Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sessions: Briefing on the Middle East Situation
(June 1, 1967)
STATEMENT OF HONORABLE DEAN RUSK, SECRETARY OF STATE; ACCOMPANIED BY HONORABLE ROBERT S. McNAMARA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE; AND LEONARD C. MEEKER, LEGAL ADVISER, DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Secretary Rusk. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and distinguished Senators.
Let me make two preliminary remarks. One is that I would hope that this could be considered a secret consultation. There is a tinderbox in the Near East. We have, on the one side, a Holy War psychology. We have, on the other side, an apocalyptic psychology, and it is particularly important that discussions with an official like the Secretary of State be held very private in this situation.
Secondly, I would like to express the President's and my own very deep appreciation for the restraint which has been shown in the discussion of this matter here at this end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is a highly dangerous matter, and we very much appreciate the soberness of the discussion thus far.
One of the problems about the Near East is to know where to begin when one discusses it. The Arabs would like to begin with the birth of Israel.
U.S. SUPPORT OF TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Let me make an introduction by calling your attention to a simple proposition that President Johnson had in his statement of May 23, in which he quoted other American Presidents that the United States is firmly committed to the support of the political independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of that era.
When we look at the history of this post-war period, it is interesting to note that in 1956 and 1957 President Eisenhower strongly objected to the attack by Israel, Britain, and France on Egypt. In 1958 he put troops into Lebanon to protect Lebanon against threats from Syria and Iraq.
President Kennedy has continued the support of Jordan whose principal threat came from Egypt. President Kennedy put a squadron of fighter planes into Saudi Arabia at one point as a demonstration of solidarity against a threat from Egypt.
We intervened very heavily in Cairo diplomatically to try to bring about a cessation of subversive and propaganda attacks by Egypt against Libya and, at that time, were reasonably successful in that effort.
We have tried to encourage and support Tunisia and Morocco against a buildup of threat, as they saw it, from Algeria.
In other words, our policy in that area has not been simply a pro-Israel, anti-Arab policy. It has been a balanced attempt to assure the territorial integrity and the independence of the states of that area.
When Israel has been subjected to terror raids from across its borders, we have again intervened in capitals and expressed our strong view of that in the Security Council of the United Nations.
When Israel, on the other hand, delivered what we considered to be a much heavier than necessary retaliatory attack on the Jordanian village of Samu in November of last year, we criticized Israel severely for that in the U.N. So we have tried to make good on that simple declaration policy in an even-handed way.
THE IMMEDIATE CRISIS
Now, the present chapter I think opens with the increase of terrorism along the Israeli frontiers with Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
We suppose--we have ourselves known that these terrorist attacks were organized by an organization called the Fatah. We know that the Lebanese and Jordanian governments have been acting vigorously within their means to try to eliminate such attacks from their territory, although we know the Syrian government has not acted with similar restraint. In any event, there was a buildup of those terrorist raids into Israel in March and April. In early May certain Israeli statements were made by the Air Force Commander, and news accounts appeared of statements by high Israeli sources the first ten days of May, that if these raids continued Israel would have to take action against Syria.
That, in turn, prompted Syria to call upon their defense agreement with Nasser. Nasser started moving forces into the Sinai Peninsula, and on May 17 requested the United Nations forces to withdraw from Egyptian territory.
As you know, the Secretary General, we think much too precipitously, agreed to that withdrawal.
Secretary General Hammarskjold said that it would be for the General Assembly or the Security Council to take up the matter of, whether they should take up the question of their withdrawal.
The Secretary General agreed to the withdrawal and, perhaps, agreed in broader terms than the requests, particularly with regard to the Gaza Strip.
In any event, within the next few days, on May 22, while the Secretary General was on his way to Cairo, Nasser announced the closing of the Strait of Tiran.
That is the present shape of the immediate crisis.
THE ROLE OF THE SOVIET UNION
The role of the Soviet Union: We know that the Soviet Union has been supporting and encouraging what the Soviets call and the Arabs call the progressive states--Egypt, Syria, Algeria--over against the more moderate and conservative Arab states.
We think that the Soviet Union would encourage the political response to the Syrian-Egyptian reaction to the Israeli threat.
We suppose that they might have also agreed to the request for the removal of United Nations forces. As a matter of general policy, the Soviet Union has always strongly objected to the creation of U.N. forces by the General Assembly, saying that that is a monopoly of the Security Council, where they have a veto.
We have reason to believe that they were not informed in advance of Nasser's announcement of the closing of the Strait of Tiran.
I would state that much more categorically except for always the possibility of some misinformation or error on a point of that sort, but it is our strong impression that the Soviets were not consulted by Egypt on the closing of the Strait of Tiran.
U.S. AND U.S.S.R. USING INFLUENCE FOR MODERATION
I would like to tell you in the utmost secrecy, and I am relying very heavily on you on this, that we ourselves, in a very short message to the Soviet Union, suggested to them that they would use restraint in this situation. Their reply to that was a longer reply, pleading with us to use our influence in Israel, and promising that they themselves would use their influence in Syria and in Cairo for mutual restraint, so that neither side would start the shooting.
Senator Gore. I did not get that last remark.
Secretary Rusk. Both would use their influence in the area, we in Israel and they in Syria and in Egypt, to insist that neither side start the shooting.
We have ourselves advised moderation in Israel----
Senator Hickenlooper. Excuse me, did the Kremlin agree in that?
Secretary Rusk. Well, now, they came back and proposed to us----
Senator Hickenlooper. I see.
Secretary Rusk [continuing]. That we undertake this diversion of labor in terms of counseling moderation.
We have done so on our side and have kept the Israelis fully informed about our conversations with the Russians, and we have good intelligence reasons to believe that the Soviets have, in fact, counseled moderation upon Egypt and Syria.
Senator Dirksen. When was that reply received?
Secretary Rusk. That has been in the last eight days.
I am going far beyond my brief in telling you the Soviet exchange, but I believe it is highly relevant in this situation.
IMPORTANCE OF THE STRAIT OF TIRAN
Now, we think that there may be the possibility for a breathing space here as far as major hostilities are concerned, subject to one very specific problem, and that is the Strait of Tiran.
A breathing space raises a problem of what the status quo is during the breathing space, and if Nasser insists that the status quo involves the closure of the Strait of Tiran, then we have a major crisis indeed. If he would agree that the status quo should be that prior to his statement about the closing of the strait, then more time is available and people can litigate the problem and discuss differences and perhaps, keep the boundaries of the Israeli-Arab states under some control.
This is a major issue of principle with Israel, and is one which they take with the utmost seriousness.
The strait itself has been open to international shipping, as a matter of general principle, since 1957.
About 120 ships a year go through that strait, about half of them tankers, about half of them dry cargo ships.
Practically all of Israel's import of oil comes through the strait from Iran. What comes in and out of their port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba represents three to four percent of their exports and imports, but it is their principal contact, their only contact with the Afro-Asian world looking toward both the present and the future, and in a trade which has been growing and is particularly important to them because the Suez Canal has been closed to them during all this period.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the right has been there since 1957, the Israelis have not utilized it very fully with regard to their own flag ships.
For example, since 1955 only one Israeli flag merchant vessel has gone through, and there are four or five Israeli fishing trawlers that go in and out, have gone in and out, fishing in the Red Sea, and returning to Eilat for supplies, water and things of that sort.
PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
Senator Lausche. What was the status prior to 1955 and 1957?
Secretary Rusk. As far as Israel was concerned, there was no access through the gulf.
Mr Meeker, what about international shipping prior to that period. Do we have much information on that?
Mr. Meeker. There was a small amount of cargo going to the Jordanian port of Aqaba in that early period. Israel had not yet developed the port of Eilat, and that development really came after 1956.
Secretary Rusk. Now, in terms of where we are in this situation, I think it is of some significance that the Soviet Union has not stated a categorical position on the Strait of Tiran.
I say that with some caution because when we leave this room we may hear one. We cannot guarantee it, but they, as a maritime power, have some interest in the general principles involved here.
The territorial waters, the combined territorial seas, of Saudi Arabia and of Egypt across that strait meet in the middle of the strait.
The combined territorial waters of Malaya and Indonesia similarly would cut off the Strait of Malacca, of Denmark and Sweden access to the Baltic Sea.
We believe that it is a firmly established principle of international law, confirmed by the Convention of the Law of the Sea in 1958, that where two bodies of international waters are joined by narrow waters of this sort, there is an international right of passage through that strait.
Mr. Len Meeker, the Legal Advisor to the State Department is here and can develop that in some detail for you if you would wish to go into that.
So we feel that it is important that Nasser acknowledge whatever the territorial water situation is, that there is an international right of passage for shipping through that strait.
We do not accept the view that Nasser or, for that matter, Israel, is entitled to call upon rights of belligerency in order to refuse such rights of passage.
Secretary General Hammarskjold made it quite clear that those rights ought not to be available. We have not accepted the exercise of rights of belligerency between Arab states and Israel since the armistice agreements were entered into.
Senator Symington. Mr. Secretary, let me interrupt you.
Secretary Rusk. Yes, please.
BASIS OF EGYPTIAN CLAIM
Senator Symington. That language is a little too hightone to me. Does that mean that we do not believe the Israelis should go to war if they are stopped from using the Port of Eilat?
Secretary Rusk. No sir; I am not commenting on that particular point at the moment. I am saying we do not believe in this instance, for example, that Egypt can rely upon the fact that it is in a technical state of war with Israel to close the strait to international shipping going through there.
Now, there are certain obscurities----
Senator Sparkman. While you are talking about that----
Secretary Rusk. Yes.
Senator Sparkman [continuing]. Does Egypt claim--there is an island out six miles from the coastline--this map does not show it.
Secretary Rusk. We will have a large-scale chart down here, hopefully before our discussion is over. I tried to bring one with me, and we lost it in the corridors of the department on my way down here.
