104. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

SUBJECT

  • More on Resuming Relations with the UAR

As I mentioned yesterday on the phone, the GUAR is fudging the Look retraction of the “big lie.”2 First, they altered the crucial admission to read-instead of “you could say that, yes”-“you could say that, but someone else may say something else.” Then their spokesman said that resumption of US-UAR relations is “not at present an issue that is being considered” and that the “extraordinary” support extended by the US to Israel does not signify that the US shows any interest in maintaining friendly relations with the Arabs.

Don Bergus suggests several reasons for this hedging. One obviously is that Nasser doesn’t like to admit to his people he’s wrong. Another is the persistent UAR effort to hope it can use resumption to change our position.

My own view is shared in NEA, is that this fudging need not destroy the usefulness of the Look article. I think we can go ahead and tell Bergus we consider this the best we’re going to get, so we can drop this issue but still leave the initiative with Nasser. Most of us doubt he will rush into our arms.

This isn’t entirely throwing in the towel. The news of Nasser’s retraction is getting through to the Arabs. The Egyptian press and radio have altered the interview some, but not enough to raise any doubts that Nasser now admits the original charge was untrue. In Cairo, Tunis, Khartoum, Benghazi and other places the Attwood interview has been the story, and even Sheikh Isa of Bahrain is aware of the retraction. We don’t have reports from all the Arab countries, but Algeria is the only place we know of where the Look article is being ignored. Major play given to it in international broadcasts-particularly by BBC-is spreading the news no matter what Arab governments do.

Therefore, I think we’re over one hurdle, but we may not be much closer to actual resumption. We may disagree somewhat on the value [Page 215] of resumption (my view attached),3 but even the President seemed to feel we shouldn’t run after Nasser once we cleared all obstacles from the path.

Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. VI, Memos, 8/67-7/68. Secret.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 91.
  3. Document 101.