292. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic 0

121. Eyes only Cane for Ambassador. When you see Nasser, inform him that President has asked you to state: his appreciation for talking frankly at length with McCloy; that he has a better understanding of Nasser’s problems and attitudes; that he welcomes assurances on nuclear weapons and on Israel given to McCloy; that he believes further frank discussions on different aspects of arms limitation in Near East would be worthwhile, and that while President has not yet talked to McCloy personally and has only seen his reports, he has asked you to review with Nasser certain points which appear to President to be of great significance:

First tell Nasser we sense on his part a question why we had singled out UAR for this approach. Actually this not so. Our concern regarding spread of nuclear weapons is not limited to Near East but is world-wide. Hopefully, at a future time, there will be some broad collective basis for approaching this problem. Meanwhile, it is subject of a number of separate efforts, both individual and regional. We have not singled out UAR. On contrary, we have pressed this matter with number of countries, notably some of our closest allies.

With respect to timing of our approach, we have specific reasons for approaching Nasser at this time. These relate to fact that both countries are now edging into missile field and Israelis in particular are well into nuclear field. Dimona reactor is now in an advanced stage of construction and, while intended for peaceful uses, it does have potential capability of producing fuel for nuclear weapons. We want to make crystal clear our firm estimate that Israelis are not and have not decided to start developing such weapons. However, Israelis are approaching stage where their combination of technical skills and physical plant, though developed for peaceful uses, also could give them the capacity for producing a nuclear weapon within a few years if the arms race should expand into highly sophisticated fields.

Also, regardless of what UAR believes to be our sensitivity to Israeli propaganda, we wish to make it clear that one of our greatest concerns is that by means of its current charges with respect to UAR advanced weapons development, Israelis may lay a foundation which they will believe [Page 636] justifies their moving into the nuclear weapons field if they should decide to do so.

It is elemental prudence for the international community to work out a safeguards procedure in such a situation. In our continuing determination to make certain Israel does not go a nuclear route, we want to be able to say to them that if they do not, we can assure them UAR will not and vice versa.

This brings us to question of verification. The UAR has indicated that as far as nuclear weapons are concerned, it has nothing to inspect and that it has no intention of going into nuclear weapons field. We recognize that UAR’s present nuclear facility does not offer a weapons capability. But we would like to point out that when UAR rejects the principle of externally verified safeguards on grounds of sovereignty, it is taking a position which enables Israel to reject verification on same grounds and maintain that UAR is developing nuclear weapons secretly. Since UAR has very little to inspect in nuclear field, it should be relatively easy for it to accept principle of international safeguards as they apply to nuclear weapons, and it would strengthen our hand substantially in dealing with Israel.
Many countries have come increasingly to accept the application of safeguards to nuclear reactors out of the common interest in preventing spread of nuclear weapons. UAR would not be alone in this regard. India, which has in past rejected safeguards, has accepted them for the large reactor at Tarapur—first on basis that US would do verification and later that IAEA should do so. In the case of UAR primary verification role need not be performed by US but could be done on a multilateral basis such as IAEA or by other countries.
We recognize that question of missiles presents greater difficulties for UAR, and on the basis of talks with McCloy, we feel we have a better understanding of how UAR views its missile effort. We appreciate UAR’s assurance that it does not plan to develop missiles for nuclear warheads, but we wonder if UAR might not wish to consider how missile program may look to others and what some of its effects, even though not intended, may have been.
Public disclosure of UAR missile program has lent itself to exploitation by others and given them a handle with which to launch their propaganda campaigns. We have tried to avert this and place it in proper perspective, as for example in Secretary Harriman’s letter of April 12 to six U.S. Senators. This letter was not well received by Israel. Despite such actions on our part, others will view UAR’s missiles as being capable of carrying nuclear weapons and will give credence to Israel’s charges. Moreover, we are concerned that Israel is accelerating her own missile effort in response to UAR’s missile developments. We do not know where this would lead.
Our suggestion that UAR might wish to consider not pressing its missile development program was made with these considerations in mind. We did not have in mind any public abandonment of missile effort but rather exercise of restraint by UAR. Then it might be more feasible to ensure that Israel also exercised restraint. We would welcome any specific views UAR might have on how this problem might be met.
We fully understand UAR’s political apprehensions regarding extensive international verification procedures. It is certainly not our desire to place the UAR in a sort of protectorate or satellite position, and perhaps further exploration of matter might yield an arrangement which would avoid adverse political implications. Even we in US in our own relations with Soviet Union have decided, if satisfactory arms limitations can be agreed upon, to accept verification arrangements which would give assurance both to ourselves and Soviet Union. Obviously, kind of verification that would apply to US and Soviet Union is much more extensive than that which would be adequate in case of UAR and Israel where a simple, unobtrusive verification arrangement, involving a very small number of technicians, would suffice.
In sum it is our belief that US and UAR share a common interest in ensuring that technological development in Near East does not take what could prove to be a disastrous turn. Protective war is not a solution but a last resort and one that would be much more costly to the UAR and far less likely to succeed than approach we are suggesting. We do not think it is necessary either to permit further escalation of the arms race in the Near East or to resort to protective war. We think that arms limitation with assurance for both sides offers a better way. These were thoughts which lay behind McCloy’s visit, and we hope UAR will give these matters further thought.

If, during course of meeting, Nasser inquires whether McCloy visiting Israel, you may inform him that he will first report to President.

FYI. In foregoing you will note we have continued to include missiles although we have treated them separately. In view of the Israeli missile effort, we do not feel we should abandon missile aspect yet. End FYI.

Should you perceive problems with any elements this approach, we would appreciate your comments soonest. However believe foregoing will serve as useful terms of reference in continuing dialogue with Nasser.1

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/MCCLOY. Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Dickman and Gathright (ACDA); cleared by McKesson, Harriman, and Komer (substance); and approved by Talbot.
  2. In telegram 120 from Cairo, July 11, Badeau reported that on July 11 he made a detailed presentation to Nasser of the points in this telegram. Nasser responded that he had consulted his immediate circle, who confirmed Nasser’s immediate reaction that inspection and verification in any form would be difficult for the UAR to accept because it would imply reintroduction of Western control. (Ibid.)