16. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts1

74768. US-Arab Relations in the Near East.

As is generally case of any major development in Near East, collapse of phase of “Arab unity” built around summitry has not proven unmixed blessing to U.S. interests or position in area.
Some of after-effects, e.g. reduction in Israel apprehensions, diminution of pressure on Jordan and Lebanon acquire Soviet arms, have been clearly advantageous. Prospect of united and effectively integrated Arab military confrontation with Israel has receded much further into future.
But in resulting disarray of Arab world and open resumption previous rivalries and intrigues there has arisen a welter of suspicion and unfounded charges against the United States. Moreover, some Arab states have taken actions against others which run counter to overall long-term U.S. (and Arab) interest in stability and peaceful development of area. Resulting increased intra-Arab tension has not yet threatened any U.S. vital interest in area. It has, however, produced less promising atmosphere for progress towards U.S. objectives.
Most difficult present case is that of U.S.-UAR relationship. For reasons primarily of UAR’s making, status of U.S.-UAR relations at beginning of summer was such that we were unable continue food assistance. We have discussed situation frankly with UAR and expressed continuing readiness work for improvement relations to point whereby USG could resume some participation in UAR economic development. We think we have got this message across but at same time Cairo seems plagued by atmosphere of doubt and suspicion U.S. motives. Chorus we have heard from many UAR quarters recently generally consists of following elements:
Most explicit acknowledgement we have yet had that UAR regime, under pressures worsening economic situation and continued Yemen impasse, is in difficulties and concerned about its future. In this context there have been indications of concern at appeals of Islamic traditionalism to large numbers of Egyptians.
That Hussein and Faisal sensing possibility of overthrow Nasser regime are “up to something” in the Arab world. As examples Egyptians use alleged machinations in Yemen, “plot” against Syrian regime, Jordanian-Saudi support of Moslem Brotherhood elements within and outside of UAR, and of course, Faisal’s efforts through Islamic solidarity movement “isolate and constrict” Egypt.
Some elements in Egypt seem to believe USG, particularly “CIA,” actively engaged in joint planning and operations against UAR regime with Saudis and Jordanians. Other Egyptians, while professing believe our assurances of innocence, take line that USG with its vast resources knows all that is going on in Arab world. Thus USG, although it preaches its desire for stability and development in Arab world, is not using its very considerable influence with Hussein and Faisal to forestall their actions. 5. Simplest and most effective means dispelling UAR suspicions would probably be indication to GUAR that USG prepared give generous consideration its food needs. But USG not yet in position make decision one way or other on this point. Our present concern is that UAR in present atmosphere of doubt and suspicion will take actions [Page 36] whose effect on public and legislative opinion in U.S. would be such as to reduce our options in U.S.-UAR relations for protracted period. This in turn could diminish what capabilities we have to exercise restraining influence on UAR and other “revolutionary” Arab states.
There are events in other parts of Arab world growing out of current intra-Arab tension which also trouble us. While current Syrian instability probably organic and generally unavoidable, strident statements of some Jordanians, including present PriMin, have seemed provocative. Indications that Saudis played role in precipitating current Leb bank crisis, for reasons of spite and against their own best interest in promoting free enterprise system in Arab world are measure of damage which can arise from current intra-Arab rifts.
Nor do we take particular comfort from prospect of increasing effort to rally area countries around Islamic banner. Long term implications for such non-Moslem groups in area as Israelis, Lebanese, Christian minorities, among others, are not pleasant. While there something to be said for Islam as bar to communism, there other good arguments to contrary. Certainly during pre-revolutionary period in Egypt when Moslem Brotherhood at peak its powers, this movement was implacably anti-Western and gave no impression that it understood or could cope with problems of economic and social development. Most of all, however, we think there has been trend towards secularization of Arab life, “separation of church and state” over last two or three decades. While it would be inappropriate for USG to praise or condemn efforts of individual Arab leaders to revivify political Islam, we believe it very much to our interest stay distinctly aloof from these efforts.
All of foregoing highlights present dilemma: How can USG, while retaining credible stance of neutrality in intra-Arab disputes, do what it can to prevent present quarrels from developing to point where there would be definite risks to our interests? How can we demonstrate that we play no favorites in Arab world and wish good relations with all against background of developing situation where it inevitable that at diverse times and in sundry places (currently Jordan and Saudi Arabia) there highly visible collaboration on programs in such important areas as budgetary support and military assistance, and where, as in Saudi Arabia, there natural close economic ties?
We have, of course, done what we could by way of high level conversations with UAR officials make clear our total lack of interest in UAR’s internal affairs. We have supported Kuwait efforts for Yemen mediation and have urged all parties to Yemen dispute exercise restraint. We have pointed out to Arab leaders, both “traditional” and “revolutionary,” unfortunate effect of inflammatory statements. We have deplored trends towards “polarization” in Near East.
What more can we usefully do? We would appreciate suggestions by addressees. Would authoritative public statement by high USG officials be of assistance? Statement could cite past public declarations of all Arab states of desire “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors” and undertakings stabilize intra-Arab relations “on basis of respect for the independence and sovereignty of these States and to direct their efforts toward the common good of all the Arab countries….” This language might be appropriate in that it taken from UNGA resolution 1237 (ES-III) of August 7, 1958.2 Resolution was introduced by all Arab states, was drafted by them, and was passed without a dissenting vote.
Purpose of foregoing exercise would be lay appropriate foundation for appropriate diplomatic follow-up to effect that U.S. has broken free from mold that plagued Arab-West relations between two World Wars. U.S. shares aspirations of Near East peoples themselves for peace, independence, and economic development. We seek neither protectorates nor proteges in areas.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL NEAR E-US. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Bergus on October 26; cleared by Davies, and Country Director for Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Spanish Sahara, and Tunisia John F. Root; and approved by Hare. Sent to Cairo, Baghdad, Amman, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Beyda, Jidda, Kuwait, Beirut, Algiers, Tunis, Damascus, Taiz, and Rabat.
  2. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1958, pp. 1047-1048. The resolution was actually adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly on August 21, 1958.