4. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

Bob Anderson dropped in to see me this afternoon to chat about the Middle East and told me the following:

While seeing his Arab friends in New York, he found the Egyptian Foreign Minister Riad and Dr. Kahouli disappointed that we have not moved to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cairo, as have the British.
When he pointed out that Arthur Goldberg had told Riad Secretary Rusk would be glad to see him in Washington, Riad had said that he wanted a more explicit invitation and some assurance that the U.S. was in fact willing to move forward toward normal diplomatic relations.
When Kahouli raised the question of whether President Nasser should write to President Johnson and asked how such a letter could be delivered, Bob Anderson said: Why not deliver it in Cairo via Don Bergus? The response was: He is only a clerk. How can a Presidential message be delivered through a clerk?
Kahouli then asked if Anderson on his next trip to the Middle East (which is soon—to Iraq on sulphur) could stop in Cairo. Anderson said flatly: No.
Kahouli then said: If I delivered a letter for President Johnson to you in Beirut, would you receive it? Anderson told him: I would receive it, but only as a messenger boy. That is how it was left.
I asked Bob what he thought the Egyptians would do about acknowledging that we were not involved in the war and reparations. He said they took the view that their official newspapers have already [Page 8] published in Cairo the fact that we were not involved and it would be very difficult for them to go further. As for reparations, they would be made when diplomatic relations were established, but not immediately, because they were terribly short of money. Bob Anderson’s view was that this could be the first issue we raised after diplomatic relations were established.
Bob showed great sensitivity to the fact that we must do absolutely nothing to interfere with UN Representative Jarring and his contacts and negotiations in the Middle East.
Bob underlined his view that we are likely to have to deal with Nasser for some time; that he believes from his long personal discussions that Nasser has learned a painful lesson; and that it is in our national interest to establish relations with him soon.
His mission to Iraq is to get American firms involved in exploiting the biggest sulphur deposits in the world. A personal letter to the Iraqi President from de Gaulle had been sent urging that French firms take the contract. Bob is reasonably confident that his more experienced firms will win out.

I talked with Luke Battle, who is very doubtful that Nasser will in fact send a letter to you via Anderson; although a resumption of diplomatic relations is obviously much on their minds, and should be on ours also.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. VI, Memos, 8/67–7/68. Secret.