285. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State0
2491. From McCloy. Embtel 2470.1 Met again with Nasser Saturday evening as arranged, this time with Ambassador and Eilts. Meeting lasted just over an hour.[Page 616]
After the preliminaries I said I thought it well, in response to his earlier suggestion that he might have difficulty in explaining why Egypt should be singled out to make a renunciation of nuclear capability and further missile development, to point out that in addition to similar action involving Israel, other countries either had or were at the point of accepting nuclear safeguards, e.g., India and perhaps certain South American countries. I added that we would be glad to have his thoughts if he had any beyond those he had expressed on Thursday. Without any suggestion of need for further time, he said he was prepared now to respond to the main points I had raised inasmuch as he had had opportunity to discuss the matter with some of his colleagues and had come to some conclusions.
While he appreciated the desire of the President to bring about stability in the area, which was in accordance with his own desires, he could not enter into an agreement with the US to renounce the weapons we had discussed because to do so would, in his view, really amount to a limitation in Egyptian sovereignty through agreement with a foreign power. It would, in the atmosphere of political sensitivity which pervades the country, be looked on as a sort of “protectorate” or “satellite” relationship, and accordingly he would not be in a position to enter into such an arrangement with the US. It was a matter of principle for him. Nor would this situation be altered by a similar arrangement between the US and Israel.
Next, he could not accept any inspection or observation arrangement. This was a traditional attitude on Egypt’s part, as he had pointed out at our last meeting. He had to operate in the atmosphere of national and area sensitivity in which Egypt, as a newly independent country, found itself. Besides, so far as nuclear matters were concerned, there was nothing to inspect.
He said that he was not averse to some form of renunciation if it were placed in a “collective” setting such as the UN might afford, but he could not act individually with the US in this respect. He repeated that he had no intention of developing nuclear weaponry. He referred to “Israeli propaganda” regarding the intensity of Egyptian military preparations, and throughout the interview it was clear that he felt that my visit was impelled by the stepping up of this propaganda campaign.
I said that I was clear as to his attitude toward an agreement with the US, but that I was not clear as to what he meant by his willingness to make some declaration in a “collective” setting. He said that he did not know that he had any specific or exact thoughts on the matter, but his main preoccupation was the avoidance of any suggestion of individual action in response to Israeli propaganda or any suggestion of impairment of Egyptian sovereignty. I then indicated that he had said on Thursday that he might be prepared, in response to a written inquiry by the [Page 617] President, to state that he had no intention of developing nuclear military power or of attacking Israel and that he would not object to the publication of such an exchange. After some thought, he said that this might be done. Egypt had made a general declaration of this character in respect of nuclear weapons in Africa at Addis Ababa. He reiterated that with respect to Israel, his strategy was counter-strategy and retaliation rather than aggression. Here he repeated the record of what he termed “Israeli aggression” from 1948 through 1956: That he simply could not trust Israeli statements regarding their peaceful intentions. He again spoke of his appreciation of the 1956 US action.
I then asked him what his reaction had been to the May 8 statement of President Kennedy which clearly dealt with aggression on either side. He in turn asked how Badeau had read the Egyptian reaction at the time. Badeau replied local reaction, as he had read it, had been mild though there had been some criticism of the statement in the Egyptian papers as more of an attempt to meet Israeli pressures than an attempt to offer comfort to Egypt. Badeau added that he had been in Egypt long enough to know that such press comment did not necessarily reflect the view of the government. Nasser confirmed that this was the way they had regarded it.
I then asked how he would react to a more definite statement, more particularly related to aggression against Egypt, and perhaps avoiding the pure repetition of the language which had been used in the tripartite declaration of which he had unfortunate memories. He said he did not think it would be of much help to him. Later, however, he did say that depending on the wording, it might conceivably be of some use. But it was clear to me that he was not reaching for any such assurance from us and was not placing any great value on such a statement.
