45. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Berry) to Acting Secretary of State Herter0


  • Comments on Middle East Settlement Suggestions put Forward by Mr. Murphy


(Note: This paper has been coordinated with W, C, IO, EUR, L, S/P and H. W, C, and H had no substantive comments. While formal clearance from EUR was not obtained, there was general concurrence at the staff level (Mr. Nunley) whose comments have been included. Comments of L (Col. Raymond) and S/P (Mr. Mathews) have been included where they differ from the position of the memorandum. IO is preparing comments separately.)2

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In accordance with your request we have made a preliminary study of the various suggestions and comments made by Mr. Murphy in his memorandum to you of August 15. We agree that these suggestions go to the heart of the key problems which face us in the Middle East today and deserve the most serious consideration not only within the Department but by other agencies as well.

Our comments on individual points raised by Mr. Murphy follow. (In certain cases several of the points appear to fall within a particular broad problem; in such cases they are discussed under one heading.)

Timing: Paragraph 1 of Mr. Murphy’s memorandum suggests that the present might be an appropriate moment to seek an over-all settlement. It is possible, however, that the moment may be more propitious following the withdrawal of the U.S. and U.K. troops. Although it might appear that we would be less able to speak from a position of strength at that time, we would, on the other hand, not have to contend with the obvious reluctance and probable refusal of the Arabs to discuss longer-range settlements while our troops remain in Lebanon and U.K. forces are in Jordan. (L comments that it is immaterial whether the effort to bring about an over-all settlement is made before or after troops are withdrawn provided it is made while either the troops or some UN presence is available to maintain a stable situation.)
Propaganda: We recognize the need for a more effective presentation of the U.S. position in the Arab world. USIA is of course working constantly on this problem both by strengthening the mechanical means for reaching the area and sharpening the material presented. In this battle we face certain inherent difficulties. Our media cannot match the emotional, sensational, and irresponsible indigenous media which are popular in part because of the very nature of their output. We face the further problem that certain of the policies in our national interest cannot be popularized against the backdrop of present Arab attitudes. We agree that the propaganda aspect is most important and that, to the extent possible, the psychological impact of any policy on the area should be given serious consideration in our planning. (L comments that much can be done in the propaganda field and that it is important to begin to create an impact on Arab thinking before other interests arouse them to action harmful to the United States.)
Lebanon: It is our hope that out of the present session of the United Nations will come an expression of United Nations interest in the Lebanon which will help preserve the independence and integrity of this country. It is clear that the Lebanese themselves have not reached a clear idea as to whether they desire an international guarantee of the future status of their country.

Jordan: Jordan is undoubtedly the focus of the present danger in the area. [8 lines of source text not declassified]

[2 paragraphs (14-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Our present view is that the best prospects for avoiding a serious upheaval in Jordan lie in obtaining a United Nations expression of interest which will help stabilize the situation for the moment and permit the orderly withdrawal of British forces. If, as seems likely, Jordan’s Arab neighbors can be convinced of the dangers, from the point of view of renewed Arab-Israeli hostilities, which are involved in creating disturbances and intervening in Jordan, once British troops have withdrawn, it may be possible to effect changes in the political situation within Jordan which might be the first step toward acceptance of an independent Jordan by Jordan’s neighbors, at least for the time being. Such a course would appear to be the best means presently possible of avoiding violent disruption which would almost certainly precipitate an Israeli move with all the serious consequences. [2 lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (10 lines of source text) not declassified]

