890E.00/137: Telegram

The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Beirut (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State

204. Reference my 188, May 24, 6 p.m. During weekend visit to Damascus I gathered clear impression that, with achievement of French unity in North Africa,38 local French pressure to postpone Syrian elections has been lifted.

Foreign Minister assured me lists of electors had been completed and published in all but two districts. He now believes the necessary decree calling for first degree elections can be issued before June 25, i. e., before expiration of the 3 months’ delay prescribed in the Catroux decrees of March 25 (see my telegram 119 of that date).

Foreign Minister and others give me to understand that Nationalist bloc leaders have gradually been brought, largely through General Collet’s shrewd manipulation, into the orbit of French influence. They appear to feel that only by playing politics with him can they gain parliamentary majority.

A plausible explanation is that these leaders are less loath to follow this line because, while recognizing that French influence here today is obviously strongest internal political force, France as they see it will come out of the war the weakest of the Allied Powers and consequently be the most amenable to eventual pressure tactics designed to achieve full independence.

In Lebanon, where Chief of State Tabet was clearly playing for additional 3 months’ election delay, situation has been clarified by Spears’ intervention. Apparently he induced British Foreign Office to bring pressure on French National Committee which some ten days ago had Catroux instruct Helleu to support Spears’ contention that elections should be held simultaneously in Lebanon and Syria.

Dr. Tabet informed me June 5th that while he still believed delay was desirable to permit realization of certain internal reforms, he had yielded to Catroux’s wishes. While boasting his personal independence and patriotism he impressed me strongly as having come increasingly under French influence. He was bitterly outspoken against Lebanese political union or federation with Syria or participation in any larger post-war Arab federation or confederation.

  1. For correspondence regarding the formation of the French Committee of National Liberation, see vol. ii, pp. 23 ff.