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

528. Eyes only Secretary from Murphy. Here follows my very preliminary assessment of the political situation in which we seem to find ourselves. This is after what so far is a successful military intervention in Lebanon—successful in that it has worked smoothly, our forces and equipment are ashore and not a shot has been fired.

The local political result is dubious. During the two days I have been here I have discovered among other things that (1) Chamoun has been a self-constituted prisoner in his residence for 67 days. He has apparently not dared to look out of the window of his house during that period. (2) Ambassador McClintock was opposed to our compliance with Chamoun’s request for military support even after the events in Baghdad, so far as it related to Lebanon alone (last paragraph Embtel 366).2

Taken in isolation our military operation here obviously does not provide a solution of the political problem weighing upon us in the Middle East. The mere presence of our forces in a small coastal portion of the country seems to have brought no fundamental change in the local political climate.

It might be assumed that the availability of our forces would relieve the pressure on the Lebanese security personnel thus giving them a free hand in suppressing the insurrection now in its third month. There is no indication that this is the case. Chehab, the commanding officer of both the military and internal security forces, in reply to our pressing questions asserts that the bitter factional split among his personnel prevents even energetic action to clean up the city of Beirut much less the country at large.

My initial reading of the local situation leads to the preliminary conclusion that it is in our interest to promote a solution of the immediate and major Lebanese political problem, i.e. the election of a new president. We should use whatever influence we can bring to bear under present circumstances to ensure parliament’s meeting next Thursday for that purpose. This would be in consonance with the Lebanese constitution. There will be criticism because it occurs in the shadow of our military operation. Alternative procedures could generate worse criticism. Chamoun would serve the balance of his term ending September 23.

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It is my belief election of the new president will bring about relaxation in the country with the prospect of cessation or reduction for the present of rebel activity.

If this assessment is reasonably accurate we are then left with the problem of what to do with our forces. Locally it would be possible to claim their mission had been successful. If calm is restored there could be gradual withdrawal. UNOGIL could remain if not replaced by a more substantial UN force.

But the larger area problem would not have been solved. I have no knowledge of results of your talks with Lloyd. I do not know what action in Iraq and Jordan is contemplated or whether Damascus and Cairo will be left to generate further disturbances here or elsewhere. It is fairly evident that unless the Nasser movement is checked at its source our withdrawal may even give added impetus to it. No doubt our military intervention has exercised a sobering effect throughout the area. But unless it is followed by a reversal of the area trend that effect may rapidly dissipate.

Thus I come to the primitive conclusion that the Nasser element must be either destroyed or an accommodation with it developed. I know that this conclusion does not add to your fund of knowledge.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/7–1958. Secret; Niact.
  2. Document 125.