386. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1

4279. 1. Bergus and Parker2 had 70 minute discussion with UAR Vice President Zakaria Muhieddin evening Jan 31. It can only be described as somber. Muhieddin marshalled his considerable resources of inner strength, charm, intelligence and last, but by no means least, quiet determination. Highlight of discussion was opening statement by Muhieddin who had obviously been very well briefed on previous Bergus conversations with UARG officials (FonMin, Presidential Adviser Al-Khouli, DePriMin Fawzi, et al). Muhieddin neatly and effectively summed up these several hours of conversation in few minutes.

2. He was not optimistic over future of US–UAR relations. He believed UAR had made substantial contribution toward containment Arab-Israel dispute. He thought UAR had demonstrated its objective was to maintain truly independent nonaligned position. UAR had welcomed American economic interests in development its oil resources realizing that for “many years at least”UAR, as other Arab countries, [Page 755] needed American capital, know-how, and accessibility to Western markets.

3. He felt that USG has not brought itself to recognize forces of change at work in Arab world. UAR shared US desire for stability in area and did not “export revolution.” (Comment: Muhieddin and other Egyptian interlocutors have been quite sensitive on this point.) But US seemed to feel it could best protect its interests by aligning itself with Arab leaders such as Hussein and Feisal (with much heavier emphasis on latter) who determined resist change. Feisal was doing his best promote US–UAR confrontation and apparently succeeding in his effort. Both Feisal and Hussein seemed convinced that time had come work openly and otherwise to cripple if not destroy present UAR regime. US, willy-nilly, had let itself become party to these efforts.

4. Primary theater of confrontation was, of course, Yemen. Muhieddin frankly stated that objective Jan 27–28 Najran bombings had been bring physical and moral “pressure” on Feisal to desist from anti-YAR activities. Muhieddin clearly implied such attacks on Saudi Arabia would continue despite UAR’s full awareness that USG might react.

5. He acknowledged that UAR economic situation was not good, that serious mistakes had been made in the past, and that the next couple of years would not be easy. He made it clear that UAR would use its scarce hard currency resources purchase wheat and maintain relationships with “cooperative” creditors. Debt payments to others such as IMF or USG were obviously of lesser priority. He was pessimistic re new UAR-IMF stabilization agreement.

6. On wheat he spoke little and mostly in terms of resentment which US behavior in this field has created in India. He did not play on Nasser theme of US “war of starvation.” He did however seem to believe there was something sinister in USG’s lack of response to UAR requests for assistance. US, in his view, was trying string along Egyptians, perhaps as part of its strategy support activities Feisal and Hussein rather than giving clear-cut answer.

7. Muhieddin believed that US–UAR relations were at their lowest ebb since 1952. Things were even worse than during period 1956–59 crises in Near East. He felt that basic regard of Egyptian people for USG and Americans had survived foregoing without much difficulty. But he thought that it inevitable that animosity toward US would develop throughout Egyptian society and that restoration of friendship would not come quickly or easily. (Comment: This theme used by Fawzi and others.)

8. Throughout conversation Bergus and Parker did their best point out fallacies and contradictions Muhieddin’s position. They drew heavily on Secretary’s conversations with Kamel and Ambassador Battle’s continuing discussions with UARG leadership. They stressed conviction [Page 756] that UARG assumption that USG had changed its basic policies toward Egypt and area was both erroneous and dangerous. While ensuing discussion with Muhieddin was hardly a “dialogue of the deaf” neither do we believe that there was much impact on him.

9. Bergus and Parker left with impression UARG becoming increasingly convinced that broad US–UAR confrontation is unavoidable. There is little basis for believing that Egyptians any longer flinch at such a possibility. In Egypt, as elsewhere in this part of world, there is strong streak of fatalism.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL UAR-US. Secret. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Jidda, London, and Tel Aviv.
  2. Donald C. Bergus visited Cairo January 25–Feburary 1. Information concerning his trip is ibid., ORG 7 NEA. Richard B. Parker was Political Counselor of the Embassy in Cairo.