9. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • Week’s Developments in the Near East

While we came out of the Arab Summit2 unusually well, we don’t want to crow about it. You’ve already asked the new Moroccan Ambassador to tell King Hassan you’re pleased at his role in keeping the lid on. Feisal also deserves credit. But this kind of statement is best kept confidential, since we get farther in this part of the world by quiet diplomacy.

Arab Summit. As far as we can tell from preliminary reports, the Arab Summit did little more than maintain a semblance of momentum toward Arab unity. If the communiqué is a measure, the moderates prevented any tough positions against our role in Vietnam or the Congo, our support of Israel or our base in Libya. However, anti-Israeli plans were given another small push forward.

Jordan. One troublesome result was that Hussein had a rough time explaining why he hasn’t contracted for supersonics yet. His brethren gave him 60 days to sign up. According to one clandestine report, he agreed in effect to take MIGs then if he fails to get Western planes. We’re working hard to persuade the French or British to sell planes, but the big problem is competing with the cut-rate MIG price. Hussein did resist stationing other Arab troops in Jordan, but reported offers to send an “interim” air squadron will be harder to resist.

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Nasser. We reserve judgment on how Nasser came out until more of the clandestine reports are in, but so far it looks as if he made no effort to dominate and was relatively restrained. He stuck to the position that no military action against Israel is possible in the near future. So we continue to get a picture of a somewhat subdued Nasser, although he may have adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward us until he finds out how we answer his food requests. We have indications, too, that government censors have been weeding anti-US noises out of the Cairo press recently.

Water diversion and United Arab Command. The Arabs paid lip service to pushing ahead with diversion projects, but concentrated on building up their military ability to protect them. This will increase the pressure on Lebanon and Jordan to station other Arab troops on their soil, but may take a little of the heat off the diversion works. The Lebanese will still have a problem, however. They stopped work in July, under US and Israeli pressure, on the Arab plan to divert water into Syria. But they’d now like to divert enough water within Johnston Plan limits to irrigate their own arid south. They’re sure the Israelis will retaliate, even if they only divert for their own needs.

Iraq. An abortive coup against President Aref by so-called “pro-Nasser” elements apparently took even Nasser by surprise. As far as we can tell, there wasn’t any Egyptian collaboration, even though the Egyptians are pretty well wired into those groups. The whole thing quieted down quickly without any significant change in the balance of political forces.

Israel. The election (2 November) campaign is getting more tense. Eshkol’s forces came close to losing a majority in elections in Histadrut, the big labor confederation (which may be a weathervane since it reaches most Israeli workers). This doesn’t mean they’ll lose control in the election, but it does underscore the vote-getting power of the Ben-Gurion name, especially among the less literate voters who have trouble understanding that Ben-Gurion is wrong this time. Since it increases the possibility that BG might win enough seats to be included in a governing coalition, Eshkol will probably run a little more scared; he’ll increase the pressure on us to say something about our secret arms help or on desalting.

[Here follows discussion of Greece and Turkey.]

R. W. Komer 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 15. Secret. The initial “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Leaders of 12 Arab states held a summit meeting in Casablanca September 13-17.
  3. McGeorge Bundy initialed below Komer’s signature.