§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
We have to discuss today grave events in the Middle East of far-reaching consequences for many countries. It is impossible for many of us not to be affected by the personal tragedies involved in the reports from Bagdad, if they are true—and we still hope that they are untrue.
I have a little further information to give the House about the situation in Bagdad itself. Her Majesty's Ambassador is still in a Bagdad hotel and his movements and those of his staff seem to be restricted. We have no direct means of communication, but I have received messages indirectly. From these, it appears that Her Majesty's Ambassador has seen leaders of the authorities in control in Bagdad and has received from them formal assurances that the personal safety and property of British subjects and others for whom Her Majesty's Government are responsible will be safeguarded. Her Majesty's Ambassador also made a formal protest about the failure to protect the safety of the Embassy and the lives of those in it.
The House may be interested to have a brief account of what took place at the Embassy in the morning of 14th July. About eight o'clock there were 24 people at the Embassy, including the Ambassador and Lady Wright. At that time, the regular Iraqi police guard was on duty outside. Later, an Army officer arrived saying that the Embassy would be protected by the Army. He left eight soldiers and went away. When a large crowd tried to break into the Embassy compound, neither the soldiers nor the police made any serious attempt to prevent them. Some of the crowd were armed. The Ambassador himself was shot at by a man in uniform at short range. They were obliged to retreat under fire to one of the Embassy offices. It was at this point that Colonel Graham was killed.
During the next one and a half hours the crowd looted and set on fire some of the Embassy buildings and they eventually said that they would set fire to the offices where the Embassy party were 1241 taking refuge unless they came out unarmed. They did so and were led by a soldier through the crowd and into the garden. After about 20 minutes, three armoured cars arrived and drove off the looters. The Ambassador was then taken to the hotel where he now is. I have no further information of any casualties or immediate danger to British subjects or property in Iraq.
The situation which gave rise to this debate today was the United States' action in regard to the Lebanon, which was announced yesterday. If I may go briefly into the history of events in the Lebanon, there has been mounting tension there over a period of months and subversive activity inspired from foreign sources. The tension increased as the period of President Chamoun's term of office drew to an end.
The rebellion was sparked off by the murder of a newspaper editor early in May. Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that, quite apart from the major foreign propaganda effort, there was substantial physical interference from outside and that the rebellion was being supported, supplied and directed from outside the Lebanon.
In those circumstances, Her Majesty's Government encouraged the Lebanese Government to go to the Security Council as quickly as possible. They did go to the Security Council, and the Security Council resolution was passed, the terms of which will be familiar to hon. Members, the relevant words being the establishing ofan observation group to proceed to Lebanon so as to ensure that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other material across the Lebanese borders.Our policy was to back that resolution and to back the United Nations operation. We genuinely hoped that that would be the best way to ensure or preserve the independence of the Lebanon. I say that although, under questioning, I always refused to exclude other possibilities.
I believe that the United Nations operation could have been successful had it been possible to see that a United Nations observer body of adequate size and with adequate equipment—by that I mean transport and means of communication—was enabled to carry out the task. All our influence was used with the Lebanese Government and with the Secretary-General 1242 of the United Nations himself to see that this was made possible.
There were, of course, obvious difficulties for the observer group. Much infiltration and movement of material had taken place before they arrived. They were few in number and it took them time to build up such equipment as they had. When they issued their first report they were in a position to observe only a small fraction of the frontiers of the Lebanon—I am told about 18 kilometres out of 278 kilometres. In fact, they were able to do that only by day. Their first report made quite clear the limitations placed upon their capacity to inspect particularly areas where the supply and infiltration were taking place. They also considered as excluded from their terms of reference intervention by propaganda attacks and subversive broadcasts from outside countries.
According to our information, for a time there was a pause in the intervention from outside, but over the past few days columns of vehicles have been seen crossing the frontier from Syria in the neighbourhood of Tripoli, where the insurgents were in some strength. This traffic has been taking place since the report of the observer group, and there was a feeling in the Lebanon that the observer body were reluctant to report these movements because of their judgment of the internal political situation in the Lebanon.
§ Mr. Lloyd
It means exactly what I said. There was a feeling in the Lebanon that the observer body were reluctant to report these movements. Moreover, the observer group did not conceal their view that it would take a division of troops or something approaching a division for the job of sealing off the frontiers to be done properly.
In spite of what I have said, in the atmosphere which there was before last Monday we still hoped that the United Nations body would be built up and would be put into a position with the necessary authority and physical resources to carry out their assignment. I am making today no criticism of individuals or of the group. I am simply 1243 saying what was and what was not possible for them to do.
I think that the events of 14th July completely changed the situation. I think it was absolutely clear, in the atmosphere after the coup d'êtat in Bagdad and the plots against Jordan, that a body of observers operating in the manner which I have described could not guarantee the integrity and independence of the Lebanon. I should have thought that that would be self-evident.
The President of the Lebanon, in the atmosphere that there was after the news had come through of events in Bagdad, made an urgent appeal for help on Monday morning—an appeal for help on the borders of the Lebanon. The United States Government took a decision with which we entirely agreed. The reasoning behind the United States' action appears clearly in President Eisenhower's statement of yesterday. The United States decided to supply forces to protect American lives and, by their presence, to encourage the Lebanese Government in the defence of Lebanese sovereignty and integrity. There was a discussion of the matter with us and we agreed to this action.
The Security Council debated the situation yesterday and the debate is to be continued today. The United States has circulated a resolution asking the Secretary-General immediately to consult the Lebanese Government and other member States with a view to making such additional arrangements, including the contribution and use of contingents, as may be necessary to protect the territorial integrity and independence of Lebanon and to ensure that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other material across the Lebanese borders. That resolution has been circulated by the United States delegation, and we shall support it.
We have, however, to face the fact that apart from resolutions, speed is of the essence in these matters. I do not believe that had this appeal from the Lebanese Government been rejected, any small country would ever have felt again that its independence and integrity could be effectively protected.
The American landing has been well received. I have receved a report that 1244 some of the barricades are now being taken down in Beirut and that people have been seen doing their best to get rid of arms and ammunition. The situation in Tripoli is quieter; and on the tapes it is said that a cease-fire has been ordered by the rebel commanders. I should have thought that anybody would agree that that was all to the good.
I was asked certain questions yesterday about consultation with the Commonwealth. Throughout the course of events in the last two months, I have been in close touch with the Commonwealth Governments and their comments have been carefully considered. The Leader of the Opposition will, however, agree that to reveal the precise nature of confidential communications would make that kind of discussion not worth having.
Another question which I was asked concerned oil supplies. In the last eighteen months, a good deal of thought has gone into this question and the United States Government have participated fully in O.E.E.C. studies on the effects of serious interruption of oil supplies for Europe and on appropriate measures to cope with this problem should it occur. I think that the United States Government is fully aware of the complications of the present situation and we have no doubt that we can depend upon the United States to act in concert with other friendly countries to secure the maintenance of supplies. I would, however, also say that the position about stocks in this country and about tanker tonnage available is much better than it was two years ago.
I want to say a word or two about the more general situation in the Middle East. We have no quarrel with nationalism. We have done a great deal to meet the aspirations of nationalism in many parts of the world. Both sides of the House have responsibilities in that matter. We made no difficulty about modifying our treaty with Iraq concerning the handing over of the Habbaniya air base to the Iraqi Government. We agreed to the ending of the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty.
It is suggested that in these areas we support only reactionary régimes, whatever that may mean. So far as material developments are concerned, however, the achievements of the régime in Iraq were outstanding. It was the place where the oil revenues were spent most wisely. The 1245 statesmanship of the Iraqi leaders has provided great benefits for the people of that country. Perhaps they failed in not making clearer to their people how much had been done and there were, perhaps, certain weaknesses in the way of urbanisation; but so far as concerns the material results of the work of the Iraq Development Board, they were very much better than anything done in any other part of the Middle East. I spoke to somebody yesterday who had just been to the Iraq Development Week and he spoke of the great surprise with which he had seen the extent of the work that was being done.
So this is not a question of nationalism. It is part of the hostile propaganda to say that this is all a question of the West against Arab nationalism. The question is one of perverting nationalist feelings and perverting those who wish to overthrow the established order of society so that they serve to further indirect aggression.
The House must face up to the problems involved in this question of indirect aggression. It has been discussed more than once at the United Nations. A resolution was passed in December, 1949, calling upon Statesto refrain from any threats or acts, direct or indirect, aimed at impairing the freedom, independence or integrity of any State, or at fomenting civil strife and subverting the will of the people in any State.There was another resolution—[Interruption.] I think I am right in saying that the Government of which the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was a supporter voted for both these resolutions—called "Peace through Deeds", passed on 18th November. 1950, which condemned theintervention of a State in the internal affairs of another State for the purpose of changing its legally-established Government by the threat or use of forceand solemnly reaffirmed thatwhatever weapons used, any aggression, whether committed openly, or by fomenting civil strife in the interests of a foreign Power, or otherwise, is the gravest of all crimes against peace and security throughout the world.What happens? A foreign Government determines to use a dissident element within another State to overthrow the legitimate Government by force. The technique is the smuggling of arms and explosives, the infiltration of agents, a 1246 virulent propaganda campaign, incitement to insurrection and assassination and, finally, the plot against the lives of the constitutional leaders. That is the technique and that is the problem. We have to admit that no answer has yet been found to it. I believe that unless an answer is found, the independence and integrity of one small independent State after another is bound to be undermined and finally destroyed.
Sometimes the plots are found out and frustrated in time. I have a list of them. There was one in January, 1956, resulting in the Egyptian military attaché being expelled from Iraq. In November, 1956, the Libyan Government demanded the immediate recall of the Egyptian military attaché. In that case there was the discovery of explosives. In November, 1956, in the Lebanon, a vehicle filled with arms was seized. A vehicle full of high explosives was found in the house of the chauffeur to the Egyptian military attaché. In Ethiopia, in November, 1956, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the immediate recall of the Egyptian military attaché. In March, 1956, the Egyptian Consul-General in Jerusalem was expelled for the same sort of reason. In Saudi Arabia, in 1957, the Egyptian military mission was expelled; arms were found coming from it. In June, 1957, in Jordan, again there was expulsion on the grounds of this technique of subversion.
In the present case, there was also the same kind of plot taking place in Jordan. During the last week, it was foiled. Unfortunately, the plot was not found out in time in Bagdad. I believe that the world must face up to this problem and devise a method of dealing, and dealing speedily and effectively, with this kind of effort to interfere with the integrity and the independence of nations.
I am not going to announce any new decision of the Government in these matters this afternoon. I think that the gravity of the situation must be apparent to all. It is a situation in which we feel it is necessary to keep in closest touch with the United States Government over the whole range of problems thrown up by these events.
I therefore propose to fly later this afternoon to Washington, at Mr. Dulles' invitation, for discussions with him, because however efficient communications 1247 systems may be—sometimes some of us think that they are almost too efficient these days—there is, in fact, no substitute for personal discussion of the whole range of problems thrown up by this extremely grave situation.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is disorderly for an hon. Member to remain standing if the Member who has the Floor does not give way. I did not observe the Foreign Secretary give way.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think that the matters which we are considering are of such gravity that I should be permitted to put the Government's statement of the position without interruption.
On the general points of principle affecting indirect aggression, I believe that a country has the right to ask for help from other countries when it feels itself to be in danger. I believe that a country has the right to ask for help against aggression, whether direct or indirect. I believe, too, that another Government has the right to respond to such requests, and that such response is in accordance with the spirit of the Charter. I believe that this is in accordance with the established rules of international law. Unless countries are prepared to respond to such appeals for help, I think that we shall see one country after another go down to this form of aggression, and all the steps which we have taken under various Governments here which have furthered self-government, and which have created independent countries with full sovereignty over their affairs, will prove to have been in vain.
The Government of the Lebanon appealed to the United States Government for help. The United States Government decided to respond to that appeal. We have indicated our support for that action by the United States Government, and I believe that that decision will have the overwhelming approval of the people of this country.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
Whatever differences of opinion may develop in the course of our discussion 1248 today I think that we would all wish to join in expressing regret at the death of Colonel Graham and our sympathy with the British nationals who have been placed in a very difficult position in Bagdad.
The Foreign Secretary said yesterday, and repeated today, that this was a very grave situation. I am sure that on both sides of the House that is appreciated, and that we shall conduct our debate today fully realising what is at stake. There is no doubt that since the revolution in Iraq a new chapter in the stormy history of the Middle East has been opened. The chapter is being written almost literally as we debate the problems here this afternoon. We regard this debate not as the only, the final, debate to be held on this matter, but as the first of what may have to be a series. We shall wish, naturally, to return to the subject later, in the light of what happens in the next few days.
This afternoon we are concerned solely with a discussion of the situation up to now, as it stands today. Even so, there is much uncertainty about exactly what has happened and what is happening. We do not know, the Government themselves do not know, exactly the nature of the position in Iraq. There are rumours that a division of the Iraqi forces is marching against the revolutionaries in Bagdad. It seems, though even this is not clear, that in Bagdad itself the revolutionaries are in control. We do not know the fate of King Feisal. We have only heard statements from the rebels of the deaths of the Crown Prince and of Nuries-Said. Furthermore, the Security Council has not yet concluded its debate on the subject, and I freely admit that the precise significance of the United States' intervention in the Lebanon is not yet quite clear.
For these reasons, and despite many grave anxieties and apprehensions which exist on this side of the House as to the action of the American Government, and while I shall have some questions to ask and some criticisms to put forward, we do not at present intend to divide the House this evening, unless a new development forces us between now and 10 o'clock to reconsider the matter. We make that decision bearing in mind that it is not desirable at such a critical moment that the country should be so openly divided, unless there is a tremendous issue of principle at stake where the 1249 Government and the Opposition are so much at loggerheads that a clear clash of views cannot be avoided and must be reflected in the Division Lobby.
Having said that, I wish to explain to the House why, in all sincerity, on these benches we are very apprehensive about what has been done. I do not know exactly what the Prime Minister meant last night, when he is reported as having said that it was better to be wrong but united than to be right and alone. I do not know whether that implies—he will, no doubt, take the opportunity to clear this up—that there is any hesitation on the Government side in this matter.
I wish to consider the American decision and to examine for a moment the arguments adduced in support of it. The first argument is that the troops were put in to protect American lives. I do not think that any of us would wish to challenge the right of a Government to protect their own nationals. That is accepted. However, I must point out that what is implied by that right is only intervention to remove the nationals from danger; a small-scale, moderate operation; an air lift, may be; something of that kind. I do not see how the landing of 5,000 Marines can be justified on the sole ground that it is necessary to protect the lives of 2,500 Americans.
We have to consider, then, the other reason given by the American Government, which I think most of us must agree was obviously what really weighed with them. I say, in passing, that if it was simply the lives of Americans, then they have been in some danger throughout all these last weeks while the civil war has been taking place in Lebanon. The second reason, which the Foreign Secretary has cited, was to assist the Government of the Lebanon to preserve their territorial integrity and their political independence.
The Foreign Secretary made some reference in the latter part of his speech to the legal situation and the right or absence of right of one nation to intervene in another at the invitation of a Government. I have done my best to study, in the short time available, the international law on this subject. I am afraid that it is not entirely clear. I concede that the presence or absence of outside intervention appears to weigh quite considerably in the matter. But I 1250 believe it is right to say that if there is a state of civil war, and there are clearly two sides involved and no evidence of outside intervention, then, according to international law, it is, to say the least, extremely doubtful whether intervention at the request of the Government in question is justified.
I would also just say this in general terms. It is extremely important to be careful what we say in this matter. There are Communist Governments in Eastern Europe. Those Governments, any one of them, might be faced with internal revolution. There might very well be—I am not speaking of Hungary today—such a revolution in Poland and there might be a request from the constitutional, if that is the right word, Government of Poland asking for assistance from the Soviet Union. We must be very careful in what we say in this matter, not to put ourselves in a position where we could not morally oppose intervention of that kind.
Nor do I feel that the intervention which has taken place can really be justified, so far, at any rate, under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. For there is not much doubt that that Article, in its reference to the right of self-defence or collective self-defence against armed attack, means armed attack across the frontier.
But I think that in all this one can scarcely ignore the past history of the Lebanon affair. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary referred to it in some detail. The fact of the matter is that the Lebanese Government themselves, I think quite properly, brought this matter to the notice of the Security Council, that the Security Council passed without dissent a resolution which, I think, was satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government, as it was to the Opposition here, that observers were then sent in, that the observers have produced one report and that, although that report may have seemed to some not entirely satisfactory, rather vague in places and not indicating that they had really got fully in control of the situation—I concede that straight away—nevertheless the point is that this situation was already being handled by the Security Council.
I feel myself that some very special circumstances would have to justify immediate action before and in advance 1251 of further consideration of this matter by the Security Council. Moreover, it is common ground that after the observers' report there was some hope, considerable hope—indeed, as recently as two days ago—that the Lebanese would settle this quarrel themselves.
Now, the explanation, the excuse, which has been put forward by the Foreign Secretary is the events in Iraq. I can only say that, disturbing as those events are—so far as I am aware—they have not been followed, or accompanied, by any threat of armed aggression across the Lebanese frontier.
I do not say more on the legal side. I do not wish to judge it precisely. I concede that it is very difficult to be sure of the exact legal position, but I think it not unreasonable to say that the intervention of the United States Government in advance of further consideration of the matter by the Security Council—and one would have thought it could have been brought to them yesterday afternoon before American troops were put in—is certainly contrary to the kind of procedure that the United States itself usually recommends in such cases.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The noble Lord reasonably refers to Korea. In Korea, there was without question an armed attack across the frontier, and immediate action was, in my view, and the view of the then Government, justified. I do not think that the position on the Lebanese-Syrian frontier is comparable to that in Korea.
However, I do not rest our apprehensions and criticisms of the American attitude principally upon doubts as to the legality of the action. I would put our feelings far more on the basis of whether this action, in the long run, was really wise from the point of view of Western interests in the Middle East. I do not deny that in the short run in the Lebanon the arrival of a powerful force of American marines may well have a stabilising effect. It would be surprising if that were not so, but I think that we should be deluding ourselves if we felt that we could applaud, as it were, and say, "That is that, and there is nothing further to 1252 worry about." Do we not have to ask ourselves some further questions here?
American troops have gone in. What exactly will they do? Are they to patrol the frontier? Are they simply concerned with the sealing of the frontier, with keeping out any possible Syrian attacks, or are they, so to speak, to be enlisted by the Lebanese Government to preserve order at home? How long is it contemplated that they will stay in the Lebanon? Under what circumstances is it envisaged that they might be withdrawn?
To that question, of course, there is one possible answer which has been given by the Americans themselves, that, if the United Nations were to introduce a force, then the Americans would themselves withdraw. I say straight away for myself that I would infinitely prefer to see a United Nations force on the Syrian-Lebanese frontier than an American force. But whether that will be possible or not is extremely problematical and I think one has to ask oneself the question: supposing that that does not happen, when and under what circumstances is it contemplated that the Americans will withdraw? When they withdraw, is it very likely, after all that has happened, that they will be able to leave in power a secure, democratically elected and pro-Western Government in the Lebanon? I should have thought the prospect was a very dim one indeed, for there is no use ignoring the internal situation in the Lebanon.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary—I have never denied this—that there is no doubt evidence of infiltration of arms, it may even be of armed bands although there is no clear, well-known evidence of that. But I think that even he would agree that if we are to judge by most of the Press reports from Beirut there was also a very considerable internal struggle, quite apart from any external assistance or infiltration there may have been. One has only to point out that the leader of the Christian Maronite Church in Beirut was, of course, wholly opposed to President Chamoun. Nor can there be much doubt that there was a great deal of anxiety because he was reluctant and for a long time refused to announce that he would not stand for a second term. I agree that his Government was a legally constituted one, but 1253 whether it was elected quite according to the electoral practices which are usually followed in this country is entirely another matter.
I do not say anything more on this subject than that there was clearly a strong internal movement against the present Lebanese Government. There was a fear that President Chamoun was going to maintain himself, by force, in power, or to force through again a change in the constitution which enabled him to be President for a third term. I do not wish to express any criticism of him. I had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago and I do not doubt that he is a friend of the West, but there is no use denying the fact that there has been in Press circles in Beirut—British Press circles—a widespread criticism of the exact way in which he has handled the situation.
But the most important point of all is this. Is not the intervention of American forces in the Lebanon only too likely to strengthen still further the very powerful anti-Western feelings which exist in that part of the world? If that is the case, I repeat, I do not see how, out of this intervention, we can reasonably hope for a more friendly and more stable Lebanon to emerge.
Our doubts and our anxieties about the situation, however, go rather further than the Lebanon. I must confess that we are seriously worried about the possibility of American or even of British intervention in other territories in the Middle East. I do not have in mind those parts of the Middle East where we have specifically and very clearly defined treaty obligations, nor am I thinking, of course, of the Colony of Aden or the Protectorates; but I am thinking—I will be quite frank about it—of Iraq and Jordan.
Candidly, and putting it at the moment very generally, if, indeed, the Americans contemplate, with or without British assistance, putting troops in Jordan and Iraq, I cannot help feeling that the only way we can make sense of an action of that kind is that they are attempting to set up a Government friendly to the West by force. I feel that we should hesitate before we commit ourselves to any such dangerous course of action.
I should like, if I may, to stand back for a moment and ask the House to look 1254 at what our interests are in the Middle East. I ventured to express them in a debate in February, 1956, and I believed then that there was fairly widespread agreement. We want, of course, to be able to buy the oil that we need from the Middle East. We want to be able to buy, at any rate, at reasonable prices, though all of us, I think, would feel that the peoples of that part of the world, living as they do on a very low standard of living, are entitled to a fair price for what, after all, is their main commodity.
We certainly want to have access to the oil and we would hope to be able to reach agreement with the Governments concerned on reasonable prices. I do not think myself, if I may say so, in passing, that we should insist that British or foreign companies should themselves actually carry out the oil exploitation. I do not wish to go all over the Persian situation, but when the oil industry in Persia was nationalised we did manage to reach a satisfactory agreement with the present Persian Government. I do not myself think that we can shirk the question of ownership very much longer. But I do not want to go into that now, because it is not immediately relevant to our discussion today.
Secondly, in addition to being able to buy our oil at reasonable prices, I would myself recognise that we have certain moral and political obligations as regards the Israeli-Arab problem. I do not think that we can escape them. I would say, thirdly, that, of course, it is contrary to our interests that there should be an extension of Communist control over the Middle East. Almost certainly that might be inconsistent with the first objective of buying the oil. Subject to that, if I may refer again to oil for a moment, there is every reason to believe that, whatever the Governments may be, unless they are actively hostile to us, they themselves will also wish to sell the oil. Pipelines run all in the direction of sales to Europe and the West and other parts of the world. So I do not believe that that is an insuperable difficulty.
In stating these objects, we have to face something else. That is that, in present circumstances and for some time now, we have acquired a reputation among the Arab people for being opponents of what they call Arab nationalism and also for being opponents of social revolution. I have said, more than once, that this 1255 reputation is one of our gravest disadvantages in contending with the threat of Communist propaganda in that part of the world. The Foreign Secretary declared that we were not opposed to Arab nationalism and he described the present situation there as virtually not being nationalism.
With respect, I cannot feel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's description of the matter was really completely accurate. I do not think that we can ignore the fact—hon. Members who have been there and know something about the Middle East will, I think, confirm this—that when the Arabs speak of Arab nationalism today they do not mean so much the independence of individual countries such as Iraq and Jordan. What they mean is being able to come together in Arab unity.
This is a fact of which we are bound to take very serious note. There is this great explosive force of Pan-Arabism and it has been growing and growing and getting stronger and stronger all the time. The Foreign Secretary referred to the Government of Iraq and the efforts that they have made in developing their country, and I agree with him. There is no doubt that Iraq has done more with its oil revenues for economic development than any other country in the Middle East, but there is no denying that in Iraq itself the régime there was rather feudal in its character and, so far as development was concerned, it was, unfortunately, not associated with the solution of the very difficult land problem which affects the attitude of the Iraqi people.
Therefore, we must face the fact that up to now we have come in conflict with what I would call Arab nationalism or Pan-Arabism, and we have been regarded also, for reasons largely historical—let me concede that, because of our alliances with the Governments concerned—as the opponents of social revolution. I say categorically that I do not see that we can reach any ultimate solution in the Middle East unless, somehow or other, we are prepared to come to terms with the Pan-Arab movement. I know that it is easy to say that and that it is much more difficult to say exactly how we can do it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Israel."] An hon. Member mentioned Israel. Of course, it is a major problem there. 1256 Nevertheless, I repeat categorically that I do not think that we can solve our problem on the basis, to put it the other way round, of continued hostility between Arab nationalism and the West.
We have, of course, certain obligations also in the Middle East. We have the obligation—as any Government has—to protect British lives if they are in danger. I have already said, however, that the protection of British lives may require some intervention, but it is of a very different kind from the large-scale intervention which we are discussing this afternoon.
I agree, also, that we have certain treaty obligations against external aggression, and especially is that true of the Protectorates in the South. Whether it is still true of Iraq, it is difficult to say. It is no longer true of Jordan, because the Jordan Government have denounced the Treaty. What I do say, with all the emphasis I can command, is that these treaty obligations cannot, in our opinion, be extended so as to protect a particular Government from internal revolution. I do not see that we can justify the use of a treaty for that purpose. Whatever may be the evidence of external aggression in the case of the Lebanon, I have not heard so far, apart from propaganda on which seriously we could not alone justify intervention that in Iraq or Jordan there is any evidence of external aggression or intervention with armed force.