Middle East Neutralization (Paragraphs 5 through 10 of Mr. Murphy’s memorandum): We continue to have serious reservations about the feasibility and desirability of seeking an accord with the Soviet Union which would formally recognize a Soviet role in the Near East. It may well be that such an accord would give greater opportunities to the Soviet Union than it would give to us. In considering this aspect of Mr. Murphy’s suggestions we have certain specific questions.
Is it necessary to bring the Soviet Union into an agreement on the Middle East? Although the Soviet Union is active in the area and although the present crisis has been in part heightened by Soviet moves, the problem still remains in large measure one between the Western nations and the Arab nations. It is conceivable that the stabilization of the situations in Lebanon and Jordan could be achieved and U.S. and U.K. forces withdrawn without recourse to a formal agreement with the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union has made the acceptance of neutrality a major world-wide objective by stressing throughout the world that it is safer to be neutral. The participation by the United States in a formal recognition of the neutralization of a broad area would be very likely to spur the move toward neutralism in other parts of the world. The situation in the Near East is not completely analogous to Austria where U.S. agreement to neutralization was essential in order to obtain the removal of Soviet troops.
Is it not possible that the withdrawal of U.S. and U.K. troops and the establishment of a UN presence in Lebanon and Jordan, which are now under consideration, may establish a de facto neutralization of those countries without the formal participation of the Soviet Union?
It is not at all clear that the Arab nations desire a guarantee of all boundaries nor is it clear that it is in our interests to participate in such a [Page 161] guarantee. The Arab nations consider the present boundaries to be artificial and we are not opposed to their peaceful change. The formal participation of the Soviet Union in a guarantee might well provide an additional obstacle to this peaceful evolution.
It seems unlikely that any effort to reach an agreement on neutralization with the Soviet Union could escape consideration of the British positions in Aden and the Persian Gulf, the U.S. position at Dhahran, the Baghdad Pact, and our military assistance to friendly countries. There is a question in our mind whether the possibility of a genuine settlement by a direct conference with the Soviet Union on the Middle East is sufficiently great to justify the risk of bringing under review the last remaining Western positions of strength in the area. This is apart from the general question of the highly adverse effect on these friendly nations of a move by the United States to deal with the Soviet Union on this area.
Is it not likely that a neutralization agreement would permit the Soviet Union to continue strong support of subversive movements in the area while at the same time inihibiting the United States and its allies from supporting friendly governments and dealing in an open manner with the threat posed by such movements? We would, for example, undoubtedly be limited in the degree to which we could help the internal security forces of friendly countries. We would undoubtedly be prevented from taking steps in the future of the kind taken in Lebanon at the request of independent governments.

A neutralization would undoubtedly require some form of international control of arms in the area. While this has much to commend it from the standpoint of the stability of the area, such control would be difficult to administer, could be evaded by such nations as Communist China, and would begin with a definite advantage already in the hands of the United Arab Republic. Soviet arms shipments to the Arab states have been far greater than ours. It is, further, unlikely that an arms control program with Soviet agreement could be reached without affecting our ability to supply arms to Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

(With respect to the question of neutralization and dealing with the USSR, S/P is of the opinion that there can be no settlement of the Palestine issue without Soviet participation. It will accordingly be necessary to deal with the USSR on this central issue and to accept Soviet participation in an international guarantee of permanent Arab-Israeli boundaries.)

Oil: The National Security Council currently has before it a paper suggesting that the continued availability of oil to the West is likely to be one policy on which agreement could be reached between the forces of Arab nationalism and the West.3 This suggestion, however, is conditional upon oil remaining accessible on a reasonable financial and economic basis. We would consider that the use of force in preserving rights in the area would be only as a last resort in the most extreme circumstances. It is likely that mutual interest between the U.S. and the U.K. and the Arabs concerned may serve to maintain the availability of [Page 162] this oil without requiring a joint manifesto. Such a manifesto might well inject a political element into the Middle East oil picture which does not seem at the moment to be present.
Nasser: The National Security Council is also considering in the same discussion paper the possibility of working with Nasser in the area and of accepting and perhaps attempting to influence his brand of Pan-Arab nationalism. We believe that more normal relations are possible with Nasser and that perhaps over an extended period of time closer and more effective relations on matters where our interests are parallel may also be possible. An agreement with Nasser does not necessarily imply the necessity of an agreement with the Soviet Union. While we see little possibility at the moment for a complete identity of interests with Nasser, we do not see that we could effectively seek to destroy him without the most serious consequences. The result would appear to be the necessity of accepting his movement and seeking agreement with him where agreement may be possible. We would accept his movement, however, only in those cases where it was not in fundamental conflict with our objectives.


That, in the light of the NSC Planning Board paper, the NSC discussion of August 21, and Mr. Murphy’s suggestions, NEA and S/P undertake on an urgent basis a study of the feasibility and desirability of revising NSC 5801/1.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.80/8–1558. Top Secret. Drafted by Newsom, cleared by Rockwell. On August 18, Howe sent a copy of Murphy’s memorandum of August 15 (enclosure to Document 41) to Berry and informed him that Herter considered Murphy’s recommendations important and asked that NEA prepare a position paper on each item by August 21. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.80/8–1558)
  2. The date is handwritten on the source text followed by a question mark.
  3. In an August 22 memorandum to HerterIO strongly concurred with Murphy’s basic recommendation of using the “present breathing space” to launch a positive U.S. program for stability in the Middle East and suggested that the United States should concentrate on social and economic development, encourage an Arab—not a U.N.—solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees, increase U.S. economic aid for Israel, and launch a U.S. information program that combined mass propaganda and selective targeting of “leadership groups.” IO agreed with NEA’s doubts about the importance of boundary guarantee with the exception of Israeli-Arab boundaries and was equally concerned that the Soviet Union would take advantage of a neutral Middle East. Finally, IO agreed U.S. policy toward Nasser should be more clearly defined and even-handed. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.80/8–1558)
  4. Apparent reference to Document 42.
  5. Document 5. Herter initialed his approval of the recommendation on August 25.