26. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0


  • The Vice President, Secretary Dulles, Mr. Herter, Mr. Rountree, Mr. Reinhardt, Mr. George Allen, Mr. Allen Dulles, Secretary McElroy, General Twining, Mr. Irwin, Mr. Hagerty, General Goodpaster
[Page 82]

Secretary Dulles began the review of points needing consideration or discussion. We have thought the Japanese resolution1 in the United Nations could be the basis for our next steps regarding the Middle East situation. If the Soviets veto it, we would still go ahead under action the Secretary General will suggest. He proposed to the President a statement for public release2 to the effect that we wish, despite Khrushchev’s message,3 to continue with efforts in the United Nations. The President approved the statement with minor editing after considering and dropping as not feasible for inclusion a reference to our desire to remove our forces from Lebanon.

The President said he felt we have not yet seen an avenue out of our over-all problem in the Middle East in light of the Arab sympathies toward Nasser—which are probably greater than we thought existed. Mr. Allen Dulles said that we have an immediate demand upon us to reassure governmental leaders—the mob scene in Baghdad has scared them very badly. The President thought there were many thoughtful comments and observations in Nehru’s message to him4—even though it reflected an erroneous assumption that there had been no mass infiltration into Lebanon. He had also seen an estimate that 90% of the Christians, but only 20% of the Moslems in Lebanon wished to remain independent. He stressed his view that we should have moved quickly on the Vice President’s proposal to establish radios in Libya and Sudan, but these proposals were obstructed through denial of funds by the Congress for USIA. The President asked why we could not get the Cyprus radio operating at once. Mr. Allen Dulles said these are small stations, but Mr. Allen thought that the British were referring to a 50 kw. station which they could make available to us.

Mr. Allen then said that even if we gave the Ethiopians and Libyans radios tomorrow, this action would not make too much difference in their situations, since they would use them for their own purposes. He recalled that the Turks and Iranians had declined radios to use against the USSR. The President commented sharply that we seem to be losing the area now, and could not do worse by giving them radios. He also recalled that they asked for these stations. Mr. Allen next went on to suggest that we should try to live with the new government in Iraq. The President said he has of course considered this, but pointed out that the new government has already concluded a treaty with Nasser. Mr. Allen[Page 83]commented that the Arabs had always distrusted Nuri Said in Iraq. He was not proposing to make a sudden shift, since this would not be dignified, but gradually to approach them. Secretary Dulles said we had not reached any policy decision against recognizing the new government. The President said that he had noted that the new government had said it would like to be friendly with the West, but he and others took this comment with reservation. Mr. Allen Dulles said it is not only nationalism that is involved in the Middle East—with which we could reach an accommodation—but also pan-Arabism, which takes the form of anti-Westernism and opposition to Israel. It is this destructive effort that the Soviets support. The President commented that we always come back to Israel as the basic problem.

Secretary Dulles next reviewed certain decisions reached with Lloyd and approved by the President.5 The first was an agreement not to back a military effort to retake Iraq. The second was an agreement as to the importance of retaining positions along the Persian Gulf—Kuwait, Abadan, Dhahran, Bahrein. The British are debating whether to move into Kuwait at once or wait until trouble has occurred. This question will be considered by the Cabinet at once, but Lloyd thought it was probably better not to move in, but to build up in Bahrein. Mr. Allen Dulles commented that if they do not move in at once they will probably lose Kuwait. Mr. McElroy suggested it would be better to have the forces on the ground. Secretary Dulles said the British are fearful that their oil installations would be destroyed. Mr. McElroy pointed out that this would be economic suicide for the Kuwaiti. He doubted that this would happen, and said that the security forces seemed to be loyal to the regime. Mr. Rountree recommended not going in, because of the opposition that would arise. The President agreed as to the difficulties that could be foreseen. Mr. Herter said the plan is to place an RCT at Bahrein, and wait until invited in. The President interjected a recollection that in 1946 the G–4 of the Army, together with the Navy, recommended building tankers for the transport of Middle East oil, rather than putting steel into pipelines which would be vulnerable to Arab blockage. Secretary Dulles asked if we had any forces at Dhahran and General Twining told him we had none, although a battalion landing team is coming from Okinawa. Secretary Dulles said that the British had told us we could put them ashore in Bahrein. Mr. Rountree said he hoped there would be no announcement on this matter, since our situation would be aggravated if it were known that Marines were on the way to the Persian Gulf. The President said he did not see how our situation could be very much aggravated beyond what it is now.

