42. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Planning Board0


Reappraisal of U.S. Objectives

Broadly speaking, our objectives in the Near East have been:
Denial of the area to Communist domination.
Continued availability to the West of sufficient Near East oil to enable Western Europe to obtain its essential requirements for fuel.2
Continued availability to the West of existing strategic positions, including bases, communications, and transit rights, for commercial as well as military purposes.
An early resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict on a basis which will insure the continued independence of Israel.
Such economic and social development in the area as will help to achieve our immediate political goals while tending to promote long-term political stability and friendly relations with the West.
Developments and present-day realities indicate that certain of these objectives are unrealistic under present circumstances. The weakening of the Western position in the Near East necessitates a reappraisal of these objectives to determine (a) the extent to which they can be reconciled with the dominant treads in the area; and (b) if not all of our objectives are so reconcilable, which ones are of such overriding importance as to require all-out concentration at the expense of others.
The two basic trends in the area which have led to the weakening of the Western position have been the rise of radical pan-Arab nationalism3 and the intrusion of the USSR into the area. During the past three years, the West and the radical pan-Arab nationalist movement have become arrayed against each other. The West has supported conservative regimes opposed to radical nationalism, while the Soviets have established themselves as its friends and defenders. A notable exception was the U.S. action in November 1956 during the Suez crisis. The virtual collapse of conservative resistance, leaving the radical nationalist regimes almost without opposition in the area, has brought a grave challenge to Western interests in the Near East.
Nevertheless, the aims of radical Arab nationalism are not irreconcilable with certain essential American interests. The announced Arab objectives of maintaining independence of both great power blocs and of utilizing the profits from Arab oil for their own purposes are compatible with two key U.S. objectives—denial of the area to Soviet domination and maintenance of Western access to Near East oil. For example, since the NATO countries will depend increasingly on Near and Middle East oil for another decade or two, and represent the principal market for that oil, it should be possible to accommodate equitably European dependence on oil and Arab dependence on European markets.
However, certain other American objectives, such as the continued independence of Israel, are in conflict with at least the present goals [Page 147] of the Arab nationalist movement. Western insistence on retaining the present profitable oil arrangements as well as strategic positions in the area is probably also incompatible with Arab nationalism. Moreover, there is likely to be a continuing clash of interests because of the impact of Arab nationalism’s revolutionary influence in other areas of the Moslem world—the Sudan, Libya, Iran, North Africa, and other parts of Africa.
Viewed in this light, certain of our objectives may be incompatible with each other. For example, to the extent that the West insists on retaining present Western base and concessionary rights or the special British position in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, it will come into further conflict with Arab neutralism, and risk throwing the Arabs even more into the arms of the USSR. Conversely, to the extent that the West chose to forego or modify these interests, thus removing sources of Arab-Western friction, our objectives of denying the area to the Soviets and retaining access to its oil would tend to be served.
Vital and Secondary U.S. Objectives. Consequently, we must reappraise our objectives to determine which of them have overriding importance as policy goals. Clearly, from the standpoint of our global interests, denial of the area to Soviet domination stands out above all others. Communist domination of the area would constitute a major shift in the world balance of power, turn the southern flank of NATO, open the way to Africa for the USSR, and have seriously adverse repercussions on our prestige and position elsewhere in the world. Communist domination would also deny our NATO Allies assured access to Near East oil and would thus provide the Soviets with a lever to disrupt the NATO alliance. Our NATO Allies regard the continued availability of sufficient Near East oil to meet Western European requirements on reasonable terms as essential to their economic viability. If oil continued to be available from at least one of the major Near East producing countries (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran) Western Europe could, after a period of initial adjustment, achieve an approximate balance. In the light of this position, continued availability of Near East oil on reasonable terms might be considered a second overriding objective.4 Furthermore, the continued receipt of adequate revenues from Middle East oil operations is regarded by the UK as crucial to its financial stability.
Therefore, the above two objectives must be regarded as the bedrock minimum necessary to protect our interests in the Near East. Attainment of these bedrock objectives in the longer run will require stable governments in the area, neutral or friendly to the United States, [Page 148] having the support of their peoples in maintaining their independence. The other objectives stated in paragraph 1, particularly in so far as they make impossible or hinder achievement of these overriding objectives, must be considered as secondary.

