador Dillon and U.S. military representatives at an early date; it is expected that such a meeting will take place shortly.
- Deployment of French Troops and MDAP Equipment. The increased violence and unrest has caused the French to deploy considerably larger forces to North Africa to the detriment of their military contribution to European NATO forces. Much of the equipment with these forces is of U.S. origin, largely MDAP financed, and consequently the North African nationalists tend to associate the United States with the painful repressions imposed upon them by these French troops. The Departments of State and Defense are seeking to prevent the use of this equipment for such purposes and to urge the return of MDAP equipped forces to the European theater.
- Moroccan Treaty Rights. The French have been making it more difficult for us to exercise our treaty rights, primarily in the field of “economic liberty without any inequality” and we have formally protested the imposition of import quotas on certain items. At the same time, in response to French suggestions, we have expressed a willingness to consider any French proposals for negotiating a clarification of economic aspects of the Moroccan treaties though it appears unlikely that we could modernize our commercial relationship with Morocco without surrendering any of our present legal rights.
Continuing Economic Aid Projects
- Tunisia. In an October 1954 agreement with the French Government, grants of $256,000 in technical assistance and 560 million French francs ($1,600,000) in development assistance are being made to France for the acceleration and expansion of agricultural development in the Medjerdah Valley.
- Morocco and Algeria. A Basic Materials loan was made to the French Government in June 1953 totalling 2,638 million francs ($7,537,000) to help finance extension and improvement of the Port of Nemours, modernization of the Moroccan railroad system, and hydroelectric development and construction of high tension transmission system. Physical completion of the projects is not expected before the end of 1955.
- Information Activities. USIA activities currently are limited to factual news reporting, and publicizing American cultural activities by means of the information centers, TV, radio and films.
B. Evaluation of Progress in Implementing NSC Policies and Objectives
- Summary. French North Africa has been and will continue to be one of the world’s key trouble spots. Arab nationalism clashes there with France’s determinations to retain its control over the area. Solutions are made more difficult by the pressures of selfish French interests, the intransigence of important French political forces and the weakness of successive French governments. Reverberations of [Page 91] the North African problem affect both NATO solidarity and our relations with the Arab-Asian world. Our policy is to steer a middle course and does not assure long term success in carrying out U.S. policies and objectives in that area. However, it is succeeding in limiting friction between the U.S. and France, on the one hand, and the U.S. and the Arab States on the other. Any alternative courses of action visible at this time would seriously undermine our relations with one or the other.
- The most immediate objective of U.S. policy is to ensure effective use of our military bases in Morocco, which entails both satisfactory conditions in Morocco and military rights and bases in Tunisia and Algeria. Some progress has been made by the French and Tunisians in resolving their conflict, although the successful outcome is by no means assured. The French have made no real progress in allaying dissatisfaction in Morocco and Algeria. But the U.S. can do relatively little in a direct way to advance solutions of North African political problems without a major change in our policy.
- The political situation obviously bears close watching so that North Africa will not develop into another “Indochina.” Any disturbed, confused political situation such as this is a fertile fiêld that can easily be exploited by Communists. It is also obvious that if one of our most vital policy objectives—to take care of our military requirements—is to be achieved, substantial progress in our negotiations with the French must be realized in the near future. For the present, however, as indicated in paragraph 5 above and in parts of the discussion below, there are grounds for expectation that present policy objectives in North Africa may be further realized. Consequently the OCB does not at the present time recommend change or revision of U.S. policy set forth in NSC 5436/1 six months ago.
- Political Progress in the Area. On April 21, after nearly nine months of negotiations, French and Tunisian negotiators signed a protocol which provides for limited autonomy which should go far to ease tensions in Tunisia. If the protocol is developed into a full agreement that is ratified by the French parliament during the next month or two—and this is by no means assured, a new era, favorable to U.S. objectives, would be opened in Franco-Tunisian relations.
- In Morocco, the nationalists refuse to negotiate so long as the throne is occupied by the present Sultan, who replaced the nationalist-minded Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef in August 1953. Mendès-France was expected to seek answers to the more complicated Moroccan problems once Tunisian autonomy had been negotiated but he was voted out of office (ostensibly because of his North African policies) and the successor, Faure, government has only [Page 92] attempted to repress the violence that resulted in the killing or wounding of roughly a thousand persons during the past year. It has failed to restore confidence although there are indications that the French are coming to recognize that a solution of the dynastic problem is a prerequisite to progress.
- Unrest has also spread to Algeria, and so far French efforts have been primarily repressive with no indications of needed reforms in sight.
- Effectiveness of and Limitations on, U.S. Actions. There are severe limitations on the scope, and consequently, the effectiveness of U.S. actions. U.S. actions have encouraged the recent favorable Franco-Tunisian developments, but is was essentially French and Tunisian actions that brought them about. Similarly, the Moroccan and Algerian situations are such that the U.S. cannot effectively influence them short of direct intervention. Solutions depend as much on internal French politics as they do upon the actions or reactions of the native nationalists. The U.S. can urge moderation and compromise but attempts to press specific suggestions or proposals for solutions to these highly complicated and emotionally charged situations would not in most cases be effective or advantageous and might, in fact, react adversely upon our military program.
