51. National Security Council Report0

NSC 5820/1



  • A. NSC 5801/1
  • B. NSC Action No. 1973
  • C. SNIE 30–3–58; SNIE 30–4–58
  • D. Memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, subject: “Factors Affecting U.S. Policy Toward the Near East”, dated August 19, 1958
  • E. NSC 5820
  • F. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “U.S. Policy Toward the Near East”, dated October 14 and 24, 1958
  • G. NSC Actions Nos. 1999 and 20031

The National Security Council, the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, at the 384th NSC Meeting on October 30, 1958, adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 5820, as revised by the NSC Planning Board pursuant to NSC Action No. 1999–b, and transmitted by the reference memorandum of October 24, 1958, and as amended by NSC Action No. 2003–b.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5820, as revised, amended, and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5820/1; directs its implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and designates the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

Also enclosed, for the information of the Council, are a Financial Appendix and an Annex (“Summary of Publicly Announced U.S. Policy on Near East Questions”).

The enclosed statement of policy, as adopted and approved, supersedes NSC 5801/1.

James S. Lay, Jr.2
Executive Secretary

[Here follows a table of contents.]

[Page 188]




1. Current conditions and political trends in the Near East are inimical to U.S. and other Western interests. The two basic trends in the area which have led to the weakening of the Western position have been the emergence of the radical pan-Arab nationalist movement 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. The virtual collapse during 1958 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.

2. Faced with this challenge, we must determine which of our interests may be reconcilable with the dominant forces in the area. Similarly, we must reappraise our objectives and define those which are of such overriding importance that they must be achieved, if necessary, at the expense of others less essential. The critical importance of Near Eastern oil to our NATO allies requires that we make every effort to insure its continued availability to us and to our allies. Less essential, but of considerable importance to us and our allies, are the military and commercial transit facilities of the Near East.

3. The most dangerous challenge to Western interests arises not from Arab nationalism per se but from the coincidence of many of its objectives with many of those of the USSR and the resultant way in which it can be manipulated to serve Soviet ends. Soviet policy in the Near East is aimed at weakening and ultimately eliminating Western influence, using Arab nationalism as an instrument, and substituting Soviet influence for that of the West. Soviet domination of the Near East would constitute a major shift in the world balance of power, facilitate the penetration of Africa by the USSR, and have seriously adverse repercussions on our prestige and position elsewhere in the world. Moreover, Soviet domination would also deny our NATO allies assured access to [Page 189] Near East oil and would, provide the Soviets with a lever to disrupt the NATO alliance.

4. It has become increasingly apparent that the prevention of further Soviet penetration of the Near East and progress in solving Near Eastern problems depends on the degree to which the United States is able to work more closely with Arab nationalism and associate itself more closely with such aims and aspirations of the Arab people as are not contrary to the basic interests of the United States. In the eyes of the great mass of Arabs, considerable significance will be attached to the position which the United States adopts regarding the foremost current spokesman of radical pan-Arab nationalism, Gamal Abdel Nasser. We must consider, at the same time, the degree to which this can be accomplished without destroying our freedom of action in dealings with other Arab leaders and in discreetly encouraging such leaders when we see signs of independent views and without resigning the United States to an acceptance of the inevitability of Nasser’s undisputed hegemony over the whole of the Arab world. To be cast in the role of Nasser’s opponent would be to leave the Soviets as his champion. At the same time, we face the fact that certain aspects of the drive toward Arab unity, 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 and his welding together of pan-Arabism and Egypt’s old aspirations in Africa threaten pro-Western regimes, and in Algeria. Moreover, the Arabs remain bitter over the U.S. role, as they see it, in the establishment of the State of Israel and over U.S. public and private financial assistance and political support for Israel during the past ten years.


5. It is essential that the following primary objectives be achieved:

Denial of the area to Soviet domination.
Continued availability of sufficient Near Eastern oil to meet vital Western European requirements on reasonable terms.

6. It is desirable that the U.S. also achieve the following secondary objectives to the extent compatible with the two primary objectives:

Peaceful resolution as early as possible, in whole or in part, of the Arab-Israeli dispute.
Continued availability to the United States and its allies of rights of peaceful passage through and intercourse with the area in accordance with international law and custom and existing international agreements.
Political evolution and economic and social development in the area to promote stable governments, popularly supported and resistant to Communist influence and subversion.
Continued availability to the United States and its allies of important strategic positions, including military overflight, staging and base rights in the area.
The expansion of U.S. and, where appropriate, Free World influence in the area, and the countering and reduction of Communist influence.