Factors Bearing on U.S. Policy

If we accept denial of the area to Soviet domination and continued availability of its oil on reasonable terms as the bedrock goals of U.S. policy, the challenge to our position arises not from Arab nationalism per se, the aims of which are compatible with these two objectives, but from the way in which Arab nationalism may be manipulated to serve Soviet ends. Thus our problem is to devise courses of action through which we do not appear to oppose the dominant force in the area, and thus risk thrusting it further into the hands of the USSR.
A posture interpreted as one of opposition to the radical Arab regimes would in all likelihood force these regimes closer together against the West, and lead them to seek greater Soviet support. Under these circumstances, probably the only way in which the West could long hold its position against both the USSR and the radical nationalists would be through the increasing threat or use of force. Instead, if possible, we want to use the force of Arab nationalism as a weapon against Soviet domination of the area, and to maintain such relations with it as will assure access to Near East oil.
How far can we “deal with” Nasser? But in any alignment with Arab nationalism we are faced with the question of how far we can afford to deal with the man who symbolizes, exploits, and presently leads the movement—Nasser of Egypt. Though Nasser by no means controls the radical pan-Arab movement, at least outside of Egypt and Syria, for all practical purposes it is necessary to think of Nasser and the great mass of Arab nationalists as inseparable, at least for some time to come. Whether or not we regard Nasser as representing the best interests of Arab nationalism, he has become so clearly identified with its greatest successes that no rival is likely to challenge him unless he suffers a series of defeats. Thus if we wish to portray ourselves as friends of Arab nationalism, we cannot ignore the fact that in the eyes of the great mass of Arabs the test of our sincerity will be whether we get along with Nasser or oppose him. An attempt to establish friendly relations with Arab nationalism, while at the same time combating or even ignoring Nasser, would be unrealistic, certainly in the short run and probably even longer.
This does not mean that we must underwrite all of Nasser’s ambitions or that we cannot deal with other Arab leaders or even discreetly encourage them where we see signs of independent views. Nor does it mean that we must resign ourselves to the inevitability of Nasser’s undisputed [Page 149] and lasting hegemony over the whole of the Arab world. But it does mean that if we wish to utilize Arab nationalism, we cannot afford to be cast in the role of his intransigent opponent, leaving the Soviets as his friends.
Indeed, through “dealing with” Nasser and even supporting him in those spheres—e.g., economic development—where it is not contrary to our other interests, we may be able to exert important leverage on his policies. In certain other fields we could probably “agree to disagree” with him, without unduly adverse repercussions. In any case, it is unlikely that we could reach a broad across-the-board accommodation with Nasser without such extensive concessions as would be seriously inimical to our interests and anathema to our allies.
How strong is the drive toward Arab “unity”? This question is closely related to that of how far we should go in dealing with Nasser, since at present he has no strong rivals for leadership of the Arab world. Radical pan-Arab nationalism has emphasized loyalty to the Arab nation as a whole, rather than allegiance to one or another of the existing, often artificially created, Arab states. In the last few years, coincident with and in large part dependent upon the rise of Nasser as its symbol and leader, steps have been taken toward a degree of Arab unity which seemed highly unlikely a few years ago. This momentum is increasing and may well eventuate in some form of broader Arab federation within the next few years.
However, there are many divisive factors which will affect the cohesion of any federation which may be created, and which will militate against its ultimate success once the main goal of pan-Arabism—the elimination of foreign domination—has been achieved. The practical obstacles to political unity are recognized, even by many Arabs, but the Arabs seem to envisage unity primarily in ideological or psychological terms which will enable them, with other Afro-Asian states, to deal effectively with the rival world power blocs. Thus the divisive factors will for some time to come be overshadowed by the powerful emotional appeal of Arab unity. Hence, if we are to deal effectively with Arab nationalism, we can no longer support either the economic or political status quo in the Arab states. We must overcome the largely anti-Western focus which the unity movement has had to date (providing openings for the USSR), recognizing that overt opposition on our part will strengthen rather than weaken it.
At the same time, certain aspects of the unity movement, particularly as led by Nasser, are strongly inimical to our interests. This is especially the case in various areas around the fringe of the Arab world—e.g., the Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco—where Nasser’s revolutionary influence threatens pro-Western regimes, and in Algeria. We should therefore try to circumscribe and contain Nasser’s influence [Page 150] and to divert it into more constructive channels. This might be accomplished more effectively from a position of general acceptance of Arab nationalism than from one of opposition to it. We can also more effectively encourage constructive influences within the movement if we accept Arab nationalism.
Should we adjust our policy toward Israel? The general Arab conviction that U.S. policy is pro-Israeli is a major obstacle to any rapprochement between the United States and the Arab world. Therefore, to the extent that we seek this objective, we should take steps which are convincing to the Arabs that we are less pro-Israeli and more impartial in our policy. On the other hand, present U.S. objectives in the Near East include an early resolution of the Arab-Israeli dispute in a manner which assures the continued independence of Israel and the integrity of its agreed boundaries. This position should not be compromised. In this connection, we must reckon with the possibility that if Nasser were deprived of anti-Western foci for his policy, he might turn to revival of Arab-Israeli tensions as a lever for whipping up nationalist fervor in order to achieve his ends. Therefore, while we remain committed to Israel’s preservation, we must take whatever initiative is necessary to prevent the further deterioration of a situation which perpetuates Arab-Israeli hostilities. The continuing threat of Arab-Israeli hostilities and the possible consequences of such hostilities constitute a major obstacle to the success of any actions designed to achieve a satisfactory solution of problems in the area.
How far should we go toward accepting a Soviet role in the area ? If we pursue a policy of accepting Arab nationalism and dealing with it wherever not inimical to our basic objectives, the chief raison d’etre for Arab acceptance of Soviet support against us will tend to be removed. Moreover, Arab realization that the West is the logical market for the area’s one developed resource will assist toward this end. Nonetheless we must recognize that the pan-Arab movement as led by Nasser is basically neutralist, and will continue to seek protection through balancing off Soviet and Western influence in the Arab world. We must also recognize that, however distasteful to us, the USSR has established a position in the area. This is a consequence of the fact of Soviet power, the larger UN role in the Near East, from which the USSR cannot be excluded, and the desire of most Near Eastern Arabs to play off the USSR against the West. In these circumstances, there may be a balance of advantage to the United States in bringing the USSR to accept responsibility, in the context of the UN, for the maintenance of the territorial status quo in the Near East against forcible change.
[Page 151]

