78. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) and Foreign Minister Malik, Washington, June 15, 1958, 8 a.m.1
- Situation in Lebanon
The Lebanese Ambassador telephoned me at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning, June 15, to say that the Foreign Minister had been in telephonic communication with President Chamoun earlier that morning and wished to see me on a matter of great urgency. He had asked if I could come immediately to the Foreign Minister’s hotel room for breakfast.
Upon my arrival, Foreign Minister Malik said that President Chamoun had asked him to put a very serious question to the Department. While awaiting my arrival, he had written this out in long hand, as follows:
“At 4:30 a.m. today, Sunday, June 15, 1958, I got in touch by telephone with President Chamoun in Beirut. He asked me to put the following question to the United States Government:[Page 123]
“Realizing that the radio and press campaigns of the United Arab Republic are becoming more and more vicious inciting the insurgents in Lebanon to overthrow the Government by resolution and violence;
“that the illegal smuggling of arms into Lebanon from Syria is increasing, as is evidenced by the fact that only yesterday, to cite one instance only, 23 cars were seen coming into Deir-El-Ashayir (at the frontiers between Lebanon and Syria) from Syria under the protection of Syrian army jeeps, where they unloaded huge quantities of arms which were distributed among the insurgents in Lebanon;
“that the illegal infiltration of men from Syria to take part in the rebellion continues unabated if it has not recently increased;
“that this morning, Beirut time, the President received official reports that parachutists were seen dropped from Syria on Lebanese territory;
“that it is estimated that 500 Palestinians are taking part in the insurrection in Beirut alone, so that the Government is dealing with an internal foreign fifth column; and
“that the decision of the Security Council was in our favor and the speeches made in the Council showed that there was a general belief that interference by the United Arab Republic was taking place in the affairs of Lebanon;
“the President appreciates knowing if in the light of these facts the United States Government, which has repeatedly expressed its support of the independence of Lebanon and its readiness to help Lebanon preserve its independence, by military means if necessary and if asked to do so by Lebanon, will intervene at once militarily to help Lebanon maintain its independence, if the President and the Government of Lebanon should ask it to do so, in order to report the answer of the United States Government to this question to the Cabinet immediately this afternoon.
I told Dr. Malik that I could not, of course, give him a reply to the message which would be susceptible to communication by open telephone. I thought that our reply to the question should be transmitted by telegram through Ambassador McClintock who was in any event fully informed regarding our attitude in this matter. Dr. Malik asked if a “brief” response might be given at the time he informed President Chamoun by phone that the full reply would be given through Ambassador McClintock. I reminded Dr. Malik that we had set forth a number of considerations with respect to any decision to put forces into Lebanon and I did not see how these considerations could be recapitulated in a few innocuous words. I told Dr. Malik that our basic position had not been altered. I would be in immediate communication with the Secretary and would be in touch with him later in the morning.2
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree on June 16.↩
- Rountree saw Malik again at 11:30 a.m., after discussing Chamoun’s message with Dulles. He told Malik that a message was being dispatched to Ambassador McClintock instructing him to discuss the matter with President Chamoun. Rountree outlined the nature of the U.S. response with Malik, but when Malik asked if Rountree would authorize him to tell Chamoun to “Stand firmly, don’t yield,” Rountree replied that a cryptic comment of that sort was subject to various interpretations, and would not be advisable. (Memorandum of conversation, June 15; ibid.; included in the microfiche supplement)↩