Major Policy Guidance


7. Endeavor to establish an effective working relationship with Arab nationalism while at the same time seeking constructively to influence and stabilize the movement and to contain its outward thrust, and recognizing that a policy of U.S. accommodation to radical pan-Arab nationalism as symbolized by Nasser would include many elements contrary to U.S. interests.

8. Seek to demonstrate to the peoples and governments of the area 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.

9. Recognize that the essentially neutralist character of radical pan-Arab nationalism may make it incompatible with maintenance of the special political, military and economic interests comprising the Western strategic position in the area. Seek to reconcile these interests with nationalist aspirations. To assure the achievement of our objectives, be prepared if it becomes necessary to make appropriate revisions in the existing Western strategic position. Seek to retain the existing Western military position to the maximum extent feasible consistent with the foregoing.

10. While seeking pro-Western orientation, accept neutralist policies of states in the area when necessary, even though such states maintain diplomatic, trade and cultural relations with the Soviet bloc (or receive military equipment), but endeavor to insure that these relations are reasonably balanced by relations with the West.

11. Support the idea of Arab unity and a closer association among the Arab states of the area, so long as that association is achieved in accordance with the apparent desires of the peoples of the states concerned and without posing a threat to the general peace and stability of the area.

12. Promote both national and regional economic development by:

Encouraging allocation of indigenous resources to economic development.
Encouraging private organizations and Free World governments interested in the area to contribute financial and technical assistance.
Supporting loans by international organizations where consistent with relevant U.S. loan policies.
Being prepared to support a soundly-organized Arab development institution should the nations of the area agree on the usefulness of such an institution and should they be prepared to support it with their own resources.
Being prepared to provide U.S. loans for projects which are consistent with relevant U.S. loan policies; and continue technical assistance.

13. Be prepared, on a case-by-case basis for essentially political reasons, to provide financial assistance which might be utilized for budgetary support, balance of payments support, or economic development.

14. a. Emphasize the political and economic aspects of our policy over its military aspects, but maintain a capability to use force to achieve our present objectives.

b. Endeavor to reduce the current preoccupation of area states with exaggerated needs for growing military establishments, and discourage their procurement of military equipment beyond their economic capabilities.

c. If desired by the countries of the area, 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.

d. Nevertheless, if it is determined that U.S. objectives in the area would be advanced thereby (as might be the case if area states were to be prevented from becoming wholly dependent on Soviet Bloc sources for military equipment), provide military aid in minimum amounts and of the type appropriate to meet the situation.

15. Support leadership groups which offer the best prospect of progress toward U.S. objectives in this area, but avoid becoming identified with specific internal issues or individuals. Seek to discredit groups which promote pro-Soviet thinking. Seek to increase the participation of urban “intellectuals” in Western-oriented activities.

16. a. Seek to create a climate favorable to the United States through the maximum encouragement of effective direct relations between U.S. citizens and peoples of the area.

b. Devote more effort to the development of local leaders, administrators and skilled personnel by strengthening educational institutions and by selectively expanding training programs in administrative and technical skills.

c. Provide selectively for emphasis on personnel exchange programs.

d. Emphasize those cultural efforts which in the long run develop better understanding of the United States and build better interrelationships with the peoples of the area. Continue to improve informational techniques which on a day-to-day basis promote a broader comprehension of U.S. policies and counter adverse propaganda.

[Page 192]

17. Accept major responsibility for providing Free World leadership toward the area. Keep the United Kingdom currently informed through agreed channels of U.S. policies and programs and, to the extent compatible with U.S. area objectives, make a major effort to achieve and maintain harmony, particularly with the United Kingdom but also with other Free World countries interested in the Near East; but reserve the right to act alone. In consulting generally with the French, exercise appropriate caution, bearing in mind France’s close relations with Israel.

18. Support a continued substantial British position in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula with particular reference to the Sheikdoms. Endeavor to influence peaceful and equitable solutions to questions in which Britain is interested, such as the frontier problems of Southeastern Arabia and the Yemen–Aden frontier. Recognizing that efforts to work constructively with Arab nationalism may sometimes conflict with interests of NATO allies, seek in particular to persuade the NATO governments of the advantages to the West of such efforts.

The East-West Conflict

19. Take action where necessary to demonstrate the continued U.S. willingness and intention to counter Communist aggression in the Near East under the policy established by the Middle East Resolution and related policies.

20. While continuing to encourage the resistance of Arab nations to Soviet imperialism, avoid for the present any active efforts to enlist Arab nations in regional collective security arrangements.

