270. Memorandum of a Conversation, New York, August 14, 19581


  • Situation in the Middle East


  • Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, UAR Foreign Minister
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Rountree
  • Mr. Bergus

Dr. Fawzi referred to Mr. Murphy’s recent talk with President Nasser2 and said that after an initial period of groping, the conversation had “sailed”. He hoped that Mr. Murphy had brought back the impression of the complete frankness of that discussion. The Secretary felt that it had been a useful conversation. He said that there had also come the impression that President Nasser believed that the Secretary had a personal unfriendliness toward him. The Secretary wished to dissipate such an impression. First of all, it was not true. Furthermore, [Page 470] it would be criminal to operate governments on the basis of personal likes and dislikes. Were this the case, the U.S. would not have taken actions favorable to Egypt and the UAR which were unfavorable to countries with which we had long and friendly relations. It was the Secretary’s ambition to leave the world more devoted to principle in the conduct of international affairs. The Secretary felt this was a critical moment because we could not countenance methods which, if generally prevalent, would bring the world to chaos and perhaps even war. This was perhaps the basic difference between us. The UAR felt it was legitimate to use methods which we felt were dangerous. This was, however, a difference of principle and not a personal one. The Secretary had the highest regard and respect for President Nasser who was an extremely able man. He was not surprised that the Arabs looked up to President Nasser. The Secretary wished to get on to a basis of good relations. As President Eisenhower had said yesterday, unification, if it took place as a result of the will of the people concerned, could and should be accomplished through peaceful processes.3

Dr. Fawzi said he could not take exception to the Secretary’s remarks. The impression that President Nasser felt that the Secretary disliked him personally was not accurate.

Dr. Fawzi said he wished to mention the importance of the fact that we were facing a debate which could run away. He trusted that efforts would be made to keep it in hand. Mr. Selwyn Lloyd might in his speech today say things which would make the task of restoring normalcy more difficult. The Secretary said he had no idea what Mr. Lloyd would say. He commented that Mr. Gromyko’s speech4 had not been helpful. Dr. Fawzi said that such a speech coming from Gromyko was not surprising. In fact, some delegates had even felt that it had been relatively moderate.

Dr. Fawzi continued that it was evident that the Jordanian delegate had instructions to make an onslaught against the UAR. This could open wide the controversy. The concensus among delegations was to try to patch things up.

The Secretary said he hoped that Dr. Fawzi felt that the President’s speech had been moderate. While it had contained anti-Soviet remarks, there had been no attack on the UAR. Dr. Fawzi said that the President had confined himself to general principles. If anyone said [Page 471] that there should be no interference in the affairs of other states, the UAR would agree. It would also agree to sensible measures to make others concerned feel more comfortable. The U.S. might agree that it was not a good thing to try to pin blame. The UAR could not object to any measure to bolster arrangements to safeguard any country’s independence.

The Secretary said that he was uninformed as to the nature of the Jordanian delegate’s speech. Dr. Fawzi said that he thought that the Jordanian was going to make his attack yesterday. Dr. Fawzi had prepared a reply. Since he had been quiet, Dr. Fawzi had been quiet. It was clear, however, that the Jordanian delegate had instructions to make a strong speech. Dr. Fawzi said that we were all here to be useful.

The Secretary said that he was worried about Jordan. It was an artificial state which had been created by the U.K. as an alternate base, perhaps, in the Middle East. It had been subsidized first by the British, briefly by the three Arab states, and now by the U.S. It took a lot of money to keep it going. The reason for its existence was that its disappearance might reopen the Arab-Israeli war. We were paying tribute to hold Jordan so that war would not break out. Jordan had nothing of interest to us. It was of interest to all, however, that there be no chaos in the area. We did not know Israel’s purposes, but there was a 50–50 chance that if Jordan collapsed, the Israelis would occupy the West Bank. This could start a lot of other things. There was a common interest to try to preserve peace so that Jordan’s future could evolve peacefully. The Secretary admitted, however, that he was at a loss to know how such a peaceful evolution might take place.

Dr. Fawzi thought that we could put things together and find a way. The UAR thought, of course, that we should not allow the situation in Jordan to start a chain reaction and was interested in not having this happen. The UAR felt that if sufficient assurances were given that neither an Israeli nor Arab attack would be tolerated, particularly by the two big powers, this would be a solid part of the structure of peace. As long as the U.K. military presence continued in Jordan, the horizon was blocked on the UAR side and there could be only unhelpful groping.

What would happen if the U.K. withdrew? The likelihood was that King Hussein could not remain. It was for the people of Jordan to decide who was to rule them. None of us should interfere. The U.K. said that it wished to be loyal to its friends. This might be a virtue but it should not be at the expense of creating an impossible situation in the area by imposing King Hussein and his government by force. If the Jordanian people wished to keep King Hussein, the UAR would not object. If they wished to remain a separate state, the UAR would not oppose. If they wished to join Iraq or Saudi Arabia, this was not the [Page 472] UAR’s business. The one thing that Dr. Fawzi could not promise was that the UAR would accept Jordan. He was not sure that this would be a good thing.

