421. Telegram From the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State 1

288. 1. What was to have been very brief call on Presidency Adviser Khouli August 16 turned into another ninety minute marathon covering a lot of ground. Will endeavor reproduce highlights in chronological order.

2. Khouli said my August 12 conversation with Mohamed Riad2 had not been very “glamorous.” It developed that GUAR had been hoping for some give in USG position on Middle East crisis, a hope precipitated perhaps by Tito visit. I then reviewed USG position.

3. Khouli then referred to US press and other indicators of USG hopes for overthrow Nasser regime. Perhaps this was USG desire. Perhaps this is why US was insisting on Israel right use Suez Canal. USG was welcome to try overthrow regime. It would be a gamble. Khouli did not think it would succeed, but he might be wrong. If US thought that successor to Nasser might make for more stable Egypt, it might be wrong. He continued: “People used to say that our power base was the army. If this were ever true, it is not true now. We have no army any more. Our army was defeated. No, our power base is the people.”

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4. Khouli then said, “Let's put aside technical questions of diplomatic relations and the like. Let's ask people think of the relations between the American people and the Egyptian people. We have a chance to write a new chapter.” He then reiterated deeply felt conviction of all Egyptians that US could order Israel around. He accepted this might not be true but said conviction was political fact which had to be dealt with.

5. I said that wide UAR suspicions of US intentions towards UAR had beclouded our relations for well over a year. I reviewed concern high levels USG at these suspicions and sincere efforts we had made to overcome them. We simply had to face up to this problem. I had not asked to return to Egypt to mastermind a plot against the government. I had come precisely because I believed in the ties between the two countries, despite present difficulties. I said there were enough very open and very serious differences between our two countries. We did not need to invent more. I repeated previous arguments re USG lack control over Israel.

6. He said USG should not underestimate patriotism and resilience of Egyptian people. GUAR economy was in desperate shape. Middle classes who used to better things of life would suffer and they were complaining. But the majority of people who had always been poor anyway were not.

7. He said he now thought there would be an Arab summit. He felt Hussein's peregrinations would lead to this. If everyone came except Faisal then Faisal would be isolated. He said Faisal did not want UAR withdrawal from Yemen but UAR humiliation. “But enough of this Arab stuff,” he said. “I'm not going to talk about the US and the Arab world. I'm talking about the US and Egypt. We think the Suez Canal issue is not an Israeli issue, but an American issue.”

8. I recalled that USG had labored patiently for five long months in 1956–57 create rather shaky modus vivendi which had worked for ten years. During those ten years Israel had used Gulf Aqaba (with no harm whatsoever to UAR national interests) and had muted its Suez Canal claims. Who, I asked had upset these arrangements? Khouli did not deny responsibility. Said that if Muhyieddine visit to Washington had come off, latter would have offered “moratorium” on Aqaba issue and pullback of UAR troops from Sinai including Sharm Al-Shaykh.

9. I then said I too had respect for Egyptian people and thought some might be underestimating their pragmatism and practicality. I did not see how occasional appearance, in conditions of peace, of Israel flag at Suez would be spark setting off mass uprisings. Seemed to me that Egyptians, more than any other Arabs I knew, would be [Page 791]relieved know that twenty year burden of Arab-Israel hostility, burden which in great part they had carried, was now off them and that Egypt could now turn its attention to better things. I recognized that Suez transit was not an easy issue for Egypt but it was up to us both continue our discussion in search of any conceivable glimmer of light. He agreed.

Bergus
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Exdis. Received at 1451Z.
  2. Bergus reported his August 12 conversation with Mohamed Riad in telegram 248 from Cairo, August 14. (Ibid.)