890D.01/626: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

1421. My 1388, August 5, 7 p.m.32 Ministry of State advises as follows regarding developments in Syria and Lebanon, action contemplated and effect of possible recognition by United States:

Following discussions in May and June between British and Free French, it was decided that in event military situation permitted announcement would be made by Catroux early in August of intention to return to democratic institutions in Syria and Lebanon, that in so doing mention would be made of British approval and that holding of elections would be concurrently announced by Syria and Lebanese President[s] who would also submit their resignations at appropriate moments. In implementation of these declarations and provided the military situation still permitted announcement of date of elections would be made in September or October and elections held several [Page 607] weeks thereafter. In conference between Casey and Catroux on July 3, however, latter expressed opinion that military situation was such that proposed announcement might cause unrest and that he believed advisable to defer.
In note to Catroux dated August 4, Casey recapitulated foregoing and stated that after careful consideration, he believed it desirable to proceed with election plans since they were already known to Syrian politicians who might well interpret delay as indicating a change of intention and thus afford ground for greater potential unrest than would the holding of elections. Casey said that Eden and British military were in agreement. He also mentioned interest of Arab world in the matter and suggested that policy of Iraq and Egypt as well as possibly of the United States in respect of Levant States might be affected by the decision reached.
No reply to foregoing has yet been received and in meantime British have discussed matter here with de Gaulle whose first reaction was one of violent opposition on the basis of his estimate of the military situation but who was eventually prevailed on to take a more favorable view. The reelection matter now rests.
Recognition of Syria and Lebanon by the United States would be most welcome and would be particularly helpful in respect of both those and other Arab countries if tied up to the holding of elections. In the meantime, the British would appreciate any help the American Government might afford in prevailing on Free French to go through with election plans. Furthermore, our recognition would effect desirable broadening of diplomatic representation in Beirut and Damascus and might assist in mitigating friction between Catroux and Spears which is less noticeable since their Cairo visit [but] may be recurrent. (See my 1369 August 3, 9 a.m.)33

Following are my personal views on this subject in elaboration of previous observations.

Assuming that we are prepared to overlook legalistic considerations insofar as Vichy is concerned, the establishment of American diplomatic representation in Syria would not only serve as a gesture of Allied solidarity at a critical time and possibly as partial panacea for Anglo-Free French irritation, but it would also put us in a position to exploit more effectively, both in our own interests and that of our Allies, the legacy of good will which we enjoy in that area. I concur, however, in the suggestion that such a step would best be taken on the occasion of some act indicative of the inauguration of a more democratic regime, such as the holding of elections.
Given the appropriate occasion for recognition, it is submitted that our diplomatic representatives should have the rank of Minister or at least Minister Resident as in the somewhat parallel case of Iraq in its evolution from a class–A mandate to independence. Any lesser [Page 608] denomination would be an obvious half-measure, carrying with it implied disparagement of the regime in the Levant States and lack of solidarity. It would, furthermore put our representative in a disadvantageous position, vis-à-vis his colleagues, and to that extent hamper, as from the very outset, such constructive activity as it might be desired to have him undertake.
While favoring the elaboration of a more positive American policy in respect of the Near East, I submit that any statement attendant on the inauguration of diplomatic relations with the Levant States should be limited to a general expression of good will since the act of recognition should in fact speak for itself, and that any commitments for which we are not in a position to assume entire responsibility in our own right or specific assurances regarding the post-war period should be scrupulously eschewed.

Not repeated to Beirut.

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