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July 14, 1959

Notice from First Secretary Eoin MacWhite To All Irish Diplomatic Missions (Except Washington)

First Secretary Eoin MacWhite informed all missions of Aiken’s concerns that U.S. nuclear information agreements with selected NATO partners could impede efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. He was nonetheless reticent when it came to lodging a formal protest, having been advised by Eoin MacWhite’s that a strong denunciation would be counterproductive. From MacWhite’s reading no actual nuclear information would be transferred to Allied personnel after all. The agreements related specifically to information necessary for the training of Allied personnel in the employment of U.S. atomic weapons in their hosts’ territories, so Aiken recoiled from further diplomatic protests. He appreciated the need to maintain some nuance on nuclear sharing as he pursued an East-West consensus. 

The strength of NATO's feelings in favor of enhanced alliance nuclear defense and cooperation in the aftermath of the Sputnik shock was well known. The Irish were aware of the Eastern bloc’s objections to NATO nuclear sharing as a dangerous precedent that strengthened NATO’s political and security position. Moscow was especially exercised by any prospect of West German access to nuclear weapons as part of the normalization of German rearmament and progress toward reunification. Moscow opposed any semblance of Bonn’s finger on the nuclear trigger, or its troops gaining proficiency with nuclear weaponry. 

October 17, 1958

Press Release containing a Speech by Minister of External Affairs Frank Aiken and Draft Resolutions on Nuclear Disarmament

Aiken’s first step was a modest paragraph calling for the formation of a UN commission to recommend measures to the next session. However, global attentions were focused on nuclear tests and their health effects, so Aiken linked his initiative with the American-led seventeen-power resolution requesting all states to suspend testing voluntarily. Aiken proposed an amendment to that motion that included the notion of brokering an understanding between nuclear weapons powers and non-nuclear powers.  He submitted that the former voluntarily desist from supplying nuclear weapons to other countries, while non-nuclear powers reciprocated and volunteered not to develop such weapons during a test suspension. This proposed quid pro quo became a staple in the Irish resolutions subsequently and eventually be inscribed into the NPT.

Aiken’s speech invoked recognizable tropes such as a ‘geometric’ increase in nuclear powers, creating an urgent need to halt the spread. His speech was seminal in identifying themes he and international opinion would rehearse in future years. He conjured up fears about small states and revolutionary groups with a bomb acting as ‘the detonator for world-wide thermonuclear war’. Aiken was perceptive – he expected criticisms about institutionalized equality between states (nuclear “haves” and “have nots”), harms to alliances, the sufficiency of test bans, and the absence of monitoring. He sought to disprove the validity of such critiques, and these issues were worked through gradually, eventually leading to the finalization of the NPT ten years later.  

October 26, 1962

American Embassy Rome Telegram 436 to the Secretary of State, Washington, DC

On October 26, 1962, as the Cuban Missile Crisis is unfolding, U.S. Ambassador G. Frederick Reinhardt replied to a State Department inquiry about possible Italian reactions to withdrawal of the Jupiters, stating that they “would probably be manageable,” but also recommending early consultations with the Italian government if they were to “form part of negotiated settlement.” In particular, Reinhardt suggested offsetting the withdrawal with gestures to appeal to the Italian government’s craving for status, such as (a) presenting the removal as an Italian contribution to the relaxation of East-West tensions, (b) some kind of “big power consultation” between the U.S. and Italy, coupled with assurances on “the presence of Polaris submarines in the Mediterranean,” (c) “public emphasis on Italy’s role in NATO in order to counter-balance loss of value which missiles have for Italy in calling attention to its role and position in alliance,” and (d) a promise to halt further reductions of U.S. military commitments in Italy. In short, Reinhardt saw a phase-out as a possibility but something to be “be very carefully handled.”

September 13, 2020

Interview with Fred Axelgard

Fred Axelgard is a former US diplomat. He served as a member of the US delegation to ACRS.

November 13, 1974

United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 29th Session : 2282nd Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 108, 'Question of Palestine (continued)'

As other documents in this collection on Moroccan nationalists in 1947 and 1950 have exemplified, the United Nations was an important arena in decolonization struggles for Arabs, as it was for Asians and Africans as e.g. Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain, and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-1964 (2018) has shown. In this regard, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964 and taken over by the Fatah movement in 1969, was no exception.

