108. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1

7344. Subject: Lebanese elections.

During my meeting with Minister of Interior Suleiman Frangieh March 7, he urged us to be prepared to intervene in Lebanese Parliamentary elections if UAR, Syrian or Soviet intervention becomes significant fact. To date, Frangieh admitted, external intervention is within manageable proportions. Stated UAR definitely intervening but at lower level than in past elections.
I reiterated US positions non-involvement to Frangieh, but emphasized our support GOL’s efforts to hold free elections. USG watching developments very closely. I also told him we fully cognizant of difficulties GOL faces and said we would continue support his government’s [Page 222] efforts within means available to us. Made clear we not providing funds or getting involved in selection candidates.
Frangieh agreed US policy wise and correct under present circumstances. He emphasized strongly that US should be prepared intervene if there is external intervention of any magnitude on part of others. Explained that under such circumstances there strong possibility composition of new Parliament would be weighted heavily on side of leftists and Nasserists and that such development would upset GOL’s goal to have balance of forces in Parliament. Frangieh stressed that such development, in his opinion, would also be contrary to US self-interest and stated that if external intervention occurs “US has the obligation to intervene” and should be prepared to do so. Frangieh claimed GOL does not have sufficient means to combat external intervention on any significant scale.
Comment: Frangieh, a Maronite Christian, is a possible contender for the Lebanese Presidency in 1970 and a respected moderate with pro-Western leanings. He staunchly opposed to Nasserist and leftist political elements in Lebanon. He believes, and we agree, UAR does not need extensive funds to realize its political objectives in Lebanon because it can draw on the political base it has nurtured here for many years. Also (fortunately) he basically agrees with our assessment there is no significant financial involvement in elections at this time on part of UAR, Syrians or Soviets. His concern is that US should be prepared to stand by to help in case situation changes radically.
Comment: So far we have successfully staved off the myriad requests for US financial help in the elections which have come from the moderate and pro-Western politicians at all levels. The fact that the US is following a hands-off policy is slowly gaining credibility, even despite the corresponding anguish which it induces among would-be recipients. The Embassy fervently hopes that Minister Frangieh will not feel it necessary to ask us to re-enter the lists. The odds, we believe, are still with us.2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 LEB. Secret; Limdis.
  2. The Department approved the position taken by Porter. Telegram 130370 to Beirut, March 14, stated: “We hope that more Lebanese will get the message that U.S. nonintervention policy is firm and unequivocal and will not be altered by reports to Embassy from Lebanese politicians of actual or imagined external intervention from other parties, i.e.,USSR, UAR, Syria.” (Ibid.)