31. Memorandum of Discussion at the 373d Meeting of the National Security Council0
[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1.][Page 101]
2. The Situation in the Near East
Mr. Gray presented an oral report on the results of discussion by the NSC Planning Board of U.S. courses of action designed to prevent the United States from appearing to oppose Arab nationalism and to counter hostile radio broadcasts in the Near East. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.)1 Mr. Gray then called on the Secretary of State for an oral briefing on the situation in the Near East from the diplomatic and foreign policy standpoint.
Secretary Dulles said the situation in Lebanon seems to be as satisfactory as can reasonably be expected. Since U.S. forces entered the country, rebel activities and foreign promotion of such activities had substantially decreased. Relations between the Lebanese and the U.S. forces have been good, and no violent incidents have occurred. Mr. Robert Murphy was presently in Lebanon talking with President Chamoun, General Chehab, and rebel leaders, in an effort to bring about early elections to choose a successor to Chamoun. While the elections could be held at any time after today, Parliament would probably not be convened for at least another week. The Secretary thought that if a successor to Chamoun could be elected and if the United Nations effort could be stepped up, the situation would become better and in fact reasonably secure. In the UN Security Council a Japanese Resolution had been vetoed by the USSR, which had been the only member to oppose it. However, the Secretary General of the United Nations had said he would carry out the spirit of the Resolution under the general authority granted him by the Charter. Accordingly, the Secretary General was actively recruiting additional personnel for the United Nations in Lebanon in order to throw the mantle of the United Nations around Lebanon and make it a United Nations war. The United States was maintaining good working relations with the Secretary General.
Secretary Dulles thought the situation in Jordan was not quite as favorable as in Lebanon. The United Kingdom had requested that U.S. forces be introduced into Jordan to stand beside the British forces and [Page 102]take over much of the supply effort. Such a move would involve the question of over-flights of Israel, to which Israel was objecting. The Secretary had discussed this question yesterday with the Israeli Minister, and had an appointment with the Israeli Ambassador today. Meanwhile, efforts were being stepped up to improve communications facilities in Jordan. For example, it was hoped that a 50-mile stretch of road between Aqaba and Amman could be put in shape so that adequate supplies could be moved by sea and land. At present, adequate supply was dependent upon an airlift. Secretary Dulles added that this morning the internal situation in Jordan had improved. The King had indicated that there was no real need for U.S. forces in his country, but he continued to want U.S. forces in Jordan as a symbol of U.S. interest. Secretary Dulles said he did not wish, however, to leave the impression that Jordan was secure. The situation remained dangerous, with a large part of the army of doubtful loyalty and with large numbers of Palestinian refugees capable of mob action. Nevertheless, the immediate situation leading to Western intervention had been met; that is, a careful plot to take over the Government of Jordan along the lines of the Iraqi coup seemed to have been thwarted or postponed.
Secretary Dulles said that Iraq appeared to have returned to normal and public security was being maintained. The people appeared to be acquiescing in the revolt and the new regime. The rebels had apparently liquidated all possible leaders of a counter-revolutionary movement. The new Iraqi Government was maintaining a facade of friendship to the West, partly because it wanted to sell its oil at a time when adequate alternative sources of oil are available. In Secretary Dulles’ view, the real authority behind the Government of Iraq was being exercised by Nasser, and behind Nasser by the USSR. It was not yet clear whether this tutelage would result in overt anti-Western action. The British were deeply concerned over the situation in Iraq and were equally concerned over Kuwait, which has close ties with Iraq. If the oil fields of Iraq and Kuwait fell under hostile control and if the conditions for the sale of oil were altered (that is, if oil prices were increased), the financial impact on the United Kingdom might be catastrophic. Secretary Dulles explained that the United Kingdom obtains oil cheaply and uses it to bolster sterling, and that any material alteration of that situation would seriously affect the United Kingdom’s financial posture. The British were frantically seeking to effect arrangements which would insure their continued access to the oil of the area.
