231. Telegram From the Interests Section in Egypt to the Department of State1

1103. For Secretary from Sisco. I will report separately on the previous one-hour talk with Foreign Minister Riad and two-hour talks with President Sadat and Prime Minister Fawzi.2 This is a report on my subsequent two-hour meeting with Sadat alone.

1. It is apparent that you made a hit with Sadat.3 He is full of praise for you. He was very grateful that you sent me here so promptly after your talks in Israel and that I gave him such a full report. For once we have received what the Israelis will do, he said, not what they will not do.

2. I gave him some of the byplay that we found and what we considered to be Dayan’s positive role.4 He said that he wants you to know that he “prays to God in hopes that Dayan will become Prime Minister some day.” I can deal with him, a strong man like him, said Sadat. Throughout the five-hour talk they paid more attention to what Dayan’s views are more than anybody else’s.

3. As you might expect, he laid great stress in several different ways on two cardinal points: why he must have Egyptian troops across the Canal; and why he needs a commitment to the international border in the context of an overall political settlement. I handled these two hot potatoes with great care. I gave him no encouragement, however, saying candidly these were the two points which the other side laid the greatest stress on. Nevertheless, I said, we would objectively explore all possibilities as to elements of interim settlement, but I could not expect commitment to international border.

4. He offered an alternative proposal “on his own” for US alone which he said he wants the two of us to think about. His alternative is: a limited number of UAR troops crossing the Canal, with a specified limited amount and type of arms, with a wide 50 kilometer buffer zone be[Page 850]tween the two sides, with limited arms on the Israeli side of the new line. This has obvious difficulties, but I did not, of course, say anything more than that we would look at all possibilities. I felt it was more important psychologically to leave him with the impression that we were trying to be helpful to him directly rather than express strong doubts at this point. In connection with this proposal, I said in any area evacuated the Israelis had laid great stress on Egyptian-Israeli joint supervisory teams. Much to my surprise, he said this was not ruled out, provided the proposal allowed some crossing of Egyptian troops across the Canal and provided joint Egyptian-Israeli teams were under the supervision “of Jarring,” which I later had him to clarify to mean as under the umbrella of the UN.

5. I once again told him that if our intelligence indicates that they are receiving more arms from the Soviets, this would become a matter of major importance in American public opinion, and that this would increase the pressure on us to provide additional arms to Israel. He said we should expect nothing new before May and June, but he did not go beyond this. In connection with the ideas on the Russians which you intend to convey to the President personally,5 I just want to confirm to you that your interpretation of what he said is absolutely correct. He reiterated this to me in plain language.

6. He went into great detail regarding his internal situation which added some additional information to that which you conveyed to me as a result of your private conversation with him. As you said, he is going to the people, he is going to move politically in order to develop broad mass support for himself in Egypt, including new elections to the Arab Socialist Union from top to bottom since he says about 100 out of 150 are against him. He also says that General Fawzi and the military are very negative and did not favor his February proposal to Jarring and are against an interim settlement unless it provides for some movement of Egyptian troops across the Suez Canal. He was more critical of Foreign Minister Riad than any of his colleagues. I regret to report to you that he says Riad does not want to do anything to improve relations with the United States. He said it is not the case of Riad being anti-American, but rather that over the last twenty years, and particularly as a result of Riad’s role in connection with the armistice arrangements, Riad feels himself to be vulnerable since he made some genuine attempts to work out matters in the past and he has been disappointed. For this reason Riad continues to be “hawkish” and oppose him on the interim settlement. Sadat confirmed to me what Bergus had already learned from Heykal in the last 24 hours: that Prime Minister Fawzi will be playing a much more active role in the field of foreign affairs. [Page 851] “You know Fawzi, Joe,” Sadat said, “and you know that he likes Americans, he is flexible, and wants to do something. We will need about two weeks to study the important report that you have given us here today and then I intend to send Fawzi to Washington to give you my answer.” In the meantime, he pleaded that we try to do something more with the Israelis on the two cardinal points of concern.

7. In his campaign to develop broad support, he will meet tomorrow with the Arab Socialist Union in order to arrange for elections. He then will meet with the armed forces on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said he will announce all of this on Thursday.6

8. He reconfirms that once the interim settlement is achieved, he will resume diplomatic relations with the United States immediately. He want you to tell President Nixon that he wants his help in those circumstances to rebuild his country. In his words, he wants room to breathe. He repeated his story in detail of the reasons, with which you are fully familiar, as to why he decided to sack Aly Sabry7 before you arrived. He implied the same thing would happen to Riad or alternatively he might be kicked upstairs. In any event, he is going to rely on Prime Minister Fawzi primarily in foreign affairs.

9. He told me that inadvertently I had in one way been unhelpful to him. He said that several of the things that I had reported to Ghorbal in the past several weeks had come through the Foreign Office filter and reached him in a distorted fashion. He said if there is anything that we want to get to him, and in a straight way, that we should begin to tell Ghorbal less and have Bergus relay it to Heykal for Sadat. I said we would do this. Sadat, at his initiative, even after five hours of talks today, is sending Heykal to see me tonight. I will report anything new that comes from this meeting.

10. I asked him once again to take a unilateral step and free the few Israeli POW’s as a signal. He said he would consider it, but was noncommittal.

11. I did not take up Eban’s suggestion re their technical people getting together because of the later Israeli overruling of him on this score.

[Page 852]

12. There has been no criticism here from any quarter or level as to your trip over international waters to see the Gulf and Sharm el Sheik.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1162, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, May 1–9, 1971. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cedar Plus.
  2. Telegram 1107 from Cairo, May 9, contains Sisco’s reports of his previous talks. (Ibid.)
  3. Rogers sent Sadat a note immediately after leaving Egypt in which he wrote: “I want to tell you how deeply I was impressed with what I heard and saw in your country, and in particular the enlightened leadership you are providing.” (Telegram 2675 from Tel Aviv, May 7; ibid., Box 657, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus Vol. II)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 230.
  5. See Document 227.
  6. May 13.
  7. According to telegram 990 from Cairo, May 3, which reported on Sadat’s “delicate domestic situation,” Cairo was “awash with stories about bitter arguments” between Sadat and Ali Sabri, the Egyptian Vice President. Bergus further commented: “Taken as a whole, this is a victory for the “good guys’ in Egypt. It will, however increase Sadat’s need for some kind of tangible movement towards peaceful settlement. Basic issue in Sadat’s quarrel with Sabri was not federation [with Syria and Libya] but Sabri’s accusation that Sadat was being diddled by the Americans. At same time, with Sadat’s greater dependence on military support, his flexibility regarding interim settlement on Suez Canal will be impaired.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VI)