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John F. Kennedy Administration: Memorandum on Discussion of Concerns Regarding Yemen, Iran, and Iraq

(December 3, 1962)

This memorandum analyzes the situation in the Middle East, paying particular attention to Yemen, Iran and Egypt.


Adding to the impact of the last ten days is my increasingly grim feeling that we're in for a time of trouble throughout the Middle East.

[Here follows discussion of India, North Africa, and Cyprus.]

On the Arab-Israeli front, the Baathis (if they survive) will be even more aggressive than Nasser, and in turn force Nasser to be more aggressive to compete with them. Beginning of Jordan River diversion in 1964 will precipitate affairs at a time when our hands will be partly bound by 1964 elections. Meanwhile the process of political maturation goes on in the Arab states--coup follows coup; as soon as we make friends with one regime, it's ousted by another. I raise Yemen last among these problems, because it is intrinsically not very important. But the way the Saudis (and I am sorry to say our British friends) are playing it, the UAR's failure to perform in Yemen will be used as a club to try and force us to do what we have so far avoided--coming down on one side against the other. And it will add powerful impetus to the Gruening effort to cut off aid to the UAR. But Nasser won't get out of Yemen just because we cut off aid; we'd have to push him out. And if we try, you know where he'll go for support.

Indeed the only bright spot is Iran, where the Shah's "white revolution" is rocking along, its lack of economic steam fortunately compensated for by increasing oil revenues (estimated at some $425 million for 1964).

All these dire possibilities won't come to pass, but the trend is adverse. In large part this is a product of circumstances beyond our control, though I find State and others terribly slow to practice preventive diplomacy instead of reacting to events. But the important thing is that, if I'm even half right, President Johnson will be faced with a series of tough policy problems in my area (and no doubt the FE too), at a time when he'd prefer tranquillity--if not a few successes--as 1964 elections draw near.

This memo is mood music to communicate my sense of foreboding. What we can do varies in each case; in some we have real leverage, in others little. But one problem in most cases is that the short term argues with the longer run. I suspect it would be domestically popular, for example, to revert to a tougher line on impossible neutralists like Nasser, Sihanouk, Sukarno, Ben Bella, or even Nehru, though I fear this would merely give new openings to the Soviets and Chinese (as did our policy in the '50s). At any rate I'm still trying to act as gadfly, and will have thoughts on all the above.


/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Komer Memos, Vol. 2. Secret.

/2/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.

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