13. Telegram From the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1
1136. 1. Birdsall2 saw Nasser for over two hours last night and I debriefed him this morning.
2. Birdsall says he was given “formal message” by Nasser to be delivered to no one except President Johnson. (Nasser told Birdsall that not even his Foreign Minister aware Birdsall’s presence Cairo.)
3. From Birdsall’s subsequent long and rambling conversation feel fairly sure about contents of “formal message.” Nasser believes that Russians are increasing their pressure on him and that in absence any ties with USG he increasingly powerless to resist. Nasser hinted at strong Russian pressure re use of Alexandria, possibly involving permanent fueling facilities and barracks for Soviet naval personnel. Nasser also complained about magnitude of Sov concentration in UAR armed forces.
4. Nasser said he willing accept non-belligerency with Israel with all that implies. If Israel will pay just and adequate compensation to Palestinian refugees, Nasser will exchange Ambassadors with Israel.
5. Nasser was quite contrite for the grave mistakes he made in May and June, and acknowledged that Egyptians had been soundly defeated, mostly because they did not know how to use Soviet weapons. Nasser also expressed regret for past speeches he made accusing [Page 27] U.S. of “war of starvation” and so forth, indicating some of these statements had been made to please Soviets.
6. Nasser wishes resume diplomatic relations with the United States. He wants some time to consult with other Arabs but feels he can encourage other Arab states which broke relations he has no influence whatsoever.
7. Nasser said he fully understood that there no question resumption any form U.S. economic aid to UAR for foreseeable future.
8. Re big lie, Nasser made ingenuous statement that he had never accused USG of military participation in June war. He claims that all he did was quote Hussein directly on this point. (Comment: If that is case, why did UAR break relations with U.S.?)
9. Birdsall leaving Cairo today for London and plans return New York December 14. He will upon arrival request meeting with President Johnson. His thesis will doubtless be that USG cannot afford stand idly by in face of Soviet takeover of UAR and ultimately other Arab states in Eastern Mediterranean.
10. Recommendation: I would hope that if all possible President Johnson could receive Birdsall if only for a few moments before turning him over to White House or Departmental advisers.3
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL UAR-US. Secret; Priority; Exdis. The Spanish Government assumed protection of U.S. interests in the United Arab Republic following severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and the United Arab Republic on June 6. Rostow transmitted the text of this telegram to President Johnson on December 10 in White House telegram CAP 671037 along with the following assessment: “With the Russians trying to take over from Nasser in the Yemen, it is, indeed, possible that he wants to get close to us to keep independence from Moscow.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. VI, Memos, 8/67-7/68)↩
- James Birdsall was a lawyer who practiced in New York and had developed contacts in the United Arab Republic in his capacity as attorney for ALCO Products. His contacts in Egypt were facilitated by the Geneva representative of ALCO, a Mr. Siddiqui, who was Pakistani. In October 1966 Nasser invited Birdsall to Egypt to discuss his desire to improve U.S.-UAR relations and his belief that the United States was determined to overthrow his government. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XVIII, Document 341. Birdsall’s visit to Cairo in December 1967 was again at Nasser’s invitation. (Telegram 78791 from Cairo, December 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)↩
- Bergus telegraphed his assessment of Birdsall’s conversation with Nasser from Cairo on December 13. He believed Birdsall’s report because he thought Nasser was desperate to enlist the United States as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union. Bergus recommended a reassessment of U.S. policy toward Nasser and the UAR in light of Nasser’s démarche. He felt that Nasser might speak for Egypt and much of the Arab world for some time, and he could not envision a settlement of the Middle East crisis that did not presuppose tolerable relations between the United States and Egypt. (Telegram 1149 from Cairo; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL UAR-US)↩