59. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1
- Morocco: Proposal to Send a Special Envoy to King Hassan
The reply to NSSM–160 on Morocco noted that in the months since his escape from assassination last August, King Hassan has remained shakily in power but has been unable to recover his former poise and authority. Preoccupied with continued internal and external threats to the monarchy, he has felt increasingly isolated at home and internationally. His present position has also produced two immediate problems which require our attention because of our continuing political and strategic interest in a moderate regime in Morocco.
First, the King fears that the United States may have lost confidence in him and be considering abandoning him. He harbors suspicions that we were somehow involved in, or had prior knowledge of, the August assassination attempt.
Second, in order to ease his domestic political problem, he has asked for a re-examination of the US military presence in Morocco. This is the Kenitra naval communications complex, which currently handles the bulk of US naval communications to the Mediterranean and South Atlantic areas. He apparently is not insisting on our withdrawal, but does want a substantial revision of our presence to ease his internal problems and public evidence of clearer benefits to Morocco from it. He may also be raising the issue now in order to test our intentions toward him personally.
We have recently received through intelligence channels indications that the King continues to be seriously concerned about these two problems and that he desires to receive a special envoy, who could speak on behalf of the President, to discuss them. He would also like to send a special representative of his own to Washington.[Page 159]
There is no doubt that the King’s position in Morocco is, at the moment, shaky. There is, however, no immediate threat apparent to his rule. The traditional political leaders are in disarray. The army, although sullen, is apparently under control. From our standpoint, there seems no visible alternative that could protect our own interests as well. The King, now, as in the past, has shown himself impervious to advice regarding his method of rule. We must accept him as he is. While weighing the disadvantages of being identified with a monarchical regime whose days could well be numbered, we have concluded that it is in our interests to take this risk and to take those feasible steps which can demonstrate our support for the King.
Following the review of NSSM–160 and prior to receiving this latest indication of the King’s desires, we had been considering the possible advantages to us of sending a special envoy to the King. Alex Johnson had explored the matter with Robert Murphy, who indicated he would be willing to go to Morocco in mid-January in a private capacity to convey assurances of our continued interest and support to King Hassan. Thus, a mid-January visit by Mr. Murphy would coincide with our own desires and the King’s.
In conveying assurances of our continued friendship and support to the King, Mr. Murphy could also express our willingness to explore with his government ways in which our military presence could be adjusted to ease his political problems. I enclose suggested instructions to Mr. Murphy to meet these objectives, and also a draft suggested letter from you to King Hassan, delivery of which would constitute an essential part of Mr. Murphy’s mission.
This proposed action has been coordinated with the Department of Defense.
1. That Robert Murphy be asked to undertake a special mission to King Hassan.
2. That you approve the draft instructions to Ambassador Murphy.
3. That you sign the proposed letter to King Hassan.
Summary: Rogers informed Nixon of King Hassan’s desire to receive a special envoy to examine the U.S. military presence in Morocco, and his concern over a perceived change in U.S.-Moroccan relations. Rogers suggested that Robert Murphy serve as special envoy.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 758, Presidential Correspondence, Morocco. Secret. In a letter dated January 15, Nixon informed King Hassan of Murphy’s mission. (Ibid.) In telegram 12132 to Rabat, January 19, the Department instructed the Embassy to arrange a private meeting between Murphy and King Hassan. (Ibid., NSC Country Files for Africa, Box 740, Morocco, Vol. II) In telegram 13960 to Rabat, January 24, the Department provided instructions to Murphy for his meeting with King Hassan. (Ibid.)↩