47. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0


  • Revision of NSC 5801/1 “U.S. Policy in the Near East”1


The attached revision of the National Security Council basic policy paper on the Near East, now designated NSC 5820 (Tab A), is to be considered by the NSC on October 16.2 The revised paper contains much of the language of NSC 5801/1 (Tab B) but has been reorganized and reflects the conclusions of the NSC Discussion Paper of August 21 entitled “Factors Affecting U.S. Policy toward the Near East” (Tab C),3 as well as the conclusions of SNIE 30–3–58 of August 12, “Arab Nationalism as a Factor in the Middle East Situation” (Tab D).4


Nature of Revisions

The two major differences between the old paper and the revised paper are:

the revised paper makes a clear distinction between primary U.S. objectives and less essential or secondary objectives (paras. 5&6);5
the revised paper is based on the conclusion that the deterioration of the Western position in the Near East has been accelerated since 1955 by:
the emergence of radical pan-Arab nationalism as the predominant force in the area with Nasser as its symbol and de facto spokesman and
the Soviet Union’s identification with and continuing exploitation of this movement.

It is pointed out in para. 5 of the Annex of the revised paper that because the radical pan-Arab nationalists are dedicated to the further reduction of foreign political control in the area, their aims are thus ultimately irreconcilable with some of our secondary objectives. However, the statement is made in para. 8 that “...primary U.S. objectives are fundamentally compatible with the goals of Arab nationalism, whereas the objectives of international Communism are incompatible with the aims of true nationalism”. Thus, it is argued, as in para. 3, that the most dangerous challenge to Western interests in the Near East arises not from Arab nationalism per se, but from the coincidence of many of its objectives with those of the USSR and the resultant ease of exploitation of the movement by the Soviets. The ultimate Arab nationalist objective of some form of union which would really serve to strengthen the area is believed to be contrary to longer-term Soviet policy. Taking the latter factor into account with the neutralist and anti-foreign components of Arab nationalism, the revised paper states in para. 7 that we should “endeavor to establish an effective working relationship with radical pan-Arab nationalism while at the same time seeking constructively to influence and stabilize the movement and to contain its outward thrust”. This paragraph goes on to state that we should “encourage its [i.e. Arab nationalism’s]6 resistance to the expansion of Soviet influence in the area, and to that end seek understandings with Nasser and other radical pan-Arab leaders in areas of mutual interest, without abandoning our position where differences are irreconcilable”.

Throughout the revised paper there are caveats stressing that both in the Near East and in peripheral areas many aspects of Arab nationalism are opposed to our interests. It is also pointed out that we should retain freedom of action to deal with radical Arab nationalist leaders other than Nasser on area problems, that we should discreetly encourage such other leaders when we see signs of independent views on their part, and that we should avoid actions that would unduly enhance Nasser’s position (paras. 4, 9, 36, and Annex). It is assumed throughout the paper and also explicitly stated that the success of any policy the U.S. may adopt toward Arab nationalism is contingent to a considerable extent on the degree to which our allies can be persuaded to come along with us (para 18).

There have been no basic changes in the sections of the paper dealing with the Arab-Israel dispute (paras. 24 through 35 of the Policy Guidance section and paras. 11 through 13 of the Annex). However, as [Page 169] noted below, J.C.S. has introduced split positions in paras. 24 of the Policy Guidance and 13 [15] of the Annex.7

You will note that para. 21 is devoted specifically to policy guidance in regard to the “Soviet presence” in the area. This paragraph includes a statement that we should “decline to enter into arrangements with the USSR in respect of the area except in forums in which the states concerned are duly represented”. On the other hand, it states that we should “in the context of the U.N., seek to bring the USSR to accept responsibility in such matters as maintenance of the territorial status quo in the Near East against forcible change, a verifiable arms control system, steps toward an Arab-Israeli settlement, and a cessation of Soviet subversive activities within and directed at the area”.

Anticipated Differences of Viewpoint

Radical Pan-Arab Nationalism

A majority of the Planning Board members have indicated their approval of the revised paper in its present form. However, the Defense representative leads a split from the majority view on certain paragraphs dealing with the analysis of radical pan-Arab nationalism and the courses of action we should follow in dealing with that movement, the UAR, and Nasser (paras. 4,7,&36a).8 The key of the Defense position appears to lie in the following sentence which appears in the Defense versions of paras. 7 and 36a: “Deal with Nasser as head of the UAR on specific problems and issues affecting the UAR’s legitimate interests, but not as leader of the Arab world.” In the oral discussions, the Defense representative appeared to believe that the majority position went too far toward dealing unreservedly with Nasser as unchallenged leader of the Arab world. A majority of the Planning Board members, on the other hand, judged that the intent of the Defense position would unnecessarily restrict the development of our policies toward the UAR and radical pan-Arab nationalism and that it was not consistent with SNIE 30–3–58. Further, the majority believed their position to be sufficiently qualified and sufficiently cognizant of the basic differences with Nasser so that it in no sense represented any capitulation to Nasser.


Arab-Israel Dispute

You will note also that J.C.S. have dissented from the majority view in certain sections relating to the Arab-Israel dispute (paras. 24 of the Policy Guidance and 13 of the Annex). The burden of the J.C.S. position appears to be that the U.S. should actively take initiatives to solve the Arab-Israel dispute without, however, specifying how and to what end we could accomplish this. We believe it would not be unfair to characterize the J.C.S. position as “solve this problem by forcing Israel to accommodate fully to the Arab viewpoint”. We anticipate that the J.C.S. representative may raise this question during Council discussion of the paper.


Support of British in the Near East by Use of Force

During discussions of the revised paper several Planning Board members have proposed revisions seeking to limit U.S. support of the British in the Near East by stating that the U.S. would support the British by force only to preserve access to Persian Gulf oil (in terms of paras. 22 and 23). We believe that our use of force in support of the British would depend to such an extent on the circumstances that we have not endeavored to set forth a policy on this broader matter.


The statement of the challenge to U.S. interests contained in the Introduction and the Annex of the revised paper is generally accurate and is based on the most up-to-date intelligence available with which the Department concurs.
The revised paper fully covers and correctly describes U.S. interests and objectives in the Near East, and the distinctions made between primary and secondary objectives provide a meaningful scope for a flexible U.S. policy in dealing with the problems of the Near East.
The splits taken by Defense on how to deal with radical pan-Arab nationalism and by J.C.S. on the Arab-Israel dispute are not realistic nor are they consistent with the intelligence estimates available or the best political judgment.


That the revised paper be approved, and that you support the majority position in the splits indicated.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5801 Memoranda. Top Secret. Drafted by Symmes with concurrences from Graham Martin, Dillon’s Special Assistant, and Wilcox. A note on the source text indicates that the Secretary saw this memorandum.
  2. See Document 46. Gerard Smith sent Dulles an October 8 memorandum suggesting that the Secretary might wish to study the paper in advance of the regular briefing on it, which was scheduled for the day before the NSC meeting of October 16, because of the importance of this subject and the difference of opinion between State and Defense, in Planning Board discussions. Smith and S/P endorsed completely the recommendation in Rountree’s memorandum of October 10 that Dulles support the “majority Planning Board position in the paper’s splits.” (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5801 Memoranda)
  3. See Document 49.
  4. Document 42.
  5. Document 40.
  6. See Document 46.
  7. Brackets in the source text.
  8. See Document 46.
  9. These differences are outlined in Document 46.