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

530. From Murphy. I called on Chamoun this morning with McClintock. The President had previously received Admiral Brown and had given him his military recommendations based on his intelligence there had been increased infiltration from Syria in recent days. Chamoun told Admiral Brown priority objectives in military reduction of rebellion were in following order: (1) Tripoli (2) Baalbek (3) Rashayar. He did not include Basta section of Beirut or the Chouf in this military appreciation.

President said he had no particular worries now that US forces were installed in Beirut, however, as had I, he had received indications there might be increased terrorist activity directed from outside.

Chamoun said he now felt stronger vis-à-vis Chehab because of presence of American forces. He had asked General this morning to prepare a plan of operation—or some prompt military result. I told President I had to speak frankly. With American forces in Beirut if there were any incidents, as for example terrorism or attacks from the Basta, they would have very serious consequences. These would be good neither for Lebanese nor ourselves. I therefore wanted to impress very firmly on President need for prompt and effective action by the Lebanese military. I regretted however that my impression of General Chehab yesterday were [was] that he intended to do nothing. Chamoun said if Chehab did not act he would then consider removing him and appointing a new commander. McClintock said he has heard similar talk over the past 2 months with no result. Chamoun replied situation now was different with US forces landed.

As for Nasser’s visit to Damascus Chamoun had no hard information. He said he expected by this evening through listening to radio and telephonic communications to be able to formulate a better judgment as to what significance of Nasser’s visit in Syria might be.

Chamoun had no information re Iraq.

I mentioned my conversations yesterday with President of Parliament Osseiran (Embtel 496)2 and my attempts to persuade Osseiran to make at least a clarification of his misleading statements in telegrams to President and SC re US intervention in Lebanon. Chamoun said he intended to set matters straight in a press conference tomorrow with Hearst newspapers. However we pointed out official nature of Osseiran’s communication and injury done US by a message from President [Page 338]of Lebanese Parliament. Chamoun finally agreed to suggestion he telegraph President Eisenhower as one head of state to another indicating Osseiran spoke for himself only and in disregard of constitutional law; while at same time he would ask Sami Solh as Prime Minister to send a similar communication to SC.

On domestic political problem and question whether if Parliament can meet July 24 a President can be elected, Chamoun seemed almost wholly at sea. He said he was undertaking consultations and would know by Monday or Tuesday what possibilities were both for holding a parliamentary session and with respect to what candidates might have a chance of election. At this point of interview Chamoun’s weary mind seemed almost to black out. He furrowed his brow and had at times difficulty in recalling what he had said only moments before. At one point he startled us by asking “what would you think if I resigned before July 24 in order to force Parliament to meet?” This suggestion had reference to provision in Lebanese constitution that on removal for whatever cause of chief of state temporary head of government becomes cabinet, which in turn is called upon mandatorily to convene parliament immediately for purpose of electing a new president. I suggested he wait before acting on such a desperate course as certainly repercussions from outside Lebanon would not be very favorable either to himself or ourselves.

Admiral Brown who has known President for some years said he was shocked at degree to which Chamoun had physically and psychologically declined since he last saw him. McClintock who has been in almost daily contact with Chamoun during last two months of crisis informs me he had definite impression President may be suffering from some physical or psychological disturbance. This was first day for example in Ambassador’s experience Chamoun did not use tobacco. A man with a medical record of two heart attacks, Chamoun did not look in physically good shape this morning. This is his 68th day without leaving the presidential residence.

McClintock
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.13–MU/7–1958. Secret; Priority.
  2. Document 192.