867N.01/9–248: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State


1843. During long talk on Near Eastern situation Syrian Minister Zeineddine denied that he has received any instructions or made any move toward seeking Soviet support. He stated he has not seen or heard from Soviet Ambassador Solod and that he has had no information indicating latter is here in connection with any negotiations or possible deal between Syrian and Soviet Govts. Moreover, he claims to have no intimation of any weakening of Soviet support of Israel or of Soviet receptivity to Arab appeals or proposals.

While foregoing are factual statements emerging during conversation on subjects mentioned Deptel 1014, August 25 (sent Damascus 329) and Damascus 566, August 27 to Dept,1 following digest of opinions expressed by Minister may be of interest: Begin digest.

Soviet Govt adopted pro-Israel line in May 1947 only after being sure of US position on this same line and deciding this line best ensured promotion chaos and weakening Anglo-American position throughout Near East. While Soviet Govt capable volte-face at moment’s notice, as intimated to him by Vyshinski2 (Embtel 1016, May 31), no such change is likely in the near future. Soviet interests in continuing chaos and “softening up” area better served by further support Israel, since growing Jewish strength and increasing menace Jewish expansionism, combined with Arab set-backs, arouses Arab populations and futher discredits Arab Govts and ruling classes in eyes their peoples. Only great improvement in Israel position, including general recognition, large scale immigration and arms supply and actual expansion Israel borders, would impel Soviet Govt to aid Arabs. This might be done, covertly, to extent necessary ensure continuance conflict, while public pro-Israel policy maintained.

Arab Govts are in desperate situation. The popular and local press indignation now directed at US and UK would be aimed mainly at those govts if they were not protected by martial law. They are committed to and constantly pushed further toward policy of force and intransigeance by popular opinion and are too weak to change direction later