131. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between President Eisenhower in Washington and Prime Minister Macmillan in London, July 14, 1958, 5:43 p.m.1

The President said first: “You have all the news and intelligence on Iraq and know how it exacerbates the Lebanon situation. President Chamoun has asked us both to go in. We have decided to implement the plan (for your very secret information). As I understand it, the contingent of yours is about 3, 700, and it is apparently in the lift that gets in somewhere toward the rear of the procession.”

The Prime Minister: Yes, that’s right.

The President: It is just possible that in view of the Jordan situation that I understand has been put in your lap, you may want to hold those people a little bit in reserve as the situation develops in Lebanon. [Page 232] I just wanted to say that if there is that much modification in the military plan if you thought it wise to make it you could do that unilaterally.

The Prime Minister: Yes, but the thought is this: if we do this thing with the Lebanese it is only really part of a much larger operation, because we shall be driven to take the thing as a whole, and I want to feel that if we treat it as a whole it looks like a showdown.

The President: Of course, you must understand that so far as we are concerned, as of this moment we can’t talk about anything happening elsewhere. I agree with you that the situation must contemplate more than that.

The Prime Minister: Yes, I agree the situation is going to be hard. It will start off all the row with the pipelines, with the bigger things, but this will stand right up to them. If this thing is done, which I think is very noble, dear friend, it will set off a lot of things throughout the whole area. I’m all for that as long as we regard it as an operation that has got to be carried through.

The President: Now just a minute so that there is no misunderstanding. Are you of the belief that unless we have made up our minds in advance to carry this thing on through to the Persian Gulf, that we had better not go in the first place?

The Prime Minister: I don’t think that, but I think that we have got to see it together, dear friend. There is no good in being in that place and sitting there a few months and the whole rest being in flames. As soon as we start we have to face it—we have probably got to do a lot of things.

The President: Well, now, I will tell you of course I would not want to go further. Today we tried to project in our discussions here I and with the legislative leaders the development of the situation, and they could take many forms. If we are now planning the initiation of a big operation that could run all the way through Syria and Iraq, we are far beyond anything I have to [the?] power to do constitutionally. We have had quite some trouble justifying to our own leaders what we intend to do.

The Prime Minister: Yes. What is your time-table?

The President: Right now. It would take—I don’t know the exact time that they will get there on account of the orders and hours, but I would not want to give any information over an open wire.

The Prime Minister: Of course. Now, are you going to speak to the country?

The President: Yes. This is very secret. We are calling an emergency session of the Security Council for tomorrow morning. I will broadcast after that Council does something.

The Prime Minister: Tomorrow?

The President: Well, probably.

[Page 233]

The Prime Minister: Well, now, we have had a request from the two little chaps—the one is gone and the other is there, the king—

The President: We did not know what the final reports were.

The Prime Minister: I know there is little news. The second is going along for the other. We have got a sort of request from him saying that [what?] are we going to do. I feel, my dear friend, that if you set off this great show, which I think is fine, you can’t confine it to what you say publicly, but in fact all the trouble will blitz through on destroyers, oil fields, pipelines. Taking on Turks and getting things back. We should be ruined. I am for it. I don’t want you to say that now to me, but so long as I understand we are in this together. We are doing this together.

The President: My own idea would be this. If this situation develops where our whole national interests are abandoned and destroyed, I have to go before the Congress and ask for authority to act. We can understand and agree on that much. And that is exactly what you say, except I have to say it in my guarded terms.

The Prime Minister: You see, we shall have a terrible reaction. Do you want us to come with you or do you want to do it alone?

The President: At this moment, not knowing now under the new situation where your people may be needed, I think they should be alerted and then whatever happens, we will do it that way.

The Prime Minister: We must support the whole thing in public and all that. It is the whole that matters. That is what we have to deal with.

The President: Of course, as of this moment that has been—we don’t know what is going to happen and I think it would be very bad for you and me to talk over an open wire to discuss the great possibilities.

The Prime Minister: What is your timing? Is it now seven o’clock?

The President: No, it is six o’clock here.

The Prime Minister: What have you got to do about speaking?

The President: No, not tonight. This is very secret.

The Prime Minister: I will send you a good message by wire, and you will get it in an hour or two. There are many things I can’t say over the wire.

The President: Yes, do that. Tell the Ambassador here to get a copy of it instantly to the Secretary of State.

The Prime Minister: I will write something out and get it to you in an hour. I will send it to Foster.

The President: Now, on the rest of it, we will talk about these possibilities and what we have to be prepared to do. I realize we are opening a Pandora’s Box here, but if we don’t open it, I think it is disastrous.

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The Prime Minister: Yes, I quite agree with you. What I mean is the old box when it is opened does a lot of harm. I am all for it.

The President: You’d better send a message laying out your thoughts on it.

The Prime Minister: I will send you a message on those lines where I can speak more clearly.

Then the President turned to the Secretary, at the conclusion of the phone call, and said he talked about destruction of oil lines, then we are really at war, then what do we do? He (Macmillan) says we can’t sit down in Lebanon and do nothing, while the British are taking the hard knocks all over the area trying to get this thing straight. (And the President added he agreed with Macmillan.) But, the President continued, he tried to tell Macmillan that he, the President, cannot make a decision such as this. We have now to justify our immediate action, which is that we did honor commitments. The President repeated that Macmillan would sent a cable immediately which he said would be through in an hour.2

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. According to a memorandum for the record prepared by Joseph Greene, Eisenhower placed the call to Macmillan. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/7–1458; included in the microfiche supplement)
  2. According to Greene, Dulles concluded from this conversation that some doubt remained “about whether the British will go in with us at all.” Eisenhower, on the other hand, subsequently told Dulles that his opinion of Macmillan had gone up as a result of the conversation. He had asked for an assurance of British support and felt that Macmillan was “very fine” in providing it. (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Eisenhower and Dulles, July 14; Eisenhower library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations; included in the microfiche supplement)