- The French are suspicious of U.S. intentions with regard to North Africa and their suspicions are largely responsible for the limitations they place on the scope of our military program there. If we were to go too far in pressing the French toward North African reforms, our present fairly successful utilization of the bases in Morocco could be jeopardized. On the other hand, we cannot give the French the support they desire for their North African policies without incurring the enmity of the native populations and antagonizing the Arab-Asian nations, who at Bandung were united in attacking French policies in North Africa. Even our present middle-of-the-road position is criticized as being, in fact, in support of the French and has led to resentment of U.S. policy by North Africans, particularly in Morocco. At the same time, attitudes and interests of colonial powers must be recognized or we are liable to eventually alienate many of our European Allies.
- The French do not like to see an American label on any economic aid extended to North Africa—it makes them fear that the Arabs will think that France is unable to provide for their basic needs and their economic development. Since last October there have been no new requests from the French Government for U.S. technical or development assistance for projects in Morocco or Tunisia nor is there reason to believe any such requests will be forthcoming in the near future. Although in the past few months emergency situations have arisen both in Morocco (locust invasions) [Page 93] and in Tunisia (severe drought, local food shortages and locust invasions) which have been closely followed by FOA, State and Agriculture, the French have not indicated any need for outside assistance in meeting these emergencies.
- As a result of French sensitivities toward any outside influence on the native population and toward foreign comment on what they consider their domestic affairs, the information program is necessarily limited.
- Alternatives to Present Policies. We are conducting what in effect is a holding operation which is the best that can be done inasmuch as any alternative policies would be more prejudicial to overall U.S. interests. In the final analysis North Africa, though an international problem, is a French responsibility and we depend on the French for our strategic requirements in the Area. The importance of France in Europe and in the NATO Alliance, as well as the strategic and monetary value of the bases in Morocco, makes extremely difficult a shift of our policy towards more support of the nationalists against France. Such a move could easily lead to even more bloodshed than is caused by the present terrorist campaign of the nationalists and, certainly, the French would not allow themselves to be peaceably ejected from the area. Recent developments in Europe, such as French approval of German rearmament, or in Indochina do not give the U.S. any substantially freer scope of possible action with regard to North African problems so long as we wish to obtain maximum utilization of our bases in North Africa and to build strength in Western Europe, an area in which France geographically and politically occupies a central position.
C. Emerging Problems and Future Actions
- Solutions are being sought for the problems set forth in paragraphs 3 through 7. It may be necessary to reach certain compromises to resolve these problems.
- Re-Examining Military Requirements. Because of the French attitude described above and because of the questionable outcome of the conflict between the French and the native nationalists it may be necessary for the Department of Defense to re-examine its requirements for additional facilities to determine (a) whether they could be obtained in an alternate location, (b) if they cannot be re-located, whether they should be pursued further in spite of the difficulties involved. It should be noted that the larger our stake in French North African bases, the greater is the need to work with the French in the area.
- Political Progress. The future implementation of our policy will depend to a great extent on the course of events over which the U.S. [Page 94] will have limited influence. We shall continue to urge, to the extent possible, bilateral negotiations of necessary reforms in Morocco and Tunisia. We should seek to influence, to the limited extent possible, favorable evolutionary developments in Algeria.
- UNGA Consideration. If the almost unanimous expressions of confidence contained in the 1954 UNGA resolutions are not realized, which is likely, many members at the next UNGA may demand that the UN investigate or intervene. Such developments would greatly complicate the problem of what the U.S. could or should do and consideration may have to be given to the course of action prescribed in paragraph 21 of NSC 5436/1 concerning making use of UN procedure if the French and nationalists are unable to reach bilateral agreement.
- French Efforts to Obtain Support. Pursuant to a French Government statement just prior to final ratification of the Paris agreements, the Government may increase its efforts to obtain broad U.S. support for French North African policy under the guise of NATO solidarity on political issues.
- Information Activities. The U.S. Information Agency has weighed the advisability of maintaining its posts in French North Africa where the program is restricted to factual news reporting and cultural activities. The decision to continue the operation is based on the fact that the general populations of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria are being reached by press releases and are utilizing the library facilities and are participating in the cultural activities. The withdrawal of the U.S. Information Services would be interpreted by the non-French population as a withdrawal of our interest in their welfare. It would also give comfort to the French Administration which desires to eliminate all influence but its own. U.S. objectives are not identical with those of the French. Therefore, USIA is faced with the problem of continuing its activities in French North Africa in order to advance those long-range U.S. objectives with which the French are not identified.
- Economic Activities. It has become apparent that the French Government’s interest in possible U.S. assistance to French North African projects is restricted primarily to financial assistance. The French will accept technical assistance only as part of larger development assistance projects (only exception to this being a relatively minor interest in FOA-financed study in the U.S. for French colonial technicians). U.S. aid available in FY ’55 for French African DOT’s (including Morocco and Tunisia) has been limited to technical cooperation funds. The French Government has expressed no interest in availing itself of this aid for Morocco or Tunisia.
- Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Horn of Africa. Top Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text. Enclosure to a memorandum for the OCB by Elmer B. Staats, dated July 18. The Progress Report, approved for transmission to the National Security Council on June 1, was noted by that body on July 14 in NSC Action No. 1423. At that meeting. Acting Secretary Hoover summarized the impact of events since June 1 and concluded that the correctness of following a middle-of-the-road policy had been confirmed by recent developments. He endorsed the wisdom of seeking to induce the French to adopt a more liberal and enlightened program in dealing with the Arab nationalists. (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, July 15; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File)↩
- For text of NSC 5436/1, dated October 18, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xi, Part 1, p. 170.↩
- The substance of this conversation was summarized in telegram 1876 to Paris, November 22, 1954, ibid., p. 181.↩
- The substance of the meeting with Pierre Koenig was summarized in telegram 4737 from Paris, April 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.56371A/4–2955)↩