49. Memorandum of Discussion at the 383d Meeting of the National Security Council0
[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1–3.]
4. U.S. Policy Toward the Near East (NSC 5801/1;1 NSC Action No. 1973;2 SNIE 30–3–58;3 SNIE 30–4–58;4 Memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, subject: “Factors Affecting U.S. Policy Toward the Near East”, dated August 19, 1958;5 NSC 5820;6 Memo For All Holders of NSC 5820, dated October 7, 1958;7 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “U.S. Policy Toward the Near East”, dated October 14, 19588)
Mr. Gray briefed the Council in considerable detail on the difference between the new draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5820 and the old one in NSC 5801/1, dwelling at particular length on the fundamental issue as to how far the United States should go in its attempts to do business with Nasser, as well as with the problem of finding a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute. He then went on to note the relatively minor differences of view which occurred in the new draft. (Copy of Mr. Gray’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.)9
At the conclusion of Mr. Gray’s briefing, the President referred initially to one of the minor differences mentioned by Mr. Gray. This difference occurred with respect to the question of how far the United States should go in collaborating with the United Kingdom with respect [Page 176] to the Near East problems. The JCS Adviser on the Planning Board had been concerned lest this collaboration go so far as to hinder the achievement of U.S. objectives. Apropos of this point, the President indicated that the United States had agreed with the United Kingdom, at the Bermuda meeting, that it would collaborate with the United Kingdom in dealing with problems of the Near East, and had actually set up a mechanism for such collaboration. Secretary Dulles added the information that our collaboration with the United Kingdom in this area had been working very well. Secretary Dulles then suggested the addition of wording to indicate that a channel for such collaboration had been agreed upon. General Twining said that he was not aware that collaboration with the United Kingdom had constituted a serious problem.
Thereafter, Mr. Gray called on Secretary Dulles, inviting him to discuss first the very fundamental problem, about which the Planning Board had differed, as to how far the United States should go in doing business with President Nasser.
Secretary Dulles stated, in reply, that as far as the various splits of language relating to this issue, as they appeared in the present draft statement of policy, were concerned, he would be prepared to accept either the majority language or the minority language proposed by Defense and Treasury. While the language differences seemed superficial to Secretary Dulles, he did admit that behind the language differences there were real differences of opinion and of legislative history. The implications of what he believed to be the majority proposals on dealing with Nasser and radical pan-Arab nationalism, went further than he himself was prepared to go, especially with respect to accepting Nasser not only as the head of the United Arab Republic, but as the leader of the whole Arab world. Secretary Dulles did not think we should go as far in our policy as to treat Nasser as the leader of the Arab world. There were several areas where Nasser’s goals obviously conflicted very sharply with the nationalist aspirations of the various Arab states, such as Tunisia, the Sudan, and Iraq, the government of which was giving evidence that it did not wish to see Iraq absorbed by Egypt. There was also evidence that many Syrians were now unhappy about being absorbed into the United Arab Republic.
For reasons such as these, continued Secretary Dulles, he doubted whether we should throw our weight as a government behind Nasser in matters relating to areas other than the UAR. In the long run, indeed, more moderate views may prevail than the views now rampant in radical pan-Arab nationalism. At the moment, undoubtedly, Nasser was the object of hero-worship as a result of various achievements he has managed to pull off in one way or another. Nevertheless, Secretary Dulles was not at all sure that such hero-worship constituted an adequate long-term [Page 177] basis for throwing the weight of the United States Government behind Nasser.
Secretary Dulles next suggested that perhaps the paragraph which most effectively indicated the line that the United States should follow in dealing with Nasser, was paragraph 36–b, which was agreed to by all the members of the Planning Board and which read as follows:
“b. Be alert to any possibilities which may occur for broader understanding or consultation between the United States and the UAR. Explore particularly the extent to which greater United States cooperation with the UAR might serve to limit UAR contacts with the Soviet Bloc and Soviet influence in the area and might also reduce UAR dependence upon Soviet trade and military assistance.”