To be sure, Palestinian organizations including Fatah and the PLO decried key UN actions. One was the UN Palestine partition plan of 1947; another was UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967. Calling upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War in June and calling for the “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace,” it did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians. Even so, the PLO sought to get access to the UN and UN recognition. A crucial landmark on this road was the address to the UN in New York in November 1974 by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004), a Fatah co-founder in 1959 and from 1969 PLO chairman.

Arafat did not speak at the Security Council, which was and is dominated by its five veto-carrying permanent members Britain, China, France, the United States, and the USSR/Russia. Rather, he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where from the 1960s Third World states were in the majority; his speech was the first time that the UNGA allowed a non-state representative to attend its plenary session. The UNGA invited the PLO after having decided, in September, to begin separate hearings on Palestine (rather than making Palestine part of general Middle Eastern hearings), and after the PLO was internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, a landmark accomplishment for the organization. The UNGA president who introduced Arafat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1937-2021), was the Foreign Minister of Algeria, which since its independence in 1962 had supported the Palestinian cause organizationally, militarily, and politically. Arafat spoke in Arabic; the below text is the official UN English translation. Arafat did not write the text all by himself; several PLO officials and Palestinians close to the PLO, including Edward Said, assisted, as Timothy Brennan has noted in Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said (2021). Later in November 1974, the UNGA inter alia decided to give the PLO observer status and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

July 2, 1957

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Senate, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1957

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa.

December 3, 1956

Middle East (Situation): Debated in the Commons Chamber, Monday, 3 December 1956

In July 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) nationalized the Suez Canal Company, surprising the world. The government of France, in whose capital of Paris the company was headquartered, and the British government, the company’s plurality shareholder, sought to reverse nationalization in court, but failed—even though they clad their case in the language not of imperial self-interest but, rather, of international public interest. The time in which such language was somewhat acceptable, even at home, was passing, and the Suez Crisis played a big part in this final act.

At the same time, the two governments early on after the canal nationalization decided to remove Nasser by force, for re-compensation was not their central concern. France believed Nasser was enabling the FLN, which in 1954 had started Algeria’s War for Independence, and Britain wanted some say in the canal, which had for decades been its worldwide empire’s “swing-door,” as a member of parliament, Anthony Eden (1897-1977), called it in 1929. In August 1956 France began discussing a joint operation with Israel, which wanted Nasser gone, too, and the Red Sea opened for Israel-bound ships. In early October the two were joined by Britain. On the 29th, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. On the 30th, France and Britain gave Israel and Egypt a 12-hour ultimatum to cease hostilities, or they would intervene—and Anglo-French forces bombed Egyptian forces from the 31st and on November 5-6 occupied the canal’s northern tip. Although a power play, “Operation Musketeer,” like the court case, could not be an open imperial move anymore, then, and did not present itself to the world as such. No matter: especially in colonies and postcolonial countries, people were outraged.

More problematically for France and Britain, Washington was incredulous. This Middle Eastern affair triggered the worst crisis of the 1950s between America’s rising international empire and Europe’s descending empires, and indeed clarified and accelerated that descent. President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) fumed that Prime Ministers Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet (1905-1977) had disregarded his administration’s opposition to military action. Worse, they had deceived him about their intentions. And worst, their attack on Egypt undermined the supreme US tenet: Soviet containment. The Americans were by association tainted by their NATO allies’ imperialist move while the Soviets looked good—on November 5 they offered Egypt troops and threatened to nuke London, Paris, and Tel Aviv—and that although they had just repressed an uprising in Hungary.

On the very day of the ultimatum, October 30, Eisenhower washed his hands of that move on live US television, and the US mission at the UN organized a cease-fire resolution vote in the Security Council. France and Britain vetoed it. Although sharing its European allies’ emotions about Nasser, the US administration withheld critical oil and monetary supplies from them to bring them to heel and withdraw from Egypt—after which, it promised, they would be warmly welcomed back. It ceased most bilateral communications and froze almost all everyday social interactions with its two allies, even cancelling a scheduled visit by Eden. And it badgered its allies at the UN, supporting an Afro-Asian resolution that on November 24 called Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw forthwith. On December 3, the British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd took the floor in the House of Commons.

May 1939

'Muqarrarat mu'tamar mukafahat al-fashishtiyya' ('The Resolutions of the Conference for the Fight against Fascism')

The text printed here is the resolution to the Conference for Combatting Fascism held in May 1939 held in Beirut, originally printed in Arabic in an issue of the Beirut-based leftist journal Tali‘a.