Therefore, I must say this afternoon to the Government, on this question of whether or not we are to intervene in Jordan and Iraq, that they must not assume that the Opposition can support or acquiesce in the use of British forces to aid the Government of Jordan to suppress the revolt in Iraq. I do not ask the Government any questions today. Governments always find it difficult to give answers to hypothetical questions, but I feel it my duty to warn them of what our attitude might be. So, Sir, at this stage I would urge upon the Government the very greatest caution in what they do.
The danger of the loss of oil has already been mentioned and I do not propose to pursue it further this afternoon. Again, it is hypothetical. It is true, as the Foreign Secretary has said, that the oil situation in the world generally is in a sense more favourable than it was 1257 two years ago. Nevertheless, in the long run, there could be grave economic dangers resulting from this intervention. Nor can one rule out altogether, though I have no desire to raise it as a threat or bogy, the possibility of Soviet intervention. We can only hope that this will not eventuate.
Even at this late stage, if the United Nations would take over the police function in the Lebanon and American troops were withdrawn, we might yet be able to do what I believe will eventually be essential, to come to terms with Arab nationalism. If, on the contrary, we were to attempt to impose by force our will in the Middle East to re-establish, as it were, a system of government which may have been possible, even justifiable, in the nineteenth century, but in modern conditions seems to us utterly inappropriate and profoundly dangerous, then, if that were to happen, I can only say, God help us all.
I hope that the Government will respond in the spirit in which I have tried to express our fears. Although there are strong feelings on these benches, we have tried today to exercise the greatest possible restraint. We do not want disunity in the nation on this great issue. I hope that it will be possible to preserve unity.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
The House and the country will note the temper of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition today. I do not think that it would be presumptuous of me to say that we all observed with satisfaction his decision not to divide the House tonight.
It was impossible, in the earlier part of his speech, not to agree with a good deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I could not avoid casting back in my mind some months and years, when his statements did not achieve the same unanimous feeling as they achieved this afternoon. As his speech progressed, however, I found myself in increasing difficulty in following him.
The right hon. Gentleman said, in particular, that we must not put ourselves into a position in which we cannot morally oppose an intervention in any particular country, within the Soviet empire by an action we may take elsewhere in future. As I have not myself taken quite 1258 the same ideological and idealistic attitude about Soviet Russia's intervention in Hungary as have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I can reserve my position in another part of the world in good faith. [HON. MEMBERS: "Suez."] I will come to that.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would prefer a United Nations force to an American force on the Syrian frontier. Before I sit down I think I can come to some extent to a position of agreement with him in that. He went on to say that the United States' intervention in the Lebanon would effectively consolidate the Arab bloc and that there was a danger that if Her Majesty's Government were to intervene in Jordan or Iraq, some hostile consolidation would take place against us. Yet nothing was more remarkable, in those days of swift intervention in Suez, than the difference in attitude of the Arab States. There was by no means a unite Arab opposition to what the Government of Sir Anthony Eden did at that time.
When the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that in attempting, by intervention in Jordan or Iraq, to set up Governments friendly to the West we would be failing altogether in that objective, I must point out to him that not only in recent history, but in all past history, effective interventions in foreign countries have nearly always, if not always, been followed by Governments friendly to the intervening Power. That is a fact of history. The right hon. Gentleman may not like it, but to say that it will not happen in future is to gainsay all past history and all recent experience.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill).
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Finally, one must remark that the crucial part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, about what might be the attitude of the Opposition in the case of intervention in Iraq or Jordan, was couched in the most careful terms. The right hon. Gentleman safeguarded the attitude of himself and his party as to what might transpire.
We have arrived at an almost desperately serious situation in the Middle East and the great question is whether we can let matters stand as they are. On the 1259 whole, the Opposition seem to appear to wish it so. They do not want to see either this country or the United States effect any violent change in the pattern of history as it has been developing in the Middle East since the end of the war.
That pattern, briefly, is this: 100 per cent. oil investment in Abadan, an insurrection and a 40 per cent. return by the United Kingdom; the abandonment in 1954 of our strategic hold over the Suez Canal; an attempt to force Jordan into the Bagdad Pact, which resulted immediately in an almost total withdrawal of Britain's economic and military position there; as regards Saudi-Arabia, an entire loss, so far as we can see it, of the diplomatic position won in the 1914–18 war by means of Allies and friends, whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) held in such great regard. Finally we are now witnessing—perhaps one should not use a stronger phrase—the temporary defection of Iraq, the most important ally of all in a vital oil area.
Fortunately—I always feel like apologising to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for occasionally using an old-fashioned term—the British still hold on to a certain maritime area—Libya, Aden and the Protectorates in the Gulf. But, in the centre of this vast arc, there are seven States, with a total area of 3 million square miles and a population of 60 million, in which progressively, since the end of the war, it has been possible for British residents to be insulted—not only residents but sometimes Foreign Secretaries—for British investments to be expropriated and British embassies to be burned.
Three conflicting forces now range over that vast area, but Britain is no longer one of them. They are international Communism, aggressive nationalism, and, more recently, dollar doctrine and diplomacy, all manoeuvring for position over a vast sub-continent with which, formerly, Great Britain had a very great deal to do. We, and one must add here Western Europe also, have, hitherto at any rate, been remorselessly excluded from this vast area. I heard the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) yesterday, and I hope that he will develop it in a speech today about the need to reflect 1260 the new unity of Western Europe in these events in the Middle East. Perhaps I should say that we are excluding ourselves, to some extent, through what I myself regard, and have referred to many times in the House, as an obsession with the questions of Germany and Russia and the politics of the last two wars.
§ Mr. Hale
I do not want to make any controversial points today, but I admit that the matter is controversial in this sense, that the last announcement we had from America on this subject, to which the noble Lord referred, was the statement of Mr. Foster Dulles made before the Congressional Committee investigating the Eisenhower Middle East policy, that the presence of a single British or French soldier in the Middle East would help to spread international Communism and that an American soldier would prefer to fight alone rather than have a British or a French soldier with him. Is there any intimation at all that that attitude has been altered recently?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman what the thinking of the State Department or any other political entity is. He is quite able to get his facts himself.
I was about to say that, in our postwar endeavours, with certain exceptions, notably in Kenya, Malaya and Cyprus, the bulk of our military and scientific power has not been centred in the area where it really matters, namely, this vast sub-continent of the Middle East. On the contrary, it has been nicely tucked away in Europe, locked inside the rigid frame of N.A.T.O. and largely isolated from these flaring insurrections in an important fulcrum of the world.
Can we let matters continue as they are? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say, and this was clear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that they would compromise with Arab nationalism. This is their land, they say. This is their oil. Why should they not do with it what they want? What are we, the European industrial, capitalist powers any longer doing in that part of the world? Cannot we simply be traders, purchasers and sellers and let them control the sources of their production, the system of their Government and everything else in the land that they have to dwell in?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I feel like paraphrasing the words of Humpty Dumpty, "It depends who is the landlord".
Hon. Members say that the people of the Middle East must sell their oil; otherwise they cannot live. But must they do so? It depends who is in control. Democracy run riot in the Middle East, before it is established, might produce people in control who would have no interest in raising and selling the oil. A word or two on the wireless at seven o'clock two mornings ago sent the Bagdad mob raging into the streets. Are they interested in raising and selling the oil and delivering so many million barrels a year? Are unchained, wild men such as are now running through the streets of Bagdad really devoted to the maintenance of a higher civilisation? The whole history of the world shows that civilisation has cracked, fallen and lain in ruins because of the way in which control over a country was given to or seized by the people too soon.
Do we suppose for one instant that we can live in this country if we do not control the sources of the raw materials which come to us today? Can we maintain our high state of Western civilisation? Has the Welfare State any meaning for anybody if we do not have the oil with which to serve it? What chance is there of maintaining the oil supplies if we allow the Bagdad mob to let the desert rule again over the source of production?
It must be the duty of any Government in this country, of whatever political persuasion, to defend the standard of living of our people. That defence, in the last resort, means resolutely seizing the sources of that Standard of living from those who might despoil it. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen cannot depart from it. Those are the realistic facts of the world. Whatever the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) may say, he cannot controvert that duty of Government resolutely to seize from those who would despoil it the sources of the standard of living of our country.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I am obliged to the noble Lord for making himself so clear. Will he allow me to intervene 1262 for a moment, please? I am grateful that the noble Lord has now expounded one of the strangest doctrines that ever a democracy could expound. This doctrine now would imply that Russia has exactly the same right to move into middle Europe or anywhere else in the world to seize oil supplies or uranium for herself. Will the noble Lord now say that we are to seize uranium sources as well?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Russia is not interested in the Gulf oil, fundamentally not interested in it for the maintenance of the standard of living of her people. If she had been she would have declared her political and diplomatic policy for that area long since. The fact is that she has no desire at the present moment to intervene in that part of the world.
I believe that that is the prime duty of the Government in the last resort, and if they do not do it, trouble, insurrection, violence and spoliation will spread from the centre of the Arabian Peninsula to every peripheral and maritime spot that we now hold. We British will be excluded not only from the Arabian subcontinent, but, in time, from the whole of Asia and Africa. Where shall we be then? We shall be left harbouring the hydrogen bomb and a modern system of weapons, living a fully mechanised life with a twenty-first century standard of civilisation, but from one moment to the next, without any feeling of security about the vital sources of our raw materials.
I now want to say something about the American intervention in the Lebanon. Here I am to some extent in sympathy with what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. The American landing in the Lebanon provides us with another cogent reason for intervention. I would remind the House that on 13th February, 1957, speaking in the defence debate, I said:I have reason for saying—I cannot reveal the name of the person who has apprised me of this—that if the Eisenhower doctrine gets on the march, up through Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and towards Iraq, it is practically certain … that attempts will be made to communise Persia and possibly Iraq as well. I do not believe that the Russians are willing to tolerate the menace of the atomic power of the United States being put closely in proximity with them in that part of the world.For generations, the British and French have held moderate and stabilised positions in the 1263 Middle East. We have never been a menace to Russia except for that short period at the time of the Crimean War. I am certain that even Communist Russia today would agree that the presence of Britain and France in the Middle East … was not fundamentally a menace to their position. We and the French must do our very utmost to assert our authority in the Middle East in order to keep the United States and Russia apart"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1368.]That was in February last year. Six months later I found myself on a short visit to Russia, and in the Kremlin those who were good enough to receive me and explain matters to me endorsed that statement. They said in specific terms that it seemed to them that the advancing tide of American atomic power across the world was explainable only in terms of the ultimate annihilation of the Soviet Union. Nothing could convince them to the contrary.
I put to them the question whether it was not more satisfactory, fundamentally, to have in the Middle East moderate forces like ourselves and the French, and possibly one day the Germans—for we cannot tell in what friendly association we may be going to work with the Germans in future—rather than the military and air power of the United States, and they agreed that that would be more satisfactory. If they had not felt that I am sure that Russia would have done her very best to move much more effectively than she did at the beginning of this century and between the wars in order to drive us out of those positions in the Middle East. But she never showed a fundamental hostility to our presence there then, and she would not do so today.
Therefore, I do not believe that the course which we may be going to take in Jordan, Iraq or the Persian Gulf—a course which I hope we shall take; and I say that unequivocally—will promote the deadly dangers of a Third World War. I am glad that the Americans have gone to Beirut and nowhere else—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
—because there is a certain frontier—a certain moderate position detached from the complex of the Soviet Union—from which it will be very difficult for them 1264 to proceed further. Acting in the most friendly concert with the United States, I hope that we shall make this view apparent to them, in order to dissuade them from further enterprises across the Arabian peninsula.
In Europe we have a tremendous concourse of neutral States—a kind of cordon sanitaire—on both sides of the Iron Curtain. We stand here in the North Sea, between the United States and Russia, and I believe that in another part of the world, too, we should act in the position of an intermediary, as a force between the great powers of Russia and the United States.
I do not think that any action which Her Majesty's Government may be called upon to take in the Middle East is likely to promote a Third World War. We may be going to see a very large upheaval in the Middle East—a great sorting out of frontiers and a change in the disrelationships of States which themselves have been the cause of clamour and anxiety in the past. One only trusts that the loss of life, either of our own people or those of any of the Middle Eastern countries, will not be too great, and that ultimately—perhaps before long—it may be possible to achieve a settlement.
As I said in a speech in the House not long ago, it is important that Russia, as well as the United States, ourselves and France, should be part of and guarantee that settlement. After whatever movement may be about to take place now, if we can get a final realisation that the Middle East is a vital area in the world for us, for Western Europe and for the United States, we may ultimately see peace reign in that region.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
The noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) spoke in tones of the greatest possible gloom. He said that the temples of civilisation were crashing. He described how Judgment Day had come, with power being given to people before they were ready to receive responsibility. The whole of his discourse to the House of Commons this afternoon was one of the deepest and most abject pessimism. At the end of the noble Lord's speech I wondered why he did not commit suicide. I can only think that he believes that the nearest thing to committing 1265 suicide is by his returning to the Conservative Party.
I must declare a small interest in this matter, in that my constituency is to be a major oil port, and the price and supply of oil is now every bit as important to my constituents as the supply of rain or the price of pigs or potatoes. That is why I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I entirely agree that there is no parallel between the American action in entering the Lebanon and the Suez action, but hon. Members opposite must understand quite clearly our reason for apprehension in this matter. Their record does not give us any reason for complacency or confidence. The word "Suez" is a trigger word, not only to our people but to the people of the world, and every kind of action that the British Government now take in the Middle East is to some extent bedevilled by the crass folly and crime of 1956. Hon. Members opposite must therefore understand exactly why, at the very beginning of the announcement made yesterday, we felt very great apprehension about the policy which was being pursued by the Government.
I agree that the legal position is not clear, although I cannot see why, since an attack was not actually being made, it was not possible for the Americans to wait for a few hours in order first to place the matter before the Security Council. To take the law into one's own hands is never a defence, however laudable the object may be. I would say to right hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite that any further steps in this direction will also be judged with a good deal of caution and apprehension by hon. Members on this side of the House. That is a warning.
But our real apprehension was expressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke about the dangers—he said it was unwise, but I would go much further and say the extreme dangers—resulting from a possible conflict between the Western world and Arab nationalism arising out of decisions being made at this very moment. That is really the starting point in our consideration of the whole problem. The action of the United States in entering the Lebanon is, in itself, a very limited step. It is a periphery action and, as such, it 1266 does not necessarily affect events in other parts of the Middle East. It is when a move is made from the Lebanon to Jordan and Iraq that the real danger arises.
From the point of view of Her Majesty's Government, who also have responsibilities in the Persian Gulf, I agree that there is a strong case for us strengthening the garrisons of Kuwait and Bahrain. I think that is probably an essential precaution. But when we move from places where we have treaty rights and go into other countries, not only political problems, but also physical and military problems are involved, and the danger begins to arise. I say to right hon. Members opposite that they will bitterly divide this country if they find themselves involved in military action in Jordan or Iraq. I cannot put it more clearly. It will lead to political feeling on a scale and strength in every way comparable with the events of two years ago; and the consequences, so far as the world is concerned, may be even more far-reaching, more dangerous and more damaging than the consequences of what happened in 1956.
The real charge against this Government is that in the two years which have followed the Suez crisis and the tragic events of that time there has not been any attempt—although we have had that period of two years—to produce any kind of coherent policy; to redress the balance; to retrieve the mistakes. Month after month has passed, with the Foreign Secretary coming to the Dispatch Box and answering Questions. Month after month the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is the worst Foreign Secretary since Ethelred the Unready, has come to this House lacking any policy for the Middle East. My real charge today against the Government is that they have made no attempt to use the time that was available to them since Suez to evolve any coherent policy. That, in itself, would have been ample justification for a vote of censure on Her Majesty's Government tonight.
What should have been our policy? What should be our policy now—because we have to start at some stage? We have to recognise that in the last four years and since our withdrawal from Suez British policy has been sadly off beam. In those last four years we have failed to pursue the legitimate policy that we should have 1267 pursued, the policy of national self-interest in the Middle East. What is our national self-interest? First, it is to maintain sufficient political stability to ensure an assured supply of oil; second, to secure that oil at a reasonable price; and third, to see that political stability is retained, so that a world war does not result from the revolutions and turbulences which occur in that area. That should be our guiding aim—supplies of oil from and political stability for the Middle East.
We must recognise that in the years since the war three new factors have entered Middle Eastern politics. The first is the advent of Israel. The second is a remarkable increase in oil revenue and the availability of money in the Middle East on a scale which never existed before. The third is the enormous growth of Arab nationalism. All these problems have to be met, as they pose issues which cannot be avoided.
The question of Israel is outside the context of this discussion and the range of the debate today, but it is very much in the foreground in considering what may happen tomorrow. We cannot forget that. Israel is there. We cannot extinguish, or seek to extinguish, a nation already in existence. Israel is a problem we have to live with, and our task is to try to see that the Israel boundaries and incidents resulting from the present boundaries are adjusted as much as possible. It is a difficult problem to live with, but it is there, and we must decide where we stand. Our interest must be devoted to the limitation of frontier friction so far as lies within our power
The second factor is the vast growth of the oil revenue—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition touched on this matter. From time to time, when talking to the leaders of a number of our oil companies, I have been shocked at the lack of their forward political policy that many of them reveal. The present situation with oil revenue on a 50–50 basis has nothing sacrosanct about it. It could be 60–40, or 70–30, or 90–10 or even 99–1. There is no reason why it should not change overnight as it is changing at this moment. Our future, so far as the securement of the oil in the Middle East is concerned, is in my view dependent on our being there as hired extractors and marketeers and not as owners of 1268 that oil. We must put the oil extraction on a new basis. We may not necessarily have to pay more for it, but the fact is that it has to be secured on a new political basis; otherwise it will be a standing catalyst which may end in catastrophe.
The third factor is the vast resurgence of Arab nationalism. Whether we like it or not, Colonel Nasser is identified in the minds of the people living between Cairo and the Persian Gulf as the leader of Arab nationalism. That is a fact, whether we like it or not. Up to now, the policy has been to cut Nasser down to size. What size? That is no policy. Nasser himself may not be invincible, as the Financial Times says this morning. But, as the Financial Times also said this morning, Arab nationalism is invincible. We have to learn to recognise that unless we come to terms, in a modus vivendi, in this area, the lifeblood of British industrial production will be stopped. Thus my fundamental charge against the Government is that in the two years since Suez no attempt has been made to revise the mistakes and fallacies which inherently led us to Suez.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that in the days of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin I personally, both privately to him and in the form of speeches, suggested that the sooner we tried to encourage and make friends with the Arab League, the better. But he rejected it out of hand.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says. But the situation in the days of Mr. Ernest Bevin was very different from now, and we were labouring under other great difficulties at that time as the State of Israel was coming into being.
§ Mr. Donnelly
The hon. Member says he tried to "do it in", but I do not accept his statement. On the other hand, as I was saying, the situation which existed at that time, and also the pressure being placed upon British policy at that time by the American Government of the day, rendered the situation extremely difficult for any British Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does my hon. Friend remember that the late Mr. Ernest Bevin got himself into a great deal 1269 of trouble, and has in his record a number of unfortunate mistakes about Israel, precisely because, at a most unsuitable moment and in a most unsuitable way, he tried to hold the balance unfairly in favour of the Arabs and against Israel?
§ Mr. Donnelly
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. Perhaps I might go back to my own speech. I was saying that at that time the circumstances were very different. The situation today has gone a lot further.
We have to come to terms with, or we have to be prepared to exterminate Arab nationalism. Hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House have to be prepared to answer the question. The noble Lord says he is prepared to try to stamp out Arab nationalism. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord speaking, as there has not been a political figure with courage to equal his since the days of the intrepid King Canute. We have to recognise that some of the leaders of Arab nationalism may not be people who appeal to us in this country. At the same time, there are other people who are of a younger generation and who ultimately may hold power in the Arab States. Those younger people are also nationalists. Unless we can offer them some kind of life or society which will appeal to them, they will look to other countries to provide it.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I will tell the noble Lord more precisely. These people are not Communists; they are asking for a kind of simplified welfare state, improved conditions in which they can develop their agricultural resources, and for guidance and assistance. Much of the work that has been done by the British Middle East development services in helping these people has been exactly along the right lines. We shall get nowhere with these people, nor get their co-operation, if we fly in the face of their social and national aspirations.
However much the noble Lord does not like the inevitability of history, and this is it, the fact is that these people intend to run their own country. They 1270 also have industrial raw material essential to our industrial production. Unless we are prepared to come to terms with them about how we are to secure our oil we shall suffer very seriously in our economic life, quite apart from the great political turbulence which will arise.
§ Mr. Donnelly
No, because of it. The plain fact is that in the decision which has been taken by the United States a very unwise step has been taken, of which, none of us can foresee the consequences. Some of us heard President Eisenhower's statement on the radio this morning in which he compared the decision to the circumstances which secured the setting up of N.A.T.O. following the Communist coup d'état in Czechoslovakia. He spoke of American dedication to the idea of saving the Middle East from Communism. I do not know what information he bases himself upon, but the statement this morning was the statement either of a fool or a cynic. Frankly, I would rather it was of a cynic, for the sake of the Western world.
§ Mr. Donnelly
It is not unwise. It is perfectly wise. I wish the President was as wise.
We have made substantial strides in the years following the war in trying to come to terms with the new nationalisms of the under-developed areas. There are nearly always two fatal points of decline in the history of great empires. It was so with Greece and with Rome. One is when the people think they have achieved economic security and rest on their oars, while the world passes them by. The other is when political conflict between the perimeter and the centre reaches breaking point, and the empire fragments. We have not solved the first problem but on the second we had begun to show that we could cheat history. We had begun to come to terms with the new social forces. The events of the last two years in the Middle East have done more to damage the position of Britain in the eyes of those who are of those social forces than all the events of the last thirty or forty years.
I see the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on the Government Front Bench. I want to give a clear warning to him. Some of us on these benches may in no 1271 circumstances support military intervention which goes beyond the present situation. If it goes further this Government may divide this country and it may find itself in a political conflict internally from which it will not be able to find a way out. The British Labour Party stands by the rights of self-determination of peoples and we have no intention of surrendering those rights in these circumstances now.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I would advise the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) to keep the name of Mr. Ernest Bevin out of these particular debates. The right hon. Gentleman was in many respects quite a good Foreign Secretary, but the less said about his Middle East policy the better. It was the most shameful abnegation of responsibility that this country has ever known. Having founded a national home for the Jews, the right hon. Gentleman then left them to fight for it at odds of twelve to one. Only their own heroism saved them. I think that that should be on the record.
After the admirable speeches we have heard from the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition we ought to try to keep the tone of the debate cool and calm, and I shall try to do so in the very few minutes during which I shall address the House. I have said before, and would like to repeat, that the West is conducting a global struggle—I use the word "struggle" deliberately—not a war, against the forces of world Communism. We have, alas, no central organisations of political decision to direct our political policies upon a global scale. We have in consequence no common policy; and N.A.T.O. has no policy. N.A.T.O. is indeed almost in disruption.
I say very very seriously that unless the Western democracies can get together, and work together, better than they have done in the last ten years, we shall lose this struggle against the forces of Communism. We shall simply collapse; we shall break into pieces. We must get together. The Communists are together. They are very closely together. They may not be all very willingly together, but the fact remains that China, Russia and the satellite countries, with the exception of Yugoslavia, are solid about policy. They discuss, decide and carry out 1272 policies together. That is the measure of what we are fighting against. And they comprise half the world. Whereas we go wobbling along, squabbling among ourselves and agreeing about nothing at all. How do we think we can survive in this struggle unless we can devise not only common policies, but the instruments with which to carry them out, which do not exist at present?
I come to the question of Anglo-American co-operation. The present situation in the Middle East derives from the fact that, for the last five or six years, there has been no Anglo-American co-operation at all. On 24th July, 1956, I said in this House that the Western world was not united, although we all proclaimed almost incessantly that it was. That is absolutely true. I see sitting opposite my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). He will remember January, 1956, when we found ourselves in Washington—
§ Sir R. Boothby
Yes, he is, and I hope that he always will be. He is, indeed.
We found ourselves in Washington, as journalists. There was a great conference going on, particularly about Middle Eastern policy.
§ Sir R. Boothby
Yes, exactly—between Sir Anthony Eden and President Eisenhower. At the end of it, they issued the most appalling communiqué, which I described at the time as a narcotic, though I would use an even harsher word now if I could do so and still keep within the bounds of Parliamentary language. The fact was that they pretended that they had reached some kind of agreement on the Middle East, whereas everyone, including myself, the hon. Member for Coventry, East—and Mr. Randolph Churchill, who was there at the time—knew they had not in fact reached agreement on any point whatsoever.
All they said, at the end of the communiqué, was that we were struggling for freedom and liberty and the ultimate hopes of mankind; and, at the very end, they prayed that, with God's help, we 1273 might achieve that freedom and humanity for the peoples of the Middle East, and for the peoples of the world as a whole. I remember Mr. Randolph Churchill saying subsequently to a scandalised television audience in Canada, "Why drag God into it?" I think that there was a great deal to be said for that point of view—why, indeed?
