Suez Canal - 28 August 1956

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Suez Canal - 28 August 1956

a) Diplomatic Exchanges.


S.Ll. 

E. reply will be with Menzies by noon to-day.  Am urging M. to accelerate departure – to see Nasser.
 E. are likely to receive Cttee. : but no indication yet tht. E.'s attitude is weakening.

P.M. 

M. will probably be willing to go to Cairo.  But he will speak firmly to N.  Probably means exchanges will be quicker.
 If N. accepts – a negotiation will follow.  6 Powers incldg. U.S., U.K., France.
 If he rejects – we don't exclude reference to U.N., if Allies are solidly in favour of quick action.  Veto by 2 Communist Powers wd. not hamper action.


D.S. 

Is it quick?


H.A. 

Morally it wd. be a great help to us.


B.H. 

Do you envisage possibility of mil. action w'out reference to S.C.?


P.M. 

U.S. may be unwilling to go to S.C.


H.A. 

What wd. U.S. reaction be to a rejection?


P.M. 

Hope we may persuade them to stop paying transit dues in Egypt, if so they have linked this with freezing E.'s assets.
 Dutch & Germans will prob. do this, in concert with others.
 b) Company's Employees.


S.Ll. 

Co. want to bring them out on 7/9 unless N. has accepted.  Paid up to 31/8 by old Company.


D.S. 

Cd. we not make point tht. any responsible Govt. wd., before acting, have satisfied himself tht. he cd. continue the undertaking.


S.Ll. 

Advice of H.M.G. to Co. – as approved by Egypt Cttee. : ending : hope, however, they will be willing to remain until final reply from N.


P.M. 

If made public, wd. sooner see last para. put first.  F.O. statement, in view of misunderstanding, at appropte. time.
 c) Consequences.


P.M. 

If N. gets away with this – economic consequences, also on Arabs in colonies incldg African.
 Public opinion pretty steady.  Expects us to exhaust all other means before resort to force.  S.C. may help fr. that angle.
 But Fr., who are ready for force, have less diffy. with their p. opinion.  If any appearance of undue hesitn. on our part, they wd. be quick to raise the cry "trahi".
 Commonwealth divided.  A & N.Z. support & wd. provide some token forces.  Canada hesitant.  India & Ceylon, of course, against.


P.M. 

Canadian attitude is argument for putting it to N.A.T.O.
 d) Economic Consequences.
 Copies of E.C.(56)35 handed round.


P.M. 

Shows how v. serious long-term outlook is if we don't handle N.


H.M. 

Our 20th. century economy depends on oil.  We may therefore have to choose betwn. immediate risk & slow strangulation.
 Aug. will show loss of over $100 m. on reserves.  We expected it.  Can explain much of it.  In 1955 $223 m. in July/Aug : in '56 only about $80 m.  Trade gap is likely to be reasonably favourable, too.  Will need careful presentn.
 Diff. to set out all these horrors w'out destroying confidence in sterling.  But if we say nothing, public don't realise gravity of situation.  Diff. to lead p. opinion in advance of decn. – tho' cd. use these arguments to justify decision when reached.


A.L.B. 

Producers will be ready to sell oil : but we can't afford to have it on sufferance & liable to interference on political grds. 
 Gloomy views of Col. Govrs.  Aden : Somaliland : Kenya.  Non-colonial Arabs will re-act even more strongly against U.K. incldg. Kuwait & Bahrain.


W.M. 

Threats of sabotage v. oil : but no intelligence of actual plans for it.


S.Ll. 

Iran regards N.'s move as challenge to their regime.


P.M. 

Longer the delay, greater danger of trouble in Arab world because E. are intriguing to bring it about.
 e) Defence Plans.


W.M. 

Can't disclose details.  Genl obsns.
 Considerable forces – part of wh. is in posn.
 Help from French – in volume of troops & in planning.  We have therefore enough force to carry our plan thro' with success.
 Have worked towards earliest poss. date.  Have not yet done anythg. on pol. grds to delay it.
 Further flexibility will be difficult, on dates.
 Agree tht. N. can't succeed : & that force may have to be used.  But see dilemma.  If we go on with mil. opn., we may have much world opinion v. us incldg. some Comm. opinion and prs. a divided opinion in U.K.
 Easier to invade than to be sure of means of extricating ourselves.
 Arabs will do reckless acts of sabotage, even v. their own interests.
 But diffes. on other horn are even greater.  We must therefore ensure tht. N. doesn't succeed.  But hope we shall exhaust all means of ensuring that short of force:  & that no opportunity will be lost of securing settlement by agreement.


L.P. 

Any course is open to risk – and a gamble.  But seen this sort of thing before.  If you don't enforce law when you have power to do it, it costs you much more later. cf. experiences with Italy & Germany.
 If we decide that action is essential to our future, we must act.  But that doesn't mean tht. we shdn't do all we can to secure our objects by peaceful means – or to enlist support for mil. action if we have to take it.
 U.N. = means to end.  And end is, not merely, preservn. of peace, but preservn. of justice.  If it fails in latter, it has failed.


K. 

Agree.  "Force is a last resort".  Yes : but it is a resort.  And "last"?  With internl. orgns. too often water flows into sand.  And once satisf. tht. internl. orgn. won't produce justice, we must be ready to take other steps.
 Quoted with approval concludg. argument of Goodhart's letter to Times.
 E. has de-internationalised what was internatl. body.
 Our case is right.  If it can't prevail by other means, we must make it prevail by force.


D.S. 

Worst danger of all wd. be to let N. succeed.  That is certainty.  Other dangers are not so certain.
 Military plan.  Don't ask for details or dates.  But what is scope?  Bombing?  Casus belli?


P.M. 

i) Large scope is inevitable.  If anythg, we are using too much force.
 ii) Bombing.  Migs must be neutralised.  Most airfields are remote. 
 iii) Casus belli.  Considering.  French are keen on that.
 Warning : we may have to take rather more provocative measures e.g. requisitioning passenger liners.


R.A.B. 

National consus. must prevail.
 But qua Parlt. & Party we must be able to show we have taken all steps
 x|  short of force before we resort to it.  Hence my preference for
  going to S.C., despite its risks – provided it can be done at F. Minister level.
 There will be some Tories who stress x/ v. much.  If satisfied on that we shd. have united Party behind us.
 Diff. for Parly. democracy to go to war with divided p. opinion.  So that is bound to be difficult.
 Recall of Parlt.  P'pone decn. until we know results of Cttee. of Five. Assume about end of next week.


H.M. 

If M/E. oil fails, we shall collapse.  We must therefore stop N. fr. succeeding.  We must stand firm on internatn.  But because of world opinion, U.K. opinion, we shd. first exhaust all means short of force.  Favour ban on transit dues.  Sure we shd. go to S.C.  But m'while our mil. prepns. can go on.  And, if S.C. fails, we must use force.  Can we get any further internatl. contribn. to use of force?  If not, get moral support from some of them?


S.Ll. 

On last point Holland & Belgium. 

Taken from C.M. 62(56) - Meeting held on 28 August 1956.