25. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
Beirut, May 11, 1958—11 p.m.
3779. I saw both General Chehab and President Chamoun this evening separately.
- General confirmed his refusal accept Prime Ministership as suggested by Raymond Edde; and vigorously reaffirmed his support of President for legal term of office. However it was clear Chehab is now out and out in opposition to Chamoun’s re-election. He can be expected reluctantly to do his duty to maintain President in office only until September.
- I said as General knew events in Lebanon had transcended local politics and would have effect far beyond frontiers of this country. I recited concern manifested by numerous governments in Middle East over continuance of policies personified by Chamoun and recalled Arab fidelity to friendship. I said it was measured opinion of the three Western Governments whose advice Chehab had so frequently importuned that best man to carry on these policies and to maintain independence of Lebanon for which three governments had pledged support was Chamoun.
- General took this statement calmly and I was certain with his present limited mental focus he did not project our support beyond his own target date of standing loyal to President for his present term of office. I remarked upon this later to Chamoun who said he quite understood and thought it best that for present we work on Chehab in short term rather than long range. Both President and I agreed it was too much to expect Chehab to change his mind on question of Chamoun’s re-election.
- In Chehab’s estimate tomorrow will be a difficult day in Beirut but he believes security dispositions can control situation. He said several times “day after tomorrow will be the critical one”. Chehab shared opinion of Edde brothers Christians would have a difficult decision to make whether or not to close their shops tomorrow, as officer responsible for security, he obviously hoped all stores would be closed, thus giving no pretext for Moslem attack on Christians. However President Chamoun felt very strongly Christian stores should remain open tomorrow and try to carry on business as usual. President thought tomorrow would be critical day while as indicated above, General regards Tuesday as the touchstone. Both authorities amply warranted extensive security precautions taken by this Embassy.
- Re Chamoun’s request for 20 airlifted tanks, I pointed out to Chehab various practical difficulties which my ARMA indicated might lie in way. Chehab said need for tanks would be a continuing one over next several months but he would be satisfied by delivery within next two weeks. General explicitly said he had sufficient trained personnel to man tanks. I later told Chamoun we might have some difficulty and asked if an airlift was really necessary. President said no provided tanks were forthcoming.
- I told President when Malik had asked us to think tentatively of landing “a division of Marines” in Lebanon this would work against Chamoun’s own interest. President very soberly replied that if Syrians invaded Lebanon in force as they might do in the Hermel he would feel constrained to send a personal appeal to President Eisenhower.
- I told Chamoun I found General ready to make a good try at maintaining law and order in immediate future but that we would have to give him constant injections of resolution and courage if we were to go the whole course. President said he knew this but was deeply grateful for what I had done with General tonight.
- Greatest impression I gained on Chehab was to quote Field Marshal Slim, whom I had heard at NWC stating that for riot control human lives were saved by his policy of “one brick-one bullet”. At end of an hour’s interview I found General repeating as a sort of magic refrain—"une pierre-une balle”.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–1158. Top Secret; Priority. Repeated to Paris and London.↩