21. a. While recognizing Soviet presence and interest in the area, continue to make clear to the USSR the nature of Western interests in the area and Western determination to defend these interests.

b. Endeavor to place the USSR in positions, within the UN and elsewhere, wherein it cannot openly oppose constructive measures without bearing the onus for their failure.

c. Decline to enter into arrangements with the USSR in respect of the area except in forums in which the states concerned are duly represented.

d. In the context of the UN, 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.


22. Be prepared, when required, to come forward with formulas designed to reconcile vital Free World interests in the area’s petroleum [Page 193] resources with the rising tide of nationalism in the area. Encourage broad diversification of means of transporting oil to the Free World.5

23. Be prepared to use force, but only as a last resort, either alone or in support of the United Kingdom, 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 will cut across the courses of action envisioned above toward Arab nationalism and could not be indefinitely pursued.

Arab-Israeli Dispute

Resolution of the Arab-Israeli Dispute

24. Seek opportunities to 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, 1955.6 Elements of the problems which would have to be settled include: establishment of the boundaries of Israel, settlement of the refugee problem, a UN review of the Jerusalem problem, equitable division of the waters of the Jordan River system, relaxation of trade and transit restrictions, and limitation on annual immigration into Israel. Be prepared to accept, if necessary, a constructive settlement short of a formal peace treaty and addressed to only some rather than all of the outstanding issues, and with some rather than all of the Arab states.

Thwarting of Aggression

25. Seek to maintain the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) and the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) until such time as major differences between Israel and her neighboring states have been resolved and the likelihood of armed conflict has been significantly reduced. Seek full compliance with the Armistice Agreements of 1949 by the parties thereto.

26. On the grounds that the United States has not been a major supplier of arms to Israel, continue limitations on shipments of arms to Israel except for the minimum numbers and types necessary for maintenance of internal law and order, and on a realistic basis for legitimate self-defense. Solicit the assistance of other nations in implementing this policy of limitation.

27. In the event of major Israeli-Arab armed conflict not coming within the American doctrine, the United States should be prepared to [Page 194] take the following concurrent actions against the state or states which are determined by a United Nations finding or, if necessary, by the United States, to be responsible for the conflict:

Raise the matter in the United Nations with a view to halting the aggression.
Discontinue U.S. Government aid.
Embargo U.S. trade.
Prevent the direct or indirect transfer of funds or other assets subject to U.S. control.
Seek a United Nations resolution calling on all states to desist from sending military matériel and personnel to such state or states.

28. Take the following actions either before or concurrent with measures outlined in paragraph 27 above:

Urge other countries, as appropriate, to take action similar to that of the United States.
Make every effort to secure United Nations sanction and support for all such actions.

29. Because the actions in paragraphs 27–28 above may not be sufficient to end the hostilities promptly, be prepared to take appropriate military action against the aggressor. Such action should be taken through the United Nations, although unilateral action by the United States might be required.

Immediate Steps

30. Make clear as appropriate that, while U.S. policy embraces the preservation of the State of Israel in its essentials, we believe that Israel’s continued existence as a sovereign state depends on its willingness to become a finite and accepted part of the Near East nation-state system.

31. Apart from possible financial assistance to Israel in the context of a satisfactory solution of the refugee problem, be prepared to continue economic assistance to Israel at about present levels.

32. a. During the remainder of the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is due to expire on June 30, 1960, be prepared to continue to support the agency to an extent not to exceed 70 percent of all government contributions.

b. In anticipation of the end of UNRWA’s present mandate, oppose the extension of UNRWA beyond June 30, 1960, under its present terms of reference and develop on an urgent basis possible longer-range solutions for the refugee problem.

33. Be prepared to support Israel’s legal right to use the Suez Canal when it is at issue, but, recognizing the intransigent UAR attitude on this matter and its connection with the Arab-Israeli dispute and the Gulf of Aqaba question, discourage Israel for the time being from asserting the right of Israeli flag vessels to use the Canal.

[Page 195]

34. Seek to prevent resort to force by any party over the question of the use of the Gulf of Aqaba by Israel-bound shipping. Seek to continue the neutralization of the Gulf through the presence of UNEF forces.

35. Support the development of segments of the Jordan River system when not in conflict with the unified plan for development of the Jordan River basin.

United Arab Republic

36. a. Seek to normalize our relations with the United Arab Republic. Recognizing that U.S. accommodation with Nasser would contain elements contrary to U.S. interests, deal with Nasser as head of the UAR on specific problems and issues, area-wide as well as local, affecting the UAR’s legitimate interests, but not as leader of the Arab world.

