131. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Yugoslav Chargé d’Affaires’ discussion with the Secretary concerning Middle East crisis


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Franc Primozic, Yugoslav Chargé d’Affaires ad interim
  • Mr. Kohler, EUR
  • Mr. Sutterlin, EE

In accordance with his urgent request, the Yugoslav Chargé d’Affaires, Mr. Franc Primozic, called on the Secretary on July 19 in connection [Page 343] with the current Middle East crisis.1 Mr. Primozic began by saying that his Government considers the situation in the Middle East extremely dangerous particularly in view of the landing of US troops in Lebanon. The Secretary queried Mr. Primozic as to whether the Yugoslav Government does not also feel that the murder of the lawful Iraqi Government added a significant and dangerous element to the Middle Eastern situation. Mr. Primozic replied that the Yugoslav Government considers developments in Iraq as “internal” in nature. The Yugoslav Chargé then continued to present the view of his Government as follows:

The action taken by the US in Lebanon is contrary to the UN Charter, especially since it followed the report issued by the UN observers in Lebanon according to which the struggle there was not the result of external interference.
During President Nasser’s recent visit to Yugoslavia2 President Tito gained the impression that the Egyptian President does not desire a further deterioration in his relations with the West, but wishes to pursue an independent policy tied neither to the Soviet Union nor to the West if the Western nations by their actions make such a policy possible.
The arrival of British troops in Jordan has worsened the current crisis and broadened the area of conflict.
Any military operations against Iraq would further endanger the situation and would bring with it, in the Yugoslav view, the possibility of direct Soviet intervention.
Yugoslavia is directly concerned in the Middle East because of its interest in preserving world peace and its geographic location in the Mediterranean area. The Yugoslav Government has issued an official statement in which it has declared that the US and British intervention in Lebanon and Jordan is unjustified and dangerous. In this same statement the Yugoslav Government has expressed its opinion that only the UN can lawfully intervene in the area. These views are based on a full assessment of the facts and on the Yugoslav desire to preserve peace. Mr. Primozic stated that he wished particularly to stress that the Yugoslav attitude toward developments in the Middle East derives from a careful analysis of the situation there and not from any anti-Western point of view.
The Yugoslav Government still believes that a peaceful solution of the Middle East crisis is possible through the UN. It has been consulting with other governments since it feels that the most appropriate step now would be an emergency General Assembly session sponsored by Yugoslavia together with additional uncommitted nations and possibly by “others.”

The Secretary asked Mr. Primozic whether the Yugoslav Government considers that it is wrong to send troops to aid a friendly nation which has requested assistance in preserving its independence. Mr. Primozic replied that the UN is the proper body to take such action. The Secretary then noted that the Soviet Union had vetoed a proposal in the Security Council which would have transferred to UN forces the responsibilities which US troops have assumed in Lebanon.3 He asked Mr. Primozic whether in the Yugoslav view this Soviet veto was a constructive step. Mr. Primozic conceded that it was not. The Secretary then continued that there are US military elements in some 30 countries throughout the world where they have been sent without involving the UN. Should they now be withdrawn, he asked. Mr. Primozic replied in the negative but again emphasized that the Middle East is an area of extreme tension. The Secretary then compared Nassar’s Pan Arabism to Hitler’s Pan Germanism in that it showed no respect for the independence of nations. The US has incontrovertible proof, he said, of a plot organized against the Lebanese Government from Cairo and Damascus. He had, in fact, just received a message from Deputy Under Secretary Murphy indicating that rebel activities in the Basta area of Beirut are being directed over an open telephone line from Damascus.4 The Yugoslav Government maintains that it is basing its policy in the Middle East crisis on an assessment of the facts, but the fact is, the Secretary said, that a plot similar to the one carried out in Iraq was planned against the Governments of Lebanon and Jordan. Under the circumstances there was insufficient time for effective UN action. When the US sent its troops, the Secretary added, it notified the UN and proposed that the UN take over as soon as possible the duties being performed by American troops in aiding the Government of Lebanon to preserve that country’s independence. The Soviet Union, however, vetoed the proposal which would have brought about such UN action.

Mr. Primozic expressed the view that the chance for such a UN solution still exists if a special emergency General Assembly session is held. The Secretary agreed and said that if the Japanese resolution is not [Page 345] adopted the US favored an emergency session.5 The truth is, the Secretary continued, that something similar to Murder, Inc. is loose in the world today, intent on destroying the independence and integrity of small nations. Mr. Primozics at this point commented that the initial acts of the new Iraqi Government have been reasonable. The Secretary replied that its initial acts may seem reasonable but its hands are dripping with blood. The rebel government had done a very thorough job in eliminating the lawful Iraqi Government,6 he stated, and the same would have happened in Jordan and Lebanon if US and British help had not been forthcoming. Surely, he continued, nations under such circumstances have the right to ask for help.

Mr. Primozic then said that in the Yugoslav view the economic and political position of the West in the Middle East can best be secured through the creation of a single autonomous and neutral Arab state. Yugoslavia, he said, is supporting movements which tend in this direction. When asked by the Secretary whether Yugoslavia is not concerned by the methods used in achieving a single state, Mr. Primozic replied that in the Middle East it is a question of a historical process which the world must understand. The Secretary asked if this meant that a state such as Lebanon should offer no resistance to the destruction of its independence. If this is the Yugoslav position, the Secretary said, then he understood it, but he did not think that it should be cloaked by references to the UN Charter. In 1956, he continued, the US moved to protect Egypt when its independence was threatened by the action of the British, French and Israelis. Now it is doing the same in Lebanon when that small country’s independence, is threatened by Nasser. We believe in a world of peace and order under the UN Charter, the Secretary said. Mr. Primozic, stating that perhaps he had been misunderstood, referred to the struggle of the partisans in Yugoslavia during the Second World War which had triumphed because it represented a necessary historical process. In a similar manner, he said, there is now a historical tendency among the Arab states to unify. The Secretary replied emphatically that this is not true in Lebanon. He had never thought much of Pan Germanism which, claiming to be a “historical process”, had run roughshod over other nations and had eventually led to a World War. Historical processes, the Secretary concluded, must work through approved international means and not through murder and the destruction of independent nations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Confidential. Drafted by Sutterlin.
  2. On July 14 a revolution in Iraq overthrew the pro-Western government of King Faisal II. Lebanese President Camille Chamoun requested that U.S. troops be sent to his nation to restore order and to prevent foreign intervention. U.S. forces landed in Beirut on July 15.
  3. July 2–12.
  4. For text of the U.S. proposed resolution together with the U.S. statement of position, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1958, pp. 186–198.
  5. In telegram 530, July 19, Murphy gave a preliminary assessment of conditions in Lebanon. (Department of State, Central Files, 110.13–MU/7–1958)
  6. For text of the July 21 Japanese resolution to create a strengthened U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1958, p. 199. This resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union in the July 22 Security Council meeting.
  7. In addition to King Faisal and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, the entire Iraqi royal family was killed in the uprising of July 14.