57. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rountree) to the Ambassador to Egypt (Hare)0

Dear Mr. Ambassador: As a result of events in the Near East over the past several months, we have, as you know, been giving urgent consideration to the effect forces currently active in the area have upon our own objectives and policies. This consideration has embraced other Agencies and has been reviewed at the highest levels of the Government. I am enclosing a statement1 that represents approved United States policy on the Near East for your information, for the information of the senior members of the Country Team, and for circulation in your discretion to the principal officers of the other posts in your country.

Two basic trends in the area which have appeared to us to be inimical to United States and Western interests and seriously to be weakening the general Western position are the emergence of the radical pan-Arab nationalist movement and the intrusion of the USSR into the area. We have supported regimes which have been opposed to radical nationalism, while the Soviet Union has established itself as its friend and defender. The virtual collapse during 1958 of conservative resistance, leaving the radical nationalist regimes almost without opposition in the area, has brought about this present grave challenge to Western interests.

Faced with this challenge, we have sought to determine, in this broad consideration, which of our interests may be reconcilable with [Page 211] dominant forces in the area. There was general agreement that we should make a clear distinction between primary and less essential or secondary United States objectives in the Near East. Thus, in making this reappraisal of our interests and objectives, we have sought to define those which are of such overriding importance that they must be achieved, if necessary, at the expense of others less essential.

We have generally concluded that 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 nationalism can apparently be manipulated to serve Soviet ends. There seems little doubt that 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 in our opinion 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 most certainly deny assured access of Near Eastern oil for our NATO allies and would provide the Soviets with a lever to disrupt the NATO alliance.

It was the sense of our discussions on this matter that the prevention of further Soviet penetration of the Near East and progress in solving Near Eastern problems depends on the degree to which we will be able to work more closely with Arab nationalism and to associate ourselves more closely with such aims and aspirations of the Arab people as are not contrary to our basic interests. We recognize that, in the eyes of the great mass of Arabs, considerable significance will be attached to the position which we may adopt regarding Nasser who is currently the foremost current spokesman for radical pan-Arab nationalism. We have been aware, at the same time, that we must consider the degree to which this can be accomplished without destroying our freedom of action in dealing with other Arab leaders. We would not wish to forego the possibility of discreetly encouraging such leaders when we see signs of independent views. Neither would we wish to resign ourselves to an acceptance of the inevitability of Nasser’s undisputed hegemony over the whole of the Arab world. At the same time we are aware that to be cast in the role of Nasser’s opponent would be to leave the Soviets as his champion.

We, nevertheless, 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 [Page 212] pro-Western regimes, and in Algeria. Moreover, we will recognize that the Arabs remain bitter over the United States role, as they see it, in the establishment of the State of Israel and over United States public and private financial assistance and political support for Israel during the past ten years.

We know that these are problems and thoughts which have also been much in your mind. Your reports and comments on the situation over these past critical months were of major assistance to us in seeking some conclusions to these problems. We hope in the months ahead to formalize certain of these thoughts into specific operating guidance papers. In the interim, we hope you will find this informal expression of views here in Washington both interesting and useful.

Sincerely yours,

William M. Rountree2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files. 611.80/3–559. Top Secret. Drafted by Newsom and cleared with Furnas. Identical letters were sent to Ambassadors in the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Chargés in Israel and Jordan.
  2. Not found attached; apparent reference to Document 51.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.