50. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
4181. Deptel 44822 arrived after three Ambassadors saw Chamoun at Palace 10 p.m. yesterday. We felt in view of increased gravity of situation we could not delay expressing to President our concern along line identical with those sent out Department’s 4482. Chamoun took this tripartite reception harshly. He commenced by saying three Ambassadors seemed more unquiet than himself and made a pointed reference to character of guerrilla warfare as exemplified in Algeria and Cyprus. At several points in a very lengthy interview he asked if we were trying to “turn the knife in the wound”. Re his stand on re-election he stated flatly this was completely out of the picture but when asked why he could not indicate that fact more openly to Lebanese, he said “if I did so my Christian supporters would cease their resistance”. This statement we interpreted as the final[Page 75]
rationalization of a hard-pressed, stubborn and desperate man who will not admit to himself that one of the root causes of his difficulty has been his refusal to clarify issue of re-election.
When Ambassadors deplored fact leaders of rebellion in Lebanon continue to go scot-free and even hold international press conferences, Chamoun said “something” must be done; but it was very clear “something” could not be done without more wholehearted concurrence of army and its leader General Chehab.
President said he had confronted General that evening with a demand for a detailed plan of campaign to put an end to insurrection. He is to meet at 9 a.m. today with Chehab to examine this plan of action.3 Although President repeatedly said that under constitution he was Commander in Chief, it was clear real authority armed forces rests with General.
President gave no indication of any readiness to find political formula or to change government. He interpreted resignation of two Shiite Ministers as due to personal cowardice rather than from pressure from Moslem community. This explanation we took with grain of salt.
We expect to see Chamoun again this morning after his climactic interview with General Chehab. After that I imagine I shall have to resume my almost daily pilgrimage to Junieh to find out where General stands. On balance, although last night’s interview was unpleasant for all concerned it did achieve purpose Department 4482.4
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–2458. Top Secret; Priority. Repeated to London and Paris.↩
- The three Ambassadors found Chamoun in a more relaxed mood following his meeting with Chehab the next morning. Chamoun apologized for the atmosphere of the previous night’s meeting and indicated that Chehab seemed resolved to pursue a campaign against the insurgents aggressively. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–2458)↩
- In telegram 4225 from Beirut, May 26, McClintock reported that he had met with Chamoun on the previous night and made certain that there was no misapprehension in his mind as to circumstances under which U.S. forces might be deployed in Lebanon in case of extreme necessity. Chamoun replied that with the improved military situation he thought the possibility of calling on outside intervention was remote. (Ibid., 783A.00/5–2658; included in the microfiche supplement)↩