890D.01/593: Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

155. Department’s 57, April 28. I do not consider it desirable that we commit ourselves to support a specific program such as the one outlined or any other proposed by one of interested parties. It is precisely because our support would be practically decisive owing to local desire to please us that we should avoid assuming responsibility for details which may be acceptable only because suggested by us. We would naturally later bear the entire onus if any of the suggestions should not work satisfactorily.

Personally I feel the measures recommended are quite good and shall be glad to lend my support informally if occasion arises. But as they may be subject to bargaining and compromise I do not think we should give them weight of our official support at this stage.

Since my 151, April 29, I have talked to Catroux and Naccache and both expressed genuine pleasure that American Government had authorized me to assist. I shall see President of Syria and Maronite Patriarch in few days.

My impression is that Catroux merely wants to safeguard some French rights in the Levant until end of war as he feels he is trustee for France. He does not seriously believe French will ever again be able to impose any terms not acceptable to the people themselves. But he bitterly resents, and has told me so, attitude of Spears whom he accuses of deliberately thwarting him and discrediting everything he does. Catroux, therefore, fights back and is unwilling to yield even on matters he does not really feel strongly about.

It is here I think we can be most helpful and I am doing my best but details should be settled between themselves. Of course, if they should ask my personal opinion regarding some particular point, I shall give it but without committing Department.