Broad Outlines of Policy

19. The preceding analysis suggests that the broad outlines of our Near East policy should be to accept the fact of radical Arab nationalism, while seeking to contain and influence the outward thrust of this movement, to encourage its resistance to Soviet penetration, and to lay the groundwork for circumscribing Nasser’s dominant influence. These policies must be concerted to the greatest extent possible with the United Kingdom and our Northern Tier allies, and their agreement and cooperation should, if possible, be obtained; but the United States should reserve the right to act alone. Although it may be necessary to modify some aspects in accordance with the strongly-held views of certain of our principal allies, the main ingredients of such a policy might be as follows.

20. Policies toward pan-Arab Nationalism.

Accept [and seek to work with radical]5 pan-Arab nationalism, of which Nasser is the present symbol, where consistent with our bedrock objectives.
Accept the fact that pan-Arab nationalism for some time to come will be essentially neutralist, that it is probably incompatible with the maintenance of an extensive Western base complex in the area and with special political positions in the area, and that it will insist on revision of the present petroleum arrangements.
Develop course of action which will demonstrate our support of social and economic progress as a means of strengthening and supporting pan-Arab nationalism and encouraging political stability, such as creation of an Arab economic development institution, the development of water resources, and broadened technical assistance and exchange programs particularly in the fields of health and education.

21. Policies toward Nasser,

Majority Defense–Treasury
a. Recognizing that Nasser’s present role as leader and symbol of pan-Arab nationalism is such that we cannot appear to support it if we oppose him, seek a limited understanding with him in areas of mutual interest, without abandoning our position where differences are irreconcilable. a. While recognizing our fundamental differences with Nasser, deal with him as head of the UAR on specific problems and issues affecting the UAR’s immediate interests, but not as leader of the Arab world.

b. Refrain from opposition to further steps by the Arab states toward greater political unity, including association with the UAR, except as these may be the result of acts of aggression by Nasser. At the same time discreetly encourage any tendencies toward independent policies [Page 152] on the part of other Arab regimes—e.g., Iraq—wherever this will not lead us into conflict with Nasser.

c. Seek to contain radical pan-Arab nationalism from spilling out beyond the Near East and undermining other pro-Western regimes.

22. Policies Toward Israel.

Take the initiative, through the UN or otherwise as appropriate, to:
Establish the boundaries of Israel.
Obtain additional UN or great-power guarantees of agreed frontiers.
Submit proposals for resettlement and compensation of the Arab refugees, including repatriation to the extent feasible.
Seek to obtain limitations on immigration to Israel in a manner designed not to compromise the actions in a above.
Support the establishment of an appropriate UN body to examine the flow of heavy armaments to the Near East with the aim of preventing a new arms race spiral.

