125. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
Beirut, July 14, 1958—4 p.m.
366. Ambassadorial SITREP.
- There are a few discrepancies in representations made by Chamoun to UK, US and France (Embtel 358):2
- To both British Chargé and French Ambassador Chamoun demanded military intervention within 24 hours. To me he asked intervention in 48 hours. I am certain on this because I repeated it back to him, asking if he wanted indication of our readiness to intervene in 48 hours or of actual landing of forces in that time and he said forces in 48 hours (this may be explained by fact Chamoun thinks Sixth Fleet is deployed westward).
- To British Chargé who called at 10:30 a.m., Chamoun made it very clear that if allied intervention were not forthcoming as requested, he would “appeal to Soviet Union and to UAR.” British Chargé got definite impression this was an ultimatum. However, when Chamoun mentioned possible need to have recourse to USSR if west failed him, I took this to be a derisive statement. He made similar comment to French Ambassador who made similar interpretation.
- President told both French Ambassador and British Chargé he expected new developments in Iraq would result in immediate and fairly large-scale desertion in Moslem elements of Lebanese Army. He did not make such an observation to me.
- To French Ambassador only Chamoun interpreted radio report (Embtel 362)3 calling on Iraqi pilots either to return Baghdad or assist forces of liberation in Lebanon as a cover to justify intervention from new revolutionary regime in Iraq.
- In analyzing Chamoun’s mood and motives, all three of us are struck by fact he made this very vital request, based entirely on radio reports from sources which ordinarily he would have regarded with deepest suspicion, namely radios Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad, in rebel hands. His decision was made prior to reading British report from Baghdad summarized to Chamoun by British Charge. In consequence, it is difficult not to feel that Chamoun may regard this opportunity as his last card to play to bring about friendly military intervention in Lebanon. We believe he is sincere in saying integrity and independence of Republic are at stake and not his own personal fortunes. However at the same time he feels a sense of vindication, that he has been right all along and we wrong.
- As for hard evidence of an increased military threat to Lebanon, it is difficult to find this morning. Chamoun’s statement to French Ambassador that Syria would now be free to step up its infiltration of men and matériel and that if such a heightened attack occurred, Lebanese Army could not resist more than 48 hours, we must subject to more cool analysis. We should doubt if Syrian High Command would wish thus openly to invite Allied military intervention when it must be preoccupied with moves which Turkey may have in contemplation.
- We feel decision on military intervention can only be taken in light of broader intelligence and political and strategic considerations affecting the entire Middle East. So far as Lebanon alone is concerned, we cannot as of midday discern need for so portentious a step.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/7–1458. Top Secret; Niact. Repeated to London, Paris, Cairo, Ankara, Baghdad, Amman, Tel Aviv, Jidda, Damascus, and USUN. Received 11:23 a.m. and passed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force at 11:30 a.m.↩
- Document 121.↩
- Dated July 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/7–1458)↩