15. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1

3531. Verbatim text. Re Embtel 3520.2 Following is text of joint appreciation drafted by Middleton with minor amendments by me. Middleton’s classification, however, is “Secret”. [11/2 lines of source text not declassified]

I suggested to Middleton that, since Lebanese in requesting Western guidance invariably referred to “the three ambassadors”, we inform French Ambassador of developments reported reference telegram. He concurs and is asking London authorize him communicate with French Ambassador here, as well as with Quai d’Orsay.

Herewith text:

“US Ambassador and myself have reached agreement on following appraisal of present situation:

  • “(A) Chamoun is not so decided (as he was until recently) on standing again.
  • “(B) He would be prepared to make way, however, for General Chehab.
  • “(C) General Chehab is aware of this and of fact his election to succeed Chamoun in such circumstances would be acceptable to Americans and ourselves as candidate most likely to ensure internal and external security for which we have given guarantees.
  • “(D) No other candidate is at present seriously in field.
  • “(E) General Chehab has so far refused but has given indications he might be willing to be ’drafted’.
  • “(F) Strong opposition to Chamoun’s re-election is being shown by great majority of Moslems and substantial fraction of Christians.
  • “(G) Attempt to change constitution to enable Chamoun to stand would probably be occasion for a trial of strength. We are not certain, however, Chamoun can now command necessary two-thirds majority of total number of deputies to enable amendment to be passed in Chamber.
  • “(H) We would not expect any such disturbances to get out of control as General Chehab has made it clear Army will use every endeavor to enforce law and order if necessary.
  • “(I) Chamoun is at moment probably weighing up advantages, personal and national, of forcing his re-election by whatever means against disadvantages of trying to govern a deeply divided country for [Page 25]another term of office. There is additional risk that, even if re-elected, he might be ousted before completing his full second term of office; in which case convention by which Lebanon has a Maronite president might be called in question.
  • “(J) Our (the West’s) interests generally would probably be best served by Chamoun’s re-election only if he commanded sufficient general support for his policies to be effectively implemented. They would probably be less well served by General in office (because his laziness and disinclination for the political game); and if he resigned in short time any likely successor (after perhaps a general election) would probably be less able to keep close bonds with West.

“We therefore must decide, in light of these considerations, whether to intervene now, or at all, in favor of Chamoun or General. It is by no means certain advice to Chamoun to stand down would be well taken; on other hand our encouragement of General might well prove decisive. On whole we consider situation must be allowed to clarify itself further before we act. If, for example, proposal for constitutional amendment fails then Chamoun ceases to be aid in openly encouraging General Chehab to fill vacuum. But we should avoid taking up now a position from which we may afterwards forced by circumstances to depart.”

McClintock
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/4–2358. Top Secret. Repeated to London.
  2. In telegram 3520 from Beirut, April 22, McClintock reported that British Ambassador Middleton had information that President Chamoun was prepared to renounce his aspirations for reelection in favor of General Chehab, if Chehab would accept the office. Middleton also indicated that London and Washington had authorized a joint appreciation of the presidential problem by the British and U.S. Ambassadors in Lebanon. (Ibid., 783A.00/4–2258; included in the microfiche supplement)