EGYPTIAN OCCUPATION OF ISLAND OF TIRAN
Senator Sparkman. There is an island about----
Secretary Rusk. The island which is offshore from Egyptian territory is actually owned by Saudi Arabia.
Senator Sparkman. It is?
Secretary Rusk. The Egyptians occupied it for the time, but told us in 1950 at the time that they occupied it, that they were occupying the island solely for the protection of the island, and that their occupancy would not interfere in any way with international rights of passage through the strait. But those islands are Saudi Arabian islands, and we understand at the moment they are not occupied, although it is possible that the Saudis may put somebody ashore.
Senator Sparkman. The large Island of Tiran.
Secretary Rusk. The nearest one is Tiran.
Senator Sparkman. Is there no passage between Tiran and Sanafir?
Secretary Rusk. No. The waters are too shallow, and it is a very widening and dangerous passage.
Senator Sparkman. In other words, this is the only passage?
Secretary Rusk. There are two passages between Egypt and the Island of Tiran. One is the Enterprise Passage, which is about a mile off-shore from Egypt, and it is very deep and is one customarily used.
The second is Grafton Passage which is adjacent to the Island of Tiran, which also is some 260 feet deep, but it is somewhat more hazardous because of certain rocks, and it is much narrower. But there are two passages there, one wholly within Egyptian territorial waters; the other, its state is somewhat obscure because of its location, probably in Saudi Arabian territorial waters.
Senator Clark. Didn't Egypt lease the island from Saudi Arabia?
Secretary Rusk. Not so far as we know.
Mr. Meeker. Not so far as we know.
Secretary Rusk. I think they occupied it, even though it wasn't Saudi, did not claim it to be Egyptian territory at the time they occupied it.
WHAT NASSER MEANS
Senator Lausche. Mr. Secretary, is Nasser claiming two things or one only? One, that is, this is an inland waterway, and it is within the jurisdiction--it is within their jurisdiction and, two, that a state of war exists, and even though it is an international seaway, in a state of war he has the right to blockade it?
Secretary Rusk. Well, yes, Senator, in general.
But I would like to call your attention to the fact that there are certain points that are still obscure, and there may be some advantages in obscurity pending further clarification and negotiation.
In the first place, we do not know exactly what it is he is saying he is going to do in closing the strait. He has talked about barring Israeli flag ships and ships carrying strategic goods, for example.
Now, the only material that goes through that strait that comes close to being a strategic good is crude oil.
The Egyptians have referred to application of the items under our Battle Act.
Our Battle Act does not include crude oil. So, query: Is he saying that he will blockade only Israeli flag ships for all practical purposes or is he saying that he would blockade it with respect to all other ships including tankers, and what kind of material is he prepared to let go through?
I want to distinguish this de facto situation from the issue of principle, which is very, very important indeed, and is of greatest possible importance to Israel in this situation.
We are not completely sure that he is talking about both channels that I mentioned. In their public statements they have concentrated on the Enterprise Channel, the one that is a mile off Egyptian territory. We are not completely sure that they are also talking about the Grafton Channel, which, perhaps, in a technical sense, is outside of Egypt's territorial waters, but where joint action by Saudi Arabia and Egypt might bring about the same result.
NASSER'S CALL FOR A HOLY WAR
I would like to point out that Nasser has called upon the only issue on which all Arabs can be united. This has cut through some of the major differences between him and the more moderate and conservative Arab states. But, at the same time, he has mounted a tiger.
The man in the street in the Arab world is inclined to think that the Holy War is here and, secondly, the man in the street has heard nothing but that he has closed the Strait of Tiran.
That has given Nasser a great boost of prestige within the Arab world at this point.
Now if, in fact, the Tiran Strait can be opened, and it becomes apparent that the Holy War is not on, then he faces the possibility of very serious disillusionment among the men in the street in the Arab world, and he perhaps knows that. So this is one of the elements that makes it a more difficult situation to handle.
We ourselves have tried to engage the Soviet Union in a specific discussion of the Strait of Tiran. Thus far they have not replied on that particular point, because some of us feel if the strait issue can be resolved, that the other aspects of the problem can be brought under some control; that is, some sort of U.N. presence along the borders, some possibility of demobilization of some of the forces that have been called up.
We know that there have been moderating pressures put in on Syria to do a better job in cutting down on these terrorist raids coming out of Syria either directly into Israel or through Jordan and Lebanon into Israel.
We do not believe that most of the Arabs want a war in this situation; in fact, it may well be that none of them want a war. We believe that Israel would prefer not to have war if its vital interests are properly protected.
I would like to emphasize that I am not here this morning to talk about the problems that might lie at the end of the road. I assure you that the President will be in fullest touch with Senators and the Congress along the way.
We are not here contemplating, that is, we are not here deciding to take the particular step of action involving the use of armed force.
DECLARATION ON THE RIGHT OF PASSAGE
As you know, the President's view would be that the Executive and Congress move together on a matter of that sort. But I would like to consult with you about a step which reflects the attitude of the maritime powers back in the late fifties with respect to the right of international passage, and if Mr. Macomber would pass out to you a copy of a brief declaration we would contemplate consulting among governments to get the maximum number of governments to join in issuing such a declaration with respect to the right of passage.
Limited Distribution Declaration
The Governments of maritime nations subscribing to this Declaration express their grave concern at recent developments in the Middle East which are currently under consideration in the United Nations Security Council. Our countries, as Members of the United Nations committed to the Purposes and Principles set forth in the Charter, are convinced that scrupulous respect for the principles of international law regarding freedom of navigation on international waterways is indispensable.
In regard to shipping through the waterways that serve ports on the Gulf of Aqaba, our Governments reaffirm the view that the Gulf is an international waterway into and through which the vessels of all nations have a right of passage. Our Governments will assert this right on behalf of all shipping sailing under their flags, and our Governments are prepared to cooperate among themselves and to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right.
The views we express in this Declaration formed the basis on which a settlement of the Near East conflict was achieved in early 1957--a settlement that has governed the actions of nations for more than ten years.
These views will guide our policies and action in seeking to assure peace and security in the Near East.
This declaration itself does not commit anyone as to the means by which they individually or collectively assert the right of international passage.
When one asserts a right one can use diplomacy, one can assert it in the U.N., or one can do it through protest; one can do it through various retaliatory economic measures or, as a possibility, through the use of armed force.
But the issue of the use of armed force does not itself pose specifically in this declaration.
We want very much to go over this declaration with you and get any observations or comments which any of you might have.
Perhaps Mr. Len Meeker could just comment on the two principal paragraphs here from a legal point of view. Mr. Meeker?
Senator Symington. Before you do that, Mr. Secretary----
Senator Symington [continuing]. Just so we can get it in context, what governments are we referring to when you say ``the governments of maritime nations?''
Secretary Rusk. We would hope to have as many governments as possible on this. I think there are twelve, for example, who made a similar statement in 1957, was it?
Mr. Meeker. 1957.
Secretary Rusk. At that time there were individual statements in the General Assembly and elsewhere.
If there were fifteen to twenty nations that might be included in such a group, we feel that this would, could make a very useful contribution and give some of those who are trying to work between the parties something to work on in terms of leverage, and the attitude of the maritime countries.
Now, on the issue of force, I remind you we would hope very much that Liberia and Panama would sign this declaration. It is obvious that they are not in any event going to use any force to assert the rights exerted here.
But, and it may well be, you see, that the issue here is one which could be subject to negotiation, mediation, arbitration, litigation, provided there is a satisfactory status quo established pending such litigation or diplomatic action.
I want to again remind you that the key question here is what is the status quo in the strait pending or during further discussion of the direct international issue involved, and that is the most sensitive, the most dangerous, and most serious question which we are not now discussing with you in terms of practical action other than diplomatic and political at this point, but one which you should be fully aware of as the really explosive element in this situation.
PUTTING THE DECLARATION TO THE BRITISH
Senator Sparkman. This is now just a proposal, is it not, sir?
Secretary Rusk. Well, this is a declaration which, I think I should tell you, we have discussed this declaration with the British as one of the alternatives.
We have in mind putting this to a good many other governments--the British, the Dutch and others--and there may be some counter proposals from some of them about particular wording. We do not know.
But we want you to know that we have in mind the issuance of a declaration by the maritime powers on this international right that is involved in this situation.
Mr. Meeker, would you comment on the underlying--by the way, may I say because of the sensitive nature at this point, that this is a secret paper. I would appreciate having these papers back. There will be copies here in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for you to consult, but it is very important that this be considered secret at this point.
Senator Sparkman. Is this in line with what Prime Minister Harold Wilson said to the House of Commons yesterday?
Secretary Rusk. As far as the declaration is concerned, he pointed further toward the future as far as some armed action than we are prepared to go today in terms of consultations with the Congress.
He hinted at it and, of course, we are looking at all contingencies here. But the President himself would want very much to explore fully the possibilities of the U.N. Security Council as well as some private diplomacy that is going on to see whether those alternatives are necessary or whether we have to get to that point at all. We just do not know yet, quite frankly.
Senator McClellan. Mr. Secretary, is your assistant now going to discuss this?
Secretary Rusk. Yes, sir.
ORIGINS OF THE WORDING
Senator McClellan. May I ask, I would like to have some emphasis on this aspect of it--I note, and I quote: ``Our governments will assert this right on behalf of all shipping sailing under their flags.'' I would like an interpretation of what you mean by that.
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Meeker?
Mr. Meeker. The essence of this declaration is contained in the second paragraph. The first statement there says:
In regard to shipping through the waterways that serve ports on the Gulf of Aqaba, our governments reaffirm the view that the gulf is an international waterway into and through which the vessels of all nations have a right of passage.
I would like to say just a word about the origin of that. This statement, in content, is based directly on what the representatives of some fourteen United Nations members stated in the General Assembly on March 1, 1957.
Now, those countries included, besides the United States, Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Costa Rica.
