27. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0
Wayne Fredericks just told me worriedly that Rusk was getting pretty itchy about Algeria; “if those people take arms from Cuba, we’ll just have to back Morocco.”
But there are a few fundamentals which should guide our approach toward this affair, and override any tactical considerations:
- Our basic interest is in a friendly Maghreb (free of undue Soviet or for that matter Nasserite influence). We do not want a pro-West Morocco at the expense of a pro-East Algeria if it can be avoided.
- In the long run, as Algeria goes so goes the Maghreb. Algeria is the largest, best located, and certainly most dynamic of the Maghreb states. We and the French must keep sufficient “in” with whatever regime holds power to compete effectively with Nasser and Khrushchev, and in a real sense to protect our Tunisian and Moroccan friends.
- Hassan’s border claims on Algeria, though he has a good case, must be seen in the context of his many other claims, which have practically isolated him in Africa. He claims all of Mauritania and didn’t attend Addis Conference on this ground. He naturally also claims all the Spanish enclaves, which will in time create real frictions with Madrid (especially Ceuta and Melilla). We’ve got to turn him off this nationalistic kick before he gets everybody sore at him.
- We and the French have been actively supplying arms to Morocco. This makes it hard to argue against Ben Bella’s right to get UAR, Soviet, or even Cuban arms (in fact Hassan got a lot of Soviet arms too). One reason why I favor lying low on US arms to Morocco just now is that, when this becomes public, it will seem to justify Algerian arms requests to others. We’re also in a poor position to influence BB against such requests if we’re simultaneously continuing to equip Moroccans.
- We can always reverse our policy well before it’s too late, if it becomes clear that BB with UAR/Soviet/Cuban support is really out to get Hassan. In the meantime, we ought not to get out ahead of the French.
A shrewd calculation of our interests suggests that we have to stay loose in these bloody disputes between third parties—precisely so they won’t become East-West issues in which we somehow tend to end up [Page 34] stuck with the weaker side against the stronger. In my part of the world, moreover, things are seldom what they seem at first glance. For example, NYT this morning had Indians, not Paks, starting trouble in Kashmir; Hassan blew up this morning about Algerian capture of Figuig and this afternoon we hear Figuig is still in Moroccan hands; UK tells us it’s staying strictly out of Yemen war, yet its own people say that puppet Sharif of Beihan sent 35 camel loads of arms to royalists, and is actively conniving with Faysal; four months ago Hussein was accusing us of being in bed with Nasser—now he’s cosying up to Nasser and accusing us of being pro-Baath.
We are presently evacuating Morocco except for a residual commo facility at Kenitra. Yet we’re still investing tens of millions a year. The more arms aid we give Morocco now, the more BB will seek elsewhere. So we risk a nice little Maghreb arms race in which our costs go up and BB leans further in the wrong direction to satisfy his suppliers. Where is our interest here?
Ben Bella is a pain and will remain so, but he’s more likely to be around for a while than Hassan. He seems to have done a good job so far of out-maneuvering his opposition. I think most specialists would agree that Hassan has even less life expectancy than BB. So we also want to be careful lest we end up backing the losing horse. Ferguson, who seems to his managers back here to be pleading his client’s case rather more than ours, doesn’t seem to be taking these longer range factors much into account.
In sum, our interest is to avoid being drawn into disputes in a way which will plague us, and cost us a lot more than we reckon at the outset, until we see where more clearly we want to end up.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Morocco, 11/63. Secret.↩