In Saudi Arabia the situation was obscure. King Saud was apparently trying to lie low in the hope that the lightning would not strike him. The King was falling into the habit of saying that he would like the United States to take action, but that he would have to condemn such action publicly if we took it. [2–½ lines of source text not declassified][Page 103]
The Sudan had openly supported the U.S. action in Lebanon. The result may be the assassination of some Sudanese Government officials. The Sudan is now anti-Egyptian, but [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] are being bought with money which comes from Egypt and perhaps from the USSR; and terrorism is being planned. In fact, assassination throughout the Middle East area is now being organized on a large scale as an instrument of policy.
Israel is deeply concerned over the situation in the Near East. The Israelis feel that the presence of U.S. forces in Lebanon and U.K. forces in Jordan gives them more protection for the time being, but they are fearful of future developments. If a coup occurred in Jordan, it is not clear what the Israelis would do. Secretary Dulles said that he had asked the Israelis this question and a definitive answer would be forthcoming shortly. The Israeli interim reply had stated that chaos in Jordan would invalidate the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan, and leave Israel free to take the action necessary to its own security. This was a highly dangerous situation which might result in the renewal of Arab-Israeli hostilities.
Turning to the Persian Gulf, Secretary Dulles said that the British were concerned over Kuwait, the brightest star in the U.K. oil galaxy. The United Kingdom was responsible, under rather loose arrangements, for the foreign policy and security of Kuwait. Perhaps Kuwait could be held by force in the event of trouble, but it was not clear what the workers in the oil fields would do. The United States was studying the situation in Kuwait, as well as the position at Bahrein and in the Persian Gulf, in collaboration with the United Kingdom. If the Persian Gulf oil area could be held for the West, the United Kingdom would have a strong bargaining position vis-à-vis Iraq; but if the Persian Gulf area falls, the U.K. position would be weak. Secretary Dulles recalled the situation in Iran under Mossadegh, who closed the oil refineries on the theory that Britain would have to yield, only to find that Britain could obtain oil from other sources and that Iran’s economy deteriorated to such an extent that Iran had to yield. If the West could keep two or three of the main petroleum sources open, it could maintain a strong position. Secretary Dulles said that recent intelligence indicated that some hotheads in Iraq wanted to blow up the pipelines, but that the leaders had vetoed this project.
Secretary Dulles then noted that he was going to Bonn to consult with Chancellor Adenauer, and then to London to attend the Baghdad Pact meeting. He said Turkey, Iran and Pakistan were quite concerned over the Near East situation, favored a strong policy in the area, and were afraid we might retreat from our present strong position. Iran was particularly vulnerable, as always. Soviet agents were active in Azerbaijan on the basis of alleged treaty rights. The Shah was afraid of assassination. [Page 104]The United States had recently undertaken measures to accelerate military and economic assistance to Iran. One matter which would come up at the London meeting was the question of U.S. adherence to the Baghdad Pact if Iraq drops out. Secretary Dulles asked if U.S. adherence to the Pact would be discussed at the Council meeting this morning. Mr. Gray said not unless the Secretary wished to bring it up. Secretary Dulles said that at Baghdad Pact meetings there was always pressure on the United States to adhere to the Pact. He had originated the concept of a northern tier of states joining together to defend themselves against Soviet aggression. The idea had been taken up by the British and spoiled by adding Iraq to the northern tier. The interests of Iraq were more closely identified with those of the Arabs of the south than with the northern tier. Iraqi membership in the Baghdad Pact was perhaps one of the reasons why the Government of Iraq was overthrown so easily. The United States had felt that Iraqi membership was unnatural and tended to involve the Pact in Arab-Israeli issues. Nuri Said had always insisted that the Pact must be anti-Israel as an offset to the unpopularity of the Pact in Iraq. Iraqi membership destroyed the simple original concept of the Pact. Now that Iraq might be eliminated as a member of the Pact, we may wish to consider whether the United States should not adhere after Congressional consultation. The Secretary added that he was not seeking a decision on this question urgently, but was merely pointing out that one of the old reasons for not joining the Pact (i.e., Iraqi membership) was no longer valid.
