288. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0

Attached read-out on McCloy’s first nuclear/missile round with Nasser is well worth reading.1 While Nasser’s preliminary reaction to our scheme was negative, he did not close the door. Highlights were:

Refreshingly frank revelation by Nasser he has no nuclear capabilities or early prospects; nor is UAR planning much in missile field beyond a crude V-2 type missile with primitive guidance and probably a highly explosive warhead.
Nasser said he could not enter into any “agreement” with the US to renounce new weapons because this would appear to Egyptians and others as making UAR a “satellite” of US; nor could he accept any inspection or observation arrangement for the same reasons. But he did indicate some willingness to renounce advanced weapons publicly if it could be done in a “collective setting” such as the UN. He might even agree to respond in writing to you that he had no intention of developing nuclear weapons or of attacking Israel. This is a step forward.

Note also Badeau’s commentary.2 Key points as seen here are: (1) Nasser’s obvious suspicion that our initiative was motivated by the Israeli propaganda campaign; (2) extent to which political factors, chiefly his fear that entering any such agreement with us would compromise UAR’s neutralist position, were more important in his mind than military.

Regrettably, McCloy did not fully develop two key points: (1) that the main reason for our initiative was not Israeli pressure but on the contrary our concern over what Israel might do in the nuclear field, and our feeling that to restrain Israel we’d have to assure it that the UAR was not taking the nuclear/missile road; and (2) that there were real advantages to the UAR in our scheme because of the simple fact that Israel was way ahead in the nuclear field.

There is no point in going to the Israelis before we have clarified these points with Nasser and hopefully gotten him to agree to keep the dialogue going until we can probe Israeli intentions. Therefore we propose [Page 624] to have Badeau make these points to Nasser next week before coming home on leave. Then, instead of proceeding from vacation to Israel, McCloy will return here about the 20th for talks on whether to go ahead on the Israeli probe.3

None of us are too discouraged with these initial results. There is still a chance we can get Nasser signed on to some kind of scheme. If not, we still might be able to get some kind of unilateral renunciation, as suggested by Nasser himself. And at the minimum, even if Nasser insists on retaining full freedom of maneuver, we have laid the groundwork for justifying to Nasser any further US security assurances to Israel, i.e. they are the price we have to pay for preventing Israel from going the nuclear route. In sum, the initial probe tends to confirm our judgment that this exercise will probably be productive no matter how it comes out.

Bob Komer
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, United Arab Republic, UAR/Israel Arms Limitation. Secret; Cane. A handwritten note on the source text reads: “(Taken from Pres. week-end reading dtd 7/4–7/63–Tab 4).”
  2. Telegram 2470 from Cairo (Document 283) is attached. A report on McCloy’s second meeting with Nasser is in Document 285.
  3. Badeau’s commentary was transmitted in telegram 11 from Cairo, July 1. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/MCCLOY.) For text, see the Supplement, the compilation on the Arab-Israeli dispute.
  4. In telegram 23 from Athens, July 3, McCloy indicated that he was inclined to return to Washington for additional consultations before visiting Israel. The Department of State concurred in McCloy’s recommendation in telegram 19 to Athens. (Both in Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/MCCLOY)