88. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1

4795. Conclusion last paragraph my telegram 47742 today was too optimistic.

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Chamoun [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] at 2115 tonight and handed him handwritten Arabic text of letter addressed to President signed by each member of Cabinet authorizing Chamoun to call for friendly military intervention. At this hour (2330) it is not possible to translate Cabinet authorization but will forward as soon as possible.3 Evidence of Chamoun’s present feeling of desperation is fact he entrusted this unique copy to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] event Chamoun would not last the night.

In definite Gotterdammerung mood, President handed [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] his wife’s jewels and discussed plans for safety their grandson. Chamoun said he had intelligence indicating there might be a final attack on Palace tonight, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

Chamoun went over problem of General in terms similar to those reported Embtel 4774 and revealed characteristic incapacity to bring himself to sticking point of firing Chehab forthwith. President retraced argument he had advanced with me (Embtel 4756)4 over danger period of complete collapse of security forces following General’s dismissal and indicated he would prefer assurances of intervention before reaching this point.

Using discretion given me by Secretary in Deptel 4779,5 I intend, if Chamoun or government request our military intervention, to say that I will not transmit that request unless I have assurances that Chamoun and government will publicly state to Lebanese people that:

Independence of Lebanon is paramount.
This independence is threatened by exterior aggression and by internal insurrection.
UN is counted upon to deal with external aggression; it is incumbent on Lebanese people to settle their own domestic difficulties.
In consequence President and government call upon all Lebanese to unite; reaffirm decision of government not to amend constitution and, as far as Chamoun is concerned, clearly state question of his succession to office has not been and will not in future be a matter for debate. Chamoun will explicitly renounce any intent to succeed himself but will explicitly proclaim his constitutional right to guide the destiny of Lebanon until end of his constitutional term.
Because of continued external aggression and internal insurrection President and government of Lebanon in order to maintain independence and integrity of the republic have called upon the US and UK Governments for temporary aid in maintaining that integrity and independence.

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Events are, however, moving very fast. If President is physically threatened and by telephone requests execution of Cabinet’s appeal for outside intervention I recommend token appearance of our two destroyers and am prepared to summon them by voice radio if Department concurs. Their appearance off Beirut might be decisive and could easily be explained as being necessitated by need to protect American lives and property.

I have also given thought to personal welfare of Chamoun and have suggested [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] it would be politically much better for him to seek safety in some hideout in Lebanon than to flee country.

My own personal feeling is that President and Council of Ministers are in a state of flap so far as he is concerned and funk so far as they are concerned.

I continue to believe extreme measure of our intervention may be averted but, in Lebanon, anything can happen6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret; Niact; Limited Distribution. Repeated to London. Received at 8:01 p.m., June 16.
  2. Document 86.
  3. A copy of the handwritten original of this letter, with a covering translation, is in Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Beirut Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, June 16, 1958–June 20, 1958.
  4. Document 85.
  5. Document 75.
  6. Dulles was informed of this telegram by Rountree at 1 a.m., June 17. Dulles called Eisenhower at 8:30 a.m. and repeated the information, indicating that he might have to call the President out of a morning meeting to make some decisions. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations; included in the microfiche supplement)