230. Memorandum of a Conference, Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, January 31, 19561


  • The President and Sir Anthony Eden, plus top advisers

The President opened the discussion with the question of trade with Red China. He thought the problem was of a mixed character. Japan badly needs trade, as does Malaya. But if controls were relaxed, the result might be to destroy the prestige of the West in the Far East, and even lead some of our allies in the area to think the West had made a basic change of policy affecting them. Sir Anthony suggested that some items now allowed to the USSR might be allowed to China. He would like to show some movement, for example rubber and motor vehicles. Assistant Secretary Prochnow said in response to a question by the President that we could indicate what could best be released from our point of view, but it should be understood that the Communist bloc would derive some gains from such release. The President thought the free world may gain from trade, and that it might well prove that the net gain is on our side.

Secretary Dulles thought the matter might be studied on a staff basis, examining specific items. Whatever is done should be done gradually. Perhaps it would be possible to incorporate some of the principles used in the system of restrictions now applied to Russia— perhaps putting into effect certain quantitative allowances, for example with regard to rubber for Malaya and Ceylon. He pointed out the anomaly wherein we prevent Ceylon, one of the best of our allies, from making rubber sales essential to their well-being. The President said we should look for net advantage, recognizing that some items may be critically short in the Soviet bloc, in which case they should certainly be retained on the list of restrictions. He cited the example of copper wire to show the need for continuing scrutiny of the matter.

Turning to Saudi-Arabia, Foreign Secretary Lloyd wondered whether it might prove fruitful to invite Prince Feisal to come to London, since the UK Ambassador is not “received” in Saudi-Arabia, and there is no way to make contact with them. Mr. Hoover thought it might be profitable to explore the problem with Azzam Pasha to see what room for maneuver or negotiation there may be. The President said the first step is how to get in touch with the Saudis. Sir Anthony asked whether Ambassador Wadsworth could ask the Saudis to receive the British Ambassador. Mr. Shuckburgh said, in response to a [Page 641] question as to what might be offered to the Saudis, that the UK would be ready to discuss the problem of access to the sea, negotiations on which bogged down in 1935 largely, he thought, through misunderstanding. Sir Anthony suggested that the British might write out what the U.S. Ambassador might say about this to get the British Ambassador into contact with the Saudis, and also what the British Ambassador might say in negotiations. This would have to be taken up with the Cabinet. Foreign Secretary Lloyd asked that in any discussions the U.S. might have with Azzam Pasha the U.S. should make clear that the ideas were its own. Assistant Secretary Allen, in response to a question, said that it may not be possible to keep the Buraimi matter out of the Security Council. The President thought the approach should be to ask for time enough to work something out. Secretary Dulles thought if we indicate that there is something to offer, the Arabs might hold off Security Council action while seeking to work it out. Sir Anthony asked that Dixon and Lodge get together to seek delay if the matter comes up in the Security Council. Secretary Hoover advanced as a possibility for consideration the idea of a neutral zone.

Sir Anthony asked what, if anything, could be done to restrain Saudi use of funds in Syria, Egypt and Iraq for subversive purposes— could they be shifted somehow into public works. Mr. Hoover explained that it is not possible to shut off royalties (or prevent advances on royalties) or decrease production since the Saudis could then say we were not utilizing the oil concession. The best procedure would be to get the Buraimi question out of the way, then try to work closer to the Saudis and develop a better understanding. The President asked whether the possibility of selling arms to the Saudis to absorb money and get people to work together would be helpful. Mr. Hoover referred to latent Saudi concern regarding their position in relation to Egyptian strength. Perhaps this might absorb some of the Saudi attention and energies in the period ahead.

The possibility of making a show of force in the general area of the Eastern Mediterranean was next discussed. Admiral Radford advised the group of the substantial naval forces in the area which could be built up, if desired, and could, if so directed, blockade certain countries in the area. The President asked if ships might be sent to visit ports and create awareness and interest in what the U.S. and British might do. Sir Anthony said the real problem is how to use forces in a way to have a favorable effect upon the situation. The statement regarding forces will be of great importance; perhaps a statement that U.S. and Britain had “reviewed” the situation might be made. Secretary Lloyd suggested “certain military dispositions have [Page 642] been made.”2 The President thought Secretary Dulles should have a discussion with Congressional leaders in the matter. In response to a question, Secretary Dulles said the reason for not going through the UN was that this procedure would bring the Russians into the discussions and possible actions.

Admiral Radford suggested that the fleet might maneuver in the Eastern Mediterranean. The President thought it would be better to send in a vessel or two as though they had some mission in the area— small vessels rather than carriers. Secretary Dulles might meanwhile be doing some talking in Washington. Secretary Dulles said there would be difficult questions, such as what would trigger combat action, how could one be sure which party was the aggressor, etc. The question of what to do if these actions proved insufficient should be thought about. The President said we could point out that the situation is getting dangerous and that if we were to go to the UN the Soviets would join in. That is the reason why we are issuing a statement tied to the Tripartite Declaration.3 If hostilities occur, we might well have to blockade.

There was then a good deal of discussion as to the form any statement might take. The President and Secretary Dulles said that a next step would be to consult Congressional leaders.

Sir Anthony thought the Israelis would probably welcome the statement. The President thought this was true in logic, but maybe not in fact. Secretary Dulles said some might feel that this action would have the effect of stopping the Israelis now while the Egyptians rearm.

The President thought a small unit should be sent down for scouting and patrolling operations. Admiral Radford said some vessels might be sent to the Red Sea. The President thought well of this, and indicated that “the less you can do it with” and still have the activities properly noticed, the better. Secretary Dulles thought the ships might even go up the Gulf of Aqaba.

Colonel, CE, US Army
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on February 2. For another record of this conference and a list of participants, see supra.
  2. In the “Anglo-American Review of World Problems,” February 1, issued at the same time as the Declaration of Washington, the United States and United Kingdom announced that they had “made arrangements for joint discussions as to the nature of the action which we should take” in the event of the violation of armistice agreements or frontier lines in the Middle East. For text of the review, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1956, pp. 447–449. On February 18, the United States temporarily suspended export licenses for shipment of arms to Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries, and Israel. For text of the Department of State statement announcing this decision, see ibid., pp. 584–586.
  3. For text of the Tripartite Declaration of May 25, 1950, see Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1950, p. 886.