The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Beirut (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State
[Received 5:15 p.m.]
244. Reference my 243, August 2, 10 a.m. Orthodox Bishop informed me yesterday that at reconvened meeting previous day of church delegates representative Helleu was informed electoral decree would be accepted without further protest, Christians having no other course when faced with Allies’ strong appeal and stronger insistence that opposition would be prejudicial to common cause with democracies. He confirmed that delegates resented Spears’ speech considering it unwarrantedly threatening and a play to regain Moslem support.
Dr. Tabet also confirms this reaction and speaks earnestly for independence of a smaller Lebanon as only way to preserve its Christian character and protect it from assimilation by Moslem world. He offers in rebuttal of argument advanced in last paragraph my 238, July 26, 5 p.m.48 that equally effective precedent for fair treatment of Christian minorities in Moslem states could be set by a predominantly Christian Lebanon according truly equal treatment to smaller Moslem minority.
Assistant Secretary of State Aouad has resumed office on ground that his resignation was not accepted and raison d’être for its submission no longer exists. This displeased even Maronite majority which considers him inferior in representative caliber to Trad and Beyhoum.[Page 984]
Spears confirms that electoral crisis has passed. He is now “going to bat” on Mukaddam case (my 223, July 5, 5 p.m.49) and commented that while Foreign Office policy seemed to be to keep things as quiet as possible Prime Minister took stiffer attitude though always with reserve that nothing was to be done to oust France but rather to afford it opportunity to achieve position here similar to that of Britain in Egypt.
Yesterday Spears saw Shukri Quwatly50 who was pleased with results of Syrian elections, notably because practically old [all?] French sponsored candidates were defeated. Shukri said he had been “playing” French on treaty question and could state categorically new Chamber would never conclude French alliance. He wants early transfer of intérêts communs, solicits British and Americans support and envisages (which probably means he would incite) popular demonstrations should French continue recalcitrant.
Spears holds all this to be strong added reason for insisting on early freest possible Lebanese elections and hopes Department may be considering further parallel demarche with Foreign Office despite fact that while recently in London he had seen no sign of American interest in Levant problems.
Today I was received formally by new Chief of State and his two Secretaries of State. I made special point of saying my Government’s policy as expressed in my letter of credence and presentation remarks remains unchanged51 and left copies with them. I mentioned, too, Department’s interest in free elections. He welcomed this reassurance and interest as in keeping without implicit promise, not that we undertook to establish full Lebanese independence but rather that we would lend our support to that end now in so far as exigencies of war might permit and definitely at the peace conference provided always that Lebanon meanwhile shows itself worthy thereof.
Manner in which both Moslems and Christians in meeting electoral crisis had subordinated communal interests to those of state was, he held, good augury; it was on this plane that he had induced Maronite Patriarch to assent; it was no time for separatist tendencies; his ideal was a truly independent greater Lebanon which would cooperate freely with its neighbors.[Page 985]
He plans to issue a decree probably tomorrow setting elections one month hence; to best of his Government’s ability they will be free.
- Not printed.↩
- Not printed: the Mukaddam case involved an Anglo-French dispute in Syria and Lebanon concerning the extent of British military jurisdiction.↩
- Assumed office of President of Syria on August 17; see his letter to President Roosevelt, infra. ↩
- In the original letter of credence presented by the Diplomatic Agent on November 17, 1942, it was stated that “… it is the intent of the American Government appropriately to manifest its sympathy with the aspirations of the Lebanese people for sovereign independence, in anticipation of the day when in peace, full exercise thereof need no longer be circumscribed by limitations necessitated by conditions of war”. (123W.111/406)↩