15. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0
- Actions Required to Accomplish Certain Political Objectives in the Near East
There are listed below four undertakings which we believe are necessary to help us accomplish certain of our objectives in the Middle East. In each case the undertaking involves coordination with ICA or Defense or both. We have experienced considerable difficulty in securing favorable or expeditious action from Defense or ICA in three of these cases and anticipate further difficulties in all four in the absence of high-level directives emphasizing the urgency involved in each case. We consider that your personal intervention is necessary if we are to proceed with the speed called for in order to meet the various political exigencies involved. The four undertakings are the following:
1) The Grant of Modern Jet Aircraft to the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
The governments of the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq have separately asked for a limited quantity of modern jet aircraft on a grant basis for their air forces. These requests are stimulated by the delivery to Syria over the past year of a substantial number of Soviet jet aircraft, and the states concerned also wish to demonstrate publicly that states cooperating with the United States and the West will be assisted by the United States in achieving legitimate defensive positions. We have informed the Lebanese and Jordanians that we are prepared to supply an unspecified number of jet aircraft on a grant basis. We have told the Iraqis that we are giving urgent and sympathetic consideration to their request. On January 17 Mr. Herter approved a recommendation, in which Defense had concurred, that we supply 6 British Hawker Hunter Mark VI jet fighters to Lebanon and 12 to Jordan. We subsequently informed the British of this decision. In view of the formation of the Arab Union, the question of jets for Jordan has now become involved with Iraqi air force requirements. Defense has indicated that it would prefer to supply U.S. F–86 jets to Iraq and Jordan and possibly the Lebanon. Their stated reasons are that the F–86’s are in surplus supply and are considerably cheaper, and that there are domestic political objections to offshore procurement of British aircraft. While we understand the reasons which [Page 56] bring Defense to this position, we believe it necessary that we adhere to our original decision to supply British aircraft to Jordan and the Lebanon, and that we decide to provide a squadron of the same planes to Iraq, for the following reasons.
- We wish to maintain the British in their present position as primary suppliers of military aircraft to the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, particularly the latter. Not only would the British strongly resent any action which would displace them from their present position in the aircraft field in Iraq, with the attendant political implications, but also we do not wish to undertake the responsibility for further supply and training in these countries involved in the Palestine dispute. You will recall that at Bermuda the President told Prime Minister Macmillan that we desired to see the British maintain their position in the Middle East as far as possible.
- Considerations arising from the Arab-Israel dispute make it most advisable that we not supply American fighter aircraft to Israel’s neighbors, particularly in the light of our past refusal to supply them to Israel.
Differences of opinion over the type of aircraft to be supplied and other questions have already delayed the fulfillment of our commitments to supply these aircraft and we foresee further delay, with unfortunate political consequences, in the absence of an immediate decision to proceed with the supply of these aircraft. We hope you will agree to inform Defense that we attach the utmost urgency to this matter, that we believe that the decision to supply aircraft is one which can no longer be put off, whatever the arguments to the contrary may be, and that the planes should be British.
That you direct that Defense be advised that political circumstances are such that we can no longer delay the decision to supply aircraft to the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, that we have determined that the aircraft to be supplied should be British aircraft, and that we request Defense to take the necessary steps to implement this decision.
2) Economic Assistance to the Lebanon.
For the past several months, Foreign Minister Malik of the Lebanon has pressed us for grant economic aid out of Fiscal 1958 funds. We have been discouraging in our responses, pointing out that some funds already granted the Lebanon remain to be allocated and that in any event it would be necessary for the Lebanon to submit detailed projects for our consideration. We have also urged that the Lebanese consider financing portions of their economic development through U.S. loan rather than [Page 57] grant funds. Despite this, on April 9, Dr. Malik submitted a formal note to the Embassy in Beirut requesting $15 million grant economic aid to the Lebanon out of Fiscal Year 1958 funds. He has sent a strong instruction to the Lebanese Ambassador here urging him to pursue this request by all possible means. Mr. Dimechkie saw me yesterday and pleaded at considerable length for an affirmative answer to Dr. Malik’s request. The Ambassador admits that there are funds yet to be allocated in the Lebanon and that detailed projects have not been submitted. He stresses in some detail, however, the need for the present pro-Western regime in the Lebanon to receive a further indication of U.S. support in the form of grant aid if it is to remain in power and triumph over the efforts of disruptive pro-Nasser elements. The Lebanese have never been very interested in loan assistance from the U.S. since loan agreements require parliamentary ratification which they believe would be impossible to achieve. We believe, on balance, that the political stakes in the Lebanon are of such importance as to warrant our making a further gesture at this time. The pro-Western elements headed by President Chamoun are under very heavy pressure and we think that we should do everything within our power to demonstrate to the Lebanese the advantages of close relations with the West. We feel very strongly that our interests in the area require us to make every effort to make $10 million in grant economic assistance from FY 1958 funds available to the Lebanon as quickly as possible.