That first sentence is a statement about the view of the declaring governments as to the legal status of the strait; namely, that it is an international waterway, and there is a right of passage throughout for the vessels of all nations.
The second statement in the paragraph is the one to which you just referred, Senator:
Our governments will assert this right on behalf of all shipping sailing under their flags, and our governments are prepared to cooperate among themselves and to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right.
I would like to say a word about the origin of that language as well.
This is based almost word for word on the statements which were made by Ambassador Lodge and by the representative of the United Kingdom in the General Assembly at that time.
ASSERTING THE RIGHT OF PASSAGE FOR ALL
The statement that we would assert the right of passage on behalf of all shipping sailing under flags of the two countries, that statement was made both by Britain and the United States to the United Nations General Assembly in March of 1957.
What it meant was that in regard to both British vessels registered in Britain, and in regard to United States vessels flying the United States flag, we would assert that those ships of our own would have the right to go through the strait and the gulf to ports at the head of the gulf.
Now, the second paragraph goes on in that sentence to make one further statement, which is that the declaring governments, in addition to making this assertion of a right for their own ships, would cooperate among themselves and also join with other states who might not be signatories to this declaration, in order to seek a general recognition of the right.
This declaration, as the Secretary has already stated, does not indicate what particular means would be employed. Indeed, that question is one which lies in the future. It has to be considered as the governments go along.
The purpose of this declaration is to set forth, first, a legal view as to the status of the strait and the gulf and, secondly, to make the general declaration that we would assert that right of passage for ships of our own flag and would join with others in trying to secure a general recognition of the right.
Senator McClellan. Then the word ``assert'' does not carry with it any implication of enforcement of the right, just merely to say it is our right?
Mr. Meeker. It carries no implication at all. It is neither a commitment to use force nor does it exclude it. This is a subject that simply is not covered, not dealt with, by the declaration.
CLARIFY MEANING BEFORE OTHER COUNTRIES SIGN
Senator McClellan. Now, the thing that strikes me--and I do not know much about diplomacy--but you get fifteen or twenty countries to sign this, and then they disagree on what is meant. That is why I think these things should be settled before we sign them.
Senator Stennis. Spelled out.
Senator McClellan. We are going to sign something here that I would interpret one way and fifteen other countries, governments, interpret another.
Secretary Rusk. I would assume, Senator, that that matter would be clarified in discussions among governments because they will be asking the same questions which you have and, as Mr. Meeker has pointed out, it is our view that the assertion of a right does not itself prescribe the means.
There are many means. It does not require the use of force, but it does not exclude the use of force. There are many ways in which one can assert a right.
Yes, sir, Senator?
Senator Case. Mr. Secretary, why do you use the word ``will''? Why don't you just assert it if that is what you are doing, assert it now and not say threaten to do something in the future? I think that would clarify somewhat the Senator's point about it.
Senator McClellan. Then I have another question.
Secretary Rusk. Yes, sir.
Senator McClellan. What about that?
Secretary Rusk. That is an interesting point, Senator. This was based on the language used in 1957. From a legal point of view it probably does not make any difference. But we will certainly take that under advisement as a suggestion.
OTHER NATIONS DRAG THEIR HEELS
Senator McClellan. Now, one other question. This is what concerns me about these international agreements. We are over here fighting a war now, where some other folks ought to be there with us, if we should be there at all. I do not want to get ourselves in a position in this where again we are going out and taking the lead and the others drag their heels and let us do all the fighting. That is what concerns me. And before I subscribe to something, I want to know what the others are going to do, and not leave it up in the air as this does.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, this does not get to the question of who would join in using force to assert this right.
I had a long and very useful discussion with the Foreign Relations Committee a few days ago, and reported back to the President the practically unanimous view of the Foreign Relations Committee and, I gather this has been held very widely in the Congress outside the committee, that we should give maximum weight to the effort in the United Nations; that we should in any event emphasize the multilateral character of this problem; and that we should do our very best to avoid the unilateral action by the United States in this situation.
The President is very much concerned with that, and very much persuaded that that is the right course. Before any forceful action would be seriously contemplated, he would be back here consulting with the Congress on that issue.
He has made it very clear that our action in this is within our constitutional processes, and there is no question about the fact that on that point there would be further, most serious consultation with the Congress.
Senator McClellan. I am not in disagreement about that at all.
Senator Rusk. I understand.
DOES ASSERTION MEAN ENFORCEMENT?
Senator McClellan. What concerns me is that sixteen nations or fifteen nations join in this phrase ``We will assert,'' and does it mean to them or does it mean to the world, does it give the impression that when we say we assert we mean to enforce it? In asserting a right do we mean to enforce it, and that is one of the troubles with diplomacy in my book today, it leaves so much uncertainty.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, I think one would not want at this point to, quite frankly, clarify that point, because to make a declaration now saying that we are going to assert this right by force if necessary would greatly impede the possibilities of settling it by other means.
Senator McClellan. I am not arguing that this is not right. I just point out to you----
Secretary Rusk. I understand, sir.
Senator McClellan. What gives me concern, because I think in the past we find ourselves today in positions where we have gotten into situations without the assistance and cooperation that we had a right to anticipate from agreements of the past, and I do not want to find ourselves in that situation in this crisis.
Secretary Rusk. Well, I can assure you that I certainly would not want to find ourselves in that situation.
NATIONS WITH MAXIMUM INTEREST IN MARITIME RIGHTS
Senator Mundt. Mr. Secretary, why was it that you only had fourteen signers at the time this was originally brought up? This is a pretty small minority of the rest of the nations of the world. Did the rest of them refuse to sign it or say they were going to go it alone?
Secretary Rusk. It was my understanding those were the ones who had the maximum interest in maritime rights.
Mr. Meeker, would you comment on the relevant article of the Convention of the Law of the Sea?
FLAGS FLOWN IN THE GULF
Senator Clark. In that connection, could I ask, while he is answering, how many flags were flown on those 120 ships? How many flags were there?
Secretary Rusk. I have it here.
Mr. Meeker. I do.
Secretary Rusk. There has been almost a total absence of Israeli flags, except Israeli trawlers. One Israeli merchant ship visited Eilat during the period from January 1965 up to the present. Four or five visits a year are made to Eilat by Israeli flag fishing trawlers which operate in the Red Sea.
Secondly, we do not have any Communist shipping going in there.
Third, dry cargo shipping accounts for something less than fifty percent of all calls made since January 1965. Nine countries, Greece, Liberia, the U.S., the Netherlands, Panama, the Philippines, Sweden, Norway, and Italy. There have been very, very few U.S. flag ships going there.
Senator Clark. Are those the tankers?
Secretary Rusk. No. The tankers are primarily under Panamanian and Liberian flags. They account for between 60 and 70 percent--I am sorry, they account for practically all of the tanker tonnage going in there.
As a matter of fact, tankage has now been pretty well concentrated in five or six large tankers operating under Liberian and Panamanian flags.
Senator Clark. They get the oil from Iran?
Secretary Rusk. They get the oil from Iran. By the way, this is not something that is generally publicized because Iran claims that it is the consortium that sells the oil, and Iran does not acknowledge that it is selling oil to Israel. There is a little fuss going on now between Egypt and Iran on just that point.
But these are large tankers, 20,000 to 30,000 gross tons, and about a half dozen tankers are involved in that trade.
Then there are some Israeli-owned vessels flying under foreign flags that are encompassed in the numbers I have already given you.
Senator Clark. Well, from that it would appear that very few of the maritime nations that you are asking to sign this declaration have ships under their flags that use the gulf.
Secretary Rusk. There are about nine or ten of them which are directly involved to one degree or another.
Senator Clark. One or two ships each.
Secretary Rusk. But then there are other, there are maritime nations which have a great stake in the principle involved here.
For instance, Japan brings huge tankers to the Straits of Malacca that have a draft of one foot less than the draft of the strait, and they get all of their oil from Iran, practically all of it.
Senator Clark. Okay. Just one more question and then I will subside. Are there any British or French registered vessels using the gulf or the strait?
Secretary Rusk. The U.K.--I do not see France on the list. The United Kingdom certainly.
Senator Lausche. Will you again identify----
Senator Mundt. Mr. Chairman, I did not come anywhere near getting an answer to my question when I got diverted.
Secretary Rusk. I am sorry.
AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Senator Mundt. My question is why, back in 1950-something, fourteen nations signed this declaration, such a small minority even of the maritime nations signed it? Did a group of fourteen get together and were doing this as an exclusive club. Did they ask the others and did they reject it?
Secretary Rusk. I would think those that signed it, excluding the Communist countries, would represent a very, very high percentage of the maritime shipping.
Now, Japan--Japan was not----
Mr. Meeker. Japan was not a member.
Secretary Rusk. Japan was not a member of the U.N.
Senator Mundt. Read those fourteen again.
Mr. Meeker. Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, France, and the U.S.
I might just say a word about the origin of those statements made to the General Assembly which will, perhaps, in part, answer your question, Senator.
Senator Lausche. May I interrupt at this point? Was that a written declaration signed by people or were they oral statements made----
Mr. Meeker. Individual oral statements made on the floor of the General Assembly.
Secretary Rusk. But parallel statements.
NEGOTIATIONS AT END OF SUEZ CRISIS
Mr. Meeker. There have been in the preceding few days, and concluding on February 28, very active consultations between the U.S. government, the government of Israel, and others as to exactly how the peace settlement and armistice would be arranged at the end of the Suez conflict.
At that time it was agreed that there should be a series of statements to this effect concerning the Strait or Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as part of the overall set of arrangements under which forces would be withdrawn and under which the United Nations Emergency Force would be put in its positions, both in the Gaza Strip and also at the entrance of the Strait of Tiran.
The United States made a statement on that day--Ambassador Lodge was our representative in the Assembly--and we, and I think also the government of Israel, spoke with a number of other countries asking them whether they would be prepared to make parallel statements.