Secretary Dulles thought that this subparagraph was intrinsically sound and that the differences of view in the other disputed paragraphs should be revised and agreed to with paragraph 36–b as the touchstone. Paragraph 36–b represented the right emphasis for our policy toward the Near East, inasmuch as it indicated that our real enemy in the Near East was the USSR and not Arab nationalism. In concluding his comments on this point, Secretary Dulles again suggested that the several splits in NSC 5820, on the problem of dealing with Nasser and radical pan-Arab nationalism, be reviewed under the assumption that paragraph 36–b should constitute the guide for U.S. policy in dealing with this problem.
Secretary Dulles then turned to another fundamental difference of opinion in NSC 5820—namely, the difference set forth in paragraph 24 on ways and means of resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. The first sentence of paragraph 24 read as follows:
“24. [Seek opportunities to]*10 take the initiative, through the UN or through third parties, toward an Arab-Israeli settlement within the context of the Secretary of State’s speech of August 26, 1955.
“*Defense–JCS–OCDM propose deletion.”
Apropos of this split, Secretary Dulles said it didn’t seem to make much sense to him to say that the United States Government should bull through an Arab-Israeli settlement whether or not the situation appeared to be ripe for such a settlement. On this problem he preferred the majority view, in which he understood State concurred, which was that we should seek opportunities to take the initiative toward an Arab-Israeli settlement.
In conclusion, Secretary Dulles said he was aware that there were a number of other detailed differences of opinion which there would not [Page 178] be time to discuss today, but he felt that if the major differences were resolved along the lines he suggested, the minor splits of view could be resolved and fall into place.11
Mr. Gray explained that he had been at some pains to clarify the differences between the majority and minority views of the Planning Board in the course of developing NSC 5820. He had, however, not directed the Council’s attention to the actual splits as they appeared in the several paragraphs because he had hoped that the Council would provide sufficient general guidance to enable the Planning Board subsequently to resolve the specific splits.
The President commented that the revenue-producing countries of the Near East, he believed, had a natural antipathy toward Egypt, which was not, strictly speaking, an Arab state. If we could somehow bring about a separation of Syria from Egypt and thereafter a union of Syria with Iraq, this might prove very useful. The oil-rich Arab states of the Near East do not want to give away their revenues to Egypt, and we certainly don’t want to be the agent through whom Nasser secures control of all these oil revenues. On the other hand, continued the President, he found himself in agreement at the moment with the picture of President Nasser which had just been drawn by the Secretary of State. Certainly there was no reason for the United States to go on and treat Nasser as the head of the whole Arab nationalist movement. If we did this, the President predicted, Nasser would become the biggest blackmailer this country ever faced.
At this point Mr. Gray called on Secretary Quarles and General Twining for an expression of their views on the fundamental issues set forth in NSC 5820.
Secretary Quarles replied first, and stated that he had expected that he would have to try to say, about dealing with Nasser, very much what the Secretary of State had just said, and said better than he could have said it. Accordingly, said Secretary Quarles, he had nothing to add to the discussion of that problem. If we could be dead sure that Nasser was to be the winner, it might be best for us to climb on Nasser’s bandwagon now, but there were at the moment too many uncertainties in the outlook for Nasser for us to climb on the bandwagon yet.[Page 179]
The President commented that the real question was where we would end up if we did climb on Nasser’s bandwagon. Secretary Quarles continued by stating, with respect to the difference of view between Defense–JCS and the majority of the Planning Board on how best to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, as set forth in the split view in paragraph 24, that he would, in view of the handsome concession made by Secretary Dulles on the issue of handling Nasser, himself gladly agree to the majority language, which called for seeking opportunities to take the initiative to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, rather than the Defense–JCS language, which called for taking the initiative whether or not opportunities were discernible.
General Twining, in support of the Defense–JCS position on this issue, said he wanted to say that there might be something we could do in seizing the initiative in this dispute, inasmuch as Arab-Israeli tensions could break out into war at any time.
Secretary Dulles stated that he wanted it understood that the State Department had constantly in mind ways and means of taking the initiative to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute. Far from putting this dispute on the shelf, the Department was constantly seeking opportunities to take the initiative. While the problem was certainly very grave, it was not neglected; but, rather, belonged in the category of the Kashmir problem, which was likewise under study in the Department all the time. We will have to keep after the Arab-Israeli dispute continuously, but we simply could not bull our way through to a settlement of the problem by our own efforts alone. The President seemed to agree with the position taken by the Secretary of State, who cited the President’s recent letter to Ben-Gurion as evidence of the State Department’s effort to take the initiative in resolving this dispute.
