890E.01/143: Telegram

The Consul at Beirut (Gwynn) to the Secretary of State

283. Department’s 122, August 4.36

1. Following lunch at Catroux’s at which Spears was present I had a long but fragmentary talk with de Gaulle.36a He at once launched into subject of political situation here and of British-Free French relations in particular.

2. He repeated substance of his declaration reported in my 27936 to effect that France’s position here is far from desperate. He added [Page 611] France meant remain in Levant, not as in past in mandatory capacity but with possibly very few minor changes on basis of treaties drawn up in 1936,37 this to be settled after war.

3. He said he was determined to settle now questions [of Great Britain’s?] position in Levant States and he means to make clear that its place is second and not equal to that of France. He said he saw no possible solution unless Spears were recalled and stated he had angered both Casey and Churchill in Cairo by saying so. He said Churchill had said “Know Spears has many enemies but he has one friend and that is I” to which de Gaulle replied “If he is your friend that is your affair but there is no reason for you to inflict him on me”. I asked him what he would do if Churchill refused to agree to Spears’ removal. He said the reply was simple, it would be the end of all collaboration.

4. I informed him of substance of Department’s 122 to effect that high British authorities have assured us that Britain has no other than its publicly declared policy in these territories.

He dismissed the assurances as of little interest and said he had many assurances from the engagements and were continually bringing up for discussion questions long since settled.

5. I exposed British thesis as I understand it that they must take interest in what happens here as their security may be involved (see my 280,38) and all that happens here is of interest to British as it has immediate reaction in nearby Arab countries where British have primary interests.

He at once replied that British used first argument, as cloak to cover intervention into every minor incident of local politics which was of no legitimate concern to them and if events here caused reactions in other countries, events in other countries caused reactions here and it had not occurred to him to intervene in Iraqi or Palestine affairs.

6. I tried to outline views expressed in paragraph 4 of my 280. They appeared to be not at all to his taste and I felt he resented the implications. I suggested he might find talk with Holmes of interest. De Gaulle said he had never refused to see any general and I understood he felt it was not for him to seek views of acting head of Ninth Army. After a little parrying I asked if he would authorize me to tell Holmes that de Gaulle would be pleased to see him. He willingly assented and I have just returned from Brumana [Brummana] where I left verbal message for Holmes.

[Page 612]

7. De Gaulle made clear both Churchill and Casey had insisted on elections (see my 280 and 28139) and he had told them they were talking of something that was none of their business. He added, and pointedly insisted, there would be no elections at least not this year. It thus appears my assumption, as previously expressed, particularly in my 246, July 13, that Spears was responsible for English drive for elections, was wrong. Elucidation as to motive behind this drive must be sought if anywhere in London.

8. De Gaulle said he meant to stay here until situation was cleared up, 2 weeks or longer if necessary. I think he is determined to settle Franco-British controversy now and to care little what consequences may be. I feel efforts should be made to aid in effecting settlement that would have no seriously detrimental effect on relations between two parties but am unable suggest where efforts should be made unless it be thought possible to move British in London. I think I could have no effect on Spears and that no useful purpose would be served were I able to.

9. De Gaulle asked me to call soon; I said I was always at his disposal and would at once answer a call from his aid-de-camp. In any case I think [apparent omission] to be able to keep myself currently informed of any important developments here.

Repeated to Cairo.

  1. Not printed.
  2. General de Gaulle describes his visit to Syria and Lebanon at this time in The War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle, vol. ii, Unity: 1942–1944 (New York, 1959), pp. 20 ff.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Franco-Syrian Treaty of December 22, 1936, and Franco-Lebanese Treaty of November 13, 1936; for texts, see France, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (année 1936), pp. 201 and 229, respectively. These treaties were never ratified by France.
  5. Dated August 12, noon, p. 608.
  6. Latter dated August 12, 1 p.m., p. 610.