The Director of the U.S. Information Agency referred to Mr. Gray’s report of the Planning Board’s discussion on jamming of hostile radio broadcasts. He wished to point out that if Radio Cairo broadcasts were jammed, there might be additional tension and agitation among the West Bank refugees in Jordan. If these refugees were suddenly deprived of their accustomed Cairo broadcasts, then resentment against the government in Amman would be increased, possibly enough to tip the scales toward revolt. This consideration should be carefully weighed before any decision to jam Cairo broadcasts.
Mr. Allen said that from the public relations point of view, it would be a very bad thing for the United States to get involved in Jordan. The United States had a convincing story on Lebanon and we have some hope of coming out of the Lebanese situation with honor and dignity, but our position is not the best even in Lebanon. In Jordan, public support for the government is no greater—and possibly less—than Iraqi public support was for the deposed Iraqi regime; so that foreign intervention is difficult to justify before world opinion. If we support King Hussein, a monarch with no roots in the country and among the people, we will be in a very bad position. Jordan was an artificial creation resulting from World War I, with no history. Recently the Senate in the Sudan [Page 105]had unanimously condemned US-UK action in the Near East. Mr. Allen was afraid if we stay on this wicket, the USSR will beat us to death in public opinion. We must adjust to the tide of Arab nationalism, and must do so before the hotheads get control in every country. The oil companies should be able to roll with the punches, and will in fact be on a firmer foundation in Iraq in the future than under the old regime.
Mr. Allen thought it would be undesirable for the United States to adhere to the Baghdad Pact even if Iraq dropped out, because the Pact in Arab minds was an imperialistic instrument as long as the United Kingdom was a member. If the Pact were an indigenous instrument and the United Kingdom were not a member, then it could be supported by the United States; but at present the Arab peoples think the Pact is a cover for imperialism.
The President said a view similar to Mr. Allen’s had been called to his attention by various volunteer advisers. For example, a professor of Near Eastern history at Johns Hopkins had recently told him that Near Eastern opinion regards any Near Eastern country joining in a pact with the West as being under Western control.
Mr. Gray asked the Secretary of State if he wished to add anything further to his oral briefing.
Secretary Dulles said that while it was important to win as much support from public opinion as possible, the United States could not abandon its positions, its friends, and its principles merely because its actions happened to be unpopular. He recalled that Neville Chamberlain, on his return from Munich, had been very popular, but that in retrospect his policies had not seemed very wise. The Soviets were trying desperately to create the impression that our resistance to indirect aggression endangered the peace of the world. They argue that we must give up our opposition to indirect aggression in order not to jeopardize peace. This exact argument was used by Hitler in 1939. Secretary Dulles then said he wished to add a few words on Iran, which was “in the middle” without treaty ties. He did not want to let Iran go down the drain. He was not recommending a treaty alignment with Iran at the present time, but he thought that the idea that the United States could not join in pacts with indigenous countries was a very undesirable concept. To adopt the Soviet thesis that it is wrong for the United States to join in pacts with Near Eastern countries, would be a reversal of our policy.
Mr. Allen asked whether there was any possibility that Iran might join SEATO. Secretary Dulles said this would be extending Southeast Asia pretty far. He added that De Gaulle wanted to extend NATO to include Iran. Unfortunately, Iran lay between SEATO and NATO, and felt very vulnerable. The United States must be prepared to consider very sympathetically any proposals designed to reassure Iran as to its security.[Page 106]
The President said he agreed with the Secretary of State that we could not abandon policies just because they were unpopular. However, we must remember that we want to get indigenous peoples as well as governments on our side if possible. Otherwise our policies would stand on a foundation of sand, and the arms and economic assistance we send to these governments will eventually be used against us. For example, the arms used in the revolt in Iraq came from the West, but popular opinion accepted, if it did make easy, the overthrow of the government.
The Secretary of State said that the Iraqi Government fell because Iraq was in an unnatural association with Turkey and the United Kingdom in the Baghdad Pact. The British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 shook Iraq to its foundations. Iraq was in the Pact against its own better judgment.
