86. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
4774. As indicated Embtel 4767,2 I left a letter3 with Chamoun this morning embodying substance Deptel 47904 making a fourth point embodying Department’s suggestions on convocation of SC. President read letter very carefully and said he agreed with all four points. I had hastened to see him this morning because of knowledge that Cabinet was meeting at noon and I feared a decision might have been taken to ask for intervention before Department’s views reached President.
Chamoun said he had summoned General this morning and had told him Colonels Salem and Adel Kadar Chehab must be dismissed. General complained Colonel Salem had worked with him for 15 years and despite his lack of resolution and timidity was an officer he was used to. General then tendered his resignation which Chamoun refused to accept. In typical Lebanese fashion interview ended indecisively, President apparently not insisting on dismissal of two officers by accepting Chehab’s statement he would “reflect” on Chamoun’s demand. I offered free advice that in a question of military discipline no time was to be lost and if Chamoun wanted these two officers ousted, he should move resolutely and at once. I suggested from my Latin American experience that the two officers be despatched on a military mission abroad.
At least, Chamoun has started to move in on General and without asking foreign intervention as a condition precedent. Chamoun found Chehab in a more constructive mood this morning. Although General expects further trouble in Beirut, he is removing one company from Tripoli and feels this reinforcement should enable security forces to deal with further outbreaks. Chamoun begged General to mount at least one successful offensive and once more indicated the Chouf as a field of operation.[Page 141]
I told Chamoun evidence reaching Embassy, and also British Ambassador, indicated opposition is by no means as strong or resolute as Chehab supposed. In fact we thought opposition was about on its last legs. If, as Chamoun hoped, Army could achieve some sort of victory, however small, it might be sufficient to break back of revolution. I said all three ambassadors strongly felt it would likewise help if Chamoun himself would speak to Lebanese people. Middleton, who had seen me earlier this morning, said he felt vehemently Chamoun should straight out tell nation that issue of presidency should be decided by Parliament on July 24th than that he, Chamoun, would not be a candidate. I offered this personal suggestion as coming from myself and added that Chamoun might at the same time make statement of amnesty which he contemplated as reported Embtel 4629.5 President nodded and said he thought both suggestions were good; but he did not indicate he would act on them. I made clear my own personal strong conviction that some sort of statement along these lines by Chamoun should precede any announcement of a Lebanese appeal for western intervention.
President said he had reflected on my suggestion (Embtel 4756)6 re calling special session of Parliament precedent to any request for intervention. Chamoun said he felt this would not be feasible “because too many speeches would be made against intervention” by members of Opposition. I had distinct impression he did not feel Parliament would sufficiently support concept foreign military intervention. Chamoun likewise laid great stress on advantage of secrecy and surprise.
Conclusion: Both Chehab and Chamoun this morning see situation less darkly than yesterday. I believe presentation of Department’s views in writing will have salutary effect on Cabinet consideration of appeal for our military intervention and that prospect of Lebanon making such an appeal in next few days had distinctly receded. When I remarked to Chamoun that the three western ambassadors all felt Lebanon might still win its own way unaided and that intervention must be only a desperate last resort, Chamoun said “why say all three of you? It is all four of us.”
Suggest Department pass London.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1658. Top Secret; Niact; Limited Distribution. Received at 10:19 a.m.↩
- In telegram 4767 from Beirut, June 16, McClintock reported that he had an appointment with Chamoun that morning to convey the substance of telegram 4790 to Beirut. He also noted that he had discussed the Department’s concern about the impact of French intervention in Lebanon with the French Ambassador, who had responded that under De Gaulle, it was practically certain that France would insist on at least token participation in any joint Western intervention. (Ibid.)↩
- A copy of this letter is in Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Beirut Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, June 16, 1958–June 20, 1958.↩
- Document 82.↩
- Document 69.↩