I am not aware that we approached any countries who said they disagreed with this point of view and, therefore, declined to make a statement.
I think the shortness of time may be responsible for the fact that there were not more than fourteen. But I think that it is noteworthy that among this group are some of the principal shipping nations of the world.
Senator Sparkman. May I ask this question?
HOW WILL RIGHTS BE ASSERTED?
Senator McClellan. If I may have this one other question, and then I am going to quit. I just want to satisfy myself.
When you say that these governments will assert a right, the right is presumed to make that claim without any reservation. Now you propose to assert it. That means we are going to take some action; assert means to act. How are we going to assert it except for the ships to go up there and demand to pass through? How do you assert it?
Secretary Rusk. Well, Senator, there are many--I am not a lawyer, and I will ask Mr. Meeker to comment on this. But my understanding is that there are many ways to assert a right. If a trespasser comes on your land----
Senator McClellan. I know there are other things, but when you----
Secretary Rusk. If a trespasser comes on your land you try to talk him off it; you can call a cop in certain circumstances; you might even shoot him. But there are many ways to assert a right, and there are a good many possibilities open here as to how the right can be most effectively asserted. This is silent on the question of how.
DECLARATION DOES NOT EMBODY A COMMITMENT
Senator McClellan. I know it is. That is the point. Is it going to be interpreted by Israel that we are going to assert it, we are going to see that these ships get through, or are we leaving her open to that hope or expectation?
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Meeker, would you read the Senator that sentence of interpretation which we would propose to use if other governments--some of them undoubtedly will ask us the same question that you just asked.
Senator McClellan. Yes.
Secretary Rusk. Do you have that sentence there with you?
Mr. Meeker. Yes, I do.
What we would say in answer to this very question from other governments is roughly the following: That the language of the declaration in itself does not embody a commitment as to the particular means by which the right would be asserted in order to give effect to the purposes of the declaration.
The declaration starts with two things. First, an assertion of international status in the waterway and, second, a statement that the governments participating in the declaration will assert this right and will seek to gain general recognition for it.
Now, the question of how these purposes are going to be effectuated, that is simply not covered in this declaration, and it is a question which the governments themselves are going to have to continue to consider as they proceed.
As the Secretary has said, there are many different ways of proceeding: in the United Nations; through diplomacy; by indeed sending one or more ships through the strait for the purpose of entering the Gulf of Aqaba. There are many different ways, and those will all have to be considered.
USE OF FORCE IS A SEPARATE QUESTION
Secretary Rusk. Senator, may I just add one word of clarification on this?
Senator McClellan. I am going to quit.
Secretary Rusk. We ought to be clear around this table on this point.
The Executive Branch is not going to come back to you gentlemen at any time in the future to say that this word, this declaration commits us to the use of force. That is a separate question which the President and you would have to talk out among yourselves and make a decision on it.
Senator McClellan. That ought to be made very clear. I appreciate your saying that.
Now, one other thing. You said there are different ways to assert it. Is not the most direct way to assert this right to move your ships out there and demand passage through?
Secretary Rusk. Well, that might be the most direct way.
Senator McClellan. I said direct.
Secretary Rusk. It might be the most direct way.
Senator McClellan. And if shooting starts over there would we not expect a direct effort made?
Secretary Rusk. Well, this, it might be the most direct way. It may not be the most effective way or the wisest way under certain circumstances.
Senator McClellan. I apologize, and I thank you. I am through.
Secretary Rusk. I understand.
STRAITS AROUND THE WORLD
Senator Lausche. Mr. Secretary, will you reidentify the straits around the world where this principle becomes involved. You mentioned the Malacca Straits. Which are the places? I do not have--in the Baltic?
Secretary Rusk. I do not have it. Perhaps Mr. Meeker has it, sir.
Senator Lausche. I want it for information.
Secretary Rusk. Yes. Here is a list that I will be glad to----
Senator Lausche. Is it a large list?
Secretary Rusk. Yes. It involves two pages with two or three lines each.
Senator Lausche. It ought to be placed in the record.
Secretary Rusk. We will put it in the record of the Foreign Relations Committee. But the Strait of Dover, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Magellan Straits, the Straits of Malacca, the Martinique Channel. The two most dramatic ones, I would suppose, would be the Straits of Malacca, the Singapore Straits, and what do you call this between Denmark and--the Sound between Denmark and Sweden where territorial waters come right up and occupy the entire passage.
Senator Clark. You have the case in Corfu.
Secretary Rusk. The Corfu case in the World Court is very opposite here with respect to the principle involved.
SOVIET INTEREST IN THE PROBLEM
So we feel--and, by the way, the Soviet Union might have some real interest in this problem. The Bosporus is covered by the special convention, Montreux Convention, but the Soviet Union, as a maritime nation, has got a tremendous interest in this. This may be one of the reasons why they are just being a little careful about this issue of the Strait of Tiran.
Secretary Sparkman. Mr. Secretary, why didn't Russia have to ask Turkey for permission to go through the Dardanelles?
Secretary Rusk. That is under the regulations of the Montreux Convention. By the way, on that point, Secretary McNamara might wish to comment, but the movement of these vessels into the Mediterranean brings their forces about where they were--about two or three ships more--about June a year ago. This may or may not be connected with the Middle East crisis, but it is not a major naval movement.
Bob, do you want to comment on it?
Secretary McNamara. I think they are trying to make it appear that it is connected with the Middle East crisis and to give the peoples of the world the impression they are moving forcefully to support the Arab position. But the fact is that the movement was planned separate and apart from the Middle East crisis and, as Secretary Rusk pointed out, brings their total fleet in the Mediterranean to slightly more than the strength that it had a year ago.
ISRAEL'S OIL RESERVES
Senator Clark. Mr. Secretary, could you comment on how much time, in your opinion, we have got in this area. I have particular reference to how much reserve oil Israel has got, and how long can we reasonably expect them to cool it.
Secretary Rusk. Well, there is not a lot of time here, because this is a major issue for Israel, and Israel has made it clear, both in 1957 and since, that they would protect their own rights of access through the Strait of Tiran.
Senator Clark. As long as they have got some oil you can probably cool them. But if they are running out of oil they are going to act. Is this not a fair assumption?
Secretary Rusk. I would hesitate to ask Israel to give, to specify the number of days. But their patience is going to run out pretty fast.
Senator Clark. I would ask then how much oil they have got.
Secretary Rusk. I do not know what their stocks are. If we have that information----
Mr. Battle. We do not have it.
ESTABLISHING THE STATUS QUO
Senator Symington. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to infringe on the rights of any Senator, but we have the Secretary of State here and the Secretary of Defense, and I would hope that we would make a reasonable effort to preserve the regular order. There are many questions I would like to ask.
Senator Sparkman. Well, Senator Symington, I appreciate that. I have been trying for some time to get in a question myself.
If I may ask it now, and ask Mr. Meeker to explain--no, to ask this general question about page two of this proposal: The views we express in this declaration formed the basis on which a settlement of the Near East conflict was achieved in early 1957--a settlement that has governed the actions of nations for more than ten years.
Now, is that borne out by facts and documents and historical records or is that just a statement of opinion?
Mr. Meeker. No, I think that is borne out by the record very clearly.
In 1957, at the end of the Suez conflict, one of the things that was done to resolve the conflict and to deal with this issue about navigation through the Strait of Tiran, was to station an element of the United Nations Emergency Force at a place called Sharm el-Sheikh in Egyptian territory at the southern-most tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
The stationing of that force was for the very purpose of seeing to it that navigation through the strait and into the gulf would be unimpeded. This was agreed to by Egypt and it was also accepted by Israel as a satisfactory set of arrangements under which they would withdraw their forces from certain territory which they had occupied.
Now, in fact, for the next ten years from that time until very recent days when Egypt again occupied Sharm el-Sheikh, there was no interference with navigation through the waterway.
We thought that it would be useful in this declaration to point out that there had been a status quo undisturbed for ten years, and that any effort to block navigation through the strait and gulf now was an effort to upset something, upset a set of arrangements, which have lasted for more than ten years.
Secretary Rusk. And a status quo based upon an agreement of ten years ago.
REMOVAL OF THE PEACE FORCE
Senator Sparkman. What effect did the removal of the peace force from there have upon this agreement?
Mr. Meeker. We do not think that it has any legal effect whatever because the right of passage was one which we asserted and believed to exist quite independently of the stationing of an element of UNEF at Sharm el-Sheikh.
1958 AGREEMENT ON THE LAW OF THE SEA
I should mention that one year after the settlement of the Suez conflict, there convened at Geneva a conference on the Law of the Sea in the spring of 1958, and this very issue was addressed by the conference. The Netherlands made a proposal for a provision to be inserted in the treaty and, in fact, it was inserted in the treaty. It reads as follows--this is Article 16, paragraph 4 of the Treaty on the Territorial Sea:
There shall be no suspension of the innocent passage of foreign ships through straits which are used for international navigation between one part of the high seas and another part of the high seas or the territorial sea of a foreign state.
Now, that fits just perfectly the situation on the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba.
Secretary Rusk. And the Soviet Union acceded to this convention without entering a reservation on this particular article.
Senator Kuchel. Have we approved this treaty?
Secretary Rusk. We have, and Egypt has not.
Senator Lausche. When was that approved?
Secretary Rusk. 1958.
Senator McCarthy. 1958.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION
Senator Sparkman. I think here is something that might be well to put into the record. This is General Assembly Resolution 1125 of February 2, 1957, operative paragraph number three:
Considers that, after full withdrawal of Israel from the Sharm el-Sheikh and Gaza areas the scrupulous maintenance of the armistice agreement requires the placing of the United Nations Emergency Forces on the Egypt-Israel armistice demarcation line.
It seems to me that would be well to put in the record at this point.