That is the sort of thing that, fortunately, the present Prime Minister has avoided; those narcotic communiqués saying that agreement has been reached, when, in fact, no agreement of any kind has been reached. They did not even agree about the Tripartite Declaration which was, in itself, almost the direct cause of the subsequent Suez crisis.
I want to say only one word about the immediate situation. I think that the intervention of the United States in the Lebanon at this moment was inevitable and necessary. I think that it is frightfully important, however, that they keep within the Charter of the United Nations—as they have done, and have taken care to do—and to report continuously to the United Nations Organisation. I do not want to say any more, because the situation there is very critical—so let it go at that.
On the general question of further intervention in the Middle East, I should like to quote to the House, if I may, a rather pregnant passage from a letter which Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor—with whom I do not always agree—wrote some time ago about the principles upon which we should base intervention. It is so good that I think that it might as well go on the record. Sir John Slessor wrote:If we have in future to use force to protect our vital interests, certain conditions must be observed. Our reasons must be unmistakably valid and clear; the object of the specific military action undertaken must be commensurate with its wider political and strategic implications; the timing must be right; our methods must be swift and effective; and we must be sure in advance that the United States and the Commonwealth will not actively oppose us.To that I would add that we must be sure that the United States and the Commonwealth will actively support us. Sir John Slessor wrote that letter in relation to the Suez crisis; but I think that it contains very good principles which we should apply in all these matters.
1274 I agree with those who have so far spoken in this debate that we should think long, and very seriously, before we attempt to intervene militarily either in Jordan or in Iraq. On the other hand, I think that it is essential that we should take steps—I imagine that we have already done so, but we should proclaim that we have done so—to protect the Protectorates, for which we are directly responsible, with adequate force now.
For example there is Kuwait, upon which, after all, we depend very largely for our industrial existence. The amount of oil that we get from Kuwait is absolutely fantastic; and Kuwait can easily he defended. The nearest town in Iraq is about 300 miles away. A brigade could protect it absolutely. We should, therefore, proclaim now—now—that we intend to protect Kuwait, and no more nonsense about it—and Aden, too. We should take that step at once, and make it perfectly clear that we will look after all the Protectorates in the Persian Gulf.
Having dealt with the situation today, I want to conclude by one reference—which brings me back to when I started—to the day after tomorrow. The House has to face the fact that the State of Israel exists. So long as the Arabs think that they can throw the Israelis into the sea—and a lot of them think that one day they will—I believe that it will be a constant, continuous sore; and a source of trouble in the Middle East, fraught with difficulty and danger.
When I was in Israel the other day, Mr. Ben-Gurion said to me, "In the final resort, we have either to fight or to swim—and we are not going to swim." They are not going to swim; and I say that, if we want ultimately to restore genuine stability of any kind in the Middle East, the United States and ourselves will have to give an unequivocal guarantee for the security of Israel. That is frightfully important. Until we do that, the Arabs will cherish these hopes of destroying her.
I am not now arguing the Zionist case, although I have been a Zionist all my life. I do not argue about what has happened in the past; but Israel is there—it exists. The Israelis are tough, resilient, doing a magnificent job—building a nation. They feel that life has a purpose. One has only to go there to be deeply impressed by what they have 1275 done. They will not go down without fighting. They will not be "done in"; but as long as the Arabs think they can "do them in" it will be a constant source of unrest.
This is my last word—
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I do not suppose that my hon. Friend and I will ever agree on Zionism, but would not he agree that, at the present moment, it would be highly beneficial to everybody concerned and, in particular to world peace, if Israel would not do anything independently without prior consultation with all those most likely to be helpful to her?
§ Sir R. Boothby
I think that that is very true; and I do not believe that there is the slightest indication that Israel intends to take any action without prior consultation. Certainly, in this great crisis that has been going on in the Middle East for some time—for, after all, the Lebanon is not far from Israel; the Lebanon border was only fifteen miles from me the other day when I was at Haifa, and they had had all this trouble for five or six weeks, and now this fresh trouble—the Israelis have done nothing except maintain a stoical courage, amounting almost to indifference to what is going on. They are strong, and they will fight if they must; but we will never get peace in the Middle East until we and the United States come out absolutely unequivocally and say, "An attack on Israel is an attack on us."
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Like the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby), I would like to count myself as a friend of the State of Israel, and a friend, if I may say so, when it was not always as popular as it is today. But I think that those of us who are friends of Israel need, from time to time, to give a word of advice to the Israeli people. It applies to men as to nations, that if they want to survive they have to come to terms with life as they find it, and I believe that the Israelis during the last year or two have not always been wise, either in what their statesmen have said or in their actions.
I quite agree that the State of Israel ought to be guaranteed by international action but, underneath, there is an even 1276 more fundamental problem that has its impact in the Lebanon area. What is to happen to the thousands, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are left rotting in camps all over the Middle East without hope for the present and without hope for the future?
Let us turn to the Lebanon. I have heard hon. Friends of mine say, "Of course, the Lebanon is a very prosperous country". It is—in some parts. On the road out from the centre of Lebanon to the airport there are plush hotels, beautiful gardens and every sign of ostentatious wealth. But go the other way towards the Lebanon, go to the Bidonville, go to the refugee camps of the 100,000 Arabs who live in and around Beirut and who have been kept there as an act of deliberate policy by the Lebanese Government in order to provide a source of cheap labour. They have not been given Lebanese nationality for that would upset the balance between Muslim and Christian.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are now only some 10,000 in the camps outside Beirut and that the Lebanese Government are doing their utmost to reduce that number every day?
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there are only 10,000 of these Arab refugees, I am delighted to hear it. I should have thought that the number was nearer 100,000. I was there myself a couple of years ago and I saw more than 10,000 refugees.
It is a fact that those people are denied permission to work so as to provide the source of labour for the black market. Whether the number be 10,000 or 100,000 it is nevertheless true that all over the Middle East this problem of the resettlement of the refugees goes right to the heart of the problem of the stability and the creation of conditions in which Israel can survive. I hope very much that the hon. Gentleman opposite, who has much more influence with the Israeli Government than I have, will do what he can to get that Government to treat their Arab minority fairly.
I could give the House some examples of cases of recent origin which have been brought to my notice, and which do not lead me to believe that this always happens. As I say, I should be glad if 1277 the hon. Gentleman would use his influence in the direction of better treatment for Arabs in Israel because, if he did so, not only would he be serving the interest of humanity but he would also be serving the long-term interest of Israel herself. If there is no justice and no mercy for the defeated Arab minority there will be no settlement.
We should remember that we cannot speak of the Arabs, as the noble Lord spoke of them this afternoon, in scathing, contemptuous terms, as a source of cheap labour and as beings just removed from the ape world. They are a proud people with a great civilisation behind them. They are conscious of their history and of their civilisation. Many may think that Arab favour can be bought by giving them a higher standard of life. They do not want it. They are not all that respectful of the Western way of life. They are heirs to a great culture and tradition. They do not want the chromium-plated plush hotels. What they want is the opportunity to live out their lives in the way they choose. That, after all, is a basic human right.
I greatly regret the situation in which we find ourselves both in the Lebanon and in Iraq. I spent many years in Iraq, albeit in a very humble capacity. I was introduced to the subject of Islam through the medium of a great woman, Miss Gertrude Bell. She often talked to me about the impact of Western civilisation upon the Arab peoples, and spoke in contemptuous terms of Europeans who came to Bagdad in a mood of Western superiority. She thought that in the long run, if we put our money on the Alwiyah trash, we should be backing a loser. Unfortunately, what Miss Bell and those who thought like her feared has come to pass.
What is the crisis in which we find ourselves? It is a crisis of reality, and this House of Commons cannot escape that reality. No amount of words or subterfuge can save us from the stark reality which faces the Western world in the Middle East. I was astonished to hear the Foreign Secretary say that, of course, one kind of coup which has been successfully brought off in Iraq is a permanent part of our life. If that is so, and if we are to expect, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicated, that in State after State this 1278 kind of thing could happen and that this is the sort of threat that faces us, then the outlook is black indeed.
My mind goes back again to the reality, as I see it, of our Defence debates because the last two Defence White Papers, with the support of both Front Benches, specifically ruled out by the action of the House of Commons just that kind of thing. At a cost of some £10,000 million we have hydrogen bombs, atom bombs, V-bombers and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and yet tonight the hon. Gentleman opposite says, "Let us put a brigade into Kuwait."
Where is the brigade and how do we get it there? At the moment we have 23 major units in Cyprus. Supposing we were mad enough to talk about going into Jordan and Iraq, can any hon. Gentleman tell me how we should get our troops there? We have some 1,000 Royal Air Force personnel in Habbaniyah, including some 250 or 300 women and children. How many aircraft have we there? There is not a single British aircraft available on the Habbaniyah airfield but there is a very considerable number of Iraqi aircraft.
I do not possess anything like the intelligence—I am talking about the political intelligence—of the Foreign Secretary, but I should have thought that it was fairly obvious that the Iraqi Air Force must have joined the revolt because, if it had not, the rebels would not still be using the radio station.
§ Sir R. Boothby
It is physically possible to fly to Kuwait. There is an aerodrome there, and there is nothing to stop us flying there.
§ Mr. Wigg
Does the hon. Gentleman think that we should be allowed to fly over Iraqi territory without interference?
Just before the Whitsun Recess I raised on the Adjournment the subject of the Royal Air Force Conference, Prospect II. We were then told that it was the Government's intention to introduce into Aden the Gnat fighter because the Venom had had its day. Of course, we have not got any Gnats at the present time. What the Under-Secretary of State for Air did not tell us at that time—as I interrupted to point out, and he did not contradict what I said—was that the reason why we were talking about 1279 using the Gnat was because it was too costly to extend the runway in Aden and that therefore we could not use the Hunter.
That was the kind of ramshackle policy that was revealed at Suez. I took the same line then as I take now. I did not want to oppose the object; I was concerned about the means. On that occasion I heard the cheers on both sides of the House, as I have heard them in the last few days in support of this action, and I had an uncontrollable desire to be sick because there was not a single swept-wing fighter in the Middle East. We needed transport aircraft and tank landing ships, as the dispatches of the Commander-in-Chief showed. It was the absence of these things which brought us to a standstill. The operation took too long to mount. It took six weeks.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman may be right. He says that we should leave it to the Israelis. He ought to know that that is a slightly irresponsible intervention to make. I have been diverted from what I wanted to say, but I do not mind. I will meet the hon. Gentleman on that point. Does he think that the intervention in the Lebanon by the Americans or leaving it to the Israelis would lead to stability in the Middle East?
§ Sir R. Boothby
I said that we should have left Suez to the Israelis. I did not say that we should now leave it to them. We should have left Suez to them, for in another three days they would have done all that we wanted to do.
§ Mr. Wigg
That always seems to me to be a rather profitless sort of argument. The point is that we did not leave it to the Israelis. If we did not leave it to the Israelis, there is no point in making the intervention, because it rather appears that we would leave the present situation to the Israelis. That is irresponsible.
If at present we lack the means to 1280 go into Jordan, I agree that what we ought to do—and the hon. Gentleman has himself suggested it—is to take effective steps to reinforce our position in the Middle East, and that means reinforcements in Aden and Kenya. It does not merely mean alerting the 19th Brigade in Colchester. But troops have to eat. They have to have ammunition and they need modern equipment, which they do not have at present.
We have to take into account the possibility that the Suez Canal may be closed against us. It may be that these reinforcements will have to be taken round the Cape. They have to be positioned. Where will they be positioned? What the Government cannot afford to do, as they have been doing over the last five or six years, is to wait for an emergency and then look round for the means to deal with it. Sooner or later, our bluff is bound to be called. I have always thought that one of the basic principles of our defence policy and foreign policy should be to secure the viability of the sterling area. Any policy by either Front Bench to carry that principle into effect has my wholehearted support.
I think that the Government are open to very grave criticism indeed. First, their Intelligence Service did not warn them of what was likely to happen. It seems to me incredible, in view of the amount of money that is spent on the Intelligence Service, that we knew absolutely nothing of what was going to happen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor did the King."] The King answers for himself, poor man, if he is still alive. My criticism does not lie with the Iraq Government, but with the Government Front Bench. They spend vast sums of public money on the Intelligence Service in order to build up our defences and to meet the kind of situation that has arisen. My first criticism is that they do not know what is going to happen, and, secondly, when it does happen, they have to improvise to deal with it.
This is not the end of the story. So far, the worst has not happened. I think that if we continue to live in a dream world of depending upon American action or trailing behind American action when it is taken and then pretending that that was what we would do all the time, sooner or later we shall find ourselves in a first class mess. I have said this before and I repeat it now. It seems to 1281 me that the inevitable consequence of the Government's foreign policy and defence policy is at best diplomatic defeat and at worst military defeat. That can easily happen.
This is the line that I was following when the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East skilfully interrupted. It is all very well for the Sixth Fleet to steam up to within two miles of the Khaldi Beach in Beirut and put 5,000 troops ashore to be greeted by icecream carts and a bonanza kind of atmosphere. The lines of communication are just two miles. If at any time the going gets a bit hot, all that the landing craft have to do is to go back to the ships again and weigh anchor, and before sunset they will be out of sight.
We may go into Lebanon or Jordan, but how do we get out? Have we ever had any undertaking that the American Government would be as facile in their undertakings to us as we have been to them? If as a result of American intervention in Lebanon we get caught up in difficulties in Bahrein, Kuwait and Aden, is there any guarantee that the American Government will stand by us, either by giving us dollar oil for sterling or by direct military support? In the negotiations which have been carried on both before the Lebanon intervention and since, have the Government asked the American Government for any assurances that, as a result of, to be polite, a joint action, Britain would be supported if difficulties should arise? If the Government have given support or have not objected to the American action, the minimum requirement that the British Government should demand is that the Americans should underwrite us with their full economic and military strength. We cannot afford to be left out on the limb.
This is partly the trouble. We are members of N.A.T.O. and the Bagdad Pact, and, as a consequence, we can lock for American support. There are, however, vast areas of the world where the American record vis-à-vis ourselves has not been too good. I remember the visits of Mr. George McGhee to the Middle East in 1951. He left a trail of ruins from Britain's point of view. I have always believed that what happened in Persia was a result of the direct action of Mr. George McGhee and the State 1282 Department. I am not so suspicious as to think that General Eisenhower necessarily is a party to the present situation. But remembering the difficulties that Britain found herself in which followed Mr. McGhee's visits in 1951—
§ Mr. Shinwell
We must be accurate in this matter, because it has a bearing on what occurred at Abadan. Mr. McGhee indulged in his manœuvres and peregrinations before the Abadan affair.
§ Mr. Wigg
Yes, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham South was Foreign Secretary. In any case, that does not detract from my argument.
I am concerned to get an assurance from the Government that they have taken this fact into account, and, if they can, I should like them to give the House an assurance that they are not unmindful of the need for American backing should we find ourselves in difficulties similar to those which occurred after Suez.
I agree with the view expressed by other hon. Members that sooner or later we must come to terms with Arab nationalism. That is essential, and I agree, as I have already said, that that means coming to an understanding about Israel. It also means coming to an understanding about North Africa, because we have to consider the Arab problem as a whole, and we shall make a mistake if we look at it only in terms of nationalism.
For the whole of this century, Islam has found itself in a ferment. It is partly influenced by what is called progress and what Islam would call Western materialism, but it is a crisis of a way of life. We have to help to enable them to come to terms with us and us with them. The basis of it should not necessarily be a policy of repression or a policy of more economic aid. Those things, in their way, play their part, but if we want to come to terms with the Arabs, first we have to learn to respect them. They 1283 are men who are conscious of their manhood and conscious of their past. They cannot be bought and they cannot be bullied.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Head (Carshalton)
I know how popular the intervention of a Privy Councillor is among back benchers, and I must crave their indulgence, even though I have spoken only once in the last eighteen months. I also claim their indulgence on the ground that this is the first opportunity I have had of following the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said, the central theme of the debate is the dispatch of marines by the United States to the Lebanon, and the agreement of Her Majesty's Government to that course of action.
I listened with great care, attention and interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He stated very lucidly his various objections to the course which was being adopted and which Her Majesty's Government are supporting. However, neither he nor any other hon. Members opposite has yet paid the same amount of attention to the alternative course, and to what might happen if such a course were adopted.
1284 I cannot escape the conclusion that if hon. Members opposite do not like the course which has been adopted, there is no alternative but to refer the matter to the United Nations and to leave it at that. The almost inescapable consequences of that course have not so far received sufficient attention. We have every right to think that in such circumstances there would be a debate in the United Nations, followed by some form of resolution. It is only fair to expect that observers, and possibly a United Nations force, would be sent, perhaps to the Lebanon, perhaps elsewhere.
Frankly, it is completely unrealistic, with the knowledge at our disposal, to think that those forces could either ensure that there was no continued infiltration across the Lebanese-Syrian border, or that they could effectively carry out duties which would ensure that exterior infiltration did not continue, not only in the Lebanon, but, following the situation in Iraq, in countries like Jordan as well.
Were such a course adopted, it would be followed by considerable jubilation in both Cairo and Moscow, while there would be very great despair in Jordan and the Lebanon. Not only that, but the ripples would reach far away into Asia and South-East Asia and those who have allied their policies and sympathies with the West would despair of any help from the West, knowing that the West had turned down an appeal for help from the Lebanon. Those countries would come to the conclusion that the tide was too strong for them and gradually, one by one, our friends in the Middle East and in South-East Asia and Asia would slowly but surely be drawn into the Communist orbit.
I know that many hon. Members are reluctant to use force in any circumstances, and that there are others who hesitate to do so, fearing the risk of war. However, the history of the last twelve years and of the years before the last war show that reluctance to use force brings about a series of increasingly grave situations, until the use of force is ultimately inescapable, in an atmosphere of far greater danger and tension than before, when the likelihood and risk of war much increased.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich, North)
Would the right hon. Gentleman apply 1285 that argument both ways? Is the use of force in such circumstances justified only when it is used by the West?
§ Mr. Head
Not at all. However, there has never been a single case where that kind of propaganda, infiltration and subversion in countries aspiring to nationhood has been backed by the West. This has been a one-way traffic in subversion which, because of the inaction by the West, leads young countries into the Communist orbit.
The hon. Member for Dudley seemed to be veering towards a defence debate and I do not intend to do that, but, apart from him, hon. Members have tended to focus the attention of the House almost exclusively on the events of the last few days and the recent happenings in Iraq. In a discussion of this kind, it is not unprofitable to view the situation in Iraq as one incident in the chain of events since 1946.
The stark fact confronts us that in one way or another—and I am not saying that Iraq is a single straightforward case—young countries aspiring to independence and nationhood have disappeared one by one within the Communist fold. That process has been happening over a period of twelve years, during which time the expansion of Communist influence has developed to a degree which is unique in the history of the world in so short a time.
In considering the Iraq situation, we cannot escape some consideration of why that should have been so and how far and how widely it is likely to continue, since another ten or twelve years at the present rate will bring about the virtual eclipse of the West. If hon. Members think that that is far-fetched, I remind them of what Stalin said when he remarked that the road to victory for Communism over the West lay in a revolutionary alliance with the liberation movements of dependent territories.
That was said by Stalin, propounded by Lenin and approved by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). It is as true now as when it was first propounded.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has not approved it. He has merely agreed that it was said, but it is highly irrelevant.
§ Mr. Head
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I was not trying to ally him with Moscow.
It is an extremely clear statement of policy, as clear as anything which Hitler said in "Mein Kampf." The last twelve years have been notable more for the success of the policy than for any increased likelihood of atomic war. The problem which confronts us for the next twelve years lies largely in whether the trend of the last twelve is to be continued.
Why has this astonishing success continued so widely and so rapidly? It is true that Soviet Russia has planned and worked for it and has no problems of alliances. It is monolithic and does not have to consider public opinion. It is true that the Russians have provided colleges to which people from Indonesia, the Middle East, Sudan and Africa are sent for five years to learn subversion, agitation and propaganda. It is true that wherever one may go one can find large trade missions from Moscow, large embassies, large legations and large numbers of Russians, and Moscow wooing, subverting, propaganding and offering.
When we look at the other side, what do we see?—the West, as I see it, concentrating on N.A.T.O., uniting in N.A.T.O., big conferences at N.A.T.O., the statesmen and leaders of the West talking about the defence of Europe, atomic weapons, summit talks, and so forth—a kind of hypnotic concentration on the front door of defence, which is Europe, while the back door and the scullery window are disregarded.
In providing the non-military weapons for the cold war, where is the unity of N.A.T.O.? In the policy of the cold war where is the unity of N.A.T.O.? The disarray of policy in the Middle East and in South-East Asia has been a feature of the last twelve years. I think that the historian of fifty years ahead, looking back on these twelve years, will think almost inexplicable the failure of the West to realise that some collective policy for defence—not only defence by military means, but all the other forms—has never been evolved outside Europe.
That, I think, is perhaps a not unfair summary of the past. But what of the future of Iraq, the Middle East and 1287 South-East Asia? I personally do not despair, provided that the West can, even at this late stage, make a new start. So far as I know, the situation today—whatever its demerits in the eyes of many hon. Members opposite—is almost the first occasion on which, in policy outside Europe, the United States and ourselves are acting in complete unison. That in itself is something which is very important.
However, it is not enough just to unite in this one matter. Our hope for the future lies in two things: first, unity of policy for the West and particularly between this country and the United States; and, secondly, that policy must be imaginative and up to date. To say one word about unity of policy with the United States, I think that the strength that that gives is of immense importance in these areas where we have young countries aspiring to nationhood and who require economic growth and sufficient strength to look after themselves. Up to now I do not believe that this country alone has ever been strong enough to constitute an alternative sponsor nation to that development in comparison with Soviet Russia. I think that with the United States we do constitute a force which is an alternative godfather, if I may use that word, to a backward nation growing up.
After all, these countries have to be given economic and military aid. They have turned to Russia because the United States has never been with us in policy, and we have been economically and militarily at full stretch and in a relatively weaker position than we were before the war. But together we constitute an alternative.
As to the policy of the future, I am certain that we have got to accept the aspirations of young nations and, as the Foreign Secretary said, we have, indeed, gone a long way in doing so. But the tragedy today is that none of them knows that we have. Anyone who has read the transcripts of "The Voice of Cairo" would think that we are brutal imperialists who are trying to destroy all aspiring nations. What have they heard of our liberalism in this respect? Practically nothing, because our propaganda services overseas, throughout the Middle East and South-East Asia, are lamentable. 1288 We have got to adopt such an imaginative policy and we have got to let these countries know it.
That is not the only thing. There is no merit in acting in concert with America in private and telling nobody of it in public. They must know that both of us are united and recognise the young nations and that we are prepared to act to help them, that it is our policy that they should not automatically fall into the Communist orbit. It is that knowledge which I believe would produce a considerable change.
We have many friends in the Middle East and in South-East Asia, but they are worried about our strength and our determination. They have been sitting on the fence and their left legs have been going more and more down one side. But many of these people have no love of Communism. The Muslim does not like Communism, nor does the Mohammedan. With the knowledge that there was a true alternative, I believe that a gradual and marked change might come about.
There is one further qualification concerning our future policy in these areas. We must not only have unity of policy and an imaginative policy. We must have strength. When I say "strength" I mean the right sort of strength. If we were called to the aid of a nation, perfectly legitimately, it would surely be folly to consider employing any form of atomic weapon. I take it further. I believe that it would be madness. Yet what is the trend at the moment? In the United States we find to an increasing degree the integration of very small atomic weapons into conventional forces. I view such a trend with some alarm.
Here in this country we are busily reducing an Army of 400,000 to one of 150,000. I will only say this: I am quite certain that both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary today are glad that their present defence policy as far as the Army is concerned has not been completed. What, I ask, could we have done today with an army of 150,000? Any fears by any hon. Members opposite about the intervention of British troops would have been entirely lulled.
I say this with sincerity. Do not let us be too stiff-necked about this position. If we are to have a policy with the United States, it may well in the future necessitate some form of intervention at 1289 the request of a nation which has been subverted or infiltrated. Our inability to meet such a call might well be disastrous. I am aware that the Government have adopted a policy. I am equally aware that events may well prove it necessary to change it. All I would say is: do not let the Government be too stiff-necked about going through with this policy. The House and the country will always forgive a man who changes his mind, but to be stiff-necked and obstinate in the face of events and circumstances is something which both the people of this country and history will find it hard to condone.
I see that some hon. Members opposite are getting up hopefully, and they are not far wrong. Perhaps they will be patient for a moment; I have one last thing to say. There are, I am sure, many hon. Members opposite who did not agree with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. There are many hon. Members whose opinions I respect and who will say, "Peace almost at any price, and certainly no intervention." Let us remember today Austria and Czechoslovakia before the last war. Let me say, although I know it is controversial, that it is my belief that, given four more days at the end of Suez, this would never have happened.
Time and again in the last twelve years we have had proof of how it is possible flagrantly to break international law and, through the twin umbrella of the fear of war and the ineffectiveness of the United Nations, the lawbreakers have got away with it. Let us remember that repeatedly there are reasons, excuses and very good arguments for not acting. Good intentions have so often led to danger. In fact, one might almost say that we are beginning to learn that the road to war can be paved with good intentions.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
The right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) will have considerably raised the popularity rating of Privy Councillors by what he said, the way he said it and the time he took.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the need for a new policy. I wholeheartedly agree with him, but I wonder whether he is prepared to go far enough when it comes to a new policy. The 1290 right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about Iraq and he talked of rising young nations to whom we and America should stand in the place of godparents. He may be satisfied with what we have done in Iraq, but surely it has led us nowhere. This is one of the tragedies of the present situation. It has not been a matter of lack of money in Iraq, for it has had plenty, nor has it been lack of assistance for it has been given technical assistance by this country. It is a matter of the total failure on our part to understand the forces at work and to appreciate what is going on inside the Arab mind.
