327. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1
Tehran, November 20, 1968, 1240Z.
7379. For the Secretary from Robert Anderson.
- While I was in Cairo discussing with United Arab Airlines the
acquisition of eight Boeing planes, President Nasser asked me to come to his house on
Monday. We talked about three hours. Gist of what Nasser said was:
- Nasser was more anxious than ever to have some kind of peace because he thinks that if war should come again there would be vast destruction on both sides. He said he would not be alone in the next round.
- Nasser said he was not entirely free any longer to act as independently as before and as each day passed he probably would be less free. In order to emphasize his loss of freedom, he said, first, he had to listen to the Soviets and, second, if he was going to continue to get financial support from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya, he had been told that he had to abide by the Khartoum agreement which in effect said there would be no negotiation and no declaration of non-belligerency. (Donor countries would welcome pretext to discontinue their aid to UAR.)
- Nasser thinks King of Jordan is in a much weaker position after his confrontation with Fedayeen and he believes that in showdown Iraqi troops in Jordan would oppose King and favor King’s younger officers. If this took place there would probably be a collapse of King’s [Page 652] government with both Iraqis and Syrians trying to participate in the remains.
- Finally, Nasser said he now has “factions” in his country which make it more difficult to make independent decisions even inside his country. He stated that if for any reason he should be replaced in Cairo, any successor would be dictated to by the army and the army would be less inclined to any peaceful settlement than he is.
- For foregoing reasons, Nasser feels that there is a sense of urgency about achieving peace. On other hand, he reiterated his old statements that under no circumstance can he have direct negotiation, either secretly or openly. He insists he has to have a timetable and some kind of a map that would show what boundary adjustments are being contemplated before he can “do a selling job” even to his own people. He believes that if any move of his is termed to be capitulation, he will lose support of the army and without the army he would lose his own control of the country.
- I asked Nasser if he didn’t think a major part of his trouble was a lack of communication both with Israelis and with countries like ours. He agreed but said he could not figure out a way to establish communication with Israelis, first, because he didn’t trust them and, second, because if he made an agreement with some part of Israeli Government they would be undercut by other political segments in Israel who are competing in next spring election.
- Nasser expressed great confidence in Jarring and stated he does not intend for Jarring Mission to end on his account. He feels, however, that something more is going to have to be done than Jarring’s simply carrying messages between two parties. He did not make any specific suggestion as to how this could be done except to say that he needs more definition from Israelis so as not to agree in effect to a program of Israeli expansionism.
- Nasser was obviously pleased to receive a reply from President-elect Nixon. He talked about possibility of this being some excuse to resume diplomatic relations with United States providing there was some statement from new administration which would offset statement during campaign of maintaining Israeli arms superiority. Nasser also has under consideration writing a letter expressing his views to President-elect Nixon.
- I am going to be back in Cairo within next ten days in connection with financing of Boeing planes. Nasser stated he might ask me to bring a letter from him to President-elect Nixon.
- There is considerable amount of details that took place in long discussion which I have not tried to incorporate here but which I will convey fully to appropriate people upon my return, which should be toward end of this month. In view of fact that I am going back to conduct [Page 653] discussions re airplane financing, if you have any suggestions I will be here in Tehran until late Saturday or Sunday and would be grateful to receive them.
- One further thing of some significance. In a talk with Hasan Abbas Zaky he stated he wanted to tell me confidentially that Nasser was under pressure from two sides, one to secure immediate peace and other to continue arms development and training. He said that in view of Ali Sabri’s heart attack and absence of some other people who are not so interested in peace, next two or three weeks are going to be crucial in decisions which Nasser makes. Abbas Zaky stated that he is among those who believe that peace is indispensable for Egypt and is urging President to go as far as he can to secure peace.
- I was unable to see Don Bergus after receiving this information and have therefore not passed any of above on to him.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 107, 11/19-22/68. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Walt Rostow sent a copy of this telegram to President Johnson on November 20 under cover of a memorandum in which he concluded that Nasser appeared to be under conflicting political pressures and unable to decide or to lead. But, Rostow noted, there were some factors that seemed to be operating in the direction of a settlement in the Middle East. (Ibid.)↩