211. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1
3493. Following are comments re Embtel 34832 (talk with Nasser):
- Primary reasons for seeking interview were (a) maintain continuity contact and lay ground for future meetings despite current differences, i.e., to be able keep talking at local level, (b) to attenuate to extent possible Nasser’s erroneous apprehensions re our actions and motives, (c) to obtain reading Nasser’s current thinking.
- Re (a) believe conversation served useful purpose. Despite thorniness of matters discussed, Nasser was quiet and composed throughout and, by agreeing at end that conversation had been helpful, he gave impression that way open for subsequent talks. What amounted to apology for Haikal articles was also of interest in this connection.
- Re (b) it was obvious that Nasser was strongly convinced of our basic hostility to him and, although he listened attentively to my comments, I did not get impression of having made more than dent in his fixed ideas. However, rather spectacular delivery Deptel 34923 authorizing me make certain basic observations in name Secretary obviously had effect. To suggest that he was really convinced would certainly be going too far but no question but that he was given pause to reflect.
Re (c) it was difficult gain clear impression Nasser’s state of mind re Lebanon other than to note that he showed more signs of frustration than of confidence. Only specific comment was to reiterate he deplored our decision not agree to his suggestion for joint approach and to say still felt this best and only solution holding promise of success, but there was nothing to indicate whether idea was revived in faint hope we might still provide him with face-saving alternative to anticipated less graceful exit or whether he foresaw that, without such agreement, he would have to become even more deeply involved in commitments which were already of magnitude, and involved complications unwelcome to him. However, fact that he was willing drop Chehab and merely maintain principle of prior agreement by government and opposition on unspecified candidate for President could be construed as indication that he prepared accept real compromise rather than attempt bull through opposition victory.
Nasser made no reference whatsoever to his talks with Hammarskjold but I have noted with interest [2 lines of source text not declassified] who, while refusing be drawn out on talks with Hammarskjold, proceeded discuss Lebanese situation in such way as give impression he had probably taken same line with SYG. In so doing he made following points: (a) Nasser aware Lebanon traditionally oriented West and will so continue regardless political changes now or in future; (b) UAR accepts this and regrets USG rejects idea neutral Lebanon which would be pro-West but at same time would not be hostile to UAR; (c) accession of Lebanon to UAR not desired because religious minorities would make liability; (d) Nasser admitted probably infiltration and arms supply from Syria but denied UAR direction; (e) Nasser regretted breakdown of his talks with USG but could see another possibility for solution if stalemate were to be allowed develop until election of new President (who would be pro-West but also acceptable UAR) on July 24.
Nasser’s remark re contrasting British and American policies in Middle East (UK seeks restore prestige; US to “humiliate" UAR) was in form cryptic remark at door as I was making first exit, although made in half-jocular vein, gave impression that he felt British were making very serious bid re-establish their position in area (“British have now made up”, he said “for two-year loss”) whereas our policy seemed directed only to putting spoke in UAR wheel, i.e., that British playing smarter game. Manner in which remark blurted out indicated it was something which figured prominently in Nasser’s mind but difficult determine exactly what it was.
In summary, believe talk went as well as could have been expected and timely arrival of Deptel 3492 provided effective clincher.