Our criticisms of the Government are very like the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman. The Government have had no policy for the Middle East. What we want to ask the Government this afternoon is whether the intervention in the Lebanon is the beginning of a new policy, or simply another stop-gap move of which the implications have not been thought out and which has no future before it. It could easily be the latter.
Time and time again in the Middle East we have been overtaken by crises. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) gave us a resumé of what has happened at Abadan, in Jordan and on the Canal. The noble Lord's remedy is not to give up the disastrous policy that we have been following, but to do it all the harder, to pour in more troops and to attempt to hold the oil wells by force. Most hon. Members will agree that we could not do that even if we wanted to do it. That policy is out. But hon. Members will agree that we must have some policy.
The right hon. Member for Carshalton mentioned Czechoslovakia. I honestly believe that one of the ghosts which has been bedevilling our thinking since the war is the ghost of Munich. There is a lot of bad Tory conscience about Munich, and I do not wonder at it, but bad conscience is a bad counsellor in an entirely changed world.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned Suez. I believe that this is a different situation from Suez, but I think that the Government have been hamstrung by Suez. They have to keep on pretending in public that Suez was a success, while every event in the Middle East has shown that they must unscramble 1291 the whole of the thinking that led to Suez and start from somewhere else.
There must be changes in the Middle East, and the main interest of this country is to ensure that the changes come about peaceably. I believe that Russia and Communism are the main menace and not Arab nationalism. I will go so far as to say that one thing about which we must be absolutely certain is that we do not drive the Arab nationalists into the arms of the Communists. I believe that, in the long run, we have a great deal to gain by a confederation of Arab States. It is folly for us to allow ourselves to be put in the position of seeming to oppose the movement for Arab unity. By doing so, we are not stopping it, but we are giving everyody who is anti-British wonderful propaganda material.
Our other interest is to trade and to get oil by trading. If we are prepared to couple the intervention in the Lebanon with a declaration of policy in the Middle East, I think it possible that good might come of it, but any such declaration of policy will have to be drastic. We shall have to make it clear that we are not in the Lebanon or anywhere else simply to oppose the growing movement for Arab unity, or to bolster up unpopular régimes.
I would ask what the next step is considered to be. Are we to have free elections in the Lebanon—
§ Mr. Grimond
—and in other places in the Middle East? I hope that we shall make it clear that we accept the new oil agreement with Iraq. I hope that we shall make it clear that we will do our best to set up a development board for the Middle East. Above all, I hope that we shall formulate a policy for the sheikdoms for which we are responsible.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) talked about protecting the Protectorates. I agree with him about defending them, but "protecting" is a slightly doubtful phrase. The truth of the matter is that the Protectorates—if by that he means the Gulf sheikdoms—cannot go on in their present form. Although we owe a very clear duty to their rulers and others 1292 in them who have been supporting us, we also owe a duty to them to make it clear that the internal situation in those sheikdoms has changed and that they must make way faster than they have done to popular feeling within them, and that some form of federation is the solution for them as well as the other Arab States.
Finally, I believe that this country has to face the fact that it is simply in our national interest to come to some sort of arrangement with Colonel Nasser. I do not like him; I dare say no one likes him. I do not say this because I sympathise with his point of view, but I honestly believe that if we can talk to Khrushchev, if we are keen to have a summit meeting with Khrushchev, we cannot draw the line at Colonel Nasser, and to do so when it hurts one's own interest is not only illogical but crazy. There are certain interests that we hold in common with Colonel Nasser. He is interested in the dues from the Suez Canal, and we are interested in getting ships through the Canal. We cannot simply treat our Middle Eastern policy as a personal vendetta against Egypt and its present Government. I see no reason to suppose that if we got rid of Colonel Nasser we should get anyone better.
We must also be clear that we do not disrupt the Commonwealth with this move in the Middle East. We must carry it with us. I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us more about the feelings in the Commonwealth. I do not know whether the move is legally justified or not. I suspect not. I suspect that it must be regarded as an exercise in realpolitik. It would be most unwise to send troops to Iraq or Jordan unless to defend their frontiers against clear aggression or to protect our own nationals.
I believe that this country has the greatest interest in building up the prestige and powers of the United Nations. This is clearly a situation which calls for an international force. We should be very much better off if there were an effective international force in being. But I would also say that an international force is not enough. We must find, in the modern world, some way of bringing about peaceful change. An international force without any means of peaceful change could be a very tyrannous instrument. It is here that United Nations is 1293 lacking. It is in grave danger of becoming an instrument simply for perpetuating the status quo, and it should be an instrument of change.
I must say one word about Israel. What is the present position about the Tripartite Declaration? I understand from answers to recent Questions that the Government regard it as still being in force. Therefore, it seems to me that if there were a revolution in Jordan and a new Jordan Government, perhaps antipathetic to British interests, called upon us to defend it against an incursion by the Israelis—that might be justified in the view of many people—we should be in a very awkward position. Is the Tripartite Declaration still the main foundation of the Government policy about Israel? If we are to guarantee the frontiers of Israel, we should give a more positive declaration than that, and it should be a declaration candidly and overtly in favour of the Israelis.
If we could have some sensible aims in the Middle East, the next thing—here I follow the right hon. Gentleman—is to find some more sensible means of carrying them out. The British occasionally talk about themselves today as "the Greeks in the modern world", the old, subtle, knowledgeable people, and compare themselves with the "brash Americans". Our conduct in the Middle East does not bear out this flattering description of ourselves. We are always put in the position that we have to send in generals with red hats and bayonets on what appears to be the reactionary side. I do not say that that is altogether fair, but that is how our efforts appear to the world. That is how this Lebanon expedition will look.
Colonel Nasser does not do this. He loses battle after battle, and his bayonets are no use whatever, but he extends his influence throughout the Middle East as fast as he loses his battles. His influence has steadily grown. How has it grown? I think that it has grown because he speaks to the people themselves. He speaks to them in a language they understand. But do we? Are we broadcasting to the Arabs in the sort of language they are used to, which, I understand, is rather rough? Are we educating them? Are we educating people from Kuwait and Bahrein, and so forth, and getting them out of the way 1294 of Egyptian universities? Are we buying a few newspapers? I believe that they are quite cheap.
Colonel Nasser speaks in terms which appeal to people's emotions. He talks about what they want. He does not carry on propaganda about the splendours of Egypt, but about the horrors of Britain and what he can offer to the Arabs themselves. Are we engaged in attacking Russian Communism and being, candidly, crude enough in the Middle East? Or are we still tied up with the idea that all foreign relations must go through the embassy and be conducted according to protocol? I strongly suspect that embassies in the Middle East are very nearly out of date.
Lastly, have we an adequate Intelligence Service? I am bound to admit that if Nuri-es-Said did not know what was happening, it appears excusable that we should not know, but if the Communists are plotting in the Middle East we should find out as much as possible about it. Are we using the Commonwealth? I asked, in a Question the other day, whether we employ people from the Commonwealth in embassies and consulates, and so forth, and I found that we employ very few, and nearly all of them on clerical, secretariat, driving and other similar duties. The Pakistanis have a great interest in the Middle East and there are other parts of the Commonwealth which have an interest there. They are free from all sorts of inhibitions, perhaps very unfair inhibitions, which people feel about the British. Would it not be a good thing to bring them and use them for some of the more senior jobs in our embassies and outside them?
I return to the question whether we are now to make a beginning in the Middle East or whether this is an abortive landing in Lebanon from which we might find it extremely difficult to withdraw. It is easy enough to go into the country—
§ Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
Has the hon. Member information that we have landed there?
§ Mr. Grimond
I am talking about the Western world. I apologise for causing that justifiable interruption. I was thinking of the Americans.
We gave our support. Have we a clear idea of what the next step will be? Have 1295 we formulated a policy? If not, it is a dangerous gamble which may or may not come off. If the Americans simply get stuck in the Lebanon with the whole of the Arab world fanned against us, and no clear idea of what we have to offer them ourselves, that will be disastrous to our own interests, quite apart from the damage that it might do to the Commonwealth. We may well regret the day that the Americans took this step.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Cyril Banks (Pudsey)
I am grateful for the opportunity of making a contribution to this debate, for two principal reasons. The first is my attitude towards the Suez action and my resignation from the Conservative Party at that time. The second is my view of what has been said from these benches this afternoon. Having left Beirut Airport only yesterday morning, I should also like to say something about the feelings of people in that part of the world, with which I am very familiar.
I think it true to say, after having talked with friends of this country in Lebanon during the past four days, that their assessment of the position in Lebanon today is that in Beirut itself 35 per cent. of the population are behind this rebel cause, whatever be its basis, and whoever is sponsoring it, and in the countryside 66⅔ per cent. of the people are behind those who want to change the Government. That is the predominant part of the population of the whole of the Lebanon, because there are only 500,000 people in Beirut itself. This should make one think rather carefully over who is responsible for what is happening in the Lebanon at present.
It is extremely sad, and would appear so to everyone in this House, to see a town, as I have seen it during the past few days, with a policeman sitting on a chair with a tommy gun in his hands at the end of every street. One feels frightened not because he has a gun, but because he does not know how to use it, and there are plenty such people in every street. Where the arms came from, I do not know. I wish to be honest; I believe that a lot of T.N.T. has come from Syria recently and I believe many small arms have come from the same source. This has been going on for a long time, two years to my knowledge, and no one 1296 has done anything about it. I have been in cars which have been stopped by the police and then they have said, "It is all right. Go on." This state of affairs has continued for a considerable time and it has been responsible for the present strength of the movement.
I do not personally think it fair to lay the cause of the growth of this movement completely at the door of Colonel Nasser. I think it fair to say that he is interested in getting rid of many people in power in the surrounding Arab States and that he looks on many of these revolutionary movements in a very kindly way and is quite prepared to see them take place.
§ Colonel Banks
I do not mind an interruption and do not mind a little sarcasm. I have had a lot of it in the last eighteen months, and I can take it and not change my views. So far as I am concerned. I do not think that Colonel Nasser is wholly responsible.
A lot has been said about nationalism. I believe that there is now a different feeling among people in the Middle East. They want to look after their own destiny, and to control their own house. They are entitled to do it. I think that we did their cause and our cause—ours particularly—a great deal of damage at the time of Suez. Many people have said to me today, "What is your attitude now, because you said that you would resign if a bomb was dropped on Port Said?". which I did.
In view of the position and the way in which it has developed and the neglect which has been shown, I believe that there is now no alternative for the West but to do something about it. It is not the fault of people like myself, but the fact that we have had no policy in that part of the world for a considerable time. As a Lebanese put it to me the day before yesterday, "Nothing will happen because the West has watched these things happening for so long since the war. It is not interested now. It will just take note of it and have nothing to say, but will send a letter to the United Nations, which we are all fond of doing and which is quite useless." That is the attitude of Lebanese people towards this position.
I turn now to Iraq. I spoke to the Chief-of-Cabinet in Colonel Nasser's 1297 office, Ali Sabri, two years ago. He said, "If you people want to be useful to the Western cause why do you not stop the growth of Communism in Iraq?" At that time and since Egypt has been controlling Communism and has put Communists in gaol every time they have reared their heads, but for two or three years there has been a wonderful growth of Communism in Bagdad and no one has done anything about it. The Egyptians told me about it and I wrote to the Foreign Office, which ridiculed it. I think it is time that we had a little more common sense, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said. It is time we woke up and did something about it.
I agree that we have to send in troops; I do not think we can avoid it. But I do not think that that would have been necessary had not the newspapers and everybody else in this country tried to cut Colonel Nasser down to size over such a long period. That is what they have tried to do, and they have placed this country in such a foul position that we are now hated by many people in the Middle East. This need never have happened. As I suggested eighteen months ago, we could have brought Colonel Nasser to London and talked to him. It would not have hurt anybody, even if we had got nowhere with him, but I believe that we could have made a very good friend of this country.
Colonel Nasser wants only to improve the standard of living of the ordinary people, among whom he was brought up. I was brought up in somewhat similar surroundings, by comparison, and I have every sympathy with his point of view. He said to me, "I am not a Communist and I never will be. I know what will happen to me if the Communists take hold of my country. My head will roll in the sand within twelve months." Those are his words, not at a Press Conference but used by him to me. I believe in him. I have not changed my views. Nevertheless, I think that it is now necessary to intervene, but not with 5,000 troops, because we cannot control the border between Syria and the Lebanon with 5,000 troops. If we are to do it, it must be done properly.
I say to this country and to the United States, "When you have done it, follow up what you have done militarily by 1298 giving the people in that part of the world a decent life to live. Give them some work to do with their hands. Make them independent of the charity which they have been receiving from our hands and from American hands for the last eleven years. Let them have an opportunity to live as good people in this free world, each husband knowing that he is earning enough to support his family."
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I think that we all admire, as I certainly admire, the personal courage and convictions of the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks). I would also say that as a defender of the intervention in the Lebanon he put forward an extremely striking argument. What he said was, "The situation is so utterly desperate that we can think of nothing else to do except to send in troops."
The hon. and gallant Member also gave the very wholesome warning that 5,000 troops are not enough and that this is only the beginning. It is the thought that 5,000 is only the beginning of a process which may stretch over a long time, and take us a long way down the slope to disaster, that worries hon. Members on this side of the House this afternoon.
I want to take up a point made by the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). He said that we must have a new and imaginative policy for detaching the liberation movements from the Kremlin, but when we asked him what that policy was, he said that if we had had four more days we could have won at Suez. I must put it to him that that is not a view which would find support among many liberation movements.
We have not done very much this afternoon to examine the effects of this landing in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. We must, first, examine those effects. Whatever we think about it, we have to admit that 95 per cent. of the population of countries outside the North Atlantic area will regard this landing as an example of a brutal Western imperialism. Hon. Members may think, and I may think, that that is unfair, but the fact will remain that the effect of this action will be to confirm the view that Britain and America learn nothing from experience and are opposed to the 1299 liberation movements. That is surely a relevant factor in assessing the wisdom or lack of wisdom in carrying out this operation.
Here I wish strongly to support a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I am sure that he is right when he says, "Do not imagine that the Americans did this as part of a well-considered plan." The Americans have been teetering on the edge of intervention in the Lebanon week after week. Their fleet has been sailing up and down in a highly provocative way. They have been saying, "Will I, won't I, will I, won't I?", and now they have fallen off the brink into intervention.
They have done it for the reason given by the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey—because they could think of nothing else to do in their reaction to what happened in Iraq. Let us be perfectly clear about this; the reason that they have gone into the Lebanon is not an invitation from the Lebanon. The reason is that the shock of Iraq made them feel that a demonstration of strength had to be made. They felt that they ought to do something somewhere, and because the troops were here and the plans were there and Admiral Brown had been saying for the last six weeks, "I am all ready for orders", the Americans said, "Let us carry out this plan and land. That is the least we can do and that is the most we can do. We shall all feel better about it when we land."
It must be quite clear to everybody, however, that if the troops merely stay in the Lebanon, the effect of this act will wear off. For this demonstration has to do with Bagdad. I therefore want to know what is to be the next step when the Arabs cease to be impressed by the picnic on the beaches, by the magnificent sight of the great ships and the landing craft and the landing of sturdy sunburnt soldiers. This is a tremendous on-day stunt, but what is the next step? Do they think up some other sudden expedient?
I remind hon. Members that wars do not always start because bad men plan them. Unfortunately, great wars have been started because weak men took sudden unpredictable expedients without calculating the consequences of those expedients and without realising that 1300 from one expedient they would be driven to the next.
This is why hon. Members are asking themselves about Jordan. Is that to be the next expedient? It may not be today or tomorrow; we may have a Summer Recess first, as we had two years ago, and it may be that after six or seven weeks there will be another little crisis somewhere, and the need of another demonstration, and this time our men will be popped in, with no very good reason for doing so except the feeling that we must do something strong and, in the words of the right hon. Member for Carshalton, "something imaginative." I cannot help wondering whether we could not think of rather more imaginative things than landing troops and dumping them into countries without calculation of the consequences.
I do not believe that it is fair to say that we have had no policy in the Middle East in the last few years. There has been a policy. It has been the policy of building an alliance of the kings against the colonels. The Eisenhower Doctrine means building an alliance of States which will be pro-Western and strong and wealthy and which will overthrow Colonel Nasser. That has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the American Government ever since the Americans took over. We have been running that American policy with them and this landing in the Lebanon, and a possible British landing in Amman, are part of that policy.
That landing has been necessary because the policy has worked so badly and the kings have proved so decadent, so weak and so corrupt that it has become clear that even if we gave them millions of pounds worth of British and American arms—and they have all been getting such arms—they could not use them, because the kind of people who would be prepared to fight are on the other side. Those who are prepared to fight are the young colonels, such as Colonel Nasser.
I, also, got to know Colonel Nasser before he was a famous man and, like many others, I was extremely impressed by him and by the quality and the guts he has. It was not the kings and the generals, but the captains and the majors and the other young officers who felt deeply humiliated and who felt that their 1301 countries must be cleaned up that created the liberation movements. We back the kings—Hussein, Feisal and Saud—and when we back that type of utterly corrupt and feudal king, every decent young Arab is driven into Nasser's arms. I hope that we, too, should all be there if we were in a similar position; we should all say, "Of course I am on the side of having my country cleaned up."
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that King Hussein is aptly described as "decadent, weak and corrupt"?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am glad to have the opportunity of clearing up the position in Jordan. Jordan was the only country in the Middle East which had nearly reached the position of being a democracy. They elected a democratic Government. The only trouble was that the vast majority of the inhabitants of Jordan had two passions—hatred of Britain and hatred of the Jews.
These are the dominating passions of Jordan. The result was that the democratically-elected Government was one whose only desire was to break with this country. But it was suppressed. The King has destroyed every element of freedom in that country and has imposed a royal dictatorship as ruthless and as blind to the real forces as that which was overthrown last week in Iraq. We have been relying on men who have imposed ruthless régimes on our side which have been seeking to frustrate these young forces.
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not like to talk about the future of Jordan, but I am willing to take a small bet with the hon. Member that the forces of freedom in Jordan will win before very long; and if we are on the wrong side, they will win as pro-Nasser, anti-Western. It was only last week that a coup was suppressed in Jordan which was timed, probably, to come off before the Iraq coup.
I am only putting the central point to the Government that nothing has been advanced this evening to suggest how we can prevent this division in the Middle East between those who have, who are wealthy and decadent, and who are on our side, and those who have not, who 1302 are young, vigorous and idealistic, who are on the other side.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I am interested in this point. I would like to know whether the hon. Member still believes that Colonel Nasser is not anti-Jewish. In reply to a question which I put to the hon. Member in September two years ago, when the House was recalled, the hon. Member said that he always went to see Colonel Nasser after going to Israel because he felt that Colonel Nasser was interested in what was going on in Israel. The hon. Member wanted to tell him about it and said it because he was convinced that Colonel Nasser was not anti-Jewish or anti-Israel.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is a little difficult to make a speech when one is interrupted with totally irrelevant questions, which I am, however, willing to answer. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are of major relevance."] That is not on the subject of which I was talking. I think that the answer is that as a politician Colonel Nasser, like every Arab, has to be anti-Israel. He is, I think, one of the few realistic Arabs—there are, however, an increasing number of them now—who know well that, although they have to shout at Israel, Israel has come to stay and they must face reality some time. I would like to bring them nearer to reality by removing all the other things which make them anti-Western. The way to do that is by permitting them to unite.
I was very glad when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition stressed that pan-Arabism is something for which this country has stood. Why did we build the Arab League? What did we say to the Arabs except that we wanted to give them freedom and enable them to create a big State of their own? They were all parcelled up after 1918 in an arbitrary fashion. Every Arab regards freedom first and foremost as freedom from the artificial divisions which divide their countries arbitrarily one from another. They want to build their own big State in the Middle East. It will be built by power and with dictatorial means, if it is built at all. If we resist their building it, we merely drive them into further and more ruthless dictatorial methods of achieving the unification of the Middle East, which is the aim of the Arab.
1303 Israel can only have a settled peace when she comes to terms with a unified Arab world. I do not think that it is against Israel's interests to see the Arab world united. Those Israelis who believe that the thing to do is to rely on the French, and on division and old-fashioned colonial methods, do their country no good whatever by linking with Western methods of assertion in the Middle East which would. In fact, they dig the grave of Israel, for Israel's future depends ultimately on living with the Arab.
§ Mr. Crossman
We must try. We are trying this evening to discuss whether the pouring of 5,000 American marines into the Lebanon is a good start. I suggest that the major result of this is to make it more difficult for the West to come to terms with the Arabs. Nobody has given any reason why that is not so.
The next thing I want to talk about briefly is Jordan. We must warn the Government. I was glad to notice that hon. Members even on the other side of the House are aware of the dangers in this job. The American picnic in Lebanon is one thing, but a British expedition to Jordan would be quite different. I am not now talking about the morality of it. I do not deny that we are allowed to go to places when the King invites us. Of course, it is technically and legally in order to accept his invitation. But I am talking about whether it is wise to accept.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I want to know, first, how we are to get there. It is all very well to put 2,000 troops in aeroplanes to get them there, but how do we supply them afterwards—by aeroplane permanently, or through the Gulf of Aqaba? Are the Government prepared for the time when the Canal is closed again? Are we to go round the Cape? It is fun having the Americans with their splendid fleet anchored off Beirut, but our troops would be cut off hundreds of miles away and with no line of communication.
1304 I want to know whether we are, in fact, contemplating the idea, which is now in the newspapers, that sooner or later, if Hussein asks us, we shall go in. There would, in my view, be only one justification for entering Jordan with troops. That is if British personnel were in danger and it was our duty to preserve the lives of British persons in Jordan. Then, I can visualise our putting troops in for that sole purpose. I see no other circumstances in which an invasion or intervention in Jordan would be anything but utterly disastrous to this country and to the whole Western Alliance.
One other thing to be remembered is that we are giving some very fine precedents for intervention from another side. We embark upon all these things with 5,000 American marines in Lebanon and then, say, 2,000 British in Jordan. Our line of communication to the Middle East is a very long one, but somebody else's line of communication is much shorter. Did we not learn in Korea who had the advantage of distance and whether it was wise to conduct a war halfway across the world? Have the Government thought about these things when they talk gaily of playing our part in this Anglo-American excursion?
Let us look at Iraq, which, after all, is now unified with Jordan. If we back the Arab Legion and Jordanian troops in trying to recreate a Nuri-es-Said régime and to smash the revolution, I have no doubt whatever what would happen. Somebody would back the other side and it would be the Russians. They would be able to pour in arms and volunteers, if necessary. So we should have a "Spanish" war on our hands and one in which it is extremely easy to predict the winner.
I beg the House not to underestimate the sensitivity of the Russians about this part of the world. After all, our action in this part of the world, as I have said before, corresponds to Russian action in Mexico along the Texan frontier. The American reaction to that would be very vigorous. If Russian marines were landing in Central America we would find some very vigorous reactions. It is, surely, a mistake to underestimate what one's formidable enemy would do if we provoked him right up on his frontier far away from our own base, where he has every advantage and where it is his national duty to neutralise the area if he 1305 possibly can. Have our Government and the Americans calculated all this before they entered upon this move? I do not think so for one moment. In my view, they merely thought this one up to make themselves feel that they had done something. This, it seems to me, is the major danger which we face.
We on this side of the House are always being asked what we would do. I think that there is only one thing we can do. We must admit that the presence of British and American troops in the Middle East, so far from defending our interests, is a major threat to our security. We must appreciate the feeling of the Arabs about Western imperialism. We learnt this in Jordan, where our troops were the cause of our expulsion. Jordan got to hate them. Now, two years after we were thrown out, there is talk of sending troops back again to build up a position of strength!
We must get it quite clear that no intervention of that type does anything but play into the hands of the Russians. It enables them to intervene—they can be much more efficient in these things—and they will do so if they are compelled. Our one chance in the Middle East is to offer to the Arab world the one thing that every Arab conscientiously wants: that is, to be on neither side.
If neutrality, unity and real independence are what those people want, then for heaven's sake offer it them. Say to them, "We believe that you have the right to be neutral. We believe that you have the right to have all foreigners forced out. We do not concern ourselves with whether you have a dictatorship or a democracy. That is your affair." Let us give them their freedom even to make their own mistakes. I would rather see a genuinely Arab Government which is bad than a puppet Government which is good.
What was wrong with the Iraqi Government was that it was a Government which depended basically on Britain and was quite efficient, but unfortunately no young Arab could like its efficiency because he could not be proud of it as really and genuinely Arab. It was "Anglo-Arab", and there is nothing more horrible than that.
It is no good saying, "Let us broadcast to those people and compete with Nasser." We cannot compete with 1306 Nasser in broadcasting to the Arabs because Nasser broadcasts to the Arabs as an Arab, and we cannot. We have to broadcast as British to Arabs, and that has not the same appeal, and it has lost any appeal, because the main interest of any Arab in the British is to get rid of us. The main, basic Arab desire is to send us home and sell us their oil, at the highest price they possibly can.