The President repeated his statement that we must get the peoples of the Near East on our side or our arms will be used against us. If the people are alienated, we are in a very bad position.
The Secretary of Defense said there should be some preparation of public opinion for U.S. action, and some way of reaching the people.
The President said he felt that Congress was beginning to see that it had been shortsighted in reducing funds for U.S. information programs.
Secretary McElroy said that radio broadcasting was extremely important in the primitive countries of the Near East.
Secretary Dulles said it was difficult to get people on the side of the West if Western policies were intrinsically unpopular and if the people of the area heard only the Arab broadcasts. The question was, do we allow ourselves to be driven out of an area just because our position there is unpopular?
Mr. Allen Dulles [1 line of source text not declassified] differed with Mr. Allen on the desirability of jamming. Why should we allow Nasser to flood the area with bile and do nothing to stop him?
The Vice President said there was sometimes a tendency to equate the voice of the mob with the voice of the majority. The two voices were not always the same. Perhaps they were the same in Iraq, but they were probably not the same in the Sudan. Mossadegh had mobs on his side in Iran for a time, but the people applauded when he was thrown out. The Vice President predicted that during the next few weeks there would be a great deal of mob violence not representing the majority of the people. We would, of course, have to take account of popular feeling in the area; but we could not allow a wave of mob emotionalism to sweep away all our positions in the Near East.[Page 107]
Mr. Gray then called on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for an oral briefing from the U.S. military viewpoint. General Twining said the situation in Lebanon was calm. Lebanese snipers had been firing at our planes near the airport, but there had been no casualties from enemy action. Cooperation between U.S. and Lebanese armed forces had been satisfactory. The Lebanese Army was reluctantly seeking to bring the rebel forces under control, but this operation was not proceeding as rapidly as was desirable. The rebels were still unmolested in the Basta, their stronghold in Beirut. The landing of U.S. forces in Lebanon had taken place in accordance with a contingency plan (code name: BLUEBACK) prepared in May. The original plan had provided that the Marines and the Army would establish lodgment in Beirut, and that U.K. forces would also enter Lebanon. However, a political decision had been made that the United Kingdom would not participate in the Lebanon landings and the plan had been adjusted accordingly. General Twining then caused two maps to be displayed, one showing the disposition of U.S. forces in Beirut and adjacent areas, and the other showing the disposition of U.S. forces in the Near East. General Twining said there were about 6000 Marines in Lebanon, about 1700 Army troops adjacent to the Beirut airport, and a contingent of Army support forces which would bring the Army total to 2500. In connection with the map showing the disposition of U.S. forces in the Near East, General Twining pointed out that a Marine landing team was en route to the area from Okinawa. U.S. airborne forces in Germany and in the United States had been alerted. The U.S. Navy had two attack-carrier striking groups in the Mediterranean. General Twining said that the logistic support for the operation in Lebanon had been provided by transport aircraft which had now returned to the United States. Tankers and refueling planes had remained in the area. The airlift capabilities of U.S. forces in Europe and MATS capabilities were being used. About 20 per cent of our SAC forces had been placed on 15-minute alert, and a large proportion of the remaining SAC forces had been put on a relatively short alert. Air defense command units had also been put on a short alert. U.S. jet planes recently made a low-level demonstration over Jordan which had apparently been effective. British forces in Jordan had been airlifted from Cyprus. The United States had assisted the operation in Jordan by airlifting oil.
Mr. Gray then asked Mr. Allen Dulles whether, from the intelligence viewpoint, he had anything to add to the Near East discussion. The Director of Central Intelligence said that in his opinion the Nasser type of Arab nationalism might not be a permanent part of the life of the Near East. Throughout history local forces in the Arab states had been very strong, and we should not be misled into thinking that recent violence would necessarily continue to determine events in the Near East over the next decade. In his view, the Arab world was going through the [Page 108]early bloody stages of the French Revolution. He did not think the Arabs from Morocco to Iraq would ever be likely to join together in one large state.