We recognize that uncommitted funds for the remainder of this year are extremely limited and understand that, after taking account of the Tunisian requirement, there is but little over $7 million in unprogrammed funds available under MSP 1958. We feel, however, that this need in the Lebanon is so imperative that it warrants re-examination of existing firm programs, both military and economic, to ascertain whether sufficient reduction in these requirements can be made to fulfill this need.
That you approve in principle the concept of providing $10 million in economic assistance to the Lebanon from this year’s MSP funds and that you direct that there be a re-examination of existing firm programs, both military and economic, to determine the sources for such funds.
3) FY 1958 Development Project Aid to Jordan.
The United States committed in late November 1957 $10 million of FY 1958 SEA funds to Jordan for economic development activity. During the intervening five months ICA, in conjunction with the Jordan Government, has drawn up projects amounting to $8 million. However, ICA will not obligate this amount until a program approval and project agreements are completed, i.e., implementation awaits completion of [Page 58] administrative details. Because of a drought which has deepened the generally depressed economic situation in Jordan, the Jordan Government is most anxious to get this development aid from the talk to the construction stage, and we entirely agree. In addition, we think the situation calls for considerably more effort to obligate the remaining $2 million to worthwhile projects prior to June 30.
Of the $8 million above, $2.5 million has been set aside for the East Ghor (Yarmouk River) irrigation project. The Department and ICA informed the Jordan Government on February 26, 1958 that the United States would assist in financing the construction of this project. Progress on the project is now being held up by a number of technical problems and considerations which ICA indicates must be settled prior to conclusion of a project agreement, as well as by ICA consideration of Israeli objections to the project. In view of the United States political commitment and the expectations of Jordan, the Department considers that technical considerations should not be allowed to hold up early obligation of funds to the East Ghor project. We believe it will be possible to work out matters with the Israelis as we proceed.
That Mr. Smith of ICA be informed of your desire that obligation of the $10 million for development projects in Jordan, including the East Ghor, be given the highest priority. Regarding the East Ghor, Mr. Smith should be informed that technical considerations should not be allowed to hold up early obligation of funds.
4) Support for the Arab Union.
In May the Governments of Iraq and Jordan are scheduled to announce the establishment of the Arab Union. The economy of Jordan is not viable and the pro-Western government of that country has been maintained during the past year by external assistance (budgetary and military) amounting to $49 million, of which the United States contributed $35 million. The Government of Iraq, while desirous of union with Jordan, is not willing or able to carry the entire burden of Jordan’s deficit. The cutting of the IPC pipelines by Syria in 1956 resulted in a significant drain on Iraq’s financial reserves. The Iraqi Ministry of Finance, operating virtually without reserves for the first time in some years, anticipated prior to consideration of the Arab Union that the Iraq budget for the current year (beginning April 1, 1958) would run a deficit of about $10 million. Development Board reserves, which by law cannot be diverted to budget purposes, are already considered too low by Iraqi officials. Thus, the reluctance of Iraqi officials to assume the entire additional burden of the Arab Union is likely to result in our being confronted with urgent pleas in the weeks ahead for financial support over and above the $15 million of Fiscal Year 1958 funds presently committed [Page 59] for budgetary support to Jordan. Prior to the February 14 Iraq-Jordan agreement on union, both parties were assured by the United States that we would give sympathetic consideration to the Union’s needs, and in view of the current situation in the Middle East we believe it is important that the Union not founder as soon as it is promulgated. In order that we might possess, prior to the availability of Fiscal 1959 MSP funds, a capability for providing tangible evidence of support in meeting, at least partially, reasonable requests for support, a minimum of $10 million should be earmarked for the Arab Union from any remaining Fiscal 1958 MSP funds.
That you approve in principle the concept of providing $10 million in economic assistance to the Arab Union from this year’s MSP funds and that you direct that there be a re-examination of existing programs, both military and economic, to determine the sources for such funds.