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 U.S. 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.

c. While seeking normal relations with the UAR, take discreet advantage of trends in the area which might render less likely further expansion of Nasser’s position. However, recognize that too direct efforts on our part to stimulate developments lessening the pre-dominant position of Nasser might be counter-productive.

d. Avoid consultation with Nasser on African problems which might imply our encouragement of the extension of his influence into Africa.

e. Seek discreetly to maintain U.S. contact with and influence among Syrian leaders, primarily at the present time by the maintenance of strong consular representation.

Saudi Arabia

37. a. Maintain friendly relations with the Saudi Arabian Government, with the primary purpose of continuing effective U.S. influence in Saudi Arabia.

b. Encourage efforts by the Government of Saudi Arabia to undertake a program of financial, economic, and social reform.

c. Recognizing the position of reduced influence of King Saud, continue friendly contact with him and consider direct requests from him to the extent that such requests do not seriously prejudice U.S. relations with the Saudi Arabian Government. Recognize that King Saud continues to have important support from elements in Nejd.

d. Maintain a military assistance program, primarily in the form of procurement assistance arrangements and training for the Saudi [Page 196] Arabian armed forces for internal security purposes. Continue to cooperate with Saudi Arabia at the Dhahran airfield in accordance with existing agreements. Anticipate a request for a substantial change in U.S. relationships at Dhahran upon expiration of the present agreement (1962).

e. Seek to increase U.S. influence and understanding among groups in Saudi Arabia from which elements of leadership may emerge, particularly in the armed forces and the middle level Saudi Arabian Government officials.

f. When feasible assist in the restoration of normal relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia.


38. a. Recognizing that the indefinite continuance of Jordan’s present political status has been rendered unrealistic by recent developments and that attempts on our part to support its continuance may also represent an obstacle to our establishing a working relationship with Arab nationalism, seek, in the context of constructive efforts by the UN and individual states, to bring about peaceful evolution of Jordan’s political status and to reduce the U.S. commitment in Jordan.

b. Bearing in mind that an abrupt change in Jordan’s status would be viewed generally as a political defeat for the West, be prepared in the interim, for essentially political reasons, to provide necessary assistance which might be used for economic development, budgetary support, and military assistance. Seek to transfer to Jordan’s Arab neighbors major responsibility for economic support of Jordan if at all possible.

c. Make every effort to avoid conflict between the Arabs and Israel as a result of an abrupt change in Jordan’s status.

d. Encourage such peaceful political adjustment by Jordan, including partition, absorption, or internal political re-alignment, as appears desirable to the people of Jordan and as will permit improved relations with Jordan’s Arab neighbors. Seek to insure the peaceful acquiescence of Israel and of Jordan’s Arab neighbors in any such adjustment.


39. a. Seek to maintain friendly relations with the new Iraqi regime on a reciprocal basis including a willingness to continue U.S. technical assistance as appropriate as an indication of friendship and with a view to limiting Soviet influence.

b. Acquiesce in but do not actively encourage Iraqi withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact.

c. On request, indicate that we are willing to give sympathetic consideration to the continuance of military assistance in limited amounts if the Iraqis are prepared to cooperate in making its continuation [Page 197] fruitful; if Iraqi cooperation is not forthcoming, take the initiative to terminate it.

d. Encourage elements within Iraq disposed to friendly relations with the West, but avoid becoming identified with specific individuals and political issues.


40. Support the continued independence and integrity of Lebanon, but avoid becoming too closely identified with individual factions in Lebanese politics and seek discreetly to disengage from relationships that may be disadvantageous to U.S. interests.

Provide Lebanon with political support and with military assistance for internal security purposes, stressing our support for the country as a whole rather than for a specific regime or faction.
Reduce grant economic assistance as feasible and emphasize Lebanon’s capacity to borrow from international lending institutions for purposes of economic development.
Where appropriate seek to encourage the acceptance of Lebanon’s unique status by its Arab neighbors, and, if desired by and acceptable to the people concerned, be prepared to subscribe to a United Nations guarantee of the continued independence and integrity of Lebanon.


41. Seek to improve the U.S. position in Yemen, as opportunities present themselves, through such measures as the establishment of resident diplomatic representation, the rapid implementation of a few sound development projects with impact value, and the encouragement of U.S. private economic activity. Seek through cooperation with other appropriate states to restrict Soviet penetration. Seek to lend good offices to the extent possible to improve United Kingdom–Yemen relations.

