110. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0

SUBJ

  • The UAR Crisis

It looks as if Nasr has burned his bridges and is determined to snuff out revolt (this based on his unequivocal speech and intercepts of Amir talk, not any actual movement reports yet).

In turn, Syrians have come out squarely repudiating UAR and condemning Nasr exploitation.

The die seems cast. What do we do? State sees Nasr facing three tough choices: (a) Give up; (b) compromise; (c) attack. State doubts latter but I’m not so sure at all. State is sending out cables urging restraint and non-intervention on Jordan, Turkey, Israel. State feels two sides should be left to fight their own civil war, and that worst course would be to let it become an international war. State feels any Syrian regime likely to be unstable; while present crew may seem all right, who will ride in on their coattails?

Again, I wonder. One alternative would be as follows:

(a)
US itself does nothing overtly. First, it seems unnecessary; second, we cannot afford to be caught favoring either side. Sixth Fleet should stay at Rhodes.
(b)
We encourage Jordan, Turkey, perhaps Iraq, to assure privately new Syrian regime of their support, and to be prepared to do so publicly, [Page 262]if necessary. This to deter Nasr and reassure Syrians they not alone. But, no one should move yet.
(c)
Above adds up to covert encouragement of new Syrian regime, on grounds that split from UAR of a reasonably pro-West military regime [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] would be a good idea, but we should not be tarred with brush of instigating it.

Risks: If Nasr attacks Syria, and Jordan responds by entering Syria, then Israelis might move to west bank of Jordan. This would really put fat in fire.

Nasr’s capabilities, air and amphibious, seem limited if Syrians really united around new crew. He would have to get beachhead or airhead in Latakia-Aleppo area in north, and then move on Damascus. But if Syrians divided and Nasr can pick up considerable support in Syria, his chances much better.

In sum—let not the left hand know what the right is doing.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Country Series, United Arab Republic, 7/61–10/61. Secret. The source text is labeled “9:15 PM Situation Report.”