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Secretary Dulles said he had thought it agreed that force would be used to preserve access to Middle East oil; if this is not our stand we should tell the British at once. Mr. Allen said he thought our oil concessions should be adjusted to Arab nationalism, and that perhaps we should make an adjustment in Kuwait. He pointed out that Iran, Syria and Jordan have a community of interest in the income from oil. There is a natural cleavage between them and Egypt, which has only population, and seeks access to that income. The President said the question is whether we wish to assist the British to hold their oil positions by force. Mr. Allen seemed to feel we should make a deal with the new Arab groups. Mr. Allen confirmed that he suggested we learn to live with the new groups. The President thought it was clear we must win them to us, or adjust to them. Even if we put in large military forces we cannot see what to do beyond that point. He was sure that we would not wish to use military force as the medium for trying to settle this problem. Secretary Dulles reiterated that we have agreed to take a strong line on holding the Persian Gulf. If we are going to give it up we must tell the British at once. The terrain is such that the situation could be easily held there. The President said he understood the comment to be that we should not abandon the area. However, use of force will outrage the Arabs. Accordingly, the best chance may be to make a deal with Iraq and Kuwait. Secretary Dulles said this idea is very speculative. We must ask whether this action would end with Arab nationalism or whether the whole area would be taken over by Communism. Mr. McElroy said he had assumed we could be invited in to safeguard these oil positions as in Jordan. Secretary Dulles said that these are positions that are more readily held, being chiefly desert wastes. The British have been in this area from long ago, and soldiers can hold the positions. Mr. Rountree thought that if the British went into the area in open opposition, the crisis would be precipitated and could not be brought under control. Secretary Dulles said the British position is to go in if the area is attacked from outside or if invited in. Mr. Allen Dulles reported that the ruler of Kuwait is now in Damascus and may announce at any moment the accession of the area to Egypt. Secretary Dulles said he would take the problem over and study it further. He felt we must tell the British at once that we may be changing our agreement. The President asked whether the labor in the oil installations is not all native, and was told that essentially it is. He felt the facilities could not operate in case of a general strike. Mr. Dulles said he would study the matter further.

Mr. Dulles next turned to the situation in Sudan. The government has asked the British if they would send forces in if requested. Mr. Allen asked whether we could not instead give them assurance of the fullest support in the United Nations. Secretary Dulles said we can’t help Faisal, Abdul and Nuri very much in the United Nations. The Vice President [Page 85] spoke strongly on the favorable elements of the situation in Sudan. The majority there strongly supported the government in recent elections and indicated opposition to Nasser. The Sudanese distrust and dislike the Egyptians, and the government is well supported. Mr. Allen asked if we would intervene in support of a Latin American government threatened with rebellion. The Vice President said we must look at the facts of the matter. There is an attempt from the outside by Nasser to overthrow this government, which is an independent government, in no sense a puppet of the West. Secretary Dulles said that in Libya the British have put a small force ashore—the purpose being to give support to the King. Mr. Rountree commented that it was unfortunate that this action was announced since the British already had substantial troops there.

Secretary Dulles said we had agreed on a meeting of the Baghdad Pact in London at the close of the week. He would attend on the 27th and 28th. He and Mr. McElroy agreed that a military meeting, which has been proposed for a date earlier in the week, should be postponed to follow the political meeting since some of the Turks would try to inflate the military meeting into an agreement to go into Iraq. Mr. Allen Dulles said that earlier today he had met with the Turkish Defense Minister who is visiting the United States. The Defense Minister said he thought that any entry by the Turks into Iraq would be folly.

Secretary Dulles said the German Ambassador had been in to see him, and that Ambassador Bruce had called by telephone. The Secretary had told Grewe we were not at all pleased with the lukewarm support given to us at NATO. The Germans were concerned as to where we go beyond Lebanon, and the Secretary had told the Ambassador we are not going beyond there. He thought that an assurance to our friends will quiet them down. Secretary Dulles asked how large a force we have in Lebanon. General Twining said we will have 10,000 when the second battle group arrives—we have about 7,000 now. Mr. Dulles said he thought it was desirable not to send in any more. Mr. Allen Dulles said there are three million barrels of oil stored at Sidon. The Secretary thought perhaps we should move up to guard this oil (although this will have bad connotations). He said he had asked Murphy for his recommendation. The President recalled that Chamoun had suggested moving the Marines into additional areas.