Mr. George Allen said that it seemed to him possible that Jordan would prove to be the key to an Arab-Israeli settlement. If Jordan collapses, Israel would be tempted to take over the cloverleaf part of Jordan. Instead, we could propose to go back to something like the terms of the 1947 Resolution of the United Nations and create an Arab state and also plug for the internationalization of Jerusalem. The President commented that any ideas on how to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute were certainly worthy of discussion.12
The Acting Director of OCDM, Mr. Patterson, indicated the willingness of his agency to undertake the oil study called for by the footnote to paragraph 22 of NSC 5820, if this was the view of the Council. He also added that he could not wholly agree with the position taken by the [Page 180] OCDM member of the Planning Board, in paragraph 10 and the footnote thereto, in which the OCDM member had called for a positive U.S. policy of encouraging neutralist policies in the states of the Near East. Mr. Patterson indicated that he had revised language to offer as a substitute for the suggestion made by the OCDM Planning Board member.
Mr. Gray suggested, at the end of the meeting, that the President direct the Planning Board to revise NSC 5820 in the light of the discussion at this morning’s meeting. This proposal was accepted.
Mr. Allen Dulles indicated some dissatisfaction with the language of paragraph 41, dealing with Yemen. In turn, Secretary Dulles expressed his desire to retain in the final policy paper the statement, in paragraph 38-b on Jordan, that we should “seek to transfer to Jordan’s Arab neighbors major responsibility for economic support of Jordan if at all possible.” (The OCDM and JCS Planning Board representatives had proposed deletion of this statement as being intrinsically unrealistic.)
The National Security Council:13
- Discussed the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5820, prepared by the NSC Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1973–b; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, transmitted by the reference memorandum of October 14, 1958.
- Referred the draft statement of policy in NSC 5820 to the NSC Planning Board for revision in the light of the discussion at the meeting, especially the agreement that the statement in paragraph 36–b should be taken as the fundamental guide for U.S. policy in dealing with Nasser and radical pan-Arab nationalism.
- Requested the Director, Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, to undertake in coordination with other interested agencies, including the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce and the Interior, a study of the feasibility of using other sources of petroleum and additional transit facilities (taking into account available information as to other sources of energy) as a means of reducing the dependence of Western Europe on Middle East petroleum and on existing transit facilities; and to report to the Council at the earliest practicable time in 1959, with any policy recommendations found appropriate or necessary.
Note: The action in c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Director, OCDM, for appropriate action, with information copies to the Secretaries of State, Defense, Commerce and the Interior.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on October 17.↩
- Document 5.↩
- See footnote 7, Document 43.↩
- Document 40.↩
- See footnote 6, Document 48.↩
- See Document 42.↩
- See Document 46.↩
- This memorandum from Lay to the NSC transmitted the Financial Appendix; Annex A, “General Considerations Affecting U.S. Policy Toward the Near East”; and Annex B, “Summary of Publicly Announced U.S. Policy on Near East Questions”; for insertion into copies of NSC 5820. (Department of State, S/S–NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5820 Memoranda)↩
- This memorandum from Lay to the NSC transmitted Document 48 to the NSC.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Brackets in the source text.↩
- Allen Dulles telephoned Secretary Dulles on October 15 at 12:09 p.m. to discuss NSC 5820. A memorandum of their call reads as follows: “AWD said he thinks the ME paper is premature. The Sec said he was expressing the same views in the meeting now etc. There should be more exchanges of views with our allies, AWD would not feel we had to deal with the big man [Nasser] as the leader—the Arab League is already groaning. AWD suggested taking this as a working draft—see how we can work under it and then come back.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations) The meeting referred to was a briefing for Secretary Dulles on NSC 5820 by S/P and NEA officials from 11:09 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. (Ibid., Dulles Appointment Book)↩
- Allen provided Gray with a reconstruction of his remarks to the NSC. They are printed as an attachment.↩
- Paragraphs a–c and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 1999, approved by the President on October 20. (Department of State S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)↩
- Secret. A handwritten note at the end of the source text indicates it was sent to Gray on November 13.↩