394. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The Situation in Egypt
- His Excellency The Marquis de Merry Del Val, Spanish Ambassador
- NEA—Ambassador Lucius D. Battle
- EUR/SPP—George W. Landau
- NEA/UAR—H. Eugene Bovis
The Spanish Ambassador said that he had received two letters, the contents of which he wished to convey to Ambassador Battle. The first letter concerned the difference of views between the US and Spain on the present Middle East situation. The Spanish Ambassador in Cairo, Angel Sagaz, thought the Spanish saw the issues more clearly than the US. He feared that the US was alienating the Arabs and opening the door wider to increased Russian influence.
The second letter reported the views of various groups in Cairo with which Ambassador Sagaz had come in contact. The first set of views were those of El-Zyyat. As a result of events in the UN, Mr. Zyyat apparently has arrived at the conclusion that the US is now the foremost political power as well as the foremost military and economic power in the world. Ambassador Angel Sagaz viewed Mr. Zyyat’s remarks as an admission that the USSR was unable to retrieve the situation for the Arabs.
Ambassador Sagaz reported the views of two groups that thought that there should be a dialogue between the US and Egypt. The first group said that the dialogue must begin now and that it must be through Nasser, since he is the only leader capable of putting the brake on the Russian advance in the Arab World. The other group believed that a US-Egyptian dialogue was possible only after the disappearance of Nasser. This group thought that a coup d’etat was not far away and that it was likely to be bloody.
Ambassador Sagaz also reported an interview with Dr. Drubi, the Syrian Ambassador to the UAR. The Syrian Ambassador felt there was only one solution to the present crisis, and that was a resumption of open war by whatever means the Arabs could muster, including guerilla [Page 729] activity. Dr. Drubi said the boycott, the cessation of oil shipments and the closing of the Canal had not been sufficient to bring the West around. In any event, Saudi Arabia and Libya were not willing to go along any longer. Nasser had told Dr. Drubi that the Egyptians had lost 20,000 troops during the hostilities. Ambassador Sagaz said this had been a revelation, since the previous figure on Egyptian dead had been given as 5,000.
Ambassador Battle thanked Ambassador Merry Del Val for conveying to us Ambassador Sagaz’ analysis. He thought our analyses did not differ substantially. We were aware that the Soviets were making increased inroads in the Near East. The question was now how far the USSR was willing to go in backing up the UAR militarily, economically, and politically. Mr. Battle said that while we were concerned about the Soviet maneuvers, there was little we could do in the UAR at the moment. After all, it was the Egyptians who had broken relations and it was up to them to make the first move for a resumption of relations. Nevertheless, we were willing to talk to Egyptians any time and any place. There have already been numerous meetings in private channels. There were three prerequisites for the resumption of relations:
- Compensation for the damage to American property in Egypt.
- Retraction of the “big lie”.
- A quiet period in which statements about the US and President Johnson were restrained.
Mr. Battle said that in the meantime Spain and other European countries could help by maintaining a Western presence in Egypt.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Bovis on August 3 and approved by Battle.↩