The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Beirut (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 24—1:03 p.m.]
188. In recent conversations with Lebanese and Syrian Chiefs of State, Foreign Ministers and others I have gained increasingly the impression that French authorities are exerting continuing pressure on both Governments to postpone elections, meanwhile endeavoring to assure electoral support of pro-French parliamentary candidates.
In each of the five Lebanese electoral districts rival lists of candidates are gradually taking shape and it is common parlance to speak of one as the government (i.e. French) list. In Syria direct French pressure is generally said to be primarily in country districts.
Dr. Tabet who obviously believes continuance in office enhances his already good chances of election to Lebanese presidency, falls readily into his French made role. Dodge32 still considers him honest Lebanese patriot and best available presidential timber. Spears however admits himself be fooled and loses no opportunity to protest strongly against further delay.
Ayoubi, besides being by nature procrastinating, is reported by highly reliable source to have been encouraged by General Catroux, with promise of his support for election to Syrian presidency, to postpone elections until after his return from North Africa. On this score also Spears is concerned and is going to Damascus this week similarly to protest further delay. He places little faith in an assurance given me last week by Collet33 that lists of first degree electors would be posted and date of elections announced by June 1.[Page 972]
Syrian Foreign Minister, an independent nationalist, told me frankly he is only member of either government pressing for early elections. He deprecates particularly the morally undermining effect of French patronage and French-engineered intrigue among political leaders. The result he says is that many have come to view French support as a prerequisite to electoral success and to fear that without it the end of their campaigning would be rather a concentration camp for political undesirables than a seat in Parliament.
I have talked with Spears along the foregoing lines. He voiced general accord although commenting that Helleu seemed personally to believe in and to be furthering policy of free elections. An explanation of the situation might lie in the fact that opposing views were heard by many of his subordinates including Collet who were acting accordingly independently. He concluded substantially as follows: “I advised Casey in Cairo 2 weeks ago that whatever the outcome of the current de Gaulle–Giraud negotiations for French unity we might expect more trouble in Lebanon and Syria; for if unity should result the French would probably wish to take over fuller military and naval responsibilities here; and if not de Gaulle would again concentrate more attention on these countries”.
Rigid press censorship continues, in which connection Spears wrote me last week “It goes far beyond the requirements of security and is used to further French policy”. Office of War Information outpost director Britt who is in close touch with local editors concurs.