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


The attached Conclusions of NIE 36–61: Nasser and the Future of Arab Nationalism1 supported as cogently as I have ever seen the case for the US seeking a limited accommodation with Nasser:

Nationalism will remain the most dynamic force in the Arab world and Nasser will remain its foremost leader. His influence is likely to grow rather than decline. Meanwhile, he is seeking to balance off the two great power blocs. However, over the years “the inherent incompatibility between ultimate Soviet ambitions in the Middle East and the aspirations of Nasser and the Arab nationalists to preserve and strengthen their independent position will become increasingly manifest.”

Here is the case for our attempting to stay in the game with Nasser, not trying to outbid the Soviets, not deluding ourselves with any idea that we can bring him into the Western camp but merely that we must live with him and he must live with us. Ergo, are there not areas where we can cooperate, thus providing him confidence in Western support if he runs afoul eventually of the Soviets?

As you have pointed out, one of the key things we have to offer is assistance in economic development. In turn, however, we must let Nasser know that we expect a compensatory quid pro quo in a less antagonistic policy on his part. A rapprochement along these lines may take years and involve numerous zigs and zags. Only time, for example, is likely to make the Arabs willing to live with Israel. But the many pitfalls which lie ahead are no excuse for not deciding now whether to move in the direction of a long-term policy of this sort.

Bob K.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Country Series, United Arab Republic, 7/61–10/61. Secret.
  2. Document 68.