71. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1

4689. My British colleague has kindly shown me extensive background telegraphic correspondence between London and Washington which has provided helpful perspective not only for instructions set out Deptel 47102 but also so to thinking of Selwyn Lloyd on what we should do next. I am impressed by Foreign Secretary’s hope that “the Americans” can be brought to agree that we ought now very firmly to know where we stand vis-à-vis Chamoun, his personal ambitions and his attitude toward the presidential succession which has been a basic cause of the civil war in Lebanon.

Although perhaps too early to take all the auspices following passage of SC resolution, it is fairly clear opposition ranks have been severely shaken. Conversely Chamoun’s own confidence will have increased by gaining of what he called in telegram to Malik a “victory” at the UN. Malik for his part will interpret Chamoun’s new position as having almost unqualified support from world community. This will harden Chamoun’s resolve preferably to succeed himself or failing that to handpick his successor. My telegram 46383 is pertinent in this regard.

It is in my judgment impossible for Chamoun to succeed himself. It is not however impossible for him to try, and this I fear may happen following passage of SC resolution and prospect that struggle in Lebanon, with opposition increasingly deprived of support from UAR but with government free to call on western powers for aid can be intensified to point of victory by Chamoun.

Even if President conceivably could beat opposition in battle (a dubious proposition with Army under General Chehab) he can hope at most to become President of half the country. At same time he should not be required to contemplate a presidential successor so identified with opposition that it would seem fruits of rebellion were reward of presidency. A compromise candidate is indicated.

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The three western Ambassadors are being importuned by moderate elements to help negotiate a solution between intransigeance of Saeb Salaam on one side as illustrated by his defiant communiqué set out by Embtel 46644 and intransigeance of Chamoun who, as indicated Embtel 4638, told me he would insist on a successor who would carry out Chamoun policies.

Although I have noted from Department’s 4622 its view that now is not the time to express an opinion on who may next be president of Lebanon,5 I submit that if Lebanon cannot be aided immediately to reach a compromise on presidential succession this civil war will continue and its threat of international involvement will increase.

Accordingly I thoroughly endorse British suggestion that we have a frank talk with President and ascertain straight out where he stands on issue of presidential succession. I think we should be authorized to express honest doubts that after a month of civil war in a country so delicately balanced as Lebanon he can expect to return to office for another 6 years or that he can hope to rule through a stooge.

My British colleague agrees. Because of privileged nature UK–US consultation in Washington we have refrained from consulting our French colleague but have every reason to believe he would go along with this recommendation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1358. Top Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London and Cairo.
  2. Document 67.
  3. In telegram 4638 from Beirut, June 12, McClintock reported on a conversation with Chamoun in which Chamoun had indicated that he considered it essential that his successor be someone who would carry on his pro-Western foreign policy. Chamoun added that only if such a person could not be found would he consider succeeding himself. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.11/6–1258)
  4. On June 12, the opposition “National Lebanese Front” issued a statement, signed by Saeb Salaam, which condemned the resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council establishing an observation team for Lebanon as irrelevant and likely to aggravate the situation. (Telegram 4664 from Beirut, June 12; ibid., 783A.00/6–1258)
  5. Dated June 4. (Ibid., 783A.00/6–358; included in the microfiche supplement)