98. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon1

36213. Subject: USG Assistance to Lebanon. Ref: Beirut 1809.2

1. We have read with interest report of Ambassador’s March 5 meeting with President Helou (reftel). Ambassador may assure Helou that there is clear understanding in USG of his dilemma regarding fedayeen. We fully appreciate constraints under which Helou operates in dealing with fedayeen and that GOL in no position use large-scale force against fedayeen. We have said as much to Israelis and have urged them to raise their level of tolerance. We will indeed continue to Quote exercise our influence to be sure it (Israeli attack) doesn’t start Unquote (last para reftel), but our ability to restrain Israelis in face repeated fedayeen attacks is limited. We trust that Lebanese army will continue do its best to prevent and, at minimum, limit such attacks.

2. President’s comment (para six reftel) to effect USG Quote seemed reluctant Unquote to provide Lebanon with arms suggests he may have overlooked our past offers in this regard. While it is true that we have been unable provide GOL with grant aid, we have attempted be responsive as possible to GOL’s arms request. Might be useful to recapitulate what we have undertaken to do on Lebanon’s behalf over past few years in addition to routine sales: (A) In 1967 we offered sell Lebanon arms package including 20 M–41 tanks. Sale was never concluded. (B) In January 1969 we offered special airlift of military equipment which we understood Lebanese needed urgently (State 7234). GOL unable accept offer. (C) In August 1969 40 quarter ton trucks were expeditiously made available for sale to army. (D) In November 1969 we authorized sale of 5,000 M–14 rifles to GOL. This authorization required highest level USG approval. GOL, however, decided against purchase these weapons. (E) In December 1969 we provided price and availability data on number items equipment including CH46F and CH47C helicopters, 106mm recoilless rifles mounted on jeeps, 66mm rockets, M–14 and M–16 rifles, M–55 quad 50AA, M42A1 40mm AA and spare parts for M–41 tanks. (F) Pursuant to General Nujaim’s re [Page 328] quest, we are looking into availability M–41 tanks and are preparing price and availability data on other items mentioned Beirut 1372.

3. Foregoing not exhaustive list of offers USG has made but it could be cited as reminder to GOL that we have stood ready to meet legitimate Lebanese military equipment requirements.

4. We hope also that President Helou is aware of special effort expended in arranging our current P.L.–480 undertaking to Lebanon. We have succeeded in initiating this program for Lebanon in view of over-riding political considerations which Helou has touched on in reftel.

5. We have noted Helou’s suggestion (para 7 reftel) that the USG make public statement designed to demonstrate support for GOL. We are sympathetic to this proposal, but in view distortion by radical press of Sisco statement last October,3 we concerned that public statement at time of fast breaking developments might again be counter productive. We therefore concur with your judgment that we do nothing at moment (Beirut 1876).4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. III. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Bryan H. Baas (NEA/ARN) and Seelye; cleared in NEA, NEA/RA, and PM/MAS; and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Amman, Jidda, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 1809 from Beirut, March 6, Porter reported on his March 5 meeting with Helou, which dealt chiefly with the issue of fedayeen attacks and Israeli reprisals across the Lebanese-Israeli border. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 LEB)
  3. Sisco’s statement that the United States would view a threat to Lebanon’s integrity with “greatest concern” was distributed on October 14, 1969, by USIA to Lebanese newspapers. (New York Times, October 15, 1969, p. 5) In telegram 180293 to Beirut, October 24, 1969, the Department reported a conversation between Sisco and British Ambassador John Freeman during which the Assistant Secretary said: “US official statements have been grossly distorted in emotional atmosphere of Middle East. He specifically noted how President’s use of word ‘substantial’ in address to UNGA had been twisted. Sisco’s statement of our support for Lebanese independence and integrity also being misinterpreted in some quarters. In this connection, Sisco informed Freeman our statement made at Helou’s behest.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1239, Saunders Files, Lebanon 1/20/69–10/27/69) In his address to the UN General Assembly on September 18, 1969, Nixon declared: “We seek a settlement [in the Middle East] based on respect for the sovereign right of each nation in the area to exist within secure and recognized boundries. We are convinced that peace cannot be achieved on the basis of substantial alterations in the map of the Middle East. And we are equally convinced that peace cannot be achieved on the basis of anything less than a binding, irrevocable commitment by the parties to live together in peace.” For the text of his address, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 724–731.
  4. In telegram 1876 from Beirut, March 10, the Embassy reported how the Lebanese press covered Porter’s meeting with Helou, including a misleading story that the Ambassador “gave assurances that Israel would not attack Lebanon.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL LEB–US)