They are good businessmen, and they know quite well that they are not getting the highest price for their oil. They know quite well that they could get a lot more under certain forms of nationalisation. They watched the Persians, and there are still advantages to be won by the Arab States. So let us offer them, "We will buy your oil." Let us offer them, "We accept your neutrality."
There is one other thing we have to say. We have one moral responsibility in the Middle East, and that is Israel. We must make it absolutely clear that if we withdraw militarily from the Middle East we are committed to the defence of Israel against invasion. I should like that laid down from the very start of all we do.
§ Mr. Crossman
Why Israel and not the others? I will tell the hon. Member. Because we were responsible for creating the Israeli State.
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Member's history is short. We actually transferred Jews from all over the world and promised them a homeland. The Arabs will not be pleased if we say to them, "We made Iraq," because they think that they had something to do with it themselves, but every Jew knows that the Balfour Declaration was a British Declaration which created a national home. Having done that, we have a special responsibility for some of the problems we created. The Jews do not need us to fight, but they need arms.
So I say again, let us guarantee the Arabs their neutrality and we shall have some chance of getting an agreement on oil. The landing of troops in Beirut, and, 1307 even worse, a British landing in Amman, would destroy our position, not strengthen it.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
As an obituary notice of friends of this country, the allies of Britain, King Feisal and Nuri-es-Said, I think the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) to which we have just listened is in the worst possible taste I have ever heard. I do not accept his strictures, his criticisms or his condemnation of the two Kingdoms in the matter of the treatment of their people; nor do I accept that theirs were puppet Governments of ours. If indeed they were, how came it that we allowed General Glubb to be dismissed so summarily, if we controlled the whole situation?
There was a common thread which ran through the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) and the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), and that was that, however we may overcome it, we are losing the propaganda war; we are not succeeding in impressing the Arab world with our real intention and with our real interest in their future. I agree with both of them that it needs rethinking; perhaps, indeed, it needs more spending; perhaps it needs much more technical advice. However, the fact is that both are right; we are losing that all-important war.
I had intended to make a speech to the House in anticipation of what the Leader of the Opposition was likely to say. I thought he would reflect some of the anger which boiled over at Question Time yesterday. So to the benefit of the House, perhaps, but to my dismay, my speech will be very much shorter than I had intended, for to my great pleasure the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) showed a measure of thoughtfulness and, indeed, statesmanship which I did not expect and which is all too rare in the treatment of foreign policy matters.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
He did, however—and it has been repeated in other speeches—refer to the possible action of Russia if 1308 called upon by Poland or another satellite State. This is a question which is worth examining and which was, in part, answered by the Foreign Secretary at Question Time a day or two ago, because it is the fundamental question in our thinking. There is all the difference in the world when help is asked from the properly elected Government of a people, a Government who reflect the people's wishes, and help which is asked from a puppet Government at the dictation or the wish of the country which wants to come to their aid.
First of all, therefore, we must decide, because it is a fundamental part of our policy, whether the Government in existence reflect the wishes of the people. If they do, they have, at any rate in the Middle East, an entitlement to call for help if their country's frontiers are being invaded and if the Government of the country is being disrupted by intervention from abroad.
It has been said today, indeed it was said by the Leader of the Opposition, that the action which has been taken by the United States of America and which has our approval will strengthen the anti-Western feeling beyond the degree of anti-Western feeling which exists now. But nobody seems to realise or to follow to its logical conclusion what the alternative would be. We have watched one Middle Eastern State after another being cajoled, suborned, frightened, dragooned into becoming part of the satellite empire of Nasser. Were we going to allow this to continue without taking any sort of step to prevent it? Were we going to let the drift go on until it included Kuwait and Bahrein and the whole Arab world?
The hon. Member for Coventry, East said we would buy our oil from them when that situation obtains. At what price? Are they prepared to deal on a reasonable basis? And if we do not get our oil on a reasonable basis, has he considered what the effect would be on our industry and our exports? That is the crux of the matter. Nasser's proclaimed intention is to control the whole area and, indeed, is to destroy Israel. Are we then prepared to accept that as the alternative—I do not say of unpopularity—but to the risk of more unpopularity?
§ Mr. Burden
When I saw Nasser he also said, "If I control the whole of the 1309 Middle East I can bring your aeroplanes, your ships, your submarines and the whole of your industry to a rusty motionless halt." That is restated in his "Philosophy of the Revolution".
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I am indebted to my hon. Friend. That exactly reflects what must be at the bottom of such a man's thinking.
We have all had experience of dictators They all run true to form with their anti-foreign phobia, and the making of one demand after another until we ask, Is it worth saying now, 'At this point you stop'?" It is following exactly the Hitler technique in another area, and in perhaps a smaller way, and we must ask whether the time has not come when we have to say that it must stop. I think that that time should have come earlier. I think that we would have been right to say at the time of Suez, "Now this has to stop."
We should have had a different situation today if we had handled the Suez situation differently. It was not our fault that Nasser was built up, after an ignominious defeat, by those who might have seen further at that time. Nevertheless, before the Suez expedition set off we should have carried our partners in Europe with us. We carried only one, but I believe that the others, if they had been consulted, would have agreed. The attitude of the United States to the united voice of Europe would have been different and history of the Middle East would have taken a different course.
I ask the Prime Minister, therefore, to make sure that consultation with our allies in Europe in these matters takes place all the time. I believe that they are thinking as we are thinking. I should like to know whether, when he replies to the debate, he can tell us what their attitude is. All we know is that the French have indicated that they would go to the help of the Lebanon in certain circumstances, as reported in the Press. I do not know about that, but I should be very glad indeed to know.
I should like to say something about the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am not criticising him as a man. I am criticising his judgment but, most of all, I am criticising the system which allows one individual to take decisions of such immense importance to the peace of the world, on 1310 what appears to be his own initiative. I refer, for example, to the sending of observers to the Lebanon, the failure to go to Hungary, the withdrawal of the observers from the Lebanon after the report that all was, if not tolerably well, at any rate not perilously dangerous in the Lebanon, a report which subsequently has been shown to be quite inaccurate.
I believe that this system under which the Secretary-General reports and the manner in which the United Nations hear from him needs reviewing and speeding up so that the United Nations can come to a quick decision. Speed in this case is of the essence of the matter. The idea that a report could be made to the United Nations at the speed at which things were moving and that we could wait for a debate in the General Assembly is quite impossible. I should prefer to see the United Nations holding the ring, but could the United Nations forces have been got there in time? Now they may be able to take the place of American troops. If they can, I believe that would be a good move.
I am certain that public opinion is behind what the Government have done—a public opinion which believes that there has been too much vacillation. I believe that public opinion thanks heaven now to see some decision and courage.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
I rise to intervene briefly in the debate to voice anxieties which I feel deeply myself and which I think are shared by all my hon. Friends and by many people outside the House. In one or two speeches from hon. Members opposite we have heard the familiar explanation that the sequence of events in the Middle East in the last two days is largely the result of Communist subversion directed from Moscow, and that what is taking place today in the Lebanon is the most effective method of meeting that Communist threat. I profoundly disagree with that analysis. I think that it does a grave disservice to our own interests in the Middle East to attribute what has been happening there in the last ten years since the Palestine war to the efforts of the Kremlin.
I am deeply distressed by the American action in Beirut, partly because I think that, from a purely tactical point of 1311 view, an attempt to renew military intervention and occupation from the West in the Middle East is not an effective way of propping up and prolonging the lives of unrepresentative, unpopular bankrupt, régimes. I have no doubt that the great mass of public opinion, if one can use such a term in the backward areas of which we speak, at any rate the great bulk of popular sentiment, is disgusted with the régimes in power.
I believe that they associate the monarchies in Iraq and Jordan with foreign control, from which they wish to be liberated. In spite of the material progress that has been made in recent years in Iraq—and many of us on this side of the House have been impressed by the way in which the oil revenues in that country have been spent—I believe that the great mass of people there, in Jordan and the Lebanon would make short work of those Governments if real democratic processes could function in those countries and were allowed to operate. Therefore, purely from the practical point of view, I cannot do anything but deplore the events of the last twenty-four hours.
However many troops we and the Americans pour into the country, I do not believe that, without finding ourselves in the position of straightforward military occupation such as is the case in Cyprus, we should be able to keep those régimes in being. It is tragic that, instead of trying to repeat the failure of Suez, we cannot turn our minds to the possibility of a settlement and of reaching a period of co-operation with the forces of Arab nationalisation and Arab unity, of which people here years ago were pioneers, and with whom alone we and the Western Powers will be able to co-operate on a basis of reality in future.
I am not suggesting that we should surrender to Colonel Nasser and the new movements arising in Iraq and elsewhere, but unless we accept the fact that the movement for Arab unity is desirable, both in the interests of the people of those countries and the world as a whole, and of an eventual settlement between the Arabs and the Jews in Israel in the future, we shall drift from disaster to disaster.
1312 Secondly, I am deeply apprehensive at what has been happening, because it seems to me that it sets a disastrous precedent in our attitude to Russian subversion and power-politics in other parts of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) referred to that in his brilliant speech a few moments ago. It seems to me that we are in grave danger, if what has started in the Lebanon is followed by similar action in Jordan and perhaps Iraq, of seeing a tragic repetition of what happened two years ago. Then, it seems, according to growing evidence now, that had it not been for the Suez campaign the Hungarian people and others in Eastern Europe might today be free. It would be a tragedy if a conflagration resulted from Western intervention in the Middle East and enabled the Russian Government to take the opportunity of strangling the birth of a limited freedom in Poland and, perhaps, then moving in on Yugoslavia.
I felt profoundly depressed when I learnt the news of the American landing, because of the relationship between the American Government and the United Nations, and the way in which the action was taken without even waiting for the conclusion of the meeting of the Security Council which was taking place in the United Nations.
It may be an old-fashioned view to believe that the peace of the world may be strengthened by the United Nations. If, as some hon. Members opposite seem to do, it is the modern trend to write off the United Nations altogether and to decide that the only hope is to go back to power politics and the law of the jungle, I am afraid that I cannot share that view. I cannot see how American intervention, and, what I fear much more, the possibility of British intervention in Jordan and perhaps in Iraq, can be anything but a shattering blow to the prestige and the effectiveness of the United Nations.
If it is a fact, as was hinted during this debate, that actually the American move is simply a preliminary step, an action which may only mean that American marines remain in the Lebanon for a few days while a United Nations force is prepared to take their place, no one would be more delighted than I. But I feel bound to recall that 1313 there was similar talk about the United Nations holding the ring at the time of the Suez operation, and I remember how hollow those words then were. We do not have direct responsibility at present for what is happening in the Middle East.
We, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said at the beginning of the debate, deplore the Government's support for the American action in the Lebanon. Our direct responsibility lies in what use is made of British troops in that country, and in other parts of the Middle East. I should like to end by imploring the Government to give an assurance at the earliest possible moment that it is not our intention to seek any kind of repetition of the disastrous Suez operation and that British troops are not going to be used in any part of the Middle East, except as part of a United Nations contingent acting with the authority of the United Nations.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Had I not known that the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) does not number cynicism among his faults, I should have thought that it was almost cynical of him to say as he did that but for the Suez operation a couple of years ago many millions of people in Eastern Europe would not now be under Communist domination. When one considers that 100 million Europeans have been under Russian domination for all too many years now and that it has always been of approximately the same bloodthirsty kind, I find it rather shocking that the hon. Gentleman should again drag out that parallel in this debate.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
I invite the hon. Member to look at HANSARD tomorrow. What I said was that had it not been for the Suez operation, it might very well be that the Hungarians and perhaps other people in the Balkans might be free today.
§ Mr. Bell
That is exactly what I thought the hon. Gentleman said, and it struck me as extraordinary and deplorably irrelevant.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and some other 1314 hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), have expressed the opinion in this debate that one of our greatest errors in the Middle East has been inadequate emphasis upon propaganda. I always thought this a very attractive argument which comes easily to people nowadays, but the question I ask myself, when I hear that argument put, is what it is we are supposed to say to the Arabs.
I was surprised that the hon. Member for Coventry, East was so aggressive in the general tone of his speech when I remember that the rootlessness of Western policy in the Middle East today dates primarily from the events of 1948, when this country walked out of Palestine and made no arrangement for what was to follow after. I do not attempt to make a party point about this because it is true that there was not a party issue made of it at the time, and it acquired a considerable and, for me, a very unfortunate amount of consent.
The fact is that we left the Middle East to whatever should happen, and the apparent theory of the Government of the time, which was in fact the Government of the party opposite, was that they must sort the thing out for themselves and the United Nations must lick it into shape. We know what happened. There were two or three years of very bloody warfare and many fruitless meetings and Resolutions of the United Nations; and the basic fact is that the United Nations did not sort it out and did nothing effective at all. That is why in 1950 the Western Powers, not really acting under the Charter of the United Nations as they professed to do, but acting in despair, produced the Tripartite Declaration, which was a standstill arrangement for the Middle East.
Having achieved that standstill, they again allowed the matter to drift. They passed the responsibility back to the United Nations and the United Nations again, year after year, did nothing to sort it out. That is why the British position in the Middle East is so difficult at the present time, and that is why Nasser's propagandists have a story to tell, and we are, to put it mildly, at a great disadvantage when it comes to turning the loudspeakers to Arab audiences.
1315 The fact is that Britain is the country which by the Balfour Declaration—however great and imaginative an act of statesmanship that may have been—brought into existence the Jewish National Home, with all the problems and stresses for the Arabs which that involved, and in 1948 we walked out, leaving the stresses unresolved and the job unfinished. No party in this House and equally not this country carries that blame alone. We know the history of it, and it would not be right in this debate if I took up time in recounting it. We all know why that happened and that there were fair-seeming reasons why we should have done it; but we cannot expect the Arabs to feel very grateful to us for the state of affairs in the Middle East at the present time, and if ever they were inclined to forget it there are 1 million refugees living in camps in the Arab countries to remind them of it.
The first message which I want to put into my speech this evening is that we have proceeded from stop gap to stop gap in the Middle East, and we have now to face the responsibility of finishing off the job which we walked out upon ten years ago. We have to put forward a settlement of the central problem of the Middle East, and unless we do that there will not be any general solution to the present difficulties in the Middle East.
What Nasser thrives on is not merely Communist inspiration and help—it would be easy to exaggerate that—although I am sure that element exists. What he thrives upon is the fact that there is an unresolved problem and that there is an anti-Western sentiment arising out of it, and that Arab nationalism can easily be diverted into anti-Westernism because the West is responsible, in Arab eyes, for that situation and will do nothing about it.
It is easy to say that this is a job for the United Nations. Of course it is. It has been so ever since 1948. It is no use jobbing back now to discuss it again, but, if we were right in walking out, clearly the United Nations, from whom, after all, we held the mandate, should have sorted out the problem. But they did not do so and the West had to impose a standstill. The standstill is plainly breaking down. It is hardly realistic to suggest that the position in the Middle 1316 East is still governed by the Tripartite Declaration.
It would be very nice if the United Nations would solve this problem but, let us face it, we all know that it will not. It just will not be solved that way and, therefore, the sheer logic of the matter drives me to the conclusion that the problem will have to be solved by the West. I have for some time strongly held the view that it is a matter of duty for the West to take an initiative in the Middle East and to put forward a solution.
Indeed, when I visited an Arab country early this year I was surprised at the number of Arabs living an ordinary private life, not in official positions, who said to me, "Don't you realise that no Arab country can enter into direct negotiations with Israel in order to find a solution of this problem of the refugees, the frontiers and so on? Any Arab statesman who did that would be driven from public life. We cannot do it. Why doesn't the West arrange a fair and reasonable solution and impose it upon us? We would all protest bitterly—and be very thankful." That is true.
Once again I know that, although this has a simple sound, it is not easy for the West to arrive at a solution and impose it in the year 1958, and I do not want to suggest to the House for a moment that it is easy. Yet I think the responsibility lies upon us and that the problem is not quite so difficult as it seems and that the difficulty could be overcome.
That being so, it naturally colours my approach to what has been happening in the Middle East. The narrow, legalistic line can be taken and, if it is, it is comforting to us as a country and as a Government. I think that the constitutional Government of a country plainly has a right to invite in troops of a friendly Power to support it; otherwise, it would be difficult to explain the presence of United States troops in Britain or of British troops in Germany. Plainly, that must be all right in international law.
There must also come a point where a constitutionally elected Government might try to keep itself in power against the wish of the population by the support of troops invited in from outside. Equally, that could not be a proper 1317 thing to do. It must be a question of degree, and somewhere between those extremes there is the dividing line. But I would say that whenever a constitutionally elected Government, within the term for which it is constitutionally elected, is threatened by disorder fomented from outside, it must be proper and lawful for it to invite help from outside.
So I think that on this ground the matter is plain enough, but we have to look at this question tonight, as many speakers on both sides of the House have done, from a wider viewpoint. Does it help the solution of the general Middle Eastern problem, and is it compatible with the interests of the United Kingdom and the Western countries in the Middle East, that we should now take an active rôle and intervene, by force if necessary, in the events in the Middle East?
I should like to present two or three considerations to the House about this. The first one is that I do not believe that the presence of British troops in the Middle East will stimulate anti-British sentiment. That is the kind of belief, the kind of opinion which, when put forward, is plausibly attractive but experience has not shown it to be true. Quite the contrary. The hon. Member for Coventry, East said it was the presence of British Forces in Jordan which made the Jordanians hate the British. The Jordanians do not hate the British. They never have hated the British. Quite the reverse. They are very much attached to the British connection, and that goes for the great majority of Jordanians.
The presence of British troops there never had any hostile effect in that way; on the contrary, the British troops mixed with the local population to a surprising degree and were very much liked. I think that the presence of American troops in the Lebanon will strengthen Western feeling in the Lebanon. If that occurs to some hon. Members as surprising, I cannot argue it because one cannot argue such a proposition. I am merely convinced that it will turn out so.
Then it was suggested that we would destroy Western interests by appearing to support puppet régimes in the Middle East. The hon. Member for Coventry, East used the expression a collection of kings who are decadent, weak and corrupt." I will say nothing about King 1318 Saud because I do not know anything about him, but nobody will persuade me that King Hussein is decadent, weak and corrupt. I do not believe him to be any one of those three; indeed, on the evidence of my own eyes and acquaintance, I believe the contrary in each case. I believe him to be a high-minded young man, I believe him to be a very strong personality, and the imputation of corruption is beyond my comprehension. There is no shadow of evidence of it and it is completely out of character.
I believe the same to be true of King Feisal, and I believe the same to be true of th Shah of Persia who, I presume, was the other king the hon. Gentleman had in mind. Nothing in the history of the past few years could give the slightest ground or justification for the accusations which th hon. Gentleman made. In fact, the behaviour of King Hussein in the rebellion of last year was one of remarkable personal courage, which stimulated enthusiastic admiration throughout the Arab countries.
I would have thought that the conduct of the Jordan Government in recent weeks, to which the hon. Member for Coventry, East referred, in dealing with the plot, which undoubtedly existed, was also not, as the hon. Gentleman described it, a sign of weakness but a sign of remarkable competence and strength. I think we owe a duty not just to these régimes in the Middle East, but to the whole Arab cause in the Middle East, to see that its progress and the cause of Arab nationalism is not left entirely at the mercy of hired assassins and bribery and murder. Look how many good men have been murdered in the Middle East because of bribery and corruption from outside. We all know what that means and where it came from.
Is it really a disservice to the cause of the Arab movement, this great sentiment of unity which we did more to nurture than anyone else in the Arab revolt in the first war—is it a disservice to that cause to say that we will not stand aside and see the whole development of the Arab world at the mercy of adverse influences coming from Russia and from Egypt, from people who want to exploit it for selfish ends?
It is a mere anachronism to suggest that in the Middle East there are mature, solid, experienced public opinions and 1319 that all that needs to be done is for us to stand back to be sure that a Government will represent the considered will of the people. That is just not the present position in the Middle East. We have to have a counterbalance of influences and forces. That is a pity. We do not need it in England where we can stand on our own feet; but it is needed in the Middle East. If we do not have it, this great cause of Arab nationalism will be turned into a fatal direction which will not only damage the Arab peoples and their future, but also be most injurious to the cause of our country, which is also our responsibility.
I hope that not only shall we give comradely and proper support to the United States in all moderate and reasonable action which it takes in that area, but also that we shall not shrink from helping our friends if we think that their difficulties do not originate solely from the spontaneous development of Arab opinion, but are fostered and nourished by seditious forces outside their countries.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
A feature of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century imperialism was the ability of the British to send a gunboat to a trouble spot, land a few troops, run up the flag and put everything right and have it nicely settled. A feature of the second half of the twentieth century appears to be the ability of the Americans to send the 5th, 6th or 7th Fleet to trouble spots in an attempt to do precisely the same thing. The only difference, of course, is that in the changed circumstances of the world that policy will simply not work like that, because the forces now operating are very different from those which operated when Britain so successfully pursued that policy. While history may repeat itself, it is seldom that it repeats itself so quickly.
In any talk of the Middle East and dictators, it must be remembered that we do not like dictators, unless we have set them up and they are friendly to us. Then we do not mind. It is those who do not like us and who think differently who are horrible dictators who ought to be put down and got rid of.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
Can the hon. Member give one instance of one dictator whom we have set up?
§ Mr. Pargiter
The hon. Member should look round the Middle East. One name has been mentioned, but he will see what we have done about setting up dictators in other areas.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I do not propose to give way.
We have been fairly successful and the policy has paid off.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I have answered the question. I said that the hon. Member should look round the Middle East and round other parts of the world as well.
However, that is not important. What is important is that dictators whom we like and whom we maintain in power—[HON. MEMBERS: "What dictators?"]—Hon. Members should look round the Persian Gulf where they will find dictators whose power is maintained by British troops. Let us be quite clear about that. We maintain them because they are favourable to us and they lean towards what we believe to be stable government and they do not interfere with our oil supplies. It is because we have greased their palms sufficiently that they do not interfere with our oil supplies. Let us not be mealymouthed about that.
However, the forces of today are such that these things will not work any longer and these policies are no longer working out in the Middle East. They did not work out in Egypt, they will not work out in Libya, and they are not working out in Jordan. They may work in the Lebanon, if sufficient troops are sent there to keep the people quiet, for a while, but those troops cannot be kept there for all time. We have to allow these forces to work. The important thing is to see that they work for us and not against us. We have to encourage those forces to go in the direction in which we will want them to go when we no longer are able to control them as we did years ago.
The problem of the Middle East is precisely that, and the way to meet it is not to send in troops here and there in an endeavour to settle things on the basis of 1321 keeping the people from succeeding in their national aspirations. It is easy to talk about people being murdered and about dictatorships or governments being overthrown. How are dictatorships to be overthrown other than by force? It just happens that way. If the forces which overthrow the dictatorship are friendly to one, then one does not mind, but if it is a force which one does not like, one strongly opposes it.
A moral issue which we have to face sooner or later is that of who has the right of the possession of the land of the Middle East and the oil contained in it? It is true that the oil is of international value and that it is of no value to those countries unless they can sell it. However, what right have we to insist on having control for all time? Sooner or later the oil countries will be able to sell their oil at what market price they can get and, although it may be difficult for them, sooner or later they will be in control of the oilfields. We might as well recognise that situation and lead and train the Arab peoples towards it so that they treat us in a friendly way. That is better than trying to suppress their national aspirations.
It is true that national aspirations break out in all sorts of ways which we do not like, but that is not altogether the fault of the people concerned. If people are kept under and allowed to remain illiterate, and if we fail to give them a share in the world's goods, especially when they see so much of the world's goods coming from their own country, it is understandable that their reactions should not be entirely friendly but should take the violent form which we have seen.
The policy of intervention, whether in the Lebanon, or the intervention which we may be contemplating in Jordan, is wrong. The Americans are very much concerned not merely with the Lebanon—because if they had been concerned merely with the Lebanon they would have gone in before—but with Iraq and, because of the events in Iraq, the possible events in Jordan and the cumulative effect on Saudi Arabia. That is why the Americans intervened.
America is especially interested in what happens in Saudi Arabia because, with a pro-Nasser country on one side and with Egypt on the other, the Saudi Arabian position will become very difficult for the 1322 Americans. It will not in the least surprise me if an appeal for help comes from Jordan. The Americans will answer it, but I hope that we do not. The Americans' bridgehead in the Lebanon—and it is nothing more than a bridgehead—will be used to maintain and protect what America rightly or wrongly believes to be her vital and legitimate interests. Presumably, we shall be concerned in Bahrain and so on to see that our forces are sufficiently strengthened so that nothing can go wrong there.
All this is in the sacred name of oil. Oil is vital to the world, but in future there will be two ways of getting it. One will be with the consent of the people of the country from where the oil comes, and the other will be by using force to hold down the people while we extract the oil. The latter method is wrong and is bound to fail.
We need a reorientation of policy for the Middle East. We must learn to see what the aspirations of the people are, and we must encourage them, instead of sitting on them and setting up puppet kings and dictators. We must see that national aspirations are given effect and we must encourage the people of the Middle East in the development of their countries. We must do what we can to assist them. If we do that we may have a peaceful Middle East, which is content to help us and to see that we get the oil we need. I believe this factor to be vital. If we work the other way we shall be starting up forces which, before very long, will be far beyond our control.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) in his essay on what should be the ethical approach to this matter. I will just say this to him: surely, whatever our ethics may be in these matters, the one event which must have shocked our consciences was the brutal murder of our friends in Iraq during the last few days.
