7. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • Possible Consequences in North Africa of U.S. Response to Israeli Arms Request

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a memorandum prepared for the Acting Secretary by the Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

Theodore. L. Eliot, Jr.
Executive Secretary


Information Memorandum to the Acting Secretary of the National Security Council

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SUBJECT: Possible Consequences in North Africa of U.S. Response to Israeli Arms Request

The Problem

The President’s announcement on January 30 that the decision on the Israeli arms request will be made within the next thirty days, and the secretary’s presence in Morocco and Tunisia have focused North African attention on the U.S. response in an ominous way. It is clear that the North Africans expect the decision to be favorable to the Israelis and that all of the governments in the area, including the moderates, would be subjected to substantial pressure by local public opinion, as well as by the radical Arabs, to retaliate against the United States. We believe Morocco and Tunisia would endeavor to resist these pressures. However, they would have to yield to them at least to some degree in view of the recent evidence of the growth of public support in both countries for the Palestine cause.


It goes without saying that a decision to postpone action on the Israeli request would have a positive effect on our relations with all four North African states, although not in any dramatic manner.

To the extent that we agree to provide further advanced aircraft, however, we risk severe damage to U.S. interests in the area.

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Our most exposed position is in Libya because of our important oil interests, the size of our American colony and the fact that we are still liquidating Wheelus. Libya’s recent contract with France for the purchase by the end of 1974 of “some 100” advanced aircraft has of course given added momentum to the Israeli arms request. In a sense, the Libyans “created” the present problem of dealing with the Israelis because of their purchase of Mirages. This fact is, however, unlikely to influence the Libyan reaction in view of the current superiority of the Israeli Air Force and the minimum 3 to 5 year interval before the French aircraft are likely to be operational.

The Libyan reaction could, at worst, mean the rupture of diplomatic relations, which we doubt, or, perhaps, a request that we close our Embassy office in Benghazi or our cultural centers. Pressures against the American-controlled oil industry would certainly be increased, and efforts to improve our bilateral relations and to expand our dialogue with the regime would be severely set back. A physical attack on our installations—permitted by the LARG—is also conceivable.

Tunisia and Morocco

In Tunisia and Morocco, the governments would not wish to take any direct actions against U.S. interests. Popular, and particularly student, discontent with the U.S. decision could, however, result in demonstrations against U.S. installations: the Embassies, the USIS centers, and possibly against Kenitra (U.S. Navy communications facility in Morocco). In the longer run, these same pressures might force Morocco and Tunisia to diverge increasingly from their close relationship with the U.S. The Tunisian government’s desire to avoid a confrontation with the students during the Secretary’s visit and Prime Minister Ladgham’s statement to the Secretary that the U.S. must assume a prime share of the responsibility for Israel’s aggressive attitude are two signs of the erosion of the U.S. position. In both countries opposition elements are seizing this issue and the regimes’ ties to the U.S. to undermine internal stability.


In Algeria the recent improvement in relations would suffer a setback. We believe any possibility of an early resumption of relations would be nullified by a decision favoring the Israelis. In view of Algeria’s longer term importance in North Africa, we believe it would be most unfortunate if our relative isolation from the regime should be prolonged.

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In our view we should exhaust all non-military alternatives as answers to any Israeli security problem, before moving against North African sentiments; the most provocative signal to the North Africans, of course, would be to furnish additional Phantom jets.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 747, Country Files, Africa General, Vol. I. Secret. According to the February 18 Intelligence Note RAFN-4, on his February 7–11 trip to Morocco and Tunisia, Secretary Rogers, although warmly received, was also met with private diplomatic warnings and unprecedented press attacks over U.S. support for Israel. (Ibid.) For additional information on the Secretary’s talks with Moroccan officials, see Document 102, Document 20, and Document 145.
  2. Eliot transmitted a memorandum prepared for the Acting Secretary by the Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs outlining the possible consequences in North Africa of a positive U.S. response to the Israeli arms request.