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

4938. For Secretary from Ambassador.

I saw Chamoun at 11:30 this morning and made representation contained Deptel 4890.2 President understood every word of your message but said because of its vital importance he would be grateful for a paraphrase. In view of requirement for oral presentation set out first paragraph reference telegram, request immediate permission convey paraphrase to President.3

Chamoun made following comments:

He could most earnestly assure the Secretary that he would not request US intervention “unless the knife is at my throat.” Under these circumstances he thought our intervention would seem quite logical and responsive to a truly emergency need.
Chamoun said wryly he was in paradoxical position of being the Arab leader who resisted allied intervention at same time other Arab leaders were pressing him to call for intervention. He said he had received urgent advice from governments of Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Iran to request allied military assistance immediately in Lebanon.
President said he must express a dissent to conclusion in last sentence fifth paragraph reference telegram that allied military intervention would be viewed with repugnance even by many Lebanese Christians. President said he thought 99 percent of Christians in this country would welcome such intervention. He said there were certain Christian elements, such as Henri Pharaon, who might make verbal protests but at same time would be secretly delighted that their wealth would be protected by foreign troops. As for Moslems, although here Chamoun hesitated, he said perhaps 25 percent (largely the commercial and land-owning classes) would welcome intervention.

Re final paragraph reference telegram I asked President what “other means” he might use to safeguard Lebanese independence and integrity with assurance of our full backing. He replied he did not at moment see any possibility of a move in political field because direction of the revolution had now passed out of hands of local leaders and was in hands of Nasser in Cairo. (See Embtel 49374 for my suggestions to Chamoun re possible agenda for a Hammarskjold–Nasser interview.) He was convinced Nasser intends to go all out to defeat him with Jordan next on the list. To my inquiry as to possibility of Lebanese themselves being able to negotiate a cease-fire and some sort of political armistice, Chamoun merely shook his head.

Re military means of safeguarding Lebanese independence and integrity, Chamoun said he needed some sort of military victory. Once more he had demanded of General Chehab preparation of an operational plan for an attack on the Chouf. He had insisted this plan be ready by 9:15 tomorrow morning. With the company and a half which Lebanese Army has in the Chouf plus artillery, heavy mortars and air striking power he was convinced a victory could be won over Jumblat Druzes. If he has some sort of victory, President was then willing to consider what steps he might take along lines of those urged by Middleton as reported Embtel 4862.5 British Ambassador tells me [Page 162] Chamoun passed similar word to him through his oriental counselor this morning.

As a third measure which might be taken within framework of last paragraph reference telegram, Chamoun said he thought presence here as soon as possible of our six Hawker Hunters would have a valuable psychological effect. I said British RAF training mission had expressed grave misgivings on this point since it would mean in order to utilize these aircraft taking out of active service Lebanon’s six best pilots at a time they were needed most. British also had misgivings on leaving highly expensive aircraft in Lebanon without pilots to fly them. Nevertheless I said I would pass on Chamoun’s request for expediting delivery of Hawker Hunters.6

On security situation generally I told President General Chehab last night had seemed more confident and in particular had described to me his dispositions for defense of Beirut. It seemed to me Chehab now had sufficient strength (element constituting almost a battalion) and had so disposed firepower that he could control any mob emerging from the Basta. I also thought Chehab’s provisions for defense of Palace were much improved. Chamoun said he had personally gone over defense plans and completely shared this view. He said however there was bitter fighting last night in Tripoli with heavy loss of life when army opened up with artillery against unremitting fire.

Conclusion: Chamoun was on upswing of his diurnal shift in mood. Long visit [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] made with him last night at my request had done much to calm his nerves and net effect of Secretary’s message was to buoy him up. However we must not be blind to fact he is still repeating endless operation of demanding from General Chehab another battle plan “within 24 hours” none of which has yet been executed; and he is making no attempt either to detach elements of opposition, to reach a cease-fire and political armistice, or to find that political formula which Lodge (USUN’s 1516)7 correctly points out is an essential element to a solution without great power intervention. (Regrettably on other hand diehard opposition also is not seeking a solution which would be acceptable to Chamoun’s or our interest.)
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–2058. Top Secret; Niact; Limited Distribution. Repeated to London and USUN. Received at 10:44 a.m.
  2. Supra.
  3. The Department responded, in telegram 4918 to Beirut, June 20, that if Chamoun repeated the request for a paraphrase, McClintock should respond that, in view of the delicate nature of the matters discussed, it would be preferable that the message remain oral. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–2058)
  4. After Hammarskjöld left Lebanon on June 20, he visited Amman, Jerusalem, and Cairo to discuss a possible solution to the Middle East crisis. In telegram 4937 from Beirut, June 20, McClintock reported that he had outlined to Chamoun the line which he felt Hammarskjöld should take in his discussions with Nasser in Cairo. He felt that Hammarskjöld ask Nasser for assurances that the UAR would comply with the Security Council resolution of June 11, and should indicate that he was setting up a set of indicators against which he would publicly measure compliance. (Ibid.)
  5. According to telegram 4862 from Beirut, June 18, Ambassador Middleton, on instructions from London, had urged Chamoun to make a nationwide radio broadcast calling on all citizens to lay down their arms within 24 hours, and offering a general amnesty to all who had not committed personal crimes. If, within 24 hours of this appeal, hostilities had not ceased, Middleton advised Chamoun to order General Chehab to deal with utmost severity with any dissident elements. If Chehab demurred or delayed, Middleton advised that he should be replaced by a more energetic commander. And if, after having recourse to these measures, the crisis still continued, Middleton concluded that it would then be possible to contemplate allied intervention as a last recourse. (Ibid., 783A.00/6–1858; included in the microfiche supplement)
  6. In telegram 4918 to Beirut, the Department responded that British suppliers had expressed some hope of delivering the new aircraft within 3–4 weeks. The Department added, however, that the misgivings of the RAF training mission seemed well-founded.
  7. See footnote 6, Document 96.