217. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts0
1811. Department’s information concerning Arab unity proclamation issued April 17 in Cairo is based upon unofficial texts received via radio but following is preliminary assessment and guidance:
A. Intent of the Parties
- In proclaiming intent to federate and setting forth projected timetable, UAR, Syria and Iraq have obviously made step forward in achieving aspirations for unity but many difficulties remain.
- Ultimate intent is to form parliamentary system of government which would include federal structure with full internationally recognized sovereignty and three separate regional structures without internationally recognized sovereignty.
- Federal constitution and proposed federal president to be submitted to popular referendum to be held within five months at which time federated state officially established. (Provided agreement reached [Page 474] among present negotiators Dept believes referendum likely be pro forma ratification of constitution and overwhelming election of Nasser as first President.)
- Three states remain legally independent and sovereign pending results of referendum.
- Transitional period not to exceed 20 months is to allow time for solving problems of integrating those functions which to become federal responsibilities and establishing necessary federal and regional institutions to implement constitution.
C. Federal vs. Regional Powers
- Federal responsibilities are to be in fields foreign affairs, defense, treasury and finance, economy and economic planning, information, culture, education, justice, communications and miscellaneous common problems. However degree and pace of integration in each of these fields would depend upon degree agreement among the parties during pre-referendum and transitional periods. Some functions (e.g., foreign affairs) lend themselves to more rapid integration than others (e.g., economy and finance).
- Prerogatives not specifically assigned to federal government are responsibility of regional governments, presumably including internal security.
- Proclamation assigns full responsibility for foreign representation and treaties to federal government but latter may assign by decree prerogatives in cultural relations and trade matters to regional governments. However no date for amalgamation foreign representation stipulated. Separate diplomatic representation likely be maintained until September referendum. Not clear whether separation may continue to exist during ensuing 20-month transitional period. (Interpretation of high UAR official would indicate to contrary.)
- Unified command to be established but degree and timing of military integration not defined. Proclamation specifically provides regional governments retain control of respective armies for as long as desired during transitional period.
- Political parties required to operate under supervision of single national front established under federal auspices and control. However pro-unity parties, presumably including Baathist, not required to dissolve their organizations.
D. Division of Powers within Federal Structure
- During transitional period both legislative and executive powers vested in President assisted by a Presidential Council with equal representation from each region. Executive and legislative decisions taken by a majority of Council but President may veto any decision. Appears [Page 475] President and Presidential Council will implement decisions through cabinet responsible to them.
- After 20-month period expires, supreme legislative authority to be vested in bicameral federal assembly; executive authority vested in cabinet appointed by President but responsible to assembly.
- President and three vice presidents representing each region would be elected by two-thirds vote of all members (both houses) of assembly.
- President, assisted by the three vice presidents, is supreme commander of armed forces, represents state, issues laws, proposes laws, vetoes laws, appoints and discharges cabinet officials, army officers, federal judges, and senior officials of federal state.
E. Division of Powers in Regional Government
During transitional period each region to prepare its own regional constitutions (which must not conflict with federal constitution). Latter would establish regional assemblies which would elect a regional president with approval of federal president. Regional president would appoint cabinet responsible to regional assembly.
A. Advantages Gained by Respective Parties
- UAR gained retention of UAR name and Cairo as capital, provision for single federal president, retention of full presidential control during 20-month transitional period, requirement that political organizations merge in national front, assignment of most important prerogatives to federal state.
- Syria and Iraq gained equal representation on Presidential Council both during and after transitional period, permanent representation by vice presidents in federal government, promise of parliamentary system of government, existence pro-unity parties (albeit under supervision of national front), establishment of regional governments with right to retain control of respective armies during transitional period. Ba’th also won guarantee of democratic freedoms some of which incompatible with authoritarian regime in Egypt.
B. Unresolved Problems
- Degree and pace of integration of functions assigned as federal responsibilities particularly in critical areas of defense, foreign affairs and economy. Success or failure may well turn on attitude Syrian and Iraq armies.
- Precise relationship of political parties to single federal political organization. Ba’th still has room for maneuver.
- Selection of key individuals to represent Syrian and Iraqi regions.
- Degree to which Nasser and Ba’th can resolve conflicting concepts of “Arab Socialism” and “collective leadership”.
C. Effect on Other States
- Whereas open to adherence by “every independent Arab republic believing in principles of freedom, socialism and unity”, Department would not expect either Yemen or Algeria join in near future.
- Despite reference to “liberation of Palestine” in preamble of proclamation we do not perceive significant effect on Near East military balance or that Israel’s position less secure. Preoccupation these states with formidable problems of federation and lessened need outbid each other in hostility to Israel may in fact improve Israel’s situation.
- Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait, as non-members of federation, will feel impact from momentum generated by proclamation. However in each of latter cases there are countervailing factors which we believe would deter any immediate threat to their integrity. Saudi Arabia derives protection from nature of its society, from provincial separation (which would make revolution embracing entire country difficult) and from declared interest of United States in maintenance its integrity. Jordan protected by virtue its role as buffer against Israel and partially by fact that it would be an economic liability to federation. Lebanon’s delicate confessional balance would make it anomaly in federation which officially proclaimed to be Islamic. Western interest in integrity both Lebanon and Jordan abundantly demonstrated in 1958. Kuwait has defense tie with UK.
- No reason believe federation would have hostile intentions toward Iran or Turkey except as function latter’s relations with Israel. Border problems and disputes should be resolvable by negotiation. Former UAR hostility to Baghdad Pact not applicable to CENTO so long as Iraq stays within Arab sphere.
D. Prognosis for the Future
Department expects during ensuing 5 months until referendum adopted and carrying over into a substantial part of transitional period, considerable maneuvering for advantage by respective parties. Too early to make any definite judgment about success of the parties in reaching agreement on the critical problems which remain unresolved. Nor are we sure of stability present Syrian and Iraqi regimes which still suffer from factionalism and deep division of opinion.
In discussing situation with colleagues you should thus take a detached view, avoiding premature judgments. You should emphasize [Page 477] that this is primarily an inter-Arab matter in which we avoid taking sides. US welcomes closer association among Arabs provided reflects freely expressed desires of peoples concerned achieved without force and not directed against other state or states in area.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 3 UAR. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Barrow, cleared by Strong, and approved by Talbot. Sent to Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Paris, Taiz, Tehran, and Tel Aviv and sent by pouch to all other posts. For related documentation, see ibid., POL ISR-JORDAN and POL 3 ARAB FEDERATION; and ibid., S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Egypt.↩