210. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1
3483. Re Embassy telegram 3390.2 Haikal called last night to say appointment with Nasser fixed for 1:00 p.m. today. Presumably he was used as channel in order rehabilitate as Embassy contact (Embassy telegrams 3390 and 3400).3
Found Nasser in sport shirt working at desk lined with documents which he said trying clear up before departure for Yugoslavia day after tomorrow. Would leave Alexandria on ex-Royal yacht Mahroussa and would take about four days to Dubrovnik. No specific time for stay fixed but he supposed whole trip would take two weeks or so.
I opened substantive part conversation by saying we had discussed two subjects at some length during past few months, i.e., our basic relationship and situation in Lebanon.
Re first, we had seemed to be making hopeful, if unspectacular progress when Lebanese crisis broke, which was type of situation we had foreseen when, in discussing improved relations, we had warned that, aside from Soviet ties, danger lay in UAR action inimical to other states in area maintaining friendly relations with USG. Nasser himself had mentioned Hashemites and we had referred inter alia to Lebanon [Page 456]in this connection. Result was that we now found ourselves not only at odds with UAR re Lebanon but in situation where this difficulty was being interpreted in local press and radio as evidence that we were exploiting it primarily for purpose of undermining UAR in violation assurances we had given re desire improved relations. This was completely erroneous interpretation of our motivation which was directed entirely to safeguarding integrity of Lebanese. Fact that as consequence we were at loggerheads with UAR was source regret, as Ambassador Lodge had said, not of satisfaction at being able use to detriment of UAR. In discussing improvement of relations prior his Moscow trip Nasser had asked direct question re our motivation. We realized significance his question and gave him direct and assuring reply. Now question of motivation raised again and I must ask Nasser have confidence in what I had just told him.
Re Lebanon, I felt that both USG and Nasser had made serious efforts contribute to peaceful solution and our discussion had revealed considerable degree of common ground. In fact, failure to agree had been more procedural than substantive in sense that we had preferred working on basis of each doing what it could rather than operate on basis joint agreements as suggested by Nasser. However, failure agree on this point, although of certain importance, was not of relations shattering significance. In this connection, I had been given understand that Nasser felt that we had merely dallied with him re approach to Lebanese problem while we prepared ground for public attack on UAR. Here again was question where motivation was paramount and I could give assurance that, not only had our discussions been in good faith, but they had received highest level consideration in Washington.
With this said by way of setting record straight, I would be interested in hearing any of Nasser’s current thinking which he might desire share with me but, in so suggesting, I wished make clear merely seeking his views for background purposes since I did not wish again be placed in situation where normal discussion would be interpreted as being designed for some ulterior motive.
Nasser seemed interested listener but his responding remarks indicated he was heavily impregnated with suspicions re our motives and still felt he had been made object of conspiracy. He saw this in public statements by Departmental officials; in American “press campaign” against UAR; in American, British and Iraqi indictments of UAR in SC; in VOA re-broadcast of Solh speeches which was clever form of indirect attack. He had really taken talks seriously and, frankly contrary to his habit (laughter), had kept discreet silence from May 20 through June 7 (date of our last conversation and of news reaching here of first SC meeting) but then he had concluded we were only trying neutralize him in order stab in back. Why had we attacked UAR? He had asked for proofs but had never received them. I recalled [Page 457]to Nasser that I had told him at our first talk after his return from Moscow4 that we had circumstantial evidence regarding support being given Lebanese opposition from Syrian region. Now, to be quite frank, there was no need term as “circumstantial”. Evidence came pouring in from all sides regarding compensation of volunteers, their equipment, staging areas, transportation, etc., etc. Operations of this magnitude couldn’t be conducted without people talking, and they were talking plenty. Nasser looked at ceiling and dropped subject.
However, he still had other bones to pick. He had, he said, been 100 percent sincere. Why hadn’t we taken his approaches seriously? (I reiterated that we had.) What had been effect of our failure to respond to his suggestions? Was situation in Lebanon better? He still felt his original suggestion for joint approach was best solution for simple reason that compromise solution is only one which can last but neither side in Lebanon will be willing seek compromise as long as one feels supported by USG and other by UAR. Regarding nature of compromise he still felt 3-point plan of third force was reasonable but wished make clear that amnesty was important as means to end rather than end in itself. Regarding Chehab there was no reason why some other similarly qualified person would not fill bill; important thing was that there should be prior agreement on candidate between two parties.
Concluding, Nasser speculated what our policy, together with that of British, in present situation might be. As far as he could see British, as evidence by Cyprus build-up; were seeking new prestige in area whereas we merely seemed trying humiliate UAR.
Although foregoing was largely repetition of previous statements of Nasser and accounts of his reaction received from Haikal and Amin, tone of conversation was friendly, and unpleasant developments were discussed in tone more of regret than recrimination; in fact at end Nasser said thought review had been useful. He also, and with certain obvious embarrassment, admitted he had been personally responsible for two Haikal articles revealing our conversation and said he had been impelled by fact that erroneous stories were getting out that he was insisting on resignation of Chamoun, that he had refused our suggestions for assisting in Lebanese settlement, etc. At first he had intended holding press conference but had decided it might get out of hand. Next he had thought of special interview but had finally decided use Haikal. He wished assure nothing personal was intended.
Leave taking was very cordial and I had just gotten in car when DCM suddenly appeared bearing Deptel 34925 which had arrived [Page 458]after I left chancery. Nasser’s secretary still being at door, I asked if I could see President again for few minutes, which was done and substance message imparted. Was obvious that message itself and somewhat theatrical manner of presentation made marked impression. In taking leave again, I said trusted secretary’s message would carry conviction where my own words had seemed leave doubts. “Let’s hope”, Nasser replied, “Let’s hope”.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.86/6–2658. Secret. Repeated to Beirut, Belgrade, Damascus, London, and USUN.↩
- Telegram 3390, June 19, which began with the sentence “This is indeed a weird place,” reported that Nasser “had been hopping mad” about the U.S. attitude toward Lebanon in the Security Council, had put off seeing Hare for fear “of creating a scene,” but now wished to see the Ambassador in a personal capacity. (Ibid., 783A.00/6–1958)↩
- Telegram 3400, June 20, reported a UAR protest of U.S. interference in Lebanon. (Ibid., 611.83A/6–2058)↩
- Hare reported on this talk in telegrams 3030 and 3090, May 20 and 25, respectively. (Ibid., 786.11/5–2058 and 786.11/5–2558)↩
- Telegram 3492, June 25, authorized Hare, in the name of the Secretary of State, to take the line he had taken with Haikal (see supra) if he should see Nasser before the latter’s departure from Yugoslavia. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.86/6–2458)↩