ATMOSPHERICS OF THE U.N. DEBATE
Secretary Rusk. By the way, just to comment a little bit on some of the atmospherics in the U.N. debate, the Arabs in New York have called for complete compliance with the armistice arrangements. One of the problems about this is that they want to be selective about it.
Under the armistice arrangements Israel could use the Suez Canal, but they do not mean that. So they are trying to be quite selective about which arrangements it is that they want to have maintained.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Hickenlooper?
EGYPTIAN FOOD SUPPLIES
Senator Hickenlooper. Mr. Secretary, as a corollary to the question about the amount of oil in Israel, how much food does Egypt have for the future? How long can Egypt feed itself?
Secretary Rusk. We believe they usually run from six weeks to two months' stocks in the country. As you know, they have not been receiving food from us for some time.
We understand they have made arrangements with the Soviet Union that will probably take them to the first of the year.
Senator Hickenlooper. Thank you.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Hayden, do you have any questions of the Secretary?
Senator Hayden. No.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Stennis?
Senator Stennis. Well, I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I feel like I ought to pass in favor of members of your own committee. Thanks very much.
Senator Sparkman. We are all meeting together.
Senator Stennis. I pass for the time being.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Kuchel?
Senator Kuchel. No questions.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Mundt?
ROLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Senator Mundt. Mr. Secretary, if I understand your opening statement, the nature of this document is something which you propose to circulate among maritime countries----
Secretary Rusk. That is correct, sir.
Senator Mundt [continuing]. Without handling it through the United Nations.
Secretary Rusk. Well, let me say----
Senator Mundt. That is within your program.
Secretary Rusk [continuing]. This is a very early consultation with the Senators on this particular document.
We undoubtedly will have from some governments some suggestions for amendments or some additions or something of that sort. Nor has there been a final decision as to just when and how to use it. In any event, if it is used it would presumably be referred in the first instance as a declaration to the United Nations.
But there is a great deal of discussion going on in the corridors. We have a new President of the Security Council for the month of June, a Dane, who is not under the same limitations that the representative of China was under there because he was not--he has no contact with a good many members of the Security Council, and so we do not--I cannot tell you today exactly who would adhere to this declaration, nor when and how it would be used.
But we feel that this is a matter of some urgency to pull together a maximum group of countries who have an interest in this maritime right we are talking about here.
NEED FOR MULTILATERAL ACTION
Senator Mundt. If I might follow up what I have in mind. I am a little bit dubious about going around the United Nations to contact these countries and get them to sign it, because historically every time we have proceeded in some area of the world without the sanction of the U.N., it has gotten to be an American task, an American job.
Korea, while we did it legally, we went around the Russians because they were not there, and it was our war. In Vietnam, we edged into it without the U.N., and it has become our war.
It seems to me in this kind of thing, if we do agree upon it, it should in the first instance be submitted for U.N. action instead of something that is promoted outside. That was the purport of my original question about the fourteen countries, because that does not even represent a fraction of the U.N. support.
Secretary Rusk. That issue is right now before the Security Council because yesterday Ambassador Goldberg put in a resolution calling on the parties concerned to comply with the Secretary General's appeal. The Secretary General's appeal was to urge all the parties concerned to exercise special restraint, to forego belligerence; that is, the exercise, attempted exercise of belligerent rights; and to avoid all other action to increase tension, to allow the Council to deal with the underlying causes of the present crisis and seek solutions.
Now, that resolution, which involves the same principle as this declaration, is right now before the Security Council.
There is also an Arab resolution which takes another view. So this issue is before the Security Council now.
Senator Mundt. Then where does this fit in? Is this proposed to be done if the Security Council does not act? I am just not clear. You started out by saying you would circulate this to as many countries as would be willing to sign it.
Secretary Rusk. It would be a multilateral support of the assertion of this right which we are now asserting in the Security Council.
Senator Mundt. Well, I do not want to take any more time, but I want to reiterate my skepticism about the United Nations by running around it.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Mansfield?
FRANCE'S DETACHED ROLE
Senator Mansfield. Mr. Secretary, I note that France is hardly even mentioned. What is its position vis-a-vis the situation in the Middle East.
Secretary Rusk. France has been trying to play a detached role. It has taken two steps which are relevant. We are consulting with them now and, as you know, consulting with France is rather difficult until other Frenchmen know exactly what one man has in mind, and that is sometimes hard to ascertain.
France has been giving, expediting its arms assistance to Israel. France has been the principal supplier of Israeli arms.
Senator Mansfield. Still?
Secretary Rusk. Still, And they have been expediting those shipments. We should keep that very quiet.
Secondly, they publicly as well as privately called upon the Soviet Union, ourselves, and the United Kingdom to join in quadripartite consultations on this matter.
The Soviet Union has turned that down, although we just hear this morning that the Soviet Union is apparently prepared now for the first time to discuss these matters within the framework of the Security Council. So that there will be discussions with Fedorenko and Seydoux and Caradon at the Security Council. Ambassador Goldberg is pursuing that today.
POSSIBILITY OF A SUMMIT MEETING
Senator Mansfield. One more question. Referring to the French suggestion, could the United States and the U.S.S.R. issue a call for a summit meeting of the maritime states to include, one, consideration of the declaration which has been laid before us today for an immediate decision and, secondly, consider an agreement based on the Montreux Convention to illustrate indirectly the situation which the U.S.S.R. finds itself in in the Bosporus?
Secretary Rusk. That is a possibility, Senator. I would think that that would be a little premature at this time until we explore further with the Soviets what their view is on the strait.
I think if we came to a summit where the court of last resort is in session, only to break up in severe disagreement, that would set everything back.
We would hope very much that the Soviets will show some flexibility on this question of the strait insofar as their support of the Arabs is concerned. However, that is something we will keep very much in mind as a possibility.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Dirksen?
SHIPS UNDER FOREIGN REGISTRY
Senator Dirksen. I would like to ask Mr. Meeker a question. I notice on the last part of page one where you say:
“Our governments will assert this right on behalf of all shipping sailing under their flags.” What about governments whose vessels are under foreign registry, Israeli vessels, for instance, flying the Liberian flag or the Panamanian flag?
Secretary Rusk. If I may comment first on that, Senator, on these matters the government of the flag has the overwhelming predominant role.
Now, I do not know whether this has been made public or not, but President Tubman, for example, of Liberia, has asked his flag ships to come around Africa into Haifa rather than run through the strait and have them sunk before this question is clarified.
But you have two different authorities operating in a matter of this sort: The government of the flag in the first instance and, secondly, the owners.
Now comes Lloyds of London. They have cancelled insurance on ships going through the strait, and so owners simply as a matter of ownership prudence are reluctant to challenge the situation until it is clarified further. That is the principal reason why, perhaps, there have not been actual ships going through there in the last few days, that is, to Eilat.
Senator Dirksen. Using the word ``their'' you really limit this, don't you, to their flags?
Secretary Rusk. Yes, in that particular phrase. But the second phrase ``to cooperate among themselves and to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right'' broadens it somewhat.
Senator Dirksen. That is all.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Gore?
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Meeker, do you want to add anything?
Mr. Meeker. No.
PARALLEL WITH SOUTHEAST ASIA
Senator Gore. Mr. Chairman, well, I shall confine myself to a very brief statement.
I wish to commend the administration for its prudence and caution in this matter, but also its firmness, and to express appreciation for the close consultation with the Senate.
I would add one word of caution with respect to the use of the present tense which Senator Case suggested. If you speak in the future, you reserve the right to future assertion, you leave more options, more choices open.
The most encouraging thing you bring is, however secret it is, that there is close communication, mutual effort, on the part of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, I would like to emphasize the secrecy of that because that would disappear----
Senator Gore. Yes.
Secretary Rusk [continuing]. If from our sources this got to be known.
Senator Gore. I accept.
Now, my one question is: Since there is a possibility of a parallelism with respect to this gulf and this port and Haiphong, and since you report to us this does encompass a matter of major importance, a mutuality of effort to cool a dangerous situation in the Middle East, if that in any way could be coupled with a mutuality of effort in Southeast Asia. I do not wish to divert you particularly into that, but it seems to me that this might be a major break in cooperation between the two great powers. I would hope that we would not lose the opportunity, if such existed, in extending this cooperation to an effort of deescalation in the Far East.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, there is nothing we would like better.
I would doubt the wisdom of trying these two questions together organically, because it is hard enough to sort out conflicting interests in each question standing alone.
However, we are in pretty regular contact with the Soviet Union on Vietnam. I think the big problem there is that their influence in Hanoi does not put them in a position to negotiate seriously about it.
I do not believe Vietnam at this stage can be settled between Washington and Moscow because Moscow cannot deliver Hanoi. I think myself there is a basis for agreement between us and the Soviet Union on Vietnam, based upon our recognition of their stake in North Vietnam and their recognition of our stake in South Vietnam.
We have had many, many long discussions with the Soviet Union along these lines.
I would hope that given the parallel action that we and they showed during the India-Pakistan fighting and, indeed, at the Tashkent Conference, where we encouraged all three of them to go ahead with the Tashkent Conference, that if there could be some parallel action here this might encourage a little more parallel action on some other problem.
Senator Gore. The whole purpose of my question was to entertain such a hope.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Smith?
Senator Smith. Yes Mr. Chairman.
MINING OF THE STRAIT
Mr. Secretary, Nasser has been quoted as saying that the strait, the entrance of the strait or the gulf, I do not recall which, was mined. You referred to continuing shipping. How can shipping be continued if the mining has taken place without a lot of trouble?
Secretary Rusk. Well, we doubt very much--and the Secretary might wish to comment on this--would you comment and take that one, Bob?
Secretary McNamara. Yes. We have no indication that they have mined the strait itself. As a matter of fact, we have some indication that they have not. They may have mined in a defensive way the entrances to their own naval facilities near the strait. We think that is what he might have alluded to.
But the mining of the strait itself would be extremely difficult because it is very deep, some 900 feet deep, and the current passing through it is quite swift. We doubt that he has the capability to mine waters of that kind.
