10. Intelligence Note From the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Denny) to Acting Secretary of State Richardson 1

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SUBJECT

  • Islamic Summit Produces Moderate Consensus and the Makings of a Moslem Bloc

The Rabat meeting of 25 Moslem nations survived postponement attempts and internal conflicts to become the first Islamic Summit Conference. Its concluding declaration and resolutions represented a moderate consensus and may have laid the groundwork for a Moslem bloc.

A Major Achievement: Holding the Conference. King Hassan of Morocco, host of the September 22–25 meeting and one of the original promoters of the Summit, called holding of the conference a “miracle of God” and a success in itself. We agree that bringing together government leaders (including 9 heads of state) representing about 300 million Moslems was a major achievement. It took considerable skill on the part of Hassan and co-initiator King Faisal of Saudi Arabia2 to gain rapid agreement for early scheduling of a summit and to persuade suspicious non-Arab Moslems to participate in an Arab-dominated assembly. Less than a week before opening day, President Nasser launched a counteroffensive seeking to postpone the summit indefinitely. In the end, his bluff was called and a UAR delegation was dispatched to Rabat. Only Iraq and Syria of the “progressive” Arab group failed to appear. A final crisis occurred in mid-summit, when a belated invitation to India provoked a stormy Pakistani response and India’s ouster. Even this turbulent event, which might have broken up any other conference, only prolonged the meeting an extra day.

A Moderate Consensus. Out of the conference came a moderate consensus, despite radical Arab and Palestinian lobbying (the Palestinian [Page 39]Liberation Organization—PLO—was given observer status at the meeting). The official conference declaration, taking the al-Aqsa mosque incident3 as point of departure, called for restoration of Jerusalem’s pre-June 1967 status and speedy withdrawal of Israeli military forces from all territories occupied as a result of the 1967 war; it appealed to the US, UK, USSR, and France to secure compliance with the 1967 Security Council resolution. On Palestine, a solitary sentence affirmed “full support to the Palestinian people for the restitution of their rights” and in their “struggle for national liberation.”

The moderate Arab organizers can claim full credit for the language—a compromise that reiterated basic Arab positions without offending non-Arab participants, five of whom have diplomatic relations with Israel. The radical Arabs may regret what might have been added, but can raise no serious objections to the statements in the final declaration.

The Makings of a Moslem Bloc? The moderates undoubtedly hope that they have strengthened the Arab cause in a potentially permanent fashion. The conference declaration spoke of regular consultation and “close cooperation and mutual assistance” among Moslem states. In addition, the principal resolution set a meeting of Islamic foreign ministers for March 1970 at Jidda to review common action undertaken after the summit and to establish an Islamic permanent secretariat. In sum, the moderates can claim to have created a Moslem bloc to be formally organized next March.

Arab moderates will use the success of the Islamic Summit to strengthen their inter-Arab position and to argue against holding an Arab Summit, to which Faisal is adamantly opposed. He fears it would be controlled by radical states, who would call for increased financial contributions from the oil-producers and would push through extreme resolutions. If Faisal also hopes that the projected Moslem bloc will provide an effective counter balance to radical domination of the Arab League, he will probably be disappointed.

A consequence of the moderates’ success was the absence of attack on the US or “imperialism” in the final statements. However, it is virtually certain that the radical Arab states will continue to agitate for a more extreme political posture in the Islamic forum; unless Hassan and Faisal can sustain their achievement the resulting dispute could cause a short life—or even stillbirth—for the Moslem bloc.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 13–6. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem.
  2. King Hussein had initially called for an Arab Summit in the aftermath of the al-Aqsa fire, but Faisal had insisted on an Islamic Summit, stating “I issued a call to the Islamic world to declare holy war to liberate Jerusalem from the hands of the oppressors and tyrants who keep no promise.” (Airgram A–254 from Jidda, August 27; ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR) Faisal’s emotional response to the fire, his determination to be an active rather than passive participant in the effort to recover Jerusalem, his earnest pursuit of jihad, and his desire for a stronger United States role in the Middle East are articulated in telegram 2947 from Jidda, August 26. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I)
  3. The al-Aqsa Mosque, considered the third holiest Islamic site, was partially burned on August 21. Australian Denis Michael Rohan, a self-styled Christian fundamentalist, was formally charged on September 1 with having set fire to the Mosque. He was found guilty by the Jerusalem District Court on December 30 and was committed to a mental hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic.