Rusk, McCone Discuss Israeli Nuclear Program

(March 26, 1963)


This is a memorandum for the record of a McCone-Rusk meeting regarding U.S. policy in the Near East and Israel's nuclear program.

1. Mr. McCone raised the question of policy in the Middle East, most particularly with respect to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and a number of important sheikdoms and dynasties. American business interests and many men of long experience in the area had expressed concern to the DCI that we were playing an increasingly close game with Nasir (which was understandable in the interest of keeping him away from the Soviet bloc), but there was a danger that in doing this we would complicate our problems with Saudi Arabia and others. There is no clear policy concerning the withdrawal of Nasir's troops from the Yemen; the Bunker report seemed to deal merely with persuading Nasir not to cross into Saudi Arabia or to bomb in there in Saudi Arabian territory, and finally, the British had expressed grave concern over our policy and the speed with which we jumped in to recognize the rebel government in Yemen.

2. Rusk replied that it was our policy to support important American interests, and for that matter Free World interests, in the Middle East. This could best be done now by support of the Saud government; however, this government was exceedingly fragile, several of Saud's brothers are now in Cairo, and we were working toward the objective of securing first, the stopping of Nasir's activities across the Yemen border; second, the stopping of Faysal's military support of Badr and other royalists which seemed to be a pretty bad bet as this group apparently were quite corrupt; third, the ultimate withdrawal of all Egyptian troops from Yemen. We wished to do this and still maintain some uneasy relationship with Nasir and keep him out of the Bloc, and finally, if necessary, were prepared to put a U.S.-manned air fighter group in Saudi Arabia. Rusk expressed the view that there should be a minimum of official contact during this sensitive period and for that reason did not favor the proposed Rostow-Komer trip to Egypt. Rusk turned to discussion of the consequences of a fall of the Saud government by the death of the King and the murder of Faysal and wondered if the ARAMCO people had any facilities existing to protect their interests in such an event, at least for the time necessary to deploy American protection forces into the area. He mentioned we now have five destroyers in the Red Sea.

Action: McCone agreed to explore with the ARAMCO and Standard Oil of California people, the capacity of ARAMCO to protect their installations during such a crisis.

4. McCone raised the question of Israel's development of nuclear weapons. Rusk shared DCI's views on this prospect and the consequences and noted that a London newspaper had predicted unreservedly that the Israelis were following an atomic weapon development course and they would succeed and would explode a device in the near future. The various steps [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] were all taken into consideration as means of influencing the Israelis to abandon their course and to expose their entire program and objectives, at least to the United States.


Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.