We have no evidence he has. There have been a number of ships that have passed through since he was alleged to have made that statement, and it is our firm conclusion that the strait is not mined as of today.
Secretary Rusk. Apparently shipping goes through normally to the Jordanian port of Aqaba through the strait, so it is unlikely that the strait itself is mined in a way that would close it.
AUTHORITY FOR WITHDRAWING U.N. TROOPS
Senator Smith. One other question, Mr. Secretary. On what authority were the U.N. troops or forces withdrawn?
Secretary Rusk. The Secretary General felt on the basis of legal advice he had from his own Secretariat that he, as Secretary General, had authority to withdraw those forces basically on the ground; that the forces were there with the consent of Egypt, and if Egypt, as a sovereign country, withdrew that consent, the forces had no right to be there.
Now, we might not have contested the right which might have existed at the end of the day, but we did think that the Secretary General would have been much wiser, indeed had an obligation, to consult the General Assembly or the Security Council before taking that action, because the force was established by the General Assembly.
But he used that. He exercised what he considered to be the executive and the legal power of the Secretary General as sort of the commander-in-chief of the U.N. forces.
Senator Smith. Have we protested?
Secretary Rusk. Yes, indeed we have, very strongly, both publicly and privately. The President's statement on May 23 said that we were dismayed about that action.
Senator Smith. Could he return the U.N. to that area then without action by Colonel Nasser?
Secretary Rusk. He probably could if he and the parties were willing to as a matter of law. My guess is that he would not make the attempt, and also my guess is that Egypt would not accept it. But it is not completely outside the possibilities that some sort of U.N. presence, less than the United Nations force, more than just a handful of commissioners, might be put along that border before this matter is finished.
Senator Kuchel. On what side?
Secretary Rusk. On both sides, perhaps.
Senator Smith. Such action then makes the United Nations rather useless, does it not?
Secretary Rusk. Well, Senator Smith, this is a personal view. I do not want to speak for the entire administration on this, but I have felt that the Secretary General has on three occasions, on three issues, not supported the U.N. and supported the charter in a way that one would expect the Secretary General to do so: On the article 19 issue; on his great resistance to consideration of the Vietnam situation by the United Nations; and now on this particular matter of the U.N. forces in the Middle East. We have been disappointed in all three of those.
Senator Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Lausche?
Senator Lausche. Yes.
COMPARISON TO BOSPORUS STRAIT
Are France and Great Britain signatories to the convention defining international waters?
Mr. Meeker. The United Kingdom is a party to the 1958 convention; France is not.
Senator Lausche. Why didn't France subscribe to it?
Secretary Rusk. They have never indicated any reasons.
Senator Lausche. Did either France or England make statements on the floor of the United Nations comparable to the ones that were made by the nations that you identified a moment ago?
Mr. Meeker. Both of them did, and those statements were along the lines of this very draft declaration.
Senator Lausche. Why is the Bosporus Strait considered different than all other straits which are mentioned as being parts of the high seas in the convention?
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Meeker?
Mr. Meeker. There is this difference, what a treaty has been concluded among a number of countries, the Montreux Convention governing passage through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.
Now, there is not any comparable treaty addressed specifically to this strait.
Senator Lausche. Well, was the treaty on the Bosporus Strait executed before the convention?
Mr. Meeker. Long before, yes.
Senator Lausche. I see.
Secretary Rusk. The 19th Century at first, wasn't it?
Mr. Meeker. I think it was 1924.
Senator Lausche. Looking at the map it would seem that the body of water that is connected by the Bosporus Strait with the Mediterranean has more of the attributes of an inland body of water.
Is there any rationalization for keeping the Bosporus Strait out of the general principle declared in the convention?
Secretary Rusk. It is subject to a special regime of international law based upon a treaty. The same issues might arise if there were no special treaty governing it.
Senator Clark. You still have the Dardanelles.
Secretary Rusk. Yes, both together.
Senator Clark. Both under one?
Mr. Meeker. Yes.
Senator Lausche. Now, you recognize the importance of the words ``will assert'' as indicated by the memorandum which you have already prepared containing your explanation of those words. Did you give consideration to the use of some other word than ``assert'' in preparing this declaration?
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Meeker?
Mr. Meeker. The reason that we chose that particular language was that it is the very language used by both the United States and the United Kingdom in their statements to the General Assembly in 1957. We felt that the wording was expressive of what we meant to say.
It is also the same wording that was used in the aide memoire given to the government of Israel explaining our position. Secretary Dulles a few days before in February had given to Israel, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, an aide memoire which contained these very words as expressing a part of our attitude toward the Strait of Tiran. It has a good deal of history, and we thought we would probably maximize the support for this declaration by expressing a declaration in terms that are familiar, that would be recognized by other governments as something that they had already subscribed to earlier.
Senator Lausche. Now, I observe in the declaration, you say that we affirm--``In regard to shipping through the waterways that serve ports on the Gulf of Aqaba, our governments reaffirm the view that the gulf is an international waterway into and through which the vessels of all nations have a right of passage.''
Did you think. of using the word ``reaffirm'' instead of the word ``assert'' in the second sentence of the second paragraph: ``our governments reaffirm this right on behalf of all shipping.'' Did you give any consideration to that? You use ``reaffirm'' in one instance and ``assert'' in the other, and my question is why.
Mr. Meeker. I think perhaps the two words are used in a slightly different context. In the first case, the governments are stating, and in some cases restating, a view that they have expressed before; and in the second sentence what the governments would be doing would not be stating a view but saying that they would pursue, they would assert, they would maintain, they would do things to make effective their right of passage.
I think the two words are used in a slightly different sense, and that is why we used ``reaffirm'' in one case and ``assert'' in the other.
Senator Lausche. Was the word ``will'' instead of ``shall'' used advisedly?
Mr. Meeker. ``Will'' is exactly the language that was used in 1957; ``will assert.''
Senator Lausche. Well, ``shall'' in this context would mean a determination and a purpose. ``Will'' has a different connotation when used in connection with the third person.
Now, my question is was the word ``will'' instead of ``shall'' used advisedly?
Mr. Meeker. It was used because it was the exact same expression which governments have used before, ten years ago.
Senator Lausche. Now, then----
MANY WAYS TO ASSERT RIGHTS
Secretary Rusk. Senator, may I just intrude for a second here? I am sorry Senator McClellan left--oh, Senator McClellan, you are here. I made the point that this language neither commits us to nor prohibits the use of force here, and that I told you that the Executive would be back with you later if that situation should arise.
But I want to be completely frank on this. The language ``will assert'' does not mean that we will do absolutely nothing. There are many ways to assert rights, and so that if there is anyone who feels that we ought to pay no attention to this right in the Gulf of Aqaba or the Strait of Tiran, we ought to treat it with indifference, we ought not to lift a finger on that, then this language goes beyond that.
Senator McClellan. Will you yield?
Secretary Rusk. Yes, Senator.
Senator McClellan. You mean by ``assert'' you will assert it in one instance and if you are not successful in achieving your objective you will assert it another way. Does it not imply, I get the implication from it, that when you say ``assert it'' you mean to assert it to the point of gaining the objective?
Secretary Rusk. Well, the assertion of the right itself is not a final obligation to go all the way, but it is not trivial language, Senator. I do not want to be----
Senator McClellan. I know it. I just wanted everybody else to be----
Secretary Rusk. And you are quite right to want to know what it means.
What I am saying is we will assert it in every way we can--in the first instance without the use of force, but on the question of the use of force, it is not a commitment here. The President will surely be in consultation with the Congress before we get to that point.
Senator McClellan. What I was concerned about, Mr. Secretary, was that we all agree to ``assert.'' We give one interpretation to what we mean by ``assert.''
Someone else signing it, some other government, gives another. Therefore, when we say ``assert'' we mean we are going in there to gain this right; to make it secure and to exercise this right. The other government might say, ``Well, we didn't mean that. If that is what you meant, go ahead.'' We will get out again on a limb with nobody supporting us. That is what concerns me, because I think we are there in Vietnam now, assuming we are there, and have a right to be and it is our place to be there, we have an obligation to be there, I think there are many others who have a greater obligation to be there than we have who are not there.
THE PRINCIPLE OF INTERNATIONAL WATERS
Senator Lausche. I want to conclude. Based upon my own observation of the high seas and supported by the convention which has been described, to me it appears clear that these waters, this strait leading into the Gulf of Aqaba, connects two bodies of international waterways. I subscribe fully to the rationalization given by Senator Rusk. [Laughter.] Secretary Rusk. Thank you, Senator.
Senator Lausche. Yes, by Secretary Rusk.
Demonstrating that a principle is involved there dealing with many straits throughout the world.
I have no hesitation about declaring by myself as a member of this committee that these straits are international waters. That is my view at the present, and I now conclude my questioning.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Cooper?
INTENTION TO ENFORCE PASSAGE
Senator Cooper. Some of the questions I have perhaps have been asked. But I think it is important that we consider every facet of the declaration. I think it is important to say that, if these straits are not opened, it is our intention to enforce the passage. I think that is the position.
Secretary Rusk. Yes, sir.
Senator Cooper. From your information and knowledge, would this declaration inhibit or prevent Israel from attempting to force a passage because if they attempt, I think we all have to think there is going to be a war.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, I think there is nothing in this declaration which in itself would prevent that, particularly action by Israel to protect or defend the passage of its own vessels through a strait of this sort.
I do believe, if there are a substantial number of maritime powers that assert this principle, this might have a delaying effect upon a cataclysmic decision which the Israeli government may feel it has to make because of the vital importance of this strait to it. In that sense, I think this declaration provides a little more moderation because there is a sense that the international community is interested in it and is trying to make good on the rights which are so vital to Israel and, for that matter, to Jordan, if the Nasser-King Hussein affair were to flare up in a hostile way at some point.