23. Policies Toward the USSR. Take into account the acquisition by the Soviets of a certain influence in the area and seek to induce the USSR to cooperate in the context of the UN in measures that will tend to insulate the Near East from great-power military intervention and to inhibit forcible change of existing boundaries.

24. Policies Toward Near East Oil.

Be prepared to acquiesce in changes in present financial arrangements and concessionary rights, so long as continued access on reasonable terms is not thereby prejudiced.
Develop means of reducing Western European reliance on Near East oil and transit facilities.

25. a. Only as a last resort, be prepared to use force to insure that the quantity of oil available from the Near East on reasonable terms is sufficient, together with oil from other sources, to meet Western Europe’s requirements, recognizing that this course would cut across the courses of action heretofore outlined toward Arab nationalism and could not be indefinitely pursued.

b. Consider the support of the United Kingdom with force, whether in Kuwait or some other Near East area, only in the context of the course of action stated in a.

[Page 153]

Annex on Arab Nationalism

(Prepared by the Department of State)

Arab nationalism (like other national movements) has drawn on a cultural, historical, linguistic, and ethnic base providing collective emotional appeal to those who for one reason or another identify themselves as Arab. As a movement of long standing, Arab nationalism has aimed at a renaissance of the Arab peoples and the restoration of their sovereignty, unity, and prosperity. Since the Second World War the emotional appeal of Arab nationalism has been further strengthened by the drive among the people of underdeveloped areas against “colonialism” and for self-determination.
Both the older, conservative Arab nationalist—as typified by the late Nuri al-Said—and the supporters of the radical pan-Arab nationalism movement—symbolized by Nasser—have proclaimed the goal of eliminating Western “imperialist” influence and have made common cause against Israel. However, with the rise of Nasser an already incipient radical trend in Arab nationalism achieved predominance in the movement. The conservative Arab nationalists had often accepted Western support and had cooperated with the West, despite the incubus of Western association with Israel, partly because their economic and cultural interests lay with the West and partly because they needed Western support in order to stay in power. This led the conservatives to emphasize purely local and provincial, rather than pan-Arab, interests.
The radical nationalists, on the other hand, were far more distrustful of the West, more determined to eradicate the remaining indirect Western controls over Arab political and economic life, and thus far more intent upon achieving (rather than giving mere lip-service to) the traditional goal of unity of all the Arabs. As a result, neutralism and non-alignment have become essential components of radical pan-Arab nationalism.
Moreover, having tapped a dynamic reservoir of Arab discontent and recognizing that the nature of their social and economic problems requires the imposition of radical solutions, radical pan-Arab nationalism has become an essentially totalitarian movement. It has attracted and has now been largely captured by a vanguard of intelligentsia and urban lower middle classes. The radical pan-Arab nationalists, as exemplified by the Arab Socialist Resurrectionists and similar groups, have demonstrated their disbelief in the feasibility and desirability of democracy, and instead emphasize the achievement of reform and political change through the paternalistic but dynamic authoritarianism of “military socialist” regimes. To many of the radical nationalists, [Page 154] Arab nationalism in this totalitarian form has become a universal faith which takes the place of religion. A substantial majority of politically conscious Arab Moslems and many Arab Christians, particularly the middle class intelligentsia and professional groups, have become identified with this version of Arab nationalism. Consistent with the Arab characteristic of personifying abstract ideas and issues, they now recognize Nasser as the symbol of radical pan-Arab nationalism.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5820 Memoranda. Secret. S. Everett Gleason transmitted this paper to the NSC as a basis for discussion at the NSC meeting of August 21 (Document 43). A note on the covering memorandum indicates that Secretary Dulles saw it. Herter attended the NSC meeting in place of Dulles, who was in New York. Berry sent Herter an August 20 briefing memorandum on this Planning Board Paper. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5801 Memoranda)
  2. Includes Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, and the Arabian Peninsula Sheikdoms. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. The United States has supported the negotiation of profitable arrangements covering Near East oil. However, it has never been an official U.S. policy objective to maintain specific concessionary financial terms in the area. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. See Annex (submitted by the Department of State) for a discussion of Arab nationalism. See SNIE 30–3–58, “Arab Nationalism As a Factor in the Middle East Situation” for a more extensive analysis of Arab nationalism. [Footnote in the source text; Document 40.]
  5. Access to oil on reasonable terms does not require retention of the present profit-sharing formula nor even of existing concessionary rights. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. Brackets in the source text.