I then said that I was here to find a means of helping him in an attempt to meet what I believed was our common interest in this area, namely, to avoid the escalation of these weapons to a point where they not only became most burdensome economically but also increased tensions to a danger point where they could perhaps result in the destruction of all he had been seeking to achieve in the way of greater security and prosperity for his people. I had conveyed the President’s interest in the stability of the area and had made several suggestions, which he had now indicated did not conform to his policies or what he felt he could accept. I would appreciate it if he would come forward with any ideas of his own rather than have me come forward with further suggestions that might not appeal to him. I was here to have a frank exchange of ideas with him in the hope of developing a course of action that would be helpful to him, adding that I sensed a “little suspicion” on his part that we were impelled to be too favorably disposed to Israel and that we were too subject to its pressure. He smiled and allowed that he had “a little more [Page 618] than a little” suspicion. I reiterated the President’s deep concern with maintaining stability in the area, and his genuine desire to act in an even-handed manner. I said I hoped he would give the matter more thought in the positive spirit in which the proposals had been put forward, and in due course he might have the opportunity of giving Badeau his further thoughts after I had left and before Badeau departed for the US on July 15.
I repeated that it would be to his real interest if continuing inspection of Dimona reactor could be made so that he would have a check on its operations. He agreed this would certainly be helpful. Badeau then asked him what his attitude would be if he learned that the Israelis were misusing their reactor for the manufacture of weapon material. He replied with no hesitation, “protective war. We would have no other choice”. He said he could not permit Israel to develop superiority in weapons, for it was shown that when they had it they would use it. He said he had recently learned that the Israelis had just made an agreement for the delivery of 96 more Mirages from the French, and he would have to counter this. To maintain his balance with Israel, he had to have planes and missiles, and this was why he was compelled to step up his own capacity to build these weapons. The Russians had refused him planes in 1960, and he did not want to be wholly dependent on any outside power.
As for the inspection of missiles and missile development, he did not feel he could accept this, and I gathered this was whether the inspection were conducted by the US or the UN or anyone else. He said he did not intend any great increase in his missile strength. He did have the need to experiment with his guidance system, but it was all very expensive. He acknowledged it was to his interest to hold down the expense which would be involved in the enlargement of his missile strength; hence, he did not intend to press it except insofar as he was compelled to preserve the military balance.
In speaking of the general political situation he had to face not only in his own country but in the entire area, he referred to the announcement which had just appeared in the papers of the conclusion of the US loan to Israel for the Hawks and of the “action of the Bundestag” in making illegal the assistance of German citizen-scientists to any foreign countries in the manufacture of weapons. Clearly this was aimed directly at Egypt and was the result of Israeli pressures. If necessary he said he might give the German scientists Egyptian citizenship.
Comment: He was courteous and composed throughout and we left him on the understanding he would give the matter more thought and discuss it again with Badeau.
I gained the impression that the main motivation of his attitude toward our proposal was based on political sensitivities as he sensed them both in Egypt and in the Arab countries. Sheer military considerations [Page 619] were not the main factors. He felt that the price we were asking him to pay for a check on Israel’s nuclear intentions or for whatever other advantages he would gain from the arrangement was of such a character from a political point of view that it was not possible for him to meet it. When I again raised the thought of cooperation with him in use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes or space programs he did not seem particularly interested. I would guess that beyond a restatement of his willingness to respond to an inquiry from the President at an appropriate time along the lines he suggested, he will not come forward with anything new or be very specific in regard to what he means by “collective” action when he sees Badeau.
Uppermost in his mind was his suspicion as to why we were coming forward with this suggestion at this time and his relation of it to the current Israeli propaganda campaign. Yet, although he clearly believed we were subject to Israeli pressures at home I did feel he credited the President with a sincere desire to stabilize conditions in the ME.
Comments based on further discussion with Ambassador Badeau will follow in a separate message. My preliminary reaction is that decision on the character of a probe in Israel should await my return to Washington (around July 20) and further consultation there.