General Twining said that Admiral Holloway has a plan for expansion. The consensus seemed to be against expanding the forces or the area of deployment in Lebanon.

Secretary Dulles next said that the British are getting into a dangerous situation in Jordan. They cannot leave without the situation collapsing, and are in trouble with the Israelis who are objecting to their overflights. Ben-Gurion has sent a very sharp letter on this. Mr. Herter[Page 86]said the Israeli objection is that the British have been overflying without clearance. General Twining commented that the situation in the area is almost impossible; there is nothing that anyone can rely upon. Mr. Rountree said that one reason Faisal denied us clearance for overflights is that there were press leaks that we were overflying Saudi Arabia. The President thought that the Nasser elements, having taken Iraq, would find Jordan a weakness. For the West to save Jordan may be largely a “beau geste.” Mr. Allen said that the big problem is that when we pull out of Lebanon the British will be in trouble in Jordan. Secretary Dulles said that, for this reason, the British are not anxious for a UN solution to the problem in Lebanon, and U.S. withdrawal from that area. Mr. McElroy said that the Israelis have given us overflight clearance for POL to Jordan, in the sense of not interfering with our flights, although reserving the right to object. Secretary Dulles said he thought the Israelis and British could also work this out, if the British will confine themselves to narrow corridors, fly high, and give advance notice.

The Vice President asked as to what our thoughts are with regard to recognition to Iraq. Secretary Dulles said we must think of the impact on the Turks, the Pakistanis and the Iranians. They would greatly resent any quick recognition on our part. Also, recognition would amount to acceptance of the dissolution of the Arab Union.

The President said we must consider what our mode of action, or form of approach, should be on the Persian Gulf problem. We have talked about supporting the British, but this does not necessarily mean sending in a combat team.

Secretary Dulles said that Hammarskjold is saying that if others accept the Khrushchev proposal for a meeting, he would also go. The Vice President stated that if Hammarskjold agrees to do so, this action would finish the United Nations in terms of any ability to deal with cases involving the large powers. Secretary Dulles said that King Hussein has asked us to send troops into Iraq. Mr. Rountree reported that we have turned down this request. Mr. Dulles said we must remember that the King was very courageous, and saved the whole situation in the Middle East a year ago. The President commented that we do not have as good a case for going into Jordan as for going into Lebanon. Also, it is very questionable whether we should get into the position of supporting Kings against their people. Secretary Dulles thought we should stay out of Jordan, and Mr. McElroy agreed. He added, however, that we are committed to giving logistic support. The Vice President asked whether it would be proper for us to have any contact with the Iraqis at the present time and the Secretary told him that our Ambassador is still there and is in contact with them.

Secretary Dulles next handed to the President a first draft of a proposed reply to Khrushchev. After minor editing the President discussed [Page 87] at length with the group the implied acceptance in the message of having a meeting of Heads of Government under UN auspices. The Vice President suggested instead referring to a Summit Meeting, leaving the present situation to the United Nations. Secretary Dulles also commented that we must avoid anything that would indicate acceptance of the Soviet premise that the problem is one of U.S. aggression against Lebanon. There was general agreement that the notion of a hostile confrontation of the President and Khrushchev at a UN meeting would have no value, and great harm. Also, we do not wish to be jockeyed into the position of having to attack Nasser publicly in the United Nations. The Vice President suggested that Lodge should stress hard that Khrushchev’s proposal would weaken and in fact vitiate the United Nations. There was consensus that the draft should be reworked to indicate that the United States would welcome a resumption of the negotiations, halted by the Soviets, for a Summit Meeting—and that the Middle East, among other problems, could be considered there. With regard to the present problem, the United Nations should continue to deal with it as expeditiously and with as much support as possible.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Staff Memos, July 1958. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on July 21.
  2. For text of the draft resolution to the Security Council submitted by the Japanese representative, July 18, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1958, pp. 991–992.
  3. For text of the press release by Press Secretary Hagerty, July 20, see ibid., p. 994.
  4. For text, see ibid., pp. 993–994.
  5. Not printed. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 207, India/NehruEisenhower/Dulles/Herter, 1953–1961)
  6. See Documents 23 and 28.