90. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon1

4821. 1. While it is of course necessary for you to exercise large measure discretion in fast moving situation, last para Deptel 47792 related solely to problem of obtaining probable reaction of General Chehab and forces under him, in event government formally requested US military assistance.

2. We do not believe it wise for you to inform Chamoun that you will not transmit his request until assurances set forth Embtel 47953 received. We would not in fact contemplate that Chamoun would make public announcement that request had been made until certain preparations completed, notably coordination with other interested states including Jordan and Iraq, initiation appropriate action in Security Council, and indication our willingness to respond.

Question of content of Chamoun’s public statement when made, although extremely important, does not override in importance completion preparations mentioned above. As to substance of statement, your numbered para 5 does not take into account instructions contained Deptel 42714 and fourth para 47785 which set forth terms in which request should be couched. Must emphasize necessity adhering to wording specified, and if present letter from GOL does not do so, it would be necessary to obtain another before we could act.

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3. Regarding the possibility of your calling two destroyers into Beirut, the explanation suggested by you “need to protect American lives and property” would be primary stated mission of any US forces sent to Lebanon in response GOL request. Only stated purpose for which vessels can without further specific authority be called into Beirut would be for possible use in evacuating American citizens. If in your judgment presence of destroyers is needed and wise for psychological purposes or for actual evacuation, reason for their arrival in either case must be declared to be for possible evacuation of American nationals. Purpose would not be for protection American property nor would forces on these ships be landed without further authority except for strictly evacuation purposes in emergency. No statement could be made contrary to this principle.

4. We have [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] report plans for imminent coup to replace Chamoun with Chehab. What is your estimate of possibility Chamoun deep concern is based more on intelligence info re this possibility than upon possible insurgent attack?6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree and cleared by Dulles in draft. The substance of paragraph 4 was cleared with Admiral Burke. Repeated to London and USUN for Lodge.
  2. Document 75.
  3. Document 88.
  4. Document 31.
  5. The reference is in error; it should be to telegram 4790 to Beirut; Document 82.
  6. The Embassy responded, in telegram 4813 from Beirut, June 17, that it did not feel that Chamoun’s concern was based more on the possibility of a coup than on the likelihood of an insurgent attack. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758; included in the microfiche supplement)