AN ASSURANCE TO ISRAEL
Senator Cooper. I can understand that. It might for the time being inhibit Israel from taking action to open the strait. But if Israel accepted that, it goes along that Israel would expect the governments who might sign this declaration at some point to open the strait, isn't this an assurance to Israel that if the strait is not opened by action of the United Nations or some diplomatic means that these governments who then signed the declaration will take action to open the strait?
Secretary Rusk. In that sense, sir, the situation is no different from what it was ten years ago in 1957 when the basic agreement was made on these arrangements. Israel at that time understood that it had the right, just as other countries did, with respect to their own ships going through these waters. I do not think that situation has changed, although at the moment it is more enflamed.
Senator Cooper. My point is that I think the key to Israel's position now is that the strait would be opened. If it does not take action to open the strait itself, then it will assume that those who signed this declaration have implied, if not promised, to open the strait.
Secretary Rusk. I think Israel will be prepared to see a maximum effort made by the maritime nations on this issue before they made a final decision with respect to self-help on a unilateral basis.
Senator Cooper. I notice in the second paragraph, the second sentence: “Our governments will assert this right on behalf of all shipping sailing under their flags, and our governments are prepared to cooperate among themselves and to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right.”
Would Israel be asked to sign this declaration?
Secretary Rusk. That matter has not been finally decided. There are some pluses and minuses on that. At the present time, I cannot give you a final answer on that, Senator.
Senator Cooper. I went through those documents in 1957, and I noticed the Secretary of State at that time said that the United States, of course, considering this to be international waters, would assert its own right to put ships of our registry through the strait, but it would not assert them in favor of other ships except by resolution of the Congress.
Secretary Rusk. That is correct, sir.
Senator Cooper. Now, this declaration would go farther. That would say there that we assert this right not only on behalf of the United States, but we are prepared to cooperate among themselves and to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right.
Secretary Rusk. Well, I think if a matter of the use of force arose, the President would be in full consultation with the Congress, and we have very much in mind the constitutional processes here throughout this situation.
SENDING A TEST SHIP
Senator Cooper. One other question. Of course, the best way to test it would be to send a ship up there, and if that ship passed without any difficulty, why, at least it has been asserted as to that particular country and ship.
But suppose the United States sends a ship up and it is stopped; it is fired upon. The United States would then have to make a determination to go through against hostile action or withdraw. It would be a pretty difficult question.
Now, it was said that the President would consult, you have said that the President would consult with the Congress before using force. Well, under the situation I have indicated, you might be using force simply--you would have to use force or back off if the ship is up there. Would the government consult with the Congress before sending a ship up to test such a situation?
Secretary Rusk. Well, I will certainly----
Senator Cooper. Because you would be----
Secretary Rusk [continuing]. Take that question under advisement.
I think I am not able today to give a final categorical answer, because we are talking here about giving merchant vessels which are at the disposition of their owners, and the movements of which are not necessarily under our control; quite frankly I do not anticipate, we do not know of a U.S. flag ship at the present time that is planning to go into that strait, do we, Bob?
Secretary McNamara. No, we do not.
Secretary Rusk. We do not have many in there because I do not think this contingency is likely to arise. I do not think this will be the first contingency to arise in this situation.
Senator McClellan. Would you yield?
Senator Cooper. Yes.
CLARIFY MATTERS IN ADVANCE
Senator McClellan. Would you not think generally, there might be exceptions, that you would make your determination about what you intended to do before you sent the ship up there?
Secretary Rusk. What we are intending to do, Senator, in connection with U.N. business is to get these things clarified well ahead of time and avoid the problem because some of the statements President Nasser has made have indicated that, except for Israeli flag ships, he may not change what has been happening here over the past years.
Now, the principle involved----
Senator Hickenlooper. Does he assert the right to do it, however?
Secretary Rusk. Well, he has talked about closing the strait to foreign flag vessels carrying strategic goods. Now, in fact, strategic goods have not been going through that strait other than the possibility of considering crude oil. But in doing so he has also referred to the Battle Act list of strategic goods, and crude oil is not on the Battle Act list.
So these are elements of obscurity here which need to be clarified, and we are trying to find out exactly what it is that Nasser says he will and will not do, so we will know what--how we proceed from there.
Senator McClellan. I was not pressing the thing except----
Secretary Rusk. I understand.
Senator McClellan [continuing]. Except before we send a ship up there we ought to know what we intend to do----
Secretary Rusk. I agree with you.
Senator McClellan [continuing]. Before we send it up there. We might agree to send it up there and to do nothing. I do not know. But I do not think that a decision should be made generally--at least there might be an exception--before we send a ship up there, as to what we intend to do.
Senator Sparkman. Any more, Senator Cooper?
Senator Cooper. One more question.
DANGER OF EXACERBATING THE SITUATION
As I understand it, the U.S., through its resolution in the Security Council, is proposing a dampening down of the situation.
In your judgment, would this declaration, if issued, have any effect upon exacerbating the situation, knowing Nasser's disposition, in view of his declaration that he would not let any of the ships through?
Secretary Rusk. I think, Senator, in terms of the timing of the declaration, we want to take into account the then state of discussion at the Security Council and through private diplomacy.
Certainly the Arabs will not like this, but if you have twelve to twenty countries signing it, it has considerable weight, and in those, such as the President of the Security Council or, perhaps, the Secretary General, would have more muscle in their talks with the other side, with the Arabs, to try to get an answer to this question of the strait, because this will have, I think, very considerable weight in any such discussions.
POSSIBLE CONFRONTATION WITH THE SOVIET UNION
Senator Cooper. I will ask one more that goes beyond this. Do you anticipate in any way or believe that this situation there could bring the United States into a confrontation with the Soviet Union?
Secretary Rusk. I think it is possible, sir.
I did indicate to the Senators earlier, I think you were here when I said that we had had certain exchanges with the Soviet Union.
One cannot reply upon anything absolutely in matters of this sort, but it is our impression that they are not themselves now reaching out for a military confrontation; that they do not want major hostilities in the area. Although we should be under no illusion about it, they would like to make as many Brownie points as possible in supporting the so-called progressive states, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, against the more moderate Arab states, against Israel, and undoubtedly they hope to pick up prestige in the Arab world.
Now, let me say on that, sir, I mentioned earlier that President Nasser has climbed on the back of a tiger here. If when we get through with this thing the strait is opened, and the Holy war has not occurred, then there is going to be a rebound from there as far as the Arab man in the street is concerned.
Senator Cooper. I do not think he can back down. That is the problem.
CLOSING OF STRAITS MAY BE SELECTIVE
Senator Hickenlooper. Will the Senator yield for one question? Going to a very important part of this, has it been determined that Nasser asserts the right in his complete discretion to close the strait to anyone, any shipping, all shipping?
Secretary Rusk. He has not yet said that categorically.
Senator Hickenlooper. Or selectively closing it.
Secretary Rusk. I think that the Arab answer to that would be selectively; that is, it seems that their attitude--and Mr. Meeker, will you check on this--it seems to me they are talking about closing it to Israeli flag ships and the flags of other nations carrying strategic goods.
Senator Hickenlooper. If he can close it selectively, then he asserts complete sovereignty over the strait.
Secretary Rusk. That is correct.
Senator Hickenlooper. How does that affect Jordan's rights?
Jordan's only outlet to the sea is by way of Aqaba.
Secretary Rusk. It could affect Jordan's rights if Cairo wished to exercise themselves against Jordan.
Senator Hickenlooper. And Saudi Arabia fronts on the sea.
Secretary Rusk. That is right. There are four riparian countries involved in this Gulf of Aqaba thing, plus the general international rights of maritime nations.
Now, three of those riparian countries are together because the issue is Israel, but they may not be together next time when this question comes up.
VALIDITY OF THE TRIPARTITE AGREEMENT
Senator Kuchel. Senator, may I ask one quick question, please? Senator Sparkman. Bearing on this? Because I wanted to call on Secretary McNamara.
Senator Kuchel. Just one quick question.
Mr. Secretary, does the department consider that there is any validity in the old tripartite agreement? Is there any obligation to the three signatory countries?
Secretary Rusk. The principle under the tripartite agreement has been restated by American Presidents, and was essentially the language used by the President in his statement of May 23.
As far as Britain is concerned, and there are--you should look over the record of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in my last appearance, Senator Kuchel----
Senator Kuchel. Okay.
Secretary Rusk [continuing]. As far as the British are concerned, they consider the tripartite declaration has been overtaken by a press conference statement by President Kennedy, reaffirmed by the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons in 1963.
The French are very uncertain on this point. I would think we would have to assume, though, as far as the organic tripartite character of that declaration is concerned that Britain and France would think that was overtaken by the Suez affair.
Senator Kuchel. Thank you.
Secretary Rusk. Although the policy may be continued by all three.
LANGUAGE OF THE AIDE MEMOIRE
Senator Sparkman. I want to ask Secretary McNamara to make some comments.
Senator McNamara. I only wanted to comment on one question raised by Senator Cooper, Mr. Chairman.
He asked: Does the proposed declaration go beyond the statement of 1957, specifically with respect to stating that the U.S. government is prepared to join with others in seeking general recognition of this right. I think the answer is, no, it does not, Senator Cooper.
The specific language of the aide memoire delivered by our government to Israel on February 11, 1957 is, and I am going to leave out one or two clauses, but the essence of it is, ``The U.S. is prepared to join with others to secure general recognition of this right.'' I think, therefore, the language of the declaration parallels that of the U.S. government's statement to Israel in February of 1957.
Senator Cooper. I do not want to get legalistic, but I think this ought to go in the record. Later on February 19, 1957, the Secretary of State, commenting on that aide memoire, said, as I read it, that it only applied to the United States, that it would assert that right for vessels under its own registry, but it had no right to assert it for any other country.
