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John F. Kennedy Administration: Memorandum on Arms Control Initiative in the Near East

(February 9, 1963)

This is a memorandum from Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy addressing the question of arms control initiative in the Near East.

Ignore the bulk, but you'd find it well worthwhile to scan the first 16 pages of this paper from Rostow on next Arab-Israeli moves. Its proposition is that, since we're getting nowhere on refugees, we ought instead to probe quietly whether BG and Nasser might accept a bit of tacit arms control.

With BG complaining to us about UAR rockets and radiological warfare and Nasser worried over Israeli BW and their nuclear reactor, both might be receptive at this point. In fact, we just took a discreet sounding with Nasser (results are fascinating--Tab B).

We'd be so much the gainers from this scheme that it's worth a try. Success would both limit the risks of local war and reduce our indirect subsidies to Israel to compensate for Soviet arms to the UAR. The rub is precisely the same as in the US/USSR arms dialogue--inspection and control. Rostow's scheme seems over-elaborate, but a less ambitious UAR/Israel tacit agreement to refrain from acquiring "unconventional" weapons (with the US discreetly policing the exercise) might just work.

Your blessing would give impetus to fleshing out some such scheme. We'd then secretly try it on for size, if you approved, through some device like the highly secret Anderson Mission in 1956 which never leaked.

R.W. Komer

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