The Sudan

42. a. Support the independence and territorial integrity of the Sudan. While avoiding specific commitments, extend general assurances to the Sudan Government regarding the continuing interest of the United States in the independence and integrity of small nations.

b. Work to keep the Sudan free of UAR domination, but recognize the vital importance of the Nile waters to the UAR economy and the understandable interest of the UAR in Sudanese policies and actions affecting the Nile. Recognize the Sudan’s interest in international development of the Nile, but avoid espousing the specific position of the Sudan or any other riparian state with respect to this problem. Endeavor to facilitate in so far as possible the attainment among the states directly concerned of an equitable settlement of the Nile waters problem. Lend [Page 198] appropriate support to Sudanese efforts to exercise a conciliatory role in Arab League councils.

c. Encourage closer Sudanese relations with friendly African states, especially Ethiopia. Foster efforts on the part of Ethiopia to assist the Sudan in solving its economic and security problems.

d. So long as the Sudan displays evidence of its intention to maintain its independence, be prepared to consider, on Sudanese request, a small program directed at increasing the internal security capabilities of the Sudanese internal security forces.

e. Provided there are indications that the Sudanese Government is succeeding in implementing measures necessary to protect the Sudan’s independence and to assure the success of U.S. aid programs, be prepared to consider additional aid for specific development projects and, if necessary, balance of payments or budgetary assistance to strengthen the hand of pro-Western leaders. In the absence of such indications, carry out existing aid commitments but limit further assistance.

f. While recognizing the primary responsibility of the United Kingdom for training and equipping the Sudanese Army, be prepared for political reasons to consider a Sudanese request for military assistance in the event that the government succeeds in implementing the measures necessary to protect its independence and material aid is not forthcoming from the United Kingdom.

Agricultural Surplus Problems

43. Seek to find appropriate means whereby Free World countries, particularly the NATO countries, could work together to find markets for critical surpluses of the areas, and at the same time encourage the countries of the area to diversify their agricultural output so as to avoid over-production and undue reliance on a single crop.

44. In carrying out U.S. surplus disposal programs:

Give particular attention to the economic vulnerabilities of Near East states and avoid, to the maximum extent practicable, detracting from the ability of these countries to market their own exportable produce.
Give particular emphasis to the use of such surpluses to promote multilateral trade and economic development.


45. In all our relations with the Near East, recognize that cultural and linguistic as well as other differences between the United States and the peoples of the area require a special effort on our part to promote better basic understanding and to reduce their suspicion of outsiders. Keep in mind the importance of using tactics that will not be misunderstood. Take into account that recent developments in the area have [Page 199] reduced our prestige and popularity, as well as the receptivity of the peoples of the area to our statements of peaceful intentions.

46. Work to strengthen our influence and to better the comprehension of our aims by:

Stressing U.S. support for major Arab goals, including:
Freedom and independence of Near East nations.
Local responsibility for local problems.
The idea of Arab unity and a closer association among the states of the area.
Opposition to external domination and infringement of local sovereignty.
Seeking to demonstrate to the peoples and governments of the area 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.
Further and explain U.S. policies and objectives by emphasizing:
U.S. willingness to contribute to local economic development.
U.S. support for the United Nations.
U.S. concern for the social and cultural advancement of the peoples of the area, without minimizing the dangers of communism and Soviet aggression.
That the United States and the Free World generally desire (as contrasted with USSR and international communism) to see established in the area conditions of peace, and economic and human development.
U.S. acceptance of neutralist policies on the part of Arab states.

[Here follow a financial appendix with Department of Defense comments and an annex entitled, “Summary of Publicly Announced U.S. Policy on Near East Questions.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5820 Memoranda. Top Secret.
  2. See footnotes 18 and 13, Document 49, and footnotes 2 and 6, Document 50.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Top Secret.
  5. Includes UAR, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, and the Arabian Peninsula Sheikdoms. Takes into account as appropriate, the importance of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan to the Near East, but does not attempt full coverage of U.S. policies toward Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, which are included in other NSC reports (NSC 5703/1, NSC 5708/2, and NSC 5701). [Footnote in the source text. See footnote 8, Document 5 regarding the three NSC papers cited here.]
  6. The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization and other interested agencies have undertaken a study of the feasibility over the longer term of using other sources of petroleum and additional transit facilities (taking into account other sources of energy) as a means of reducing the dependence of Western Europe on Middle East petroleum and on existing transit facilities. (See NSC Action No. 1999–c.) [Footnote in the source text.]
  7. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, September 5, 1955, pp. 378–380.