22. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic1

4011. Cane for Talbot.2 You authorized by President renew dialogue with Nasser on NE arms. Objectives are (1) demonstrate President shares predecessor’s concern spiraling arms race particularly field missiles and nuclears; (2) impart assurances re our understanding Israel’s current nuclear program; (3) impress Nasser with self-defeating character his missile program; (4) emphasize importance we place on mutual restraint in field sophisticated weapons and in gaining support for IAEA safeguards; and (5) obtain further insight Nasser views and suggestions on problem.

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Except for specific assurance re our examination Dimona reactor (see Deptel 748 to Tel Aviv)3 and raising NFZ to which Defense interposed objections, you should follow Talking Points paper which pouched Feb 254 and summarized below:

Basic theme should be that accelerated NE arms race not in basic interest UAR or Israel. Whatever ultimate purpose UAR surface to surface missile program may be, has had unsettling effect and viewed as new stage in NE arms race.
For example, we and others continue be under constant Israeli pressure provide all sorts weapons correct imbalances resulting from continued acquisition Soviet arms by Arab countries and UAR weapons development. Our ability curb various Israeli initiatives made more difficult particularly where obvious imbalances occur.
We following very closely Israel’s progress in nuclear field. At this time, no evidence Israel engaged in production nuclear weapon. However, Israel may acquire capability make nuclear weapon at some future time.
Missile race picking up steam. We have not viewed UAR’s SSM effort as presenting great threat as long as levels low. However, Israelis fearful Nasser’s missile goals, and intelligence indicates they intend taking steps redress situation. If UAR develops large missile force and Israel follows suit, this would be self-defeating exercise for both countries.
USG has been through similar experience with Soviets. Though no major arms control agreements reached, Nasser must have noticed both Soviets and ourselves have sought limit further increases our military budgets. Similarly, have both supported UN resolution last November concerning nuclear weapons in orbit. This was direction which arms race could have been extended but neither side stood to gain. Control by “mutual example” can serve interests of both US and Soviets during period when formal agreements difficult to reach. We believe there is parallel for UAR and Israel.
What we seeking is means reduce possibility of chain reaction which would ultimately require outside involvement in struggle which either Arabs or Israelis might start but which neither could end. Must look other alternatives:
Tacit understanding on missiles: While believe some unobtrusive arrangement involving third party verification most desirable way, if [Page 49] this not possible, would like explore possibility mutual restraint in avoiding SSM forces and other sophisticated weapons. We find strong economic as well as other reasons for both UAR and Israel stop pursuing present course in developing highly expensive weaponry. FYI. Urge you try pin Nasser down more specifically re his vague comment to McCloy that UAR did not plan extensive missile force. End FYI.
Support IAEA safeguards: We heartened by UAR endorsement partial test ban. Practical additional step now would be for countries support IAEA safeguards. We look to India’s acceptance safeguards for Tarapur reactor as hopeful precedent.UAR support in principle for future yet unbuilt reactors would have profound effect and serve as lever move Israel accede similar safeguards for Dimona reactor. If UAR accepted principle and Israel refused, would have basis for questioning Israel’s nuclear policy.
Exchange of letters: Another possibility would be exchange of letters with President Johnson along lines suggested Deptel 1035.5
Collective Agreements: We continuing work on arms control on broader basis. Currently at Geneva, we discussing problem nonproliferation nuclear weapons. This discussion might provide Nasser with opportunity make position on UAR nonacquisition clear. If Nasser raises Nuclear Free Zone, you should indicate interest in UAR ideas and inquire how he thinks concept might apply in Arab-Israel context.
We do not believe end results present arms race can contribute Nasser objective strengthening independent role UAR in area. Rather, role can better be fulfilled through exercise restraint in ways suggested above. Would of course welcome any further thoughts Nasser might have.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. I. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Dickman on February 28; cleared by Walt Rostow, Komer, U. Alexis Johnson, Adrian Fisher, and Sloan; and approved by Jernegan and Rusk.
  2. Cane was the distribution indicator used for telegrams pertaining to the arms limitation probe described in Document 18. Talbot visited Cairo in the course of a trip to several capitals in the Near East and South Asia during March.
  3. Telegram 748 to Tel Aviv, February 27, instructed the Embassy to seek Eshkol’s agreement on passing reassurance from the Dimona inspection to Nasser, as requested in telegram 747 (see footnote 3, Document 19) as soon as possible. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12 ISR)
  4. Not found.
  5. Telegram 1035 to Cairo, September 12, 1963, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XVIII, Document 324.