301. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • McCloy Mission on Near East Arms Limitation

Mr. John J. McCloy will call on you Tuesday, July 23, at a time to be fixed, in order to render a personal report on his talks with Nasser on Near East arms limitation. Mr. McCloy’s telegraphic reports from Cairo on his mission are enclosed for your convenience. Ambassador Badeau will also be present.

Mr. McCloy saw Nasser on June 27 and again on June 29. While the United States proposal was not accepted, the approach provided a fuller insight into Nasser’s pertinent thinking on the problem. In summary, Nasser was impressed with your concern over the situation and anxious that his inability to accept our arms limitation approach be understood. The problem, as he saw it, was entirely political, not military. Neither Egyptian nor Arab public opinion would tolerate any arrangement with Israel, however indirect. Nor was verification acceptable in the heady atmosphere of Egypt’s only recently won independence. It would be viewed as casting the UAR in a kind of “protectorate” status. He was generally disinterested in any United States security guarantee.

As for nuclear weapons, he had nothing to inspect. He had no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, nor of attacking Israel. He said he might be willing to respond along these lines to an inquiry from you, and that this correspondence might be publicized. Also, without having any precise ideas in mind, he might be willing to associate himself with some “collective” renunciation of nuclear weapons.

Mr. McCloy had initially planned to go to Israel immediately after his Aegean cruise. In view of Nasser’s response, it was desirable that he report to you first before deciding whether to go to Israel at this time. While in Athens, Mr. McCloy met Ambassador Barbour who expressed [Page 654] some doubts as to the wisdom of a visit to Israel at this time. Having in mind the immediacy of the Cairo visit and its limited results, the Ambassador believed any such visit now would only be seized upon by the Israelis to increase their pressure for a security guarantee.

Nasser’s response poses two questions: (a) What should our next steps be in Cairo; and, (b) when and in what terms should an approach be made to Israel.

(a) Next Steps in Cairo

A further immediate approach to Nasser is inadvisable, although we shall want to take up the subject with him again before long. As long as his current political problems involving Arab unity remain active, they militate against his viewing our approach any more sympathetically. Allowing him more time to mull over the subject may also be of use. Above all, should some sort of test ban emerge from the Moscow talks, this will afford a fresh opportunity to renew the dialogue on the nuclear part of the problem outside of the Arab-Israel context. The UAR, along with other Afro-Asian states, may in due course wish to adhere to such an agreement, which might satisfy Nasser’s requirement for a “collective” setting.

Meanwhile, on a contingency basis, a draft letter from you to Nasser referring to his assurances that the UAR has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons or of attacking Israel, and inviting a written confirmation of these assurances, has been prepared for use at an appropriate occasion. A copy is enclosed. The letter is for possible publication at such time as a satisfactory reply from Nasser is forthcoming.

Unless a more suitable occasion arises earlier, Ambassador Badeau will carry the letter with him when he returns to Cairo early in September and present it to Nasser. At that time, the Ambassador will also again raise with him, but as a separate matter, the importance we attach to some offensive missile limitation and the minimal, unobtrusive nature of the verification envisaged. Adequate nuclear safeguards for future UAR reactors will likewise be raised.

The foregoing assumes that Congress can be dissuaded from enacting legislation the effect of which will be to strain US-UAR relations. If this assumption proves incorrect, prospects of obtaining a meaningful letter from Nasser and of pursuing arms limitation with him further are appreciably reduced. We shall also have to consider that if a letter from Nasser is forthcoming, and a security guarantee is thereafter given to Israel, this may be expected to place a serious strain on our relations with him.

(b) Probe in Israel

[7–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Hence, an early approach to Israel on the subject of nuclear weapons is still warranted.

[Page 655]

Various factors bear on the timing of such a probe in Israel. Irrespective of when it takes place, the Israelis will seek to use it to engage in a security guarantee dialogue and relate the latter to their position on renunciation of nuclear weapons. They may also be expected to want to know Nasser’s position and will castigate it as inadequate to warrant renunciation by them of nuclear weapons.

Some hiatus between the Cairo and Tel Aviv probes is desirable. As in the case of Cairo, if the Moscow talks prove successful and a test ban agreement results, this will afford a new peg on which to hang an approach to Israel to renounce nuclear weapons, independent of other outstanding US-Israel and Arab-Israel issues. Accordingly, we propose a mid or late September visit to Israel by Mr. McCloy. By then the results of the proposed letter from you to Nasser may also be known and might be a useful element. Great caution will have to be exercised, however, in using any Nasser letter with the Israelis.

Deferral of the Israeli probe as suggested above must depend on your judgment of: (a) the extent of Congressional and other pressures for a security guarantee to Israel; and, (b) how best to cope with such pressures having in mind overall United States foreign policy considerations. A separate paper is being submitted to you on the entire problem of a United States security guarantee to Israel.

The Israeli probe, at such time as it is made, will focus on the nuclear proliferation problem. [7–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Our ability to give such assurances in the past has been a stabilizing factor in the area.

As a separate matter Mr. McCloy will also urge that Israel exercise a self-imposed restraint on missile production. Apart from the expense factor, missiles without nuclear warheads add little to Israel’s security. Voluntary Israeli cooperation in limiting its offensive missile development might also be useful when we go back to Nasser in due course to raise with him again the importance of similar restraint on his part in missile development.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, United Arab Republic, UAR/Israel Arms Limitation, 07/11/63–07/31/63. Top Secret; Eyes Only-Cane. Attached to the source text are telegrams 2470 and 2491 from Cairo, Documents 283 and 285, and a draft letter to President Nasser, not printed. On July 22, Talbot forwarded this memorandum to Rusk with a recommendation that the Secretary sign the memorandum to the President. Talbot’s covering memorandum bears the typed note: “approved by McCloy,” and indicates that Eilts drafted the memorandum. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/MCCLOY) Status reports on the McCloy mission from Talbot to Rusk, dated July 11 and 17, are ibid. and ibid., NEA/IAI Files: Lot 72 D 438, Background papers vis-à-vis 2nd McCloy probe w/Nasser 9/64.