Before the hon. Member speaks again about these puppet dictators, let him consider how independent of this country Nuri-es-Said was, and how independent was the King. Let him also consider how much that administration has done for the people of Iraq. Let him ponder a few of these things before he and some of his hon. Friends hold up, as the greatest evil 1323 that has befallen the world in the last few years, the landing of American forces in the Lebanon at the behest of that State.
The speeches of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite this afternoon—and especially that of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—seemed to be based on the extraordinary illusion that somewhere in the Middle East today there are democratic organisations which are longing to take over and establish normal democratic power as we in Western Europe know it. We were told by the hon. Member for Coventry, East that he liked to believe that he was on the side of the seizers of power—the captains and the colonels. He seemed to have an almost Germanic admiration for these characters who have sprung forward and upset so much of the Middle Eastern peace.
As the hon. Member for Southall said, what the Middle East desires above all else is peace. The problem of Arab unity will be extremely difficult to solve except through a dictatorship, which, at the moment, would be the dictatorship of Colonel Nasser, but the real problem of the Middle East is poverty. The best use of resources such as water can be ensured only by the maintenance of peace.
One of the most remarkable statements which has been made on the crisis in the last few days is that of the Prime Minister of the Sudan, himself a Mohammedan, who said that the landing of American troops yesterday was by far the greatest contribution to Middle Eastern stability that had been made in the last two years. If hon. and right hon. Members opposite will ponder these words they will see that they are of some significance.
It is also of some significance to consider what Arab unity means, and how it can be achieved. The Arab unity which Colonel Nasser sets out to achieve is one of a dictatorship based on Cairo. No one knows that better than the people in the Sudan, those who are opposed to Communism in Damascus, and many of the Druses of the Lebanon. Let the Leader of the Opposition recalibrate his mental process as to the facts of the Middle East before he gives us any more wishy-washy talk about backing Arab unity. At the moment backing Arab unity means backing General Gamal Abdel Nasser.
1324 What this country set out to do, both under this Government and under the party opposite when it was in office, was to build up the wealth of the people of the Middle East. That should remain our intention—but to build up that wealth means that peace must be maintained.
The action taken by the Americans, backed up by our Government, was quite right. One or two Liberal speakers this afternoon, and the Manchester Guardian in its apoplectic leader this morning, suggested that this was the end, but how much worse it would have been if nothing had been done. How much worse it would have been if, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, this massive infiltration which started after the assassination of the Iraqi leaders had gone on. How much more terrible would the situation in the Middle East have been then.
There are certain things which we should do. It is absolutely necessary to protect our allies and friends, and I congratulate the Government upon the movements they have made and the forces of troops which they have sent into the Gulf for that purpose. It is absolutely right that we should reinforce Aden, and I also think that we should be prepared to go to the help of our friends in Jordan if they should request our help.
This afternoon the hon. Member for Coventry, East spoke of the necessity of protecting the position of Israel. I agree with that, but there is only one way in which Israel can be protected in the long term; that is by the maintenance of the State of Jordan. Once that goes it is inevitable that Israel will be in danger of being wiped out by the United Arab Republic, and therefore just as inevitable that, prior to that happening, Israel will launch out in attack. We should therefore be prepared to help our friends in the Gulf, in Jordan and in Aden.
Certain other things should also be done. This is the moment when it would not be impossible, with the presence of American forces on the Continent of Asia, to get together with our friends and consider the various problems, especially those concerning the waters of Africa. This might not be an inappropriate moment to ask the Sudanese, Ethiopian and East African Governments to meet with us and talk about the Nile. It would 1325 not be an inappropriate moment, through the governors of the Aden Protectorate and the southern regions of Saudi Arabia, to discuss with that kingdom the question of the Yemen, and of Russian infiltration into that area. It would not be an inappropriate moment to get together with our other friends in this part of the world and produce a policy to defend our mutual interests.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) said, in a remarkable speech, the interests concerned here are not merely ours but those of the people of the Middle East. Those interests lie in the maintenance of peace and progress through our help, finance and guidance. Hon. Members opposite who speak about British imperialism in the Middle East are merely taking a page from the book of Colonel Nasser and the other anti-Western imperialists.
Without our continued assistance all that can happen in the Middle East is the establishment of a series of military dictatorships, balanced by mob rule—dictatorships led by a new brand of captain, colonel or lieutenant-colonel, who will doubtless be admired by the hon. Member for Coventry, East. They will take power, and when they take power they will not be friends of Arab nationalism, or of anyone but themselves. They may well be agents of Russia, bent upon the destruction of the world.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
In some measure at least there is agreement among hon. Members on both sides of the House that at present in the Middle East we are seeing the resurgence of what is sometimes called Arab nationalism. In fact, that term is somewhat misleading and a misnomer, because it is something much more than a mere resurgence of nationalism. There are a number of Arab nations and we should be under no illusion about the existence of those nations, arising as they did after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. That is something which I am certain we must appreciate fully if we are to understand what is taking place in the Middle East at present. Whether we call this phenomenon "Arabism" or "racialism", or whatever we call it, there it is. Those of us who have been to any part of the Middle East must have been struck by 1326 the fact that beneath the discontent and criticism which may exist in many of these Arab communities there is this one single, cohesive uniting factor, a new sense of Arab unity.
One finds pictures of Colonel Nasser in many parts of the Middle East, as I found them in the Yemen. I believe that they are displayed as a symbol of this emotional unity to which I have referred. There are indeed criticisms of Colonel Nasser along with the acceptance of the fact that he is the external symbol of the aspirations of the Arab peoples. One understands that. I submit that we must make allowances to some extent for many of the Arabist extravagances taking place at present; but that is not to condone the murders and assassinations which have recently taken place and those which will doubtless occur in the days and weeks ahead. One condemns them completely without any reservation. But underneath all these extravagances and dramatic and melodramatic upheavals and distortions of emotion there is this unity.
I should have thought that the Americans would have appreciated that there is a certain affinity between what happened in their country and what is taking place in the Middle East. What is taking place there is the repudiation of real or imaginary external domination, which is precisely what the Americans did in their War of Independence. Actually or otherwise the American settlers then believed that they were dominated by a distant Power. They rebelled and successfully repudiated that supposed domination. The same sort of thing is happening in the Middle East, and so there is that underlying bond or affinity.
One must notice also that there are attempts to displace the monarchies—honourable as they may be in many respects—in favour of republics. Here again, there is a bond or affinity between what is taking place in that part of the world and American history. The American settlers repudiated our monarchy which was for some time their monarchy. Out of that repudiation and their successful War of Independence emerged the American Republic. It there is such an affinity between the Americans and American history and what is happening in the Middle East, one might ask why it is that the 1327 Americans should take the action which they are taking.
One must recognise that there is a good deal of severe but distorted anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East, as indeed, at one time, there was in India and Pakistan, which also was fused with the aspiration for independence. Fortunately, in that part of the world it has been erased. Now we find little anti-Western, or at least anti-British, sentiment among the people of India and Pakistan. They have come to realise that it was merely a fortuitous association, and so, I think, it will be in the Middle East. In the course of time, the present anti-Westernism will disappear. I do not think it is fundamental to what the people there desire.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I wonder how the hon. Member can possibly draw a parallel between the Americans getting rid of a monarchy in favour of a democracy and what is happening in the Middle East, where monarchs are being replaced by military dictatorships. I cannot see the constitutional parallel.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The parallel is that monarchs are being displaced in the same way as the Americans displaced the British Monarchy which, until their War of Independence, they accepted. It is true that the Middle Eastern monarchs may be replaced by dictatorships.
§ Mr. Sorensen
That does not alter my argument. The repudiation of monarchy in favour of some other form of government is a parallel. I do not go further than that; I say that there is this bond of similarity or affinity.
I ask myself, and I pose the question to the House, why is it that the Americans should intervene, despite this bond of similarity or affinity? I think that their motives are mixed, as are the motives of us all, for in this issue I do not believe it is purely or predominantly the moral and ethical factor which should decide their attitude or indeed our own. The ethical factor is present, but so are the factors of economics and expediency. One part of the motive which induces the Americans to intervene is a genuine moral zeal which compels them to intervene in 1328 the hope that they will be able to prevent what they believe to be a great Communist menace to mankind from spreading into that part of the world.
I am perfectly certain that American people may be endorsing the intervention of their country in this way because they believe that what is taking place in the Middle East is the result of Russian Communism machinations and infiltration. No one denies that wherever there is trouble and difficulty Russian Communism intervenes to try to exploit the situation. But the Russians are not peculiar in that respect. We have done the same thing in our history and so have other countries. We cannot therefore blame the Russians. It is part of power politics. On the other hand, I maintain strongly that the sooner the Americans can get rid of the assumption that wherever there is a disturbance, it is due to Russian intrigue and machinations, the better it will be.
I am certain that what is taking place in the Middle East is due basically to this undeniable fact of Arab resurgence and that even if the Russians had not tried to fish in troubled waters, the waters would still have been troubled. There have been great upheavals in the past, mighty upheavals among all kinds of people, long before Russian Communism was known; and, although undoubtedly Russian Communism will try to exploit the situation, let us be clear that the basic reason for this upsurgence is much the same as that which caused the upsurgence in the sub-Continent of India, and the upsurgence which, to a greater or less degree, is taking place in Africa and other parts of the world. It is the emergence of whole communities of people who are learning to stand on their own feet and trying to work out their own salvation. They will make many mistakes—they are making mistakes now—but, basically, that is the reason for what is happening.
If we look back at the example of India we can see how many of the arguments which we are adducing today were adduced in those days. Often we lectured the Indians—on the assumption that we knew what was best for them—that they could not manage their own affairs because most of them were illiterate and inexperienced, and because we thought that they must look to us for guidance. We did that sincerely, and 1329 no doubt there was some substance in our contentions. We are doing the same thing today with as much irrelevance as we did then, because these people are determined to work out their own salvation, to make their own mistakes and, in so doing, to find out at last what it is they ought to do, and how they can avoid repeating their mistakes in the future.
In a way, Russians and Communists are anxious that we should intervene in the Middle East at the present time, because they would then be able to exploit that action in the whole of the Asian world. They want us to intervene so that they can turn to the Asian world, part of which is much more sympathetic to us than it was some years ago, and say, "Here, after all, is British imperialism again". I do not say, of course, that I agree with them. I cannot agree with them, for one reason because I know that their criticisms are often insincere. One has only to point to Russian actions in Hungary, or Poland, or the satellite States to expose the insincerity and inconsistency of their criticism. That does not alter what I have pointed out. We can see the matter from their standpoint, and we know that they would direct the attention of the rest of the world to us and say, "Here is exactly what we said about these Europeans. They are intervening because their political case is so weak."
I believe our political case is very strong. We have made great mistakes, many of them to our own discredit, but there is a great deal of which we can be justly proud. For example, we can recognise the part that Britain played when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the new Turkish Republic arose along with the Arab nations. We may claim that we gave both Turks and Arabs much assistance, although perhaps not as much as we could have done. That does not alter the point that the Communists and Russians are anxious that we should intervene so that they can use our action to demonstrate their spurious claim that Britain and America are intent on exploiting the whole Asian world because our political case is weak, and, so they claim, because we have not as much to offer Asia as Russian Communism has.
1330 I beg the Government to consider that point very seriously indeed. Let them look further ahead than the possible military success that might be achieved. In regard to the Suez campaign there was no doubt that Israel, France and Britain together could have succeeded militarily in occupying the whole of the Suez Canal zone. Our combined military power and resources were infinitely greater than those of the Egyptians. Unfortunately, those who endorsed that campaign at that time did not see further ahead. They did not measure the repercussions in the whole of the East.
Hon. Members on both sides, in their contacts with India, Pakistan and other countries, surely know full well how powerful is that fact. We are now friends with India and Pakistan and they are our co-partners in the Commonwealth. We are proud that those countries are with us in the Commonwealth. We should not do anything to drive them out of it or make them suspicious of our motives so that they undervalue the nature and significance of the Commonwealth. If we intervened and involved ourselves in a whole series of military commitments, it would be playing into the hands of those in the Far East, including India and Pakistan, who want to detach those countries from the Commonwealth.
It is not enough that we should warn the Government of the day and point Out the perilous path upon which they may be going; it is also necessary to ask, from the practical point of view, whether we could bear the heavy financial burdens which are implicit in our intervention. Some hon. Members may feel the need to impress the rest of the world with our strength, but we have enough on our hands already, what with Cyprus, Malta, etc. If we were to intervene on a large scale in the Middle East it would mean in the long run that we should bear a burden which would prevent the achievement of many of the economic advances we desire. I believe that supporters of the Government are sincere in believing that we must make a show of military strength to impress the world, including the Middle East and the Far East, but I wish they would size up the implications in terms of finance and economic strain and all that they will mean to this country, as well as in the 1331 frustration of our hopes of economic reconstruction in the interests of a happy and healthy country.
We must give a lead in the opposite direction. Let me sum up what I think should be our policy. We must do all we can to avoid military involvement in the Middle East, whatever spurious arguments may be advanced. The alternative dangers are far too great in the long run. We must help the Arab peoples in the Middle East to work through their own errors and find out their own mistakes. They are apt to assume that when they have got rid of European domination all will be well.
I found the assumption in the Middle East and in the Yemen that all their troubles were due to colonialism. The assumption hardly deserves examination. The Yemen and other Arab countries are poor and stagnating, not because of colonialism; although that is the assumption made by many Middle East people. They think that their poverty, wretchedness, illiteracy and general economic stagnation are entirely due in some strange way to Western exploitation. This may have played its part, but it is not the basic cause. Those people will never realise the basic cause until they themselves have complete responsibility to face the facts as they are, just as India and Pakistan are now facing facts which they were inclined to evade in the days when we dominated those countries. So it is with the Middle East.
We must encourage these countries to stand alone. We must help the Arab world, in a friendly and not sour fashion. In due course it will discover many of those facts which today it does not recognise. Further than that, we must take the initiative so as to bring an increasing amount of Arab support to our side. We should be imaginative enough in respect of the Middle East to go out of our way to offer political and economic advantages. We should offer to strike bargains. This is not a sordid proposal but a matter of hard fact.
We could say to the Arab people, "Allow us to buy your oil. We recognise your right if you want to nationalise it. Let us strike this bargain. You guarantee the oil to us and we will guarantee to you no interference in nationalisation or in any other develop- 1332 ment of your economic resources." We should try to get the Arabs to recognise that Israel has come to stay and we, on our part, should do all we could economically to help the Arabs to build up their new world.
Politically, we could say to countries in the Arab world, "We recognise that you have the intrinsic right to govern yourselves. If you desire to join with any other country we shall not stand in your way." Let this be done as an honest bargain, at the same time appreciating the significance of Arab resurgence as a part of the awakening of the human race. Then, I believe, in due course, we shall find a different response from the Arab world in place of the enmity so virulent at the present time.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I listened to the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) for about twenty minutes, and I am still not clear about what he would like us to do, except to "let it rip". He identified, as other hon. Members have done on his side, the great resurgence of Arab nationalism—I am not sure what that means—with the rebels in Iraq, but so far as I could make out that is all that the hon. Gentleman has done. He suggested that we should give economic aid to Iraq, which, of course, we have been doing extensively.
The formal issue that we are trying to consider in the debate on the Adjournment today is whether, and how, we should act against what is known as internal aggression. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in what, I believe, was one of the finest speeches of his career, said this afternoon that that is the critical and essential question that we must face, and I only look forward to a further speech by him which will tell us, no doubt after consultation with the United States, how he suggests that we should face it. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says, on the contrary, that we should beware of doing anything about internal aggression, in case we compromise our position with regard to the Russians in Eastern Europe.
The real issue, as distinct from the formal issue, is how we should advance our own interests with due respect for what everybody recognises to be a movement towards pan-Arabism, although not 1333 everybody identifies its leaders quite correctly. The Secretary of State made a point of saying that we have no quarrel with nationalism. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that we must come to terms with pan-Arabism.
In addition to the real and the formal issues, there is a practical issue, which is how we can advance our own interests and, simultaneously, secure friendly governments that have popular backing. The presentation of these issues seems to me to call for some study of our overall objectives. Here I must say that I agree with much that has been said on both sides of the House today, when the question has been posed: what are the Americans after, and what are we after? If the action in the Lebanon now is merely a kind of ad hoc expedient I would join in deploring it, but I believe that it can form part of a serious policy to restore our own interests, and that our own interests are really three in number.
First, there is the free flow of oil. There is no division in the House about that. But a glib argument used this evening from the other side of the House suggested that all the countries in the Middle East will always want to sell us their oil, no matter what the colour of the régime. The suggestion is that with these pipelines to the sea, they will necessarily, and always, want to sell it to us, because there is no one else to whom they can sell it.
I do not believe that that is correct. The Soviet Union is importing oil from Roumania at the present time. Is there any reason to suppose that if these Arab countries fell under Soviet control they would not export their oil everywhere but to the free world—
§ Mr. Maitland
No, I shall not give way.
We have a second interest; that of air communication through the Middle East. One of the critical main trunk air routes of the entire Commonwealth of Nations—a grouping of some 660 million people, the vast majority of them freely governed by a democratic system where, for the most part, justice prevails—is an air route going slap through the Middle 1334 East and, indeed, through Iraq. The maintenance of free air transit through the Middle East is a critical and vital interest of this country and of the Commonwealth.
We have a third interest. It is the security of the land approaches to the Mediterranean, to Africa and to the Indian Ocean. If it is objected that we have no need for some cordon sanitaire, no need for some strategic elbow room or grouping of buffer States, at any rate the Russians find such a need in Eastern Europe. They are nothing if not realists. If the Russians find that it is necessary for their security to preserve a grouping of buffer States in Eastern Europe, then we have at least as good an argument, in ordinary terms of power, to claim that we have an interest in the Middle East remaining outside of the Soviet orbit—
§ Mr. Maitland
These three interests are in danger from several sides. They are threatened by this series of Egyptian plots, of which we had a list this afternoon—Egyptian plots in Libya, Egyptian plots in the Lebanon, Egyptian plots in Ethiopia, Egyptian pressure upon the Sudan, Egyptian plots in the Aden Protectorate, Egyptian plots in Iraq, Egyptian plots in Jordan. These are the threats—
§ Mr. Maitland
Secondly, our interests are threatened by the Soviet patronage of Arab nationalism in a way that seeks to set that nationalism against the Jews and, indeed, to exploit the antagonism between the two races. Those are the two dangers to our interests—
§ Mr. Maitland
We have an interest to see that we have sufficiently stable and independent Arab régimes in order that our own interests are respected, and also in order that those régimes can make peace with Israel. Régimes that are the product of some coup d'état, régimes that depend on revenge and bloodshed in the first place, for their creation, are not likely to have such a basis in widespread public support that they can, in fact, make peace with Israel.
1335 It has been argued tonight that a grouping of Arab states that owes its origin to Egyptian leadership and plots is likely to make peace with Israel. I do not think that there is anything to suggest that they are particularly willing to make peace. On the contrary, we have had diatribe after diatribe, through the Egyptian radio and from Egyptian leaders, attacking Israel, morning, noon and night. There is nothing to suggest that a grouping of Arab nations, headed and fostered by Egypt, is one that would be willing to make peace with Israel; nothing to suggest that a grouping of Arab nations fostered and led by Egypt against Israel would suddenly turn right round and make a settlement with her.
The suggestion has run through a number of speeches from the other side of the House tonight that, somehow or other, only the Egyptian régime is the authentic sponsor of the pan-Arab nationalist upsurge. Are we to say that the Government of Libya are not just as Arab and enthusiastic for Arab unity as are the Government of Egypt? Are we to say that the Government of the Lebanon—the most enlightened of the lot—is not just as enthusiastic for Arab unity as the Government in Cairo? Are we to say that the successive Governments of Amman in Jordan have not been just as keen and ambitious for that Arab unity as are the Government of the Valley of the Nile; or the Government of Nuri-es-Said not just as keen, imaginative and enthusiastic in these plans, aspirations and hopes for Arab unity as the junta headed by Colonel Nasser?
As a matter of fact, the Governments of Jordan and Iraq are the two, throughout the Middle East, that are most deeply committed, both in history and sentiment, to the whole cause of Arab unity. As anyone who knows the Middle East knows very well, the Arabs do not even regard the Egyptians as proper Arabs. From the mountains of Anatolia, where there are, here and there, a few Arabs, right to the Persian Gulf, it is normal to despise the Egyptians as being either only half-Arab or not even true Arab at all; and to look rather to the Royal House of the Hashemite Kings of Jordan and Iraq as the proper, authentic, out-of-the-desert sponsors of Arab nationalism and union—
§ Mr. Maitland
Not only that, but since the war, the Governments of Jordan and Iraq, whichever party has been in office in those countries are the two Governments that have consistently sought to get a grouping of Arab states that would, in fact, be united. The "Fertile Crescent" dream of uniting Syria, Iraq and Jordan to create one Arab federation reaching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea has activated all the Governments of Iraq and Jordan in turn since the war. It is an aspiration that still has much support in Syria itself as well as in the Lebanon. There is the standard, as I see it, of Arab union. It is not to be found simply in the negative, Nazi-like Jew-baiting that comes from Cairo Radio, lauded so vigorously by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who reminded me of nothing so much as a Hitler jugend speaker.
§ Mr. Maitland
What is perfectly clear is that Syria and Egypt have been openly hostile to Israel from the first and have never stopped sending infiltrators across the Israeli Border. Iraq has not been doing that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Jordan?"] No, Jordan has not, but Syria and Egypt have. Syria and Egypt are hostile to peace in the Middle East and Iraq and Jordan are not.
The question we have to consider is in principle whether we should support the American action and, secondly, whether we should be ready to help Jordan or the Iraqi loyalists to suppress our enemies and re-establish constitutional government. I suggest that in supporting the Government of Jordan, if we are invited to do so, and supporting the loyalists of Iraq, if we are also invited to do so, we shall in fact be aligning ourselves with the main current of enthusiasm among the Arab people for Arab union. We would be aligning ourselves with a dream, a real and vivid dream they have had for twenty years, of forming a union of the Fertile Crescent.
The Leader of the Opposition said that we should not on any account allow ourselves to do that or to get involved in intervention to resist internal aggression. His first reason was that if we did so we should justify Russia doing the same in 1337 Eastern Europe. But Russia has been doing it for twenty years. She does not need any justification from action taken by us. She is not in the least concerned about that and is not likely to be deterred by the moral reprobation of others.
The Leader of the Opposition gave a second reason. He said that we should not go in for this action because it was not explicitly covered by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. He said that Article did not mean that we should be willing or ready to help allies to resist internal aggression. He said the Article was only devised to resist external aggression. The question is whether the framers of the Charter at the time it was framed had in mind real aggression or not. The question is whether those who accepted the Charter at the time had real aggression in mind or not. Merely to say that because Article 51 does not specify internal aggression therefore it is excluded is not by any means a conclusive argument. I might remind the right hon. Gentleman that:It is the spirit which giveth life and the letter that killeth.In any event if he is to insist on this distinction between internal and external oppression and to say that the United Nations Charter is framed to meet one situation and not another he is saying in effect that the Charter is out of date and ignoring the reality of this new technique of subversion.
Finally, he said that if we intervened in the way that has been suggested it would have the opposite effect from the one we hoped; it would lead lo hostility, to misunderstanding, to hatred, to our being condemned throughout the Middle East. When the Americans withdrew they would leave behind them not friends but enemies. I believe that is not correct. I believe from my experience in the Middle East that the Arabs respect force. The people they despise are those who have not got the courage to use it.
§ Mr. Maitland
There as many people all over the Middle East, and, indeed, in South-East Asia as my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said, who are only waiting for a sign that the free world is prepared at last to act. Indeed, it is not uninstruc- 1338 tive to observe the reception which the Americans have had in their first few days in the Lebanon. No one can say that their arrival so far has elicited great hostility; rather the contrary.
§ Mr. Maitland
I shall conclude by reverting to a statement on policy towards the Middle East which was made by the Prime Minister when, as Foreign Secretary, he wound up a debate in the House on 12th December, 1955. It was a speech which at the time was not, I think, fully appreciated partly because it was not understood. I believe our purposes should now be as he stated them then in these terms:It is not now a case of the authority of one people over another. The time for that has gone, although it had its place in the history of mankind. The time is now one for partnership and partnership is, after all, what the British people are offering to the world. Just as the old British colonial and imperial system is passing to the concept of Commonwealth, so the Commonwealth idea is extending beyond those countries who owe it formal allegiance and it may well be that it is the main rôle of the British people, with the active help and sympathy of our American friends, to be leaders in this concept. It is the ideal of a new society of peoples of all races and creeds held together by a common love of freedom and the spiritual as well as the material values and determination to preserve them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 842.]The final words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking on that occasion as Foreign Secretary, were "determination to preserve them." We can have the highest ideals in our foreign policy, and they can be dissipated and evaporate if we do not show determination to preserve them.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I shall try to be brief, succinct and logical. I was amazed at some of the propositions which the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) deigned to put before an adult audience such as he should at least expect in the British House of Commons. I would recommend to the hon. Member that he look up the history of British Governments in dividing people. I had to interrupt him to say that if he looked at the history of Cyprus he might see whether the tragedy of the Greeks and the Turks might not be due to intervention on our part there. They had lived for generations side by side until 1339 we asked for Cyprus as a base, instead of asking for a base on Cyprus.
