890d.00/345: Telegram

The Consul at Beirut (Knabenshue)62 to the Secretary of State

Situation at Damascus deplorable. French forces there numbering several thousand remain behind barricades in one small portion of the city while rebels loot and kidnap notables for ransom in all parts of the city including French section. Doctor Melikian, dragoman of the American consulate, was kidnapped evening February 7th, robbed of several thousand dollars and is held for ransom of about $2,000 additional. French have not replied to Keeley’s tactful request for information as to their action in the matter. Keeley63 fears that if French upon our official demand were to attempt rescue, Melikian would be murdered by the rebels. Keeley feels that prestige of the consulate is involved and believes that upon his request Attrash64 whom he knows personally would cause immediate relief [release?] of Melikian. Keeley and I with the knowledge and consent of the French might get informal word to Attrash through influential sources which might possibly cause the release of Melikian. Pending the receipt of instructions from the Department I have instructed Keeley to continue his policy of noninterference in the hope that the family of Melikian will themselves effect his release and thus avoid involving the United States.

There seems to be no hope of peaceful settlement between French and rebels. French are preparing for spring campaign but it is believed that the general situation will become worse before better. Please see my despatch of January 26th [25th].65

Sent to the Department and to Embassy at Paris.

  1. Supervising consular officer in Syria.
  2. James H. Keeley, Jr., consul at Damascus.
  3. Sultan Pasha el Attrash, commander of the Druse revolutionary forces.
  4. Not printed.