365. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
2257. During past twenty-four hours I have had conversations with speaker of Parliament Osseiran, former President Chamoun, President Chehab and Minister Raymond Edde. Upshot of impressions gained from these leaders is that Karami cabinet’s request for full powers to rule by decree for six months (Embtel 2247)2 will probably be debated in Parliament on Tuesday November 11, and that after much haggling and perhaps some minor amendments, bill authorizing full powers will go through. It is then intention of Chehab and Karami Cabinet to undertake a thorough overhaul of Lebanese administration. Chehab told me last night there was an incredible plethora of useless people in Lebanese Government, although in certain departments there were too few employees. He likewise complained of existence of autonomous authorities such as that for Litani river hydro-electric project and others in which some officials received salaries grossly in excess of standard pay scale for other bureaucrats. Chehab indicated a general overhaul of Lebanese Civil Service would be unpopular with deputies in Parliament because of nepotism and fact each deputy had his long list of proteges in the bureaucracy.[Page 628]
Although Chamoun said his party had yet to adopt its line of policy toward bill on full powers, I got definite impression that after securing some amendments to show his party must be reckoned with and his leadership acknowledged Chamoun would go along in supporting government’s request. My most outstanding impression of a day of visits was marked change which has come over Chamoun. He proved exceedingly moderate in his comments and the old flush of egotism enhanced by adulation which had marked his attitude during my interviews when he was on the mountain had completely disappeared.
He now spoke soberly of situation in which Lebanon found itself and of need to support Chehab and Karami Government in meeting urgent and difficult problems. It was also interesting to see that Chamoun was voicing theories on economic development which had originated with Raymond Edde and been implanted in Chehab before they emerged from mouth of Chamoun.
I found Chehab absorbed in fairly constructive ideas on what to do about Lebanon in realm of social policy and of reconstruction. As in case of Chamoun, I have discerned a marked change in the general. He is beginning to like being President of Lebanon and with each week in office he gains new assurance. Although there are admittedly many deficiencies in the governance of this strife-torn republic, I have very clear impression that under present management, and particularly with the courageous and energetic Raymond Edde personally tackling problem of internal security, the present team will be able to surmount its difficulties.
On question of foreign aid, Edde tells me Karami is still tempted by prospect of accepting both US and Soviet assistance. Apparently he was buoyed up by a friendly telegram of congratulations from Khrushchev. However I found Chehab exceedingly cautious toward every aspect of relations with USSR. Far from evincing any desire to accept Russian assistance, he went so far as to say he wanted to go very slowly even before contemplating trade arrangements with Russia.
As for our own contemplated economic and technical assistance to Lebanon, General now fully understands question of eight million pounds of counterpart which still remains to be used and my final arrangement with Karami for a joint study by Lebanese and US experts of budgetary and economic facts upon which any consideration of request for aid must rest. Chehab also very clearly comprehends that if we do furnish assistance it will be in modest proportions.
Chehab said last night he had come to conclusion Lebanon must have advice of foreign experts if it were to improve its government and services which people had a right to expect. He said he hoped he could count on Point Four technical assistance in this regard. I said my overall [Page 629] review of our efforts in this field had led me to a personal disappointment so far as effect on US-Lebanese relations had been concerned; however, if there were real needs and Lebanese Government felt US experts could help to meet these needs, I was sure my government would give sympathetic consideration to requests for help.
As result of my opening gambit with Karami, whenever I said I thought our aid program might very well be phased down and out we now find (as we had expected) a growing concern lest technical assistance be completely withdrawn.
I believe stage has now been set for a friendly and frank consideration across the board of the entire aid program, with initiative in American hands.
Karami telephoned this morning to request that expert scrutiny of budget commence tomorrow at 9 a.m.