Led by leftists, including communists, the conference was a well-publicized and well-attended call for action against Nazism and Fascism. It affirmed an alliance, against Nazi Germany (and Fascist Italy) with France, the Mandate occupier of Lebanon and Syria. At the same time, it insisted on the pressing need for political progress. Most important was the ratification by the French parliament, of the 1936 Franco-Syrian and Franco-Lebanese agreements that, like the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Agreement, would have ended the Mandate and granted Lebanon and Syria far-reaching sovereignty while preserving key French strategic interests. (Ratification never occurred.) In August 1939, the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact forced communists to adjust their language also in the French Mandates. Here and in other Arab countries like Palestine and Egypt, a majority of people whose written records we possess and perhaps also many other inhabitants, felt caution if not aversion towards Nazi Germany and Fascism Italy. They disliked how those two states organized their societies; were concerned about those states’ territorial ends in the Middle East (which, however, were in the late 1930s actual only in Italy’s case); and feared especially Nazi racism for potentially targeting them, like the Jews, as “Semites,” as Israel Gershoni’s edited volume Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion (2014) and Götz Nordbruch’s Nazism in Syria and Lebanon (2009) show.

At the same time, a considerable minority drew open inspiration from Nazi (and other European extreme rightwing) authoritarianism: its cult of a strong leaders, its emphasis on youth as national(ist) revivers, and its style and organizational forms, including salutes, uniforms, marches, and street brawls. Moreover, a small minority from the later 1930s sought to create a political-military alliance with Germany. Until 1939, Germany prevaricated, loath to provoke Britain, the principal power in the interwar Middle East. Thereafter, it did work with colonized nationalists who, as David Motadel’s “The Global Authoritarian Moment” (2019) has shown, were willing to work with Berlin to become independent. Among them were some Arabs like Hajj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974), an exiled Palestinian leader whose wartime deeds and open anti-Semitism soon was, in the eyes of many, proof that Arabs in general had supported the Nazis.

May 1939

'Mukafahat al-fashishtiyya!' ('Combatting Fascism!')

The text printed here is the editor’s preface in Arabic in an issue of the Beirut-based leftist journal Tali‘a that was dedicated to the Conference for Combatting Fascism held in May 1939 in Beirut.

Led by leftists, including communists, the conference was a well-publicized and well-attended call for action against Nazism and Fascism. It affirmed an alliance, against Nazi Germany (and Fascist Italy) with France, the Mandate occupier of Lebanon and Syria. At the same time, it insisted on the pressing need for political progress. Most important was the ratification by the French parliament, of the 1936 Franco-Syrian and Franco-Lebanese agreements that, like the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Agreement, would have ended the Mandate and granted Lebanon and Syria far-reaching sovereignty while preserving key French strategic interests. (Ratification never occurred.) In August 1939, the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact forced communists to adjust their language also in the French Mandates. Here and in other Arab countries like Palestine and Egypt, a majority of people whose written records we possess and perhaps also many other inhabitants, felt caution if not aversion towards Nazi Germany and Fascism Italy. They disliked how those two states organized their societies; were concerned about those states’ territorial ends in the Middle East (which, however, were in the late 1930s actual only in Italy’s case); and feared especially Nazi racism for potentially targeting them, like the Jews, as “Semites,” as Israel Gershoni’s edited volume Arab Responses to Fascism and Nazism: Attraction and Repulsion (2014) and Götz Nordbruch’s Nazism in Syria and Lebanon (2009) show.

At the same time, a considerable minority drew open inspiration from Nazi (and other European extreme rightwing) authoritarianism: its cult of a strong leaders, its emphasis on youth as national(ist) revivers, and its style and organizational forms, including salutes, uniforms, marches, and street brawls. Moreover, a small minority from the later 1930s sought to create a political-military alliance with Germany. Until 1939, Germany prevaricated, loath to provoke Britain, the principal power in the interwar Middle East. Thereafter, it did work with colonized nationalists who, as David Motadel’s “The Global Authoritarian Moment” (2019) has shown, were willing to work with Berlin to become independent. Among them were some Arabs like Hajj Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974), an exiled Palestinian leader whose wartime deeds and open anti-Semitism soon was, in the eyes of many, proof that Arabs in general had supported the Nazis.

June 29, 2020

Interview and Discussion with Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Discussion with Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Defense Secretary and Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, about the 1990s and the new relationship that formed after the Cold War.

Pagination