Turning to Iraq, Mr. Allen Dulles said there was no effective opposition to the present revolutionary regime. Nevertheless, he did not expect the present regime to be in office six months from now. He thought the present period in Iraq was comparable to the pre-Nasser, Naguib period in Egypt. Colonel Arif, Deputy Premier, was likely to emerge as the Nasser of Iraq. It was significant that he had signed the recent agreement between Iraq and Nasser. There were no known Communists in the heterogeneous group composing the Present Government of Iraq, but there were some leftists. Iraq was anxious to maintain good relations with the West and had not yet indicated a desire to leave the Baghdad Pact. Mr. Allen Dulles thought we might emphasize in our publicity the fact that the deposed rulers of Iraq had been more effective than any other Near East rulers in using oil revenues to develop the economy of the country.
Turning to the Persian Gulf, Mr. Allen Dulles noted that the ruler of Kuwait had met with Nasser in Damascus for two conversations. The result was not known. Kuwait, however, appeared inclined to join the United Arab Republic rather than confederate with Iraq. Egypt probably desired to get control of the oil of Kuwait, but Kuwait was not eager to share its oil revenues with any other countries.
Secretary Dulles noted that at the time the Arab Union was formed, efforts had been made to get Kuwait to join, but Kuwait had strongly resisted these overtures.
Mr. Allen Dulles said the situation in Yemen and Aden was likely to deteriorate. In Libya a plot against the life of King Idris appeared to have been thwarted [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. It might be difficult to hold the Sudan in line [3 lines of source text not declassified] King Saud is not permitting overflights over Saudi Arabia en route to Jordan because the forces in Jordan are British, and this added to the complicated British logistics in the Jordan operation.
In conclusion, Mr. Allen Dulles said that in some respects Nasser’s popularity was greater outside Egypt than it was within Egypt. Although Nasser’s control over Egypt is not yet threatened, there was great dissatisfaction among certain elements of the Egyptian population, particularly white-collar workers and merchants.[Page 109]
The National Security Council:2
- Noted and discussed the subject in the light of:
- An oral briefing by the Secretary of State from the diplomatic and foreign policy viewpoint.
- An oral briefing by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, from the U.S. military viewpoint.
- An oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence from the intelligence viewpoint.
- An oral report by the Chairman, NSC Planning Board, on the results of discussion by the Planning Board of possible U.S. courses of action designed to prevent the United States from appearing to oppose Arab nationalism, and to counter hostile radio broadcasts in the Near East.3
- Noted that the NSC Planning Board would prepare as a basis for discussion at the next Council meeting a list of relevant policy issues arising out of the present situation in the Near East, together with arguments for and against taking various possible courses of action.
[Here follows discussion of agenda items 3 and 4.]
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Boggs on July 25.↩
- In this attached July 23 memorandum, Gray informed the NSC of the Planning Board’s activities of the past week during which the Board examined two issues related to the Near East. The first was the question of jamming hostile radio broadcasts. The Board concluded that it would be technically feasible to jam hostile broadcasts at the point of reception in selected areas in the Near East, such as Amman, Beirut, and Tripoli. The operation would take 3 to 6 months and cost $500,000. [text not declassified] The second issue the Board discussed was how to prevent the United States from appearing to oppose Arab nationalism. The Board concluded that policies and actions, not propaganda, was the answer. The Board was ready to prepare for NSC consideration a paper listing relevant policy issues, together with arguments for and against taking those courses of action. (Ibid.) The Planning Board paper is printed as Document 35.↩
- Paragraphs a and b constitute NSC Action No. 1951, approved by the President on July 28. (Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)↩
On July 28, Gray met with Eisenhower and discussed the issue of radio jamming in the Middle East. According to Gray’s July 28 memorandum of conversation:
“We then discussed the matter of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] jamming of hostile radio facilities in the Near East. I indicated to him that whereas I would not want to specifically put it in the Record of Action, I wanted him to understand that there perhaps were things that could be done, and unless he objected they would be considered and handled in appropriate channels. He indicated that he did not know enough about the subject to have a view and my assumption was a satisfactory one.” (Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Project Clean Up, Meetings with the President)↩