During the diplomatic unrest surrounding the Falkland Islands, the US under President Reagan remained neutral – refusing to back Argentina or the UK in the dispute. But Washington was presented with a dilemma when in the build-up to the UK forces landing on South Georgia – the first island invasion – the White House contemplated informing the Argentine junta of the approaching attack. This would have been a disaster for British troops and could have resulted in a devastating defeat with many more lives lost. US Secretary of State Al Haig argued that that the only way Washington could fulfil its promise of neutrality was to warn Argentina.
The claim was made to the British ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, who reported Haig as saying: “If the Americans acted in this way they would be able to show even-handedness to the Argentines and this would enable them to continue their role as a go-between”.
But Henderson opposed this view, warning that such information could enable Argentine troops to mount deadly attacks on Royal Navy forces arriving at the Falklands.
Haig eventually promised to keep quiet,.
South Georgia had initially been invaded by the Argentines on April 3 1982, overpowering a small group of Royal Marines.
The revelation of a near-betrayal by Washington emerged in 2012 when files became declassified.
They also revealed how Reagan had urged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher not to “humiliate” the Argentinians in a late-night phone call.
Mr Reagan said: “The best chance for peace was before complete Argentine humiliation. As the UK now has the upper hand militarily it should strike a deal now.”
However, Thatcher ignored Reagan’s advice continuing to push for complete Argentine withdrawal.
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