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

WWR:

I know Luke Battle has talked with you about the attached.2 State today is working on its final recommendation on how we should handle Birdsall’s request for an appointment with the President when we get it.

Although we certainly don’t want to cut off any reasonable communication, I have the following reservations about this exercise.

  • Nasser is sending whatever this message is without even the knowledge of his Foreign Minister. Given our questions about who speaks for the UAR today, I wonder how much credence we could give to whatever Birdsall says even if he is reporting accurately.
  • Nasser’s reported comment that he will exchange Ambassadors with Israel is so far out of line with everything else we have that it causes me to question either the accuracy of Birdsall’s reporting or Nasser’s mental consistency and stability.
  • —As you said when we talked about this a couple of weeks ago, the time has come when the Egyptians have to stop giving us vague signals under the grandstand and give us their requests through a reasonable channel. In retrospect, it is clear that we could have gotten ourselves in a terrible bind by responding to one set of signals last summer that could have tied us into the whole Amer conspiracy. Coupled with our worries is the request to Don Bergus when he arrived that we consider him our main point of contact to the exclusion of all others.

State will have its recommendation for us shortly but I wanted to give you these thoughts in case Birdsall should get home early.

Hal
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. VI, Memos, 8/67-7/68. Secret.
  2. Telegram 1136 from Cairo, Document 13.