Secondly, I would recommend the hon. Member that he should go back to the days of Lawrence, whom the Foreign Office used to worship, and judge St. John Philby's argument on the Middle East. He will find that Philby was right when Lawrence was wrong. Far from the British democratic system being so honest in its dealings with the Middle East, we were pouring money out of the British Foreign Office into Hedjaz and out of the India Office into another group in the Yemen to keep them fighting one against the other to serve the ulterior motive of imperialism and control in the Middle East at that time. It is no good hon. Members opposite shaking their heads; that is an historic fact.
We are speaking today for the British people, and I wish that the Conservative Government would appreciate it. I speak humbly and without being facetious, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, whether they agree with me or not, will realise that I appreciate the responsibility that falls on their shoulders at this difficult transitional period in our history. That will not prevent me from speaking straight. The responsibility which the Government and the House of Commons have tonight is to speak for the British people.
I accused the Government yesterday—it may be that according to some people I was too precipitous—of acting like puppets. Twice in our recent history we have accepted the judgment of the United States before at least giving time to the Security Council to reach a decision. Once was in Korea. Hon. Members on this side of the House went into the Lobby on the Korean issue. A decision was taken afterwards. Today, again, the initiative has been taken by the United States.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member gave way to no one and I will not give way to him. That is fair enough. The Tories can take some of their own medicine.
§ Mr. Maitland
The hon. Member did not try to intervene in my speech. I would have given way to him.
§ Mr. Davies
Here, again, the British people can be landed in a most difficult position. I sincerely hoped that my party would go into the Lobby tonight against the Conservative Party. I am speaking now for myself and not for my party, but I take responsibility for my own words. The reaction of our party should instinctively be against supporting the American troop movements into the Middle East when they are made without at least the chance of constructive discussion in the Security Council.
I have listened to nearly all the debate, and one question which has been put, facetiously, is: what do we expect from the United Nations? Hon. Members opposite say that the United Nations do nothing. Let me give two examples. I have spoken against, campaigned against, voted against, and divided the House against the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is the United Nations organisation in the Pacific. Its reports show where its constructive work has been continuously frustrated by the military purposes of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation and the military designs of the great Powers.
Hon. Members opposite ask us for constructive plans for the Middle East. The Library of the House of Commons is bulging with constructive plans for the Middle East. If hon. Members do not know about them, it is time they looked them up. I will mention one. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has one, and I took the trouble to read it last night. It made a report on the Middle East. This is an excellent job, with American money behind it—and I am not denigrating it because of that. It made a constructive suggestion for the land between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, the old Mesopotamia.
What has been done about it? Nothing—except the struggle for bases and for airfields and the struggle to put military machines there. I agree with the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser), who made the point that poverty is the prime problem in that area. In the name of heaven, what will this action do to help deal with poverty?
I come to the end of my speech, which, I hope, has been short, logical and succinct. Has the Conservative Party asked itself these questions: has it got its 1341 petrol ration books ready? Has it considered the economic and industrial position which would result if we had a major campaign in the Middle East? Has it considered that Colonel Nasser could again close the Suez Canal? Is this cutting Nasser down to size? Fools!… forgive them: for they know not what they do.They are blowing up Nasser to the size of a giant.
You—I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I apologise, for I know that you would not dream of doing such a thing; you have much more sense than that. The Conservative Party jumps very quickly into a military position, and it is the party responsible for blowing up Colonel Nasser in the Middle East. I appeal to the party opposite, which has a terrible responsibility on its shoulders today, to bring a steadying influence to bear on the United States. Heaven knows, she needs it.
If the party in power here today had the courage, I believe that it could steady the Americans in the Middle East. It may be that we should then do something constructive, and the first constructive step would be to call Russia into a Middle East conference, as should have been done during the last five years.
I have kept to my time-table, and I hope that the House appreciates that I have given a chance to two other hon. Members to take part in the debate.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I tried to follow the speech—I am glad to say, very short speech—of the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), but I failed to do so. What I gleaned from his speech was that when Britain had a certain position in the world, and somebody else wanted it, we should give it up. He said that we should channel everything through the United Nations and use the United Nations for developing the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates. He said that nothing had been done there, implying that all that the West had done in Iraq was to spend money for military purposes.
I wish that the hon. Member had had the chance to accompany me when I visited that country not long ago and saw the amazing development and irrigation taking place between the two rivers— 1342 development which will see the population of Iraq double or treble in five or ten years. A large amount of money has been spent. I know that the hon. Member will agree that Iraq nearly alone, of all the Middle Eastern countries, has spent the wealth from her soil for the benefit of the people of the country. I therefore suggest that Iraq deserves our support as a State which is not yet truly democratic, but which is working towards democracy.
The hon. Member went on to say that we face grave danger of war in the Middle East and that, therefore, we should give in to Colonel Nasser. That is the only conclusion which I could draw from his remarks. I hope to deal with that a little later.
The current running through all the speeches from the Opposition benches today has been that we must come to terms with Arab nationalism. Hon. Members opposite put it to us that Arab nationalism is something like the nationalism that united all the small States in Italy or in Greece and created those nations. That, I suggest, is totally fallacious. The Arabs have never been united as a nation. As one of my hon. Friends has already said, the Arabs have never regarded the Egyptians as an Arab nation and never will. There is continual rivalry between Bagdad, Damascus, Cairo and all the Arab world.
Do hon. Members opposite really think that the people of Syria wish to be members of the United Arab Republic, or were consulted about it? A small group of politicians or the military in Damascus thought that it would be a good thing to have that union, and it came about. That is not democratic in any way. I do not say that democracy in the way that we know it is possible in any country in the Middle East today. One hopes that in future years they will grow towards our line of democratic thinking, but today that does not apply.
Why, then, it may be asked, has there been a success of what we call Arab nationalism? Why do the Arabs seem more united today than ever before? The reason, I suggest, is a simple one. Hitler was not very popular to start with, but when he had one success after another he became the figurehead of a resurgent Germany. That is what is happening to Nasser. He has managed to play off the East against the West and America 1343 against Britain. He has had success after success and is highly popular. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) said that he saw Nasser's picture throughout the Yemen and even in Aden. The reason is that he has been a success, and the Arab understands success and will follow it.
The central factor in the world since the Second World War has been the cold war. When I was educated in military matters, I was told to study what, in strategic terms, was known as the ground vital—the ground that we must have or must deny to the enemy or the ground that the enemy needs and must deny to us. I suggest that the ground vital in the world today is the Middle East, for two reasons. It is vital to the Soviet because, in the same way as North Africa was in the Second World War, it is the soft under-belly of the Soviet that is from the Western point of view should the calamity of a third world war ever occur.
It is the soft under-belly of the West from the Soviet viewpoint, because it is the source where most of the proved oil reserves of the world. It is the one place in the world where the Soviet could win the cold war without having to fight a third world war, if, by methods of subversion, propaganda and nationalism, call it what one will, they manage to get their hand on the tap and slowly turn it off so as to deny the West the oil from the Middle East.
It has been said before, but it bears repetition, that the requirements of Western Europe in oil are increasing year by year. Many people say that we need not worry because we can get it from America and from, say, Algeria or the newly-discovered fields in Nigeria; and atomic energy will take over in ten or fifteen years' time and we need not worry very much.
In 1955, the O.E.E.C. requirement of oil was 132 million coal equivalent tons. Ten years later, in 1965, the figure will have risen from 132 million to 250 million coal equivalent tons. That is allowing for an estimated 20 million tons of coal equivalent from atomic energy. In 1975—this is the striking figure—it is estimated that Western Europe's requirements of oil will go up to 360 million coal equivalent tons, in spite of the 1344 fact that atomic energy will then be supplying 150 million. My point is that in the foreseeable future Western Europe is dependent upon Middle East oil. If it is turned off, either slowly or rapidly, the wheels of industry in Western Europe cannot work for more than six months or, at the outside, in war economy terms, for a year.
I turn now to Colonel Nasser's views on these subjects. One hon. Member has referred to the fact that Colonel Nasser has written a book, "The Philosophy of the Revolution", from which I venture to give the House four brief quotations. In his book, Colonel Nasser says:When I attempt to analyse the components of our power I cannot help pointing out three principal forces of power … The first source is that we are a group of neighbouring peoples joined together with such spiritual and material bonds"—that is what hon. Members opposite have been talking about Arab nationalism—as join any group of peoples.The Mohammedans and the Arabs, the Egyptians being relations of the Arab people, have joined together and created the United Arab Republic. Why should we praise so much the United Arab Republic which is backed by the Soviet? An opposite Arab force has been created in the Federation of Iraq and Jordan. That is backed by the West.
Why must we assume, as from what we have heard in the House today it seems we must, that one is right but the other wrong? Why is the United Arab Republic representative of Arab nationalism, representative of all that is good in the soul of the Arab wanting to be free, and backed by the Russians, and right? Why, on the other hand, is the Federation of Iraq and Jordan wrong?
I have heard hon. Members on the other side allege that there are Middle Eastern countries with corrupt Governments, which are governed by semi-dictators who are puppet stooges. They referred to the Hashemite Kingdoms. Why should that Federation be wrong, especially when we compare the Federation with the United Arab Republic, and the way in which Iraq and Jordan have developed their economy to the good of their people with the poverty in which the Egyptian people live?
§ Mr. Wall
I am delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman's views, but he can read in HANSARD what he did not hear not long ago, when one of his hon. Friends on the back benches referred to "puppet kingdoms" and "puppet rulers". Obviously, he was referring to the Federation of Iraq and Jordan.
Colonel Nasser goes on to say:As for the second source, it is our territory itself and the position it has on the map of the world, that important strategic situation … the cross-roads … of the world.This is a point which has not been made in this debate yet and I ask the attention of the House to this, because I think it is particularly important not only to this country but to the whole Commonwealth. A little later, Colonel Nasser says:If we direct our attention after that to the second circle, the circle of the continent of Africa, I would say, without exaggeration that we cannot even if we wish to, in any way stand aside from the sanguinary and dreadful struggle now razing in the heart of Africa between five million whites and two hundred million Africans.I suggest that if not only Colonel Nasser's past successes but—let us face it—his present successes in the Middle East, if continued, will inflame anti-Western opinion throughout the Continent of Africa and that that might have enormous repercussions on the Horn of Africa, in East Africa and in Central Africa, and I suggest that hon. Members on both sides of the House should keep that in their minds when talking of negotiation with Colonel Nasser, because I believe that any continued success of Colonel Nasser may have repercussions on the Commonwealth which might be very tragic indeed.
The third source of power, says Colonel Nasser, is oil, but I shall not weary the House with that. I have already dealt with it to some extent. I think it is fairly obvious what is Colonel Nasser's dream. He dreams of establishing a Mohammedan empire based on oil, based on the Mohammedan religion, based on pan-Arabism. Some people have said in this House today that we should negotiate with Colonel Nasser. This was said yesterday in the Daily Herald. It said we should not attack 1346 Colonel Nasser, but try to come to an agreement with him.
Who would drive the better bargain with Colonel Nasser, the West or the Soviets? One thing which might result in an agreement between the Western world and Colonel Nasser would be if we said we agreed to the elimination of the State of Israel. I imagine that no one on the opposite side of the House would agree with that. In negotiation with Colonel Nasser the scales, weighed between the West and the Soviets, are weighed heavily on the side of the latter. Any attempt to match our bargaining power with that of the Soviets would be disastrous.
I end on a rather more constructive note. What action can we take? We must realise that Iraq is the linch pin of the Bagdad Pact and the stability of that pact from which economic and cultural developments have flowed in the Middle East which have been of far more importance than any military developments, and have been of inestimable value to the Middle East.
I believe, therefore, that, in honour bound, we must help our friends when asked to do so, be those friends in Jordan, Iraq or the Lebanon. One thing which should encourage the House is that we are now acting in concert with the Americans and the French—rather a different story from that of two years ago. I believe also that we should bring in the Commonwealth in our dealings with the Middle East and Africa. I am certain that the Commonwealth should be associated with any strategic force which we hold in Kenya or Aden. After all, the oil in the Middle East lubricates industry in the Commonwealth, as well as in Britain.
I take heart from the fact that now for the first time since the end of the Second World War we have a joint Middle Eastern policy with the United States. It is extremely important to back to the hilt the United States intervention in the Lebanon in the last two days. I believe that we are faced with a show-down in the Middle East. If Colonel Nasser wins in Iraq, and takes over the Arab Federation, the whole of the Arabian Peninsula will fall—the Persian Gulf, Aden, and the whole of that great sub-continent.
Colonel Nasser is the main danger that the Western world faces today, because 1347 of his success and because he has been used as a tool of the Soviets. The Soviets know how to use their stooges far better than does the Western world, and they have used him most successfully. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was very cross with me the other day when I said that Colonel Nasser had been considerably helped by things which have been said from his side of the House. Those things leave doubt in the minds of our friends in the Arab world whether this country means to back her friends when it comes to a show-down.
At last, America, France and Britain are thinking along the same lines, and the whole of the British nation has now realised that Colonel Nasser is a supreme danger in the Middle East. The Opposition should ponder this very carefully, for they may well be held responsible for dividing the nation in the difficult months that lie ahead. They should ponder upon the possible result of that action, namely, the political suicide of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
This has been an exceptionally valuable as well as an extremely good debate. It has been exceptionally valuable because, for once in our lives, we are discussing a major field of policy before the Government have actually taken any irrevocable decision in it. The Government, in particular, must pay great heed to what is said and has been said in the debate on both sides of the House, certainly if it is contemplating any action of such a nature as must demand a united nation in support of it.
One encouraging feature about the debate is that there has been, for once, a total unanimity of view on what Western aims and interests really are in the Middle East, namely to preserve access to the oil at a reasonable price and on reasonable terms, and secondly to reduce Soviet influence in the area to its minimum. But I am afraid that the debate has revealed that there is almost as big a gulf as ever between the two sides of the House on the means by which we can secure these interests.
I believe that the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) put his finger on the key to the whole situation when he quoted with approval, very rightly, 1348 the dictum of Lenin that Russian success would be assured if Russia could achieve an alliance between Soviet Communism and Asian nationalism. It seems to me that the real division in the House that has been revealed today is that most hon. Members opposite, though by no means all, believe that it is possible to beat an alliance of Russian Communism and Asian nationalism by resisting it, whereas we on this side of the House believe that it is not possible to beat such an alliance and therefore we must break it or prevent it from ever coming into existence. We can break that alliance only by convincing the nationalists in Asia, and above all the Arab nationalists in the Middle East, that we understand and sympathise with their fundamental aims.
Like most hon. Members in this House, I suppose, I have spent a lot of time in the last few years in discussing Middle Eastern problems with people who work in the area, either for the oil companies or for the Foreign Office, or who have served there in the Army, and I have yet to meet anyone actually working at the present time in the Middle East who believes that it is possible to beat Arab nationalism.
Everyone will agree, if questioned, that the only way by which the West can secure its interests in the Middle East is by, somehow or other, getting Arab nationalism on its side. The real tragedy of British foreign policy in the last twelve years is that we get involved every year or two in a predicament in which we seem to be inevitably compelled to take a decision which puts us in flat contradiction with the whole trend of Arab nationalism.
I believe that we are being pushed into such a position again today and that it is our duty to see that this time we do not fall into the trap, because if we fall into the trap again, we may well find that we have consolidated the alliance between Soviet Communism and Arab nationalism to such an extent that it becomes an absolutely invincible combination against us.
The first objection which is always made to me when I ask why we cannot identify ourselves with this new growing force in the Middle East is: "I wish we could, but we have to have diplomatic relations with the Governments that exist in those countries, and we cannot 1349 support revolutionaries against those Governments."
Of course, that is perfectly true; but this does not mean that if there is an internal movement to overthrow forces which have no basic survival power we should try to resist that internal movement by active intervention. This is really the issue at stake in the Middle East at this moment. First in the Lebanon and later in Iraq there have been internal movements against the existing régimes. In my opinion, we should take the opportunity to make terms with the forces which are now emerging as decisively powerful in those two countries and reconstruct a policy on a basis which has some long-term prospect of success.
Yet in fact, once again, we seem to be pushed by a combination of motives, some of which are highly honourable, like loyalty to old friends, into identifying ourselves not with the forces which every expert recognises are certain to be dominant in the area in the future, but with the forces that have no survival power whatever. This is not a question of the peoples against the pashas.
I am not prepared to say that I think the kind of régime which Colonel Nasser has is better than the kind of régime which Nuri-es-Said had. In many ways I think Nuri-es-Said did more for the people of Iraq than any other Arab ruler has done, but that is not the point. The point is that the kind of forces which Nuri-es-Said represented in the Middle East are dying, and if we tie ourselves to dying forces, our interests will collapse with the collapse of those forces.
Indeed we shall push all the dominant forces in the Middle East into the arms of our basic enemy the Soviet Union. There is no reason on earth why the Russians should find it easy to make an alliance with the forces of nationalism in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world; because we know, and we should be able to tell people in other countries, that nationalism is the major crime in the Soviet calendar, and the Russians have just been demonstrating this once again in their attitude towards the Polish and Yugoslav Communist Parties in Eastern Europe. There is no such alliance formally made as yet, even in the Middle East. Certainly the first step which Colonel Nasser—who, what- 1350 ever he is, is not a Communist—took when Syria joined the United Arab Republic was to make the Communist Party illegal in Syria, and the leader of the Communist Party had to fly to the Soviet Union.
It would be very unwise to take it for granted even that Colonel Nasser is on the Russian side irrevocably in diplomatic questions. Indeed all the evidence of the trend of Nasser's personal thinking, and of Egyptian policy since Nasser last visited Moscow, suggests that he is slowly drifting away from the Soviet orbit, and his recent visit to Tito was certainly not calculated to endear him to Mr. Khrushchev. Yet this is the very moment, when Arab nationalism is drifting slowly away from the Soviet Union, that the British and American Governments seem propelled by uncontrollable and irrational forces into pushing them back into Russia's arms.
What is really behind the revolutions in the Lebanon and in Iraq? The Foreign Secretary said today that he knows much better than the United Nations observers, that he has sources of intelligence on the help given by Syria which are far beyond those of the United Nations' team of 300 observers. I must say that one's confidence in the Foreign Secretary's intelligence sources in the Middle East have been somewhat shaken by the Government's complete surprise at the coup d'état in Iraq. Unless the Government can produce evidence other than statements made to it by President Chamoun, we shall be very sceptical about the claims of massive Syrian intervention in the Lebanon.
The people whom we know as leaders of the revolt in the Lebanon include persons who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered as either Communist or pro-Communist, like Mr. Kamal Jumblatt, who for a long time was the darling of one section of the Foreign Office because he was one of the few genuinely non-Communist left-wingers in the whole of the Middle East. The fact is that Mr. Chamoun has not even got his own Christian community behind him, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, because the Christians in the Lebanon realise that the one thing which will lead to their ultimate downfall is identifying themselves with President Chamoun's personal demand as 1351 a Christian to continue his term of office indefinitely.
The same is equally true in Iraq. I had the honour to meet one of the leaders of the Iraq revolution at Lancaster House a few weeks ago when he was here as an official guest of Her Majesty's Government. Certainly Her Majesty's Government, who are so well informed on Middle East intelligence, did not, at any rate at that time, consider that he was a tool of the Soviet Union.
Although I do not personally know other leaders of the Iraq revolution, I must say that I was very impressed by the report from Istanbul in The Times today on the personalities now leading the Iraq revolution, which suggested that none of them could be considered a Soviet stooge and that many of them could be considered friends of Britain. It is worse than a tragedy, it is a crime, when by some process of diplomatic McCarthyism Mr. Cabot Lodge can get up in the United Nations and call these people, who are fundamentally capable of co-operating with the West, Communists. If a man like that is called a Communist for long enough, he will become one, and who can blame him?
The plain fact is that we have an opportunity in the Middle East to identify ourselves with the forces which have proved themselves in action, whether we like it or not and whether we approve of them or not, to be the decisive and dominating forces in that part of the world. We must adjust ourselves to their emergence in exactly the same way as we adjusted ourselves to the emergence of General de Gaulle in France. General de Gaulle came to power in France also as a result of a military coup d'état and that, rightly, did not prevent the Prime Minister seeking to establish good relations with him and seeking to build a basis for co-operation with him.
The really critical issue in the debate, as has been said by many other people, is whether we should compound what is a mistake which we have already made, in approving American entry into the Lebanon, by militarily intervening ourselves in Jordan to support of a Government which we know in our hearts has no survival power without permanent military backing by Britain on the spot.
Nobody will dispute the right and, indeed, the duty of the British Govern- 1352 ment to send troops into a foreign country if the lives of our nationals are at stake. It may well be that a situation may develop in some part of the Middle East, even in the next few days, in which such an intervention might be unavoidable. We hope that it will not. The real issue is whether the Government are planning to intervene with military force in Jordan where there are no British nationals to protect in any case.
British intervention in Jordan would be a disaster of the first magnitude. In the first place, we have no military obligations of any sort to the Jordan Government or State. The Jordan Government denounced their military treaty with us, and we accepted the denunciation, as the Foreign Secretary told us earlier today. In the second place, if we intervene in Jordan, we shall be intervening in a civil war in the Arab Federation. We have ourselves recognised the Federation, and the present King of Jordan now claims to have replaced the perhaps dead King of Iraq as the leader of the Federation. The Government's lawyers will tell them that we have no right to intervene in a civil war of that type unless we can prove foreign intervention on the other side, and of that there is no proof whatever.
Most important of all, so far the violent events in the Middle East in the last few weeks have not led to the loss of many British lives, although we all deeply deplore the death of a British civil servant in Bagdad the other day. Have the Government reflected on the possible repercussions in Iraq, where there are 2,000 British citizens without any local protection whatever, if they send military troops into Amman and identify themselves with the counterrevolution in the Arab Federation?
Are the Government prepared to defend those people, or will they treat their lives and their interests as cavalierly as they treated the lives and interests of the British citizens in Egypt at the time of the Government's intervention in Suez? Again, are the Government in a position to make up for the loss of oil which we shall most certainly suffer if we intervene ourselves directly and militarily in this matter? Above all, are they prepared to meet all the possible consequences of a Soviet reaction?
I saw on the tape this evening that the Russians have said that they will 1353 intervene to support the Government of Iraq in such a situation. To my mind what is even more dangerous is the possibility that the Russians would seize on Western military involvement in the Middle East as an excuse for massive military intervention in Eastern Europe, where they face problems essentially similar in nature to those which we face in the Middle East. It is for those reasons that I think that most hon. Members on this side of the House are convinced that a British military intervention to support a collapsing régime in the Middle East would be a disaster with irreparable consequences.
Her Majesty's Government must take note from this debate that that is the feeling on this side of the House. Many of my hon. and right hon. Friends have shown very great restraint in not wishing to press this matter to a vote at this stage. Many of us have done so because we feel that it is right that before an irreparable decision is taken the Government, the country and the world should be fully seized of the state of British opinion on the matter. I believe that if the Government act in the knowledge of the views of the Opposition they can save themselves and the world from a decision which might have catastrophic consequences.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I have now lived long enough always to contemplate the arrival of midsummer with deep depression. It is an ironical fact that, whereas we ought to be looking forward to an uplifting of our spirits and some relaxation from arduous labours, as July, August and September come along we feel apprehension as to what might happen. In my lifetime these have proved to be the most deadly months of the year.
We find ourselves once more in the middle of a very serious crisis, and we do not know how far that crisis will deepen. The first steps have been taken and they might well prove irrevocable. It is quite easy to start off something of this sort, but it is not always as easy to stop it developing. As the old adage says, one can throw a stone into the pool, but one cannot control the ripples.
When I was sitting here, listening to most of the debate, my mind went back to the years immediately after the war 1354 when the then Labour Government had the responsibility for guiding the nation through some very troublesome years. The Prime Minister recently paid a visit to India, and he came back—so he told us—deeply impressed by the warmth of his reception there. He was probably all the more impressed because he was the first Conservative Prime Minister to visit India since the war. He was obviously deeply moved by the friendliness of his reception.
In 1945 we met a deep upsurge of nationalism in South-East Asia. We had to deal with a situation which was in many respects even more difficult than the one which is facing us today. We had been deeply committed in India for centuries; we had many interests there, and it was acknowledged on all sides—in India, in particular—that many people from Great Britain had given devoted service to the Indian people. There were all kinds of bonds linking us together, and all kinds of influences were at work trying to persuade us that we must at all costs continue the Imperial link with the South-East Asian continent. There was, as I said, very strong nationalism indeed.
We resisted those voices and we decided—it was a very difficult decision to make in some respects—that the only wise and statesmanlike course to pursue was the freely negotiated independence of India, of Pakistan and, later, of Ceylon. The result was that we have built up by that single act the strongest bulwark against the incursion of Communism in South-East Asia.
§ Mr. Bevan
We converted a bitter enemy into a warm friend.
I am not recalling this merely for the purpose of saying, "I told you so," or of flourishing political trophies; I want to make certain deductions from what I am saying and from my experience. If one negotiates a people's independence early enough, one enables the institutions of democracy to strike deep roots. But if one resists the arrival of independence too much, so that the struggle for independence must take on the form of civil war, then what might have been a movement for national independence becomes a movement for a social revolution. That, surely, is the lesson.
