Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

Mr. Michael Wright, of the British Embassy, who is our chief contact on Near Eastern questions, came in this morning to make my acquaintance. We took advantage of the occasion to go over the matter of the despatch of additional French troops to the Levant States. Mr. Wright brought in the attached telegram76 which gives an account of Duff Cooper’s talk with de Gaulle.77 The British Ambassador had hard sledding, and I imagine that our Ambassador similarly will not find the going easy when he acts on the Department’s telegram of April 30.

We were particularly struck, however, by the following passage:

“He (de Gaulle) went on to say that if we (the British) were prepared to withdraw all our troops from Syria, he would withdraw all his even though he would not consider it wise to do so, but so long as we maintained our force there we could not ask him to reduce his which he would be doing if he handed over the special troops.”

In view of de Gaulle’s suspicion that the British want to get the French out of the Levant States in order to take their place, perhaps he felt safe in making such an offer. Nevertheless, it is a clear and forthright proposition which might be used to some purpose.

Therefore, in considering with Mr. Wright what sort of instructions should be sent to the British Minister in Beirut by the Foreign Office, and to our Minister by the Department, it was tentatively [Page 1064] suggested that both we and the British should inform the Syrians and Lebanese of our attitude in the matter and of the action we, respectively, had taken, in order to keep the record clear. The French might think that we were inciting the Syrians and Lebanese, but that, of course, was the risk the French ran by acting as they are doing. We and the British would, of course, calm down the Syrians and Lebanese as much as we could. The thought was thrown out to Mr. Wright that the British, with de Gaulle’s offer in mind, might say that they would endeavor to make an arrangement with the French whereby both British and French troops would leave the Levant States as soon as circumstances permit and very possibly before the end of this year.

This suggestion seemed to interest Mr. Wright.

He, “thinking aloud,” asked whether British and French troops in the Levant States might possibly be replaced by American troops. We replied that we did not think this would be well received by the local people, who want to get all foreign troops out. We also pointed out that we have no ground forces in the Middle East which could be used, and we seriously doubted whether the War Department would agree to making American troops available for this purpose.

I hope you will agree with the line we took with Mr. Wright.78 There appears to be nothing we can do until we hear that Ambassador Caffery has had his talk with the French about the matter and learn the French reaction. We have sent a telegram79 asking him to let us know of the outcome without delay so that we can instruct Mr. Wadsworth in Beirut what to say in case the French put additional troops in, as they will probably do.

Loy W. Henderson
  1. Not found attached to file copy of memorandum.
  2. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, President of the Council of Ministers of the French Provisional Government. For his account of events in Syria and Lebanon during 1945 and the international ramifications arising therefrom, see The War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle: Salvation, 1944–1946 (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1960), especially pp. 210 ff. In the companion volume of Documents, pp. 239–379, are the texts of various documents including French exchanges with British and American officials and with French authorities in Syria and Lebanon.
  3. Marginal note: “I think you handled the matter exactly right.” W[illiam] Phillips.
  4. No. 1828, May 3, 1945, 1 p.m., not printed.