Senator McNamara. I think this specific language was that--this was on the 19th of February:
The President has inherent power to use the forces of the United States to protect American ships and their rights all over the world, but he has no power, in my opinion, to use the forces of the United States on behalf of vessels of another flag unless he is given that authority by some congressional resolution or by a treaty.
The distinction between the----
Senator Lausche. Whom are you quoting?
Senator McNamara. I am quoting Secretary Dulles speaking to a news conference on February 19, 1957.
I think this is the language that Senator Cooper was alluding to, and the distinction between that language and the aide memoire language of February 11, 1957 related to the use of force in support of the recognition of the right as opposed to joining with others in seeking general recognition.
I only wanted to point out the language of the declaration parallels that of the statement to Israel on February 11.
Senator Cooper. I think that is a correct interpretation.
Senator Sparkman. Secretary Rusk is going to have to leave within a few minutes.
IN CASE ISRAEL TAKES ACTION
Senator Case. I have one question.
Senator Sparkman. I am sorry, I thought you were still out of the room when I called on Senator Cooper.
Senator Case. Mr. Secretary, what will the United States do if Israel moves by land or sea or by air? Have we got a contingent plan?
Secretary Rusk. Well, Senator, quite frankly we are trying to look at all of the contingencies in the situation. But I think it would be quite irresponsible for me to try to come up with an answer to that question. It would be for the President to make a determination in that situation and to discuss the situation with the leadership to decide what the attitude of the Congress will be.
I just think that is much too far-reaching and serious a question for me to try to answer casually, quite frankly.
Senator Case. It is a serious question, very serious.
Secretary Rusk. And it is a question we have very much in mind, of course.
You might want to review, if you have not done so, a good deal of the record here that is in the Foreign Relations Committee on the occasion of my last appearance in executive session on what has been done and said in the past on this point.
Senator Case. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Thurmond?
SOVIET GOALS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Senator Thurmond. Mr. Secretary, I want to ask if you are of the opinion or partially of the opinion that I am, that one of the causes of this trouble in the Middle East is the desire of the Soviets to possibly cause us to lose our contacts with the Arabs. I just started to say, knowing that the Soviets desire to stir up trouble over the world, and their goal is still to dominate and take over the world, if they can create an incident there and get the Arabs all together, it seems they have been very successful from what has happened with King Hussein and Nasser have been at odds and now are joined together. All the Arab countries it seems are consolidating and working together now, and if they do, and throw Israel on the other side, then they may feel we will defend Israel. That will cause the Arabs to go against us, causing them to cancel our oil contracts with them. I just wonder if you have any information on that.
Secretary Rusk. Senator, I think there is no question but that the Soviet Union has been working for some time to increase its own position in the Arab world by supporting these, particularly these four progressive states, and that the confrontation between Nasser and the more moderate and conservative states has been a part of that controversy.
This has been enhanced because Nasser has now been able to pose an issue with Israel on which all Arabs apparently have to speak together. This is a matter for internal survival for most of them on this particular issue.
But I would point out that this is the only issue on which they can speak together, and although the Arabs publicly are saying a good many things these days in terms of unity on this point, I do not believe the moderate and conservative Arabs are under any illusion about some of the other elements involved in this situation.
I think that is true of Hussein. I think it is true of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and I think it is true of Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco.
So I would not take too tragically a view at this point of the possibility that the entire Arab world suddenly is going to move into the arms of the Soviet Union over this particular issue.
It is very important for us to get this straight, this situation straightened out, so that the other issues in the Arab world will come to the surface again.
DENYING THE WEST ARAB OIL
I think the Soviet Union is more interested in perhaps denying the West the Arab oil than it is in getting the oil for themselves. But that is very much a two-edge sword. It would cause some major disruption in the free world if Arab oil were denied, say, to Western Europe. But it also means that the Arab countries themselves would lose their basic resource. They cannot drink the oil. They cannot do anything else with it but sell it, and the Communist Bloc is not--does not need it in terms of oil supply.
It would cause great disarrangement for all the rest of us, but it certainly would have a large effect on the Arab world if they lose world markets in the sale of their oil.
Senator Thurmond. If they can deny the West that oil they would certainly accomplish a big objective they have in mind.
Secretary Rusk. I suppose perhaps in the short run. I do not quite see reducing the Middle East, even from their point of view, to subsistence and complete dependence upon their support in lieu of Arab sales of oil to the entire world. I think there are some limitations on their side as well as on ours in that situation.
Senator Thurmond. Mr. Chairman, on account of the shortness of time I will not ask any further questions.
Senator Stennis. Mr. Chairman, may I have one minute?
Senator Sparkman. Okay, Senator Stennis.
Senator Stennis. I was going to take but one minute.
U.S. PEOPLE WILL NOT SUPPORT UNILATERAL ACTION
I want to thank you for being among those invited here. Mr. Secretary, I want to commend you for trying to get some kind of agreement and committal from other nations.
I judge you think that nothing effective is going to come out of the U.N. on it. So I think we ought to reach someone else. I do not believe our people--I want you to remember, at least one Senator thinks our people are not going to support another undeclared war, a shooting war, alone, of us going in alone. I just do not believe that it can be over.
I think, therefore, you ought to tell England and France and others that is the situation. That they need not think that they can stand by and wait for us to go in alone. I believe, though, that is in the back of a lot of their minds, at least, that they will hold back until they are convinced of that fact.
Senator McClellan. Exactly what I was trying to determine about this word ``assert.''
Senator Stennis. Yes. I think I ought to say that here.
I do not want to say it on the floor, not yet, because I think you are working hard and making some headway. I was glad to see you are trying to get these other nations.
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Chairman, may I say just a word about the U.N. security aspect of this.
Senator Stennis. I was not trying to discredit them. I think you----
Secretary Rusk. I think it is unlikely that this matter is going to be settled by a resolution of the Security Council, that is, a formal resolution, because there are vetoes and there are voting problems and things of that sort.
But if you will remember the Cuban missile crisis, it proved to be very important that that question was officially before the U.N. because that helped to take certain of the prestige factors into custody, to the ice box, for a period, while other processes reached a solution.
Now, the same thing may well be true here, the fact that it is before the Security Council gives other processes of discussion a somewhat better chance to operate. So we just do not know.
Senator Stennis. I was not suggesting that you abandon them.I am just glad you are going another route.
Secretary Rusk. I understand.
Senator Lausche. Mr. Secretary, when Israel----
Senator Sparkman. Wait a minute.
Senator Stennis. Thank you.
That is all, Mr. Chairman. I just want to make that statement.
IF ISRAEL QUESTIONS THE MEANING
Senator Lausche. If and when Israel asks what is the meaning of the words ``will assert'' what answer will be given to them?
Secretary Rusk. As far as this declaration is concerned, the same answer Mr. Meeker read that we will give to all other governments.
Senator Lausche. Yes.
Senator Sparkman. Senator Javits?
ASSESSMENT OF ISRAELI FORCES
Senator Javits. Mr. Chairman, I am a guest of the committee. I appreciate it very greatly. If the chair allows me to ask one question I will, but only because it has not been covered. It is essentially a question of Secretary McNamara, and the question is this. Is there any reason to revise the U.S. appraisal of either the valor, the capacity or the fidelity of the forces of Israel in this situation?
Secretary McNamara. No, sir; there is not. We believe they are well-equipped, well-trained, well-led and highly motivated.
Senator Javits. Thank you.
ATTACKS ON U.S. FLAG SHIPS
Senator Lausche. This further question, and I wish it would be put following the last one. Do I understand that before any affirmative action having the relationship to actual shooting, the administration will come before this committee or before the Congress?
Secretary Rusk. That is my clear understanding, sir.
Senator Lausche. Yes.
Now, then, what would the attitude be of the administration about sending a ship up there and not knowing what is going to happen and if it is shot at?
Secretary Rusk. A U.S. flag ship?
Senator Lausche. Yes.
Secretary Rusk. We do not have a U.S. flag merchant vessel scheduled there for the indefinite future.
We would like to avoid that situation again by getting the question settled before we get there. But I cannot give you a precise answer to that question at the moment, Senator.
Senator Lausche. Well, I would assume that you would not undertake to do that while you are aiming toward negotiations and some amicable way----
Secretary Rusk. A similar incident may arise by some other flag ship going through there. The owners have been rather skittish in the present state because they do not see clearly what would happen to their ships, and Lloyds has taken the insurance away.
Mr. Chairman, if I may say so, I greatly appreciated the invitation of the Foreign Relations Committee on my last appearance here to feel entitled to call upon the committee at any time of the day or night for further consultation. I hope, perhaps, that invitation can remain because we may need to consult with you very promptly on very short notice.
Senator Sparkman. It certainly does remain.
PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH ABBA EBAN
Senator Lausche. Are you able to tell us what the President said to Eban in the meeting the other day? If you are not, just say so.
Secretary Rusk. May I just have a word with the Vice President?
[Discussion off the record.]
IN THE HIGHEST INTERESTS OF THE NATION
Senator Javits. Mr. Chairman, may I just say one word with reference to the administration. I think what they have done so far has been in the highest interests of our nation, and for one senator I would like to say so privately and publicly.
Senator Sparkman. Thank you, Senator Javits. Secretary McNamara? [Laughter.]
Secretary McNamara. I feel privileged and complimented.
Senator Sparkman. That is the result of what somebody else did.
Senator Lausche, I believe.
Well, we appreciate the attendance of both of you gentlemen. May I say this, that speaking on behalf of the committee, and I am sure for the Chairman, we stand ready at any time--I am sure Secretary Rusk remembers back during 1950 and 1951 when we were trying to work up the Japanese peace treaty, our Subcommittee on Far Eastern Affairs was ready, and we held meetings, morning, noon, and night.
Secretary Rusk. Mr. Chairman, at the risk of being boring, I want to emphasize that I am trying to be frank today, and that we have to exercise discretion in what we say.
[Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m. the committee adjourned.]
Sources: Federation of American Scientists