The Secretary pointed out that Jordan would be a liability to whomever took it over. Dr. Fawzi said that he declined the honor. It was more natural that oil-rich Iraq do so. The Secretary felt that this could be a logical step and could broaden the opportunities for refugees. Dr. Fawzi did not disagree but felt that this question should not be opened publicly. The Secretary replied that he would not say this out loud.

Dr. Fawzi said that he had crossed his fingers yesterday in the hope that the President would not link economic development to the refugee problem. It was pleasing that the President had not done so.

Dr. Fawzi then turned to the economic proposal which the President had outlined yesterday. This would take the UAR awhile to study. However, it was obvious to all that every living thing needed a proper atmosphere. It seemed to him that the indispensable thing before we went deeper was a rapid withdrawal of the troops from Lebanon and Jordan. Then the UAR and U.S. could consult if it were desired. A first point might be the exchange of assurances between Jordan and Israel that neither would attack the other. The UAR would approve such an exchange and would subscribe to it privately and publicly. These should not, of course, go so far as to represent a form of peace with Israel. This was too soon. The Secretary commented that the President had not mentioned the Arab-Israel problem.

Dr. Fawzi said that timing was all important to avoid missing a good train. Already there were people nibbling at the economic proposals with the intention of doing harm. The U.S. doubtless knew who were these natural saboteurs who came from both within and outside the area. While the U.S. should not be over-alarmed by expressions of hasty disapproval, we should not let such a feeling grow too much, too soon. The U.S. should not let happen what happened to the Eisenhower Doctrine. Dr. Fawzi stated that Egypt had remained silent two months about the Doctrine and then had taken a position against it. It would be a pity if this happened again.

Dr. Fawzi referred briefly to the Pella proposals5 which he felt had been badly timed and which gave the impression that their implementation would involve the expression of a NATO interest in the area. The President had made clear that the U.S. would not insist upon a preponderant role in the institution. Dr. Fawzi felt that it should not have too big a U.S. flag on it. It should be allowed to grow and the [Page 473] U.S. should encourage its friends in the area to contribute. Iraq was a natural contributor; Saudi Arabia could become one, although they had little money at present; Kuwait could be one. The thing did not have to grow too quickly but it could soon become a nucleus of economic sanity. The area was potentially rich. It wished to become dynamically rich. There would be a need for liquid capital. Dr. Fawzi preferred loans on easy terms, not called “foreign investment” which had unpleasant overtones. He did not exclude direct loans of this nature. Technical assistance would be paid for by the receiving state. Within a few years a viable Middle East, more robust and less subject to outside infiltration and subversion, could emerge. The UAR government, including President Nasser, was at the disposal of the U.S. to consult as to how not to allow a well-conceived economic program to disintegrate.

After the voting had taken place, high level consultations could be entered into between the UAR and U.S. We would have to face the matter of taking precautions against sabotage and misunderstanding coming from Moscow and perhaps Paris.

Dr. Fawzi felt perhaps that the time was too short. He had spoken to Mr. Gromyko whose response had not been positive. If the USSR wished to extend a helpful hand, that would be all right. If they did not, it would not be wise for them to sabotage the project but they might have their own reasons. How could we deal with this? It was not Dr. Fawzi’s business to advise the U.S. how to talk to the USSR. There was, however, no point in setting up something which could not live.

The Secretary wondered if Dr. Fawzi felt that there could be further useful talks between himself and the Secretary. Dr. Fawzi said he was at the Secretary’s disposal. The time had come when we should refresh our knowledge of each other’s thought and position. It may be that what we thought were serious differences would turn out to be less serious upon examination.

The Secretary said he would try to arrange for another talk perhaps on August 15.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 1087. Secret. Drafted by Bergus. The source text indicates that the conversation took place in the Secretary’s suite in the Waldorf Towers.
  2. See Document 260.
  3. See supra.
  4. Gromyko followed Eisenhower in addressing the General Assembly on August 13. He charged that the special session was necessitated by “armed intervention by the United States in Lebanon and by the United Kingdom in Jordan.” He characterized the western intervention in Lebanon and Jordan as a “violation of peace” in which the fundamental rules of international law and the principles of the U.N. Charter were “flouted.” He called on the General Assembly to take the steps necessary to secure the withdrawal of U.S. and British forces from the area. (U.N. doc. A/PV.733)
  5. Apparent reference to proposals advanced by Italian Foreign Minister Giuseppe Pella, and subsequently outlined by the Italian Representative Attilio Piccioni in the General Assembly on August 18. (U.N. doc. A/PV.739)