372. Memorandum of a Conversation, New York, September 18, 1959, 2 p.m.1

PARTICIPANTS

  • US
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Wilcox
    • Mr. Armour
  • Lebanon
    • Prime Minister Rachid Karami
    • Ambassador Joseph Abou Khater

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Aid Programs for Lebanon

Prime Minister Karami and Ambassador Abou Khater called on the Secretary at their request for a preliminary exchange of views prior to their visit to Washington.2

Karami was primarily concerned with the drop in U.S. economic aid following the change in government in Lebanon.3 He said the people of the Middle East believe in the same principles as the Western world. They could never espouse Communism because this is totally contrary to their religious beliefs. However he claimed the U.S. economic policy in this area was geared to maintaining friendly governments in power and once this was achieved the U.S. stopped economic aid.

Because of this fact and because the U.S. was still linked to the U.K. in the minds of the people in the Middle East, most of the national revolts which had taken place in the Middle East had necessarily [Page 640]been forced to join with Communist elements to achieve success, although they would have preferred to achieve their goals without their help and with the tacit support of the U.S. The Baghdad Pact and the Eisenhower Doctrine had been premature and a further element in forcing nationalists in such countries as Iraq and the UAR from adopting tactics they would not necessarily have preferred to adopt.

Karami agreed with the Secretary’s answer that very often the Communists take advantage of proper nationalist aspirations for their own ends and we ourselves had been deluded by what had originally appeared as an agrarian revolt in China but which had proved to be a ruthless Communist coup. However Karami said that public opinion in the area was still convinced that U.S. military and economic aid was geared to U.S. political interests in the Middle East. He did admit that since Suez there had been a slight change in their attitude and we were not quite as linked with the U.K. as we had been in the past.

The Secretary concluded by saying that the U.S. only attached certain conditions to military aid but never to economic aid and that economic aid had consistently been used for the benefit of improving economic conditions in these countries and not for political purposes. While it was true that economic aid to Lebanon had diminished, this was due to certain conditions beyond our control and based on limitations imposed by existing aid legislation. We had confidence in the present Lebanese Government and we have never used, nor do we intend to use, economic aid for political purposes.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1476. Confidential. Drafted by N. Armour. The source text indicates that the conversation took place in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
  2. Karame came to New York as head of the Lebanese Delegation and served as President Pro Tern of the General Assembly in place of Charles Malik at the opening session on September 16. He visited Washington at his request September 21–22 to meet with President Eisenhower.
  3. Karame became Prime Minister and head of a four-man cabinet serving under President Chehab on October 15, 1958.