1355 In China, where independence was obtained only by a heavy civil war lasting for many years, the Communists took control. In India democratic institutions were established, as, indeed, they were also in Indonesia. Although in some places they are shallow-rooted, and sometimes still seem as if they may not be able to withstand all the storms, nevertheless I ask the House of Commons to read the lesson properly, that in these areas where imperial Governments were intelligent enough and deep-visioned enough to negotiate independence, not only have democratic institutions been established but also friendly relations with the old imperial Powers. That was the way in which we dealt with the nationalist movements in South-East Asia.
We have been making similar experiments with a considerable amount of success in Africa. We have negotiated the independence of Ghana, and although it has revealed some deficiencies they are by no means as many as they were in the days of Lord North. The institutions there are strong and withstanding the early years of the government of a new nation. We have the same thing in Nigeria. In other words, we have so far in this nation shown sufficient sagacity to be able to accommodate ourselves and our policies to the rise of nationalism in Africa and in South-East Asia. But we have not succeeded in doing that in anything like the same degree in the Middle East. That has been the main motif of this debate.
These nationalisms in the Middle East cannot be suppressed. We must adjust ourselves to them. They are not alien in origin; they are indigenous in origin. The Soviet Union is not responsible for stimulating the national ambitions of the Arab peoples. It may be seeking to benefit by them, but the author of them is not the Soviet Union. They are, in fact, spontaneous products of the historical situation now existing there; and, therefore, we have to accommodate ourselves to them.
One of the reasons why we are having these difficulties is because large sums of money coming from the West in the form of oil royalties are being sent there now in an increasing quantity, and are calling into existence a petty bourgeoisie 1356 with which the rulers will not share their power. That is what is the matter. The merchants, the educated classes of the sheikhdoms and of Iraq, and places like that, are not permitted to form normal constitutional Governments like they were elsewhere. They are therefore driven into revolt.
It has always been a principle, in fact it is written into the American Declaration of Independence, that if people are not permitted to affect the policies of their nations by normal constitutional methods and are not permitted to employ peaceful means of changing the policies of their Governments and affecting the laws of their land, there is no moral case against open rebellion. That was the lesson in this nation and in every Western nation. Therefore, the responsibility for revolt in some of these nations must rest squarely upon those Governments that have fought a rearguard action against progress all the time.
The situation is, in fact, intolerable. An expenditure of money upon opulent luxury in the middle of unendurable poverty cannot provide stability for the Middle East. We have never tried at all to solve this problem by the arts of diplomacy. My main charge against the Government is that they have always stood back until trouble has arisen and have tried to deal with it empirically. They have never tried to work out a policy for the Middle East. They have never sought to get the oil companies together to talk sense. They have never realised that there cannot be peace in the Middle East while there are poor non-oil States and opulent oil States.
Furthermore, the Government showed an extraordinary lack of acumen when they sought to divide the Arab States and to build what was called "a northern tier" by constructing the Bagdad Pact. That was the silliest creation in the history of diplomacy. It did, literally and figuratively, rest on sand. It could not possibly be of any military value at all. I have always held that view and expressed it, and now, of course, the Pact is practically dead. What it did was to make Egypt into a bitter enemy of the West.
We must recognise the facts. We shall never get our diplomacy right if we consider certain facts as too disreputable to notice. It is a fact that Egypt, being a poor country, Syria being a poor country 1357 and Jordan being a poor country, and being non-oil States, could not possibly live peacefully side by side with oil States sharing their religion and their history. Therefore, it was clear to anyone who paid any attention whatsoever to the Middle East that no peace would come to the Middle East until we provided a framework in which all the Arab peoples could find their place. That we have not done. In fact, we have sought, as has been said over and over again tonight, to divide the Arab peoples and to get our own way like that, although it was obvious to anybody who tried to read the signs that this could not permanently succeed.
What is our main interest? Our main interest—as has been said over and over again, and I say it only for the purpose of the continuity of my argument—is to get for Europe oil from the Middle East at a reasonable price. The lesson of Suez was that oil cannot be obtained peacefully, in sufficient quantity and smoothly from the Middle East without the ready co-operation not only of Middle Eastern Governments but of Middle Eastern peoples. We can have a friendly Government in Bagdad; we can have a friendly Government in Iran, in Kuwait or in Saudi Arabia, but, unless those Governments are not only friendly to us but rest upon the loyal support of their own people, we are not sure of the oil, because the capacities for sabotage are infinite.
We can, of course, as has already been mentioned by an hon. Gentleman opposite, hold down a modern nation by armed force. The Russians have shown that. The powers of coercion and intimidation at the disposal of a modern Government are such that civil revolt is no longer possible of success unless the Government are prepared to permit it. Russia has proved it, Salazar has proved it, Franco has proved it.
We could, therefore, establish by military force Governments in the Middle East that would be our puppets, but we could call them our friends and we could maintain peace by similar methods. But does any hon. Member suggest that a British Parliament could meet day after day with the record of shootings and massacres and imprisonments that that would mean if we were to keep those Governments attached to us indefinitely? Hon. Members know 1358 very well that that would be quite impossible.
In fact, if we tried to maintain such Governments in the Middle East as our instruments in such undemocratic ways, it would ultimately destroy the democracy of Great Britain itself. Therefore, we must have—and this is the nub of the argument—not only Governments that are in friendly relationship with us but peoples who are prepared to be friends with us also. That means that we must work out policies to which the Middle Eastern people can subscribe.
What worries me about the speech of the Foreign Secretary is that we are quite uncertain what it is that we are asked to support. I always find it difficult to follow him. I am quite certain that he is an astute lawyer, but I always think that when he presents a case he is like the boy who is not very certain whether to spell a word with the "e" before the "i" or the "i" before the "e" and, therefore, makes both letters look alike.
Until 14th of this month we understood that the policy of the Government with respect to the Lebanon was quite clear. It was stated by the Foreign Secretary on 2nd July, when he said:It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to do all within their power to see that the Security Council Resolution of 11th June is carried out. I would remind the House of the terms of the operative paragraph of that Resolution, which reads:'The Security Council … decides to despatch an observation Group to proceed to the borders of the Lebanon to ensure'—mark the word—'that there is no illegal infiltration of personnel or supply of arms or other material across the Lebanese borders.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1958; Vol. 590, c. 1314.]That Resolution was not vetoed by the Russian delegate. I am satisfied that Her Majesty's Government were pleased to find that the word "ensure" was in the Resolution, because that word authorised the Secretary-General of the United Nations to do whatever he thought, and whatever, subsequently, the Security Council might think, was necessary in order to protect the Lebanon from infiltration. Therefore, for the first time in circumstances of this sort, the Security Council had armed the Secretary-General with all the authority that he needed to deal with the situation. There was no need to go back on it. The affair went on in the Lebanon for two months.
1359 What I am puzzled about is this. We are told that the intervention from outside is so vexatious that something must be done about it in order to preserve the integrity and territorial inviolability of the Lebanon. President Chamoun has been in this trouble now for more than two months. It has been going on in one form or another for more than two years. He has not got the army—well he has got it, but he cannot use it—he has not been able to deploy the army against the rebels. We are told that 60 per cent. of the Lebanese population are against him. So for two months President Chamoun, with 60 per cent. of the population against him and the army not with him, has yet been able to withstand this infiltration from outside. This is poppycock.
The only real conclusion to be drawn from those facts is that there has been no serious attempt to overthrow him from outside, because he could not stand up against anything like substantial infiltration from outside. There has been, of course, some help coming to the rebels across the Syrian border, but the observer team of the United Nations declared that it was not substantial, and, of course, it could not have been substantial because otherwise Chamoun would not now be President. We know that some help has been coming to the Druses because their friends across the border have been sending some assistance to Jumblat. I should have thought that any hon. Member would agree with my conclusion that, in the circumstances in which President Chamoun found himself, it would be the greatest exaggeration to say that he had to deal with any substantial help for his enemies across the border.
This was the situation up till 14th of this month. In the meantime, the political situation in the Lebanon had improved. The President had declared that he would not stand for a further term of office, and the name of the new President had been brought forward. It is true that the military situation was still uneasy, but it was not as bad as it had been. Then, suddenly and most conveniently, the Intelligence Service of Her Majesty's Government, which up till then had been myopic, became penetrative. It discovered what the observer team could not discover. It discovered that a few 1360 days earlier substantially increased quantities of help were coming to the rebels across the Syrian frontier. Mr. Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has just this day reported to the Security Council that that statement is incorrect.
Yet, in those circumstances, after two months' delay, President Chamoun invites the United States to come to his help, a very providential invitation. Everybody knew very well—Mr. Foster Dulles almost blurted it out—that the invitation was in Mr. Chamoun's pocket whenever the United States wanted to have it, and they had it, but it happened to coincide with the rebellion in Bagdad.
This afternoon the Foreign Secretary said this: "I think the events of 14th July completely changed the situation. I think it is absolutely clear, in the atmosphere of the coup d'état in Bagdad and the plots against Jordan, that the body of observers could not guarantee the integrity and independence of the Lebanon." That is what I mean by putting the "i's" before the "e's" and the "e's" before the "i's," because I do not know from that sentence whether the United States marines are in the Lebanon because of what happened in Bagdad or because of Chamoun's invitation.
What we know is that there is no real connection between the two. We know very well that there is no conspiracy that links the rebels in the Lebanon with the insurrectionists in Bagdad. We know that there is nothing going over the Iraq border into the Lebanon. The only conclusion that we can reach, therefore, is this,—and it is a very serious one: that the invitation from President Chamoun and the presence of the American marines in the Lebanon were due not to any events in the Lebanon itself but in order to deal with the situation created in Iraq. That is where the trouble might start.
The danger, therefore, is that having got to the Lebanon, either impulsively or in any other way, what happens next? I do not believe that it was done impulsively. I do not agree with some of my hon. Friends there. I believe that it was carefully prepared beforehand until the moment arrived to give their disembarkation in Beirut some kind of juridical justification.
Having got there, what do we do? My right hon. Friend this afternoon made a 1361 statement to which I think the Government should pay very close attention. We have decided, many of us with very great reluctance, not to divide the House against the Government this evening. [Laughter.] I want hon. and right hon. Members opposite to weigh this situation very seriously indeed. We are afraid here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Afraid?"] Yes, afraid, and if any hon. Member is not afraid of what might be the consequences of this action, he is an ass. We are afraid that the same arid and outmoded logic that led to the landing of troops in the Lebanon might tempt Her Majesty's Government to respond to an invitation to send troops to Jordan and Iraq.
We warn them that if they do that, they have the responsibility for dividing the nation. We believe that such an act would set the people of this country upon a road of endless ruin. We do not believe for one single moment that it is in the best interests of this country to try to obtain oil from the Middle East by naked military means. We believe that it can be done by normal commercial transactions, supplemented and reinforced by intelligent diplomacy.
We do not believe that we are witnessing in the Middle East in these circumstances what has been described by President Eisenhower as merely one more piece of evidence of a universal Soviet plot. We believe that that is mere obsessionism. Hon. Members opposite, I am quite certain, will do us the credit of believing that we have studied this matter very earnestly and as deeply as we can. It may be that hon. Members opposite have more knowledge of the subject than we have. If they have, then they have so far concealed it from us.
I hope that the Prime Minister has sent the Foreign Secretary to Washington with a message to the President of the United States that we cannot go it with the Americans in military adventures in the Middle East. I hope that he will prevail upon them not to be too repentant of their virtue in 1956. What they did then in the Middle East, I am quite convinced, gave the United Nations an important reinforcement of strength. It is our duty to try to use that organisation to the utmost, and I am certain that it is in the best interests of Great Britain to try to restore our relations with the Arab nations upon a permanently friendly footing.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
The question which the House has been debating today is one of the utmost gravity. Nobody, on either side of the House, can pretend that recent events in the Middle East have not created a critical and difficult situation. Whatever course future events may take, there are grave dangers for this country and, indeed, for many others, especially in Europe. We have plenty of problems of our own at home. How much better it would have been could we be left to deal with them in peace. But our international position, the nature of our economy and our dependence upon our alliances is such that we have to face these external events.
I must express my gratitude to the Leader of the Opposition for the tone and temper of his speech today. I hope that he will not think it impertient of me if I say that I feel sure that his decision not to divide the House is a wise one. The questions that the right hon. Gentleman posed to the Government were put in moderate form and, as he specifically said, did not call for an immediate reply. They were more statements of his own position than immediate requests for detailed information. The right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that the position is, and must remain for some time, uncertain and unsettled. His phrase that the Government cannot be expected to answer hypothetical questions is both valuable for present and, if I may say so, for future use.
In the course of the debate, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) asked about consultation with the Commonwealth. Ever since I became Prime Minister, it has been my practice to send personal messages to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers quite frequently, both in the old and in the new Commonwealth, on the general questions of the day. During recent months and weeks, as these Middle Eastern problems have developed, we have kept them informed of all major developments. Naturally, I must be frank and say that since I only heard of the tragedy in Bagdad at 8 o'clock on Monday morning, I cannot pretend that I had a full discussion with every Government of the Commonwealth between then and the time when the decisions were taken, 24 hours later, much as I would have liked to do so. 1363 Even so, messages were sent all the time and the Commonwealth Secretary has kept in touch with the Commonwealth High Commissioners in London.
I did not quite see the relevance of the earlier observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He spoke as if we were governing those countries in the Middle East. He spoke as if we had refused them their independence. What is the truth? In this very country where these tragic events have happened, Iraq, we were largely the creators of their freedom, and although we did certainly guide them through our treaty rights during the earlier years this Government and Governments before it have fully surrendered these rights to the full independence of Iraq.
As for the Bagdad Pact, the right hon. Gentleman can, of course, have his views. All I can say is that these were not expressed by his party, for the Motion approving the accession of Her Majesty's Government to that pact was carried without a Division in the House.
Nobody can pretend, I will not pretend, that the arguments for or against this or that course in this crisis, or, indeed, in any other crisis, have been overwhelming on one side or the other. In my experience, there are very few matters in which there is a 100 per cent. case on one side or the other. If it were so, life, and certainly politics, would be much simpler. Normally, there are considerations upon one side and the other. They have to be carefully balanced, and in the end it may be by a comparatively small margin that the scale tips finally this or that way.
What we are debating today is the decision of the United States Government, in which they have had the full support of the British Government, to send military forces to the Lebanon in response to President Chamoun's urgent appeal. This is only one of many questions in the Middle East, and, of course, we have had to consider it—and it has been right in a most interesting debate to consider it—in relation to the wider picture.
Perhaps we may examine what we are chiefly debating today from two main points of view, first, whether it is legally and morally justified, secondly, whether, on the whole balance of considerations it is wise and prudent.
1364 I do not wish to dismiss the legal points quite so cursorily as the Leader of the Opposition. I think that they are of some importance. I do not think that there can be much difference of view about that. A legitimate Government has, it seems to me, the right to ask for help in its difficulties from another friendly Government. Whether that help should be forthcoming or not is, of course, a matter of judgment, but I do not think that there is anything legally improper for a nation faced either with aggression from outside, or with internal disturbances supported from outside, to ask for help. I think that this is commonly recognised.
In the case of the Lebanon, the Manchester Guardian says this today:To describe the landing of American Marines in Lebanon as an act of aggression has no justification in international law; they came in response to an appeal by the constitutional head of a sovereign state who had a perfect right to invite them.[HON. MEMBERS: "There is more. Read on."] I quite admit, and I am coming to it, that there is the question whether they should do so, whether it is wise to do so. I was dealing, first, with the legal power, and I take some comfort from this statement because as regards the legal rights there seems to be nothing in the ordinary law of nations or in the United Nations Charter which forbids such action.
Of course, it can be argued that where there is already some severe internal struggle in a country, and where the stimulus has come from an outside power, that is one of the occasions where the United Nations should act collectively. It was our hope that they would do so successfully, but, of course, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said, time is of the essence of this problem. In any case, it seems to me that the legitimate Government of any friendly State has the right to ask for help to assist it against dangers, and there is no doubt at all that, from the legal point of view, neither the American assistance nor any other assistance that might be given it can be regarded as illegal. Still less, in my view, at any rate, can it be regarded as immoral.
I think that the House is fairly well aware, though perhaps not wholly aware, of the facts behind the rebellion in the Lebanon and, indeed, behind the whole 1365 pattern of subversion in many Middle Eastern States. It has been said that the internal situation of the Lebanon is simply an internal matter, a civil war between two factions, and that the Western Powers have been trying to bolster up an obsolete, unpopular and undemocratic régime. I think that that is really a false picture.
I know that it has been argued that the United Nations observers could not find any great evidence to substantiate the massive character of the intervention in their first report. But let us be fair and say that the United Nations observers, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, had a very difficult job to do, although they did it to the best of their ability. They were working under very severe limitations. They were hurriedly assembled. They had not the modern apparatus necessary for the collection of intelligence and they had very limited contacts in the Lebanon. They were prevented by the rebel leaders from inspecting the frontier areas at all and, therefore, their report must be read with full regard to these facts. In other words, they were unable to ensure that there should be no intervention. How could they, when they ranged over only a few kilometres?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made it quite clear, and it cannot be seriously disputed, that there has been subversion and foreign intervention organised from outside on a large scale. This is supported by evidence in our possession for which I must ask the House to take my assurance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because I am stating what I believe to be true and I have evidence to support it. But the curious thing is that it is really confirmed by Mr. Hammarskjold's own efforts, as the Leader of the Opposition stated. For Mr. Hammarskjold, who, very properly, was trying to reduce the tension in the Lebanese struggle, went to Cairo. He was, of course, right to do so.
But why did Mr. Hammarskjold go there? Only, surely, because he felt that in Cairo he might be able to bring some influence upon the Egyptian Government and try to persuade them to stop what they were doing, and this would really be the most effective way, more effective perhaps than his observers, of reducing the character of the intervene- 1366 tion. He was right to go to Cairo and he had some success. I admit that, for it was generally thought that as a result of his efforts the pressure and the threats had been somewhat reduced. But his journey to Cairo and his partial success in Cairo are really a confirmation of the close connection between the situation in the Lebanon and the efforts to foment revolution springing from a foreign country.
I think that I may perhaps just add this. Successive British Governments, and certainly we, in the last period, have had some experience of being the victims of this sort of threat. It is the pattern of subversion in many parts. There has been a striking example of it recently in the attack in Aden. Here again, we have clear evidence of intrigue and subversion through the intermediary of another Power. Here again, we know from our own experience how propaganda and plots shade into violent revolution and, indeed, open aggression. We are familiar with this pattern. Of course, it is not so easy for the smaller and weaker countries to deal with it.
There is just one other point which was made to which I should make reference in dealing with the morality of what was done. Some parallel was drawn by some hon. Members between the American action and the events of 1956 in Hungary. What is the difference, we have been asked, between the revolt in Hungary and the threat to the Lebanon? Surely there is this cardinal difference. We all know, in spite of all the efforts of some of the most skilled propagandists in the world, that no one has been able to produce a jot of evidence to show that the Hungarian rising was other than spontaneous. It had no organisation from outside, it received no arms from abroad, no money and no previous propaganda preparation.
I think, therefore, that it is clear—and this is part of what I want to say—that from the legal point of view the Americans have acted correctly. I think that it is also clear that the action of the Americans and the support we have given, diplomatic and full support of them, is morally justified.
I now come to the other set of considerations which, I think, were mainly in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and also of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale. 1367 It is really saying this. Is it wise? It may be legal, it may be right to do it, it may be morally correct and legally correct, but is it wise, is it prudent? Therefore, I say what I began by saying, that the arguments are, of course, very balanced. On the one side it is said—and there is considerable force in the argument—that Western intervention, even at the request of the lawful Government of any State in difficulties, will only fan the flames of Arab nationalism and xenophobia. It will only increase the gulf between Nasser and his satellite States and the West.
These troubles, it is said, and it is a powerful argument, are merely symptomatic of a deep, underlying feeling of unsatisfied aspirations of a people slowly emerging from a medieval, perhaps a feudal system. But when one speaks of forms of government, although the régime of Iraq before this last coup was certainly monarchic, it was certainly one of the most progressive in the Middle East.
It is said—I think that everyone has admitted this—that it is a State which uses its oil revenues very beneficially for the public good, largely under the guidance of very distinguished colleagues and friends of ours who have helped. It has done so more than any other State in the Middle East and the successive rulers and Governments of Iraq, whatever failings they may have had, have always preferred the solid work of building up their country to the more showy forms of ostentation.
The Iraqi régime was not fully democratic in the Western sense, but it has been developing and moving forward. It is certainly a long way ahead from every point of view of the dictatorships which have tried to overthrow it, or which are trying to succeed it. In the same way, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said that the parliamentary and election system of the Lebanon was not altogether satisfactory by what we would call our modern standards and methods here, but at least it has a Parliament, which does not exist in the dictator countries. All the same—and I am trying to put the argument fairly—there is, as I have said, a great deal of weight and, let me be frank, a great attraction in the argument that we had 1368 better leave things alone, that these mass movements are inevitable and that we should accept them.
From the economic point of view it is, of course, true that the oil must be sold to somebody, that the buyer has a certain power as well as the proprietor, and that, even if it is sold at much higher prices and without the advantage of the great investing capacity of the companies, it is something if it continues to be sold in sterling.
Of course, there are great attractions, may I say great temptations, in allowing things to drift and hoping that, somehow or other, we shall emerge without too much damage. I think I have fairly stated this argument and I am not going to say that I have not given great weight to it. It is a matter of balance, and often of very nice balance. Yet, when I reflect upon the history of my lifetime, I cannot believe that it is always wise from the point of view of the future to think only of our convenience in the present.
I do not feel that the Leader of the Opposition was right in claiming that intervention in the Lebanon must be fatal in the long run. For if things merely drift along, what will be the end, or what may be the end of the story? Let us assume that Iraq, Jordan, the Lebanon and later, of course, the oil-bearing countries round the Gulf—all Arabia, the Yemen and Aden—are all brought voluntarily by an upsurge of feeling, or perhaps involuntarily, within the ambit of this Pan-Arab—I will not say nationalism, but rather imperialism. Will it end there? What will be the future of the Sudan, a country which we have done a great deal to create, and where we have done the very things which the right hon. Gentlemen so praised? What are they thinking? What do they fear? We know. Where will Libya stand, and what will be the resulting impact on other parts of Africa? And if we look further north, what may be the effect on our friends in Persia, Turkey and Pakistan?
These nationalist movements, like all nationalism, however good they are—we must try to guide them of course—can also have in them something perverted. They may be the instruments of legitimate ambition, but they can also be used for personal, wrong and subversive ends, and ultimately fall into Communist hands. This form of nationalism is not the pure patriotism of sacrifice. It is the kind 1369 of nationalism which feeds upon, and can often only be sustained, by continual aggression.
While I give full weight—I am trying to balance these things—to the arguments put forward by the two right hon. Gentlement, what we have to teach to the emerging nations of the world—and we have a fairly proud record which the right hon. Gentleman has shared, as he rightly claims, based upon a long tradition of teaching democratic principles, respect for the law and all the things we associate with the British connection—is this. I say that surely we want to teach them, so far as we can influence them, that they have not only rights but also responsibilities.
I am bound to say that the methods which are being used to promote these nationalist movements do not give one full confidence, or, indeed, much confidence, that they will be combined with respect for the legitimate interests of their own inhabitants, still less of neighbouring nations. Where short-term conditions favour inaction, long-term conditions may very well be the other way.
I have tried to balance the arguments and to put some of the considerations which must be in all our minds. We have had a debate to which we have all tried to contribute without too much party feeling on this problem. In any event, what we have to consider today, the immediate question before the House, is this: was the United States Government justified in the action which it has taken to support the Lebanon when it was threatened with disruption caused by external aggression and subversion?
Have we been right to associate ourselves with it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and to give moral support? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Are we right to support this action in the United Nations, and shall we be right if we concert with them a broad policy which will try to avoid the obvious dangers, which we know too well, but not be content merely to avoid the dangers by ignoring them? The House as a whole, and, I think, the country, will take the view that in this difficult situation the Government reached the right decision. I think that even those who do not feel that, have approached our problem with a good deal of sympathy and understanding, and 1370 I pay my tribute of gratitude and thanks for it.
Finally, I feel that the close co-operation between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in the attempt to face these problems together is a gain to the world and it is a foundation on which we can build for the future. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said, this is something which should be known not only to ourselves, but to the world.
The House as a whole will welcome the opportunity which Mr. Dulles's invitation will provide to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to have a general discussion on all these problems.
§ The Prime Minister
Incidentally, the Leader of the Opposition referred to some remarks which I made at a meeting last night when I was talking about our close relations with the United States. I was quoted as saying—perhaps I did say something to the effect—that we would almost prefer to be wrong together than to be right separately. I did not mean that literally. Our aim must be to be right together.
To sum up, the House is conscious of the gravity of the situation. I think that there is a general understanding of the difficulties ahead of us. I think that there is a general wish that if it is possible we should not add to the problems of the nation by a divided Parliament. I say once more that we can make two claims. First, I think that we have the sympathy and the understanding, as I said, even of Members who do not altogether approve our decision—[HON. MEMBERS: "How does the right hon. Gentleman know?"] I have sensed it, and if I wish to pay a compliment I will do so; it will do hon. Members no injury, since it is only collective. Secondly, both the motives of the Government of the United States in taking the action which it has done, and the decision of Her Majesty's Government in giving it full support, are understood and will be supported by the nation as a whole.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. A measure of applause is quite usual in the House and can be understood, but I think that this prolonged applause is of an obstructive character. I think that the House should listen to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross).
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.