24. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
3775. Rome for RLG and Sixth Fleet. London also pass CINCNELM. Malik asked me to call this evening. He said Lebanon was at a most critical juncture and this was not a repetition of events in 1952. Now hostile foreign services were engaged. I had already heard of the 300 armed partisans which had crossed frontier from Syria and I could be assured both Soviet and UAR Embassies were working on a 24-hour basis to destroy integrity of Lebanon. Because of emergency, President had sent me a handwritten note asking “to send the twenty tanks by airlift with the ammunition”. This apparently was with reference to our offer to discuss with Lebanese military supply of 18 light tanks as authorized by recent Department telegrams. I said I had no idea where such equipment might be found or if it were available, but would pass on Chamoun’s request.[Page 38]
Malik then said he and President, thinking out loud, wondered if it would not be appropriate now to make forward planning for possible deployment of “a division of American marines” in event Syrian-Egyptian aggression proved more overt. I said my instant reaction was that nothing could be more harmful to Chamoun than that. Malik then backed off and stressed this was most tentative sort of thinking.
Malik was not au courant with today’s latest political developments and had to be brought up to date on events described Embtel 3772.2 He agreed with me that of primary necessity is for Western Ambassadors to stiffen General Chehab. I told him I had already made an appointment to see General this evening (8:30 at his home in Junieh) and that I would not hesitate to make clear US support for policy Chamoun had followed, for Chamoun himself, and for integrity of Lebanon defended by a loyal army. I see Chamoun at ten tonight and shall report on my talk with General. At same time I shall leave with President ARMA memo3 to me describing impracticability of airlifting tanks on grounds of lack of immediate airlift, equipment, and Lebanese trained personnel to man tanks once they arrive.