890D.01/4–2845: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Caffery)

1776. You should immediately consult your British colleague with reference to the Department’s 3277, April 26, 7 p.m. to London, London’s 4334, April 28, 6 p.m. to the Department, and Beirut’s 106 April 27, 4 p.m.,73 all repeated to you, concerning the reported intention of the French to send additional troops to the Levant States. The representations which you will thereafter make to the appropriate French authorities should, of course, reflect changes in the situation and stress particular aspects of the matter which may require emphasis at this time. Subject to such modifications, you should make the following points to the French:

On April 26 a representative of the French Embassy at Washington delivered to us a strongly worded memorandum noting a report that the United States was willing to supply arms and equipment to the “Syrian National Army”, and stating that, in view of the responsibility of the French Command to control the organization and armament of all local forces in the Levant, the United States should consult with France and obtain its agreement before taking any action. We informed the French representative that the report had no foundation in fact and that we were fully aware of the highly delicate nature of security questions in those States, which, moreover, are now under negotiation between them and France.
To our great surprise, we are now informed that the French are sending troops to the Levant States by warship and that as a result of the arrival of these troops, the strength of the French forces there will be increased. It has also been indicated to us that the French forces in the Levant are being augmented by local recruitment.
We are convinced that the arrival of additional French forces, particularly by warship, would be regarded in the Levant States as designed to influence the course of the negotiations. Any such action would seem particularly inappropriate in view of the long delay which has occurred in the presentation of the French proposals for the settlement of outstanding questions, and might well lead to civil disturbances. If the local recruitment by the French should also become generally known, this would be an additional disturbing factor. In the circumstances, in so far as they are known to us, it is difficult for us to avoid the impression that France, for political purposes, is holding down the local forces while building up her own.
This Government has a strong interest in the matter because: (1) Disorders in the Levant States would be extremely unfortunate [Page 1061] either now, when Allied forces are making their supreme effort, or in the near future when the Near East will become a highly important avenue for redeployment to the Far Eastern theatre of war; (2) The relationships to be established at the San Francisco Conference between the major powers, including France, and the smaller powers, including the countries of the Near East, constitute an issue of the first importance. Even a minor act on the part of a major power at this time which could be regarded as provocative, would have an effect out of proportion to its intrinsic importance. (3) As the French are already aware, we feel that the application by France of military force or even a threat on the part of France that it may resort to military force in order to bring about an accord with the Levant States would cause doubts to arise not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world of the intention of the Great Powers of the United Nations to support the principles of international conduct which they have repeatedly enunciated. A friendly accommodation cannot be achieved between France and the Levant States if the element of compulsion is introduced into the situation.
Accordingly we earnestly hope that the French Government will not increase its troops in the Levant and that if it is considered necessary to replace troops being withdrawn from that area the French will see fit to do so in a nonprovocative manner and will give the Lebanese and Syrian Governments ample notice of their intentions. In view of the prevailing state of feeling in the Near Eastern countries, and in the absence of military necessity, we consider that any increase in the strength of the French forces in the Levant States could not be more ill timed and would be potentially detrimental to the peace and security of the Near East in a vital period.

Sent to Paris. Repeated to London, Caserta, and Beirut.

  1. No. 106 not printed.