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


  • The World Bank’s Middle East Planning

To supplement my earlier memo on USG water planning,2 here is a clearer picture of what the World Bank is doing as a result of Mac Bundy’s request.

[Page 59]

As background, it’s useful to know that the Bank decided back in February to create a new Middle East and North Africa Department. Heretofore, the Middle East had been tacked on either to South Asia or to Europe. The Bank decided that if it were to give full attention to the Middle East’s own regional prospects, it would have to get the area off by itself. Fortuitously, this department began operation on June 1st. Mac’s approach came just at a time when they were beginning basic studies for their own purposes. To insure the most comprehensive planning possible, they’ve set up a special task force within the new department to concentrate on planning in the area from the Suez Canal through Iraq.

They have made water their first priority with primary concentration on the Jordan Valley and secondary focus on the Sinai and Mesopotamia. They also hope to have preliminary views by mid-September on the role which desalting might play. Beyond their work on water, they will also be looking at prospects for industrialization, tourism, and natural resource exploitation.

We’ve made our data available to the Bank, and it will probably turn to other governments later for similar support.

Comment: While these studies will proceed at the usual measured Bank pace, Michael Lejeune, who heads this department, does appreciate their potential relationship to political settlement. My own feeling on this count is that what we really need, if politics requires, is enough staff work so that we could mention some of these plans in a speech and be certain that we were not completely off base. I don’t feel that completed staff work is essential for this purpose. In any case, we probably can’t expect the staffers to come up with finished plans in the political vacuum that exists today.

On a related front, Dave Bell is in touch with the Bank to avoid overlap, and Ford is just getting its thoughts in order for a couple of projects to be done by Brookings and by Rand. I do not have the details on these yet.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Saunders Files, Middle East Water. Confidential.
  2. Not printed.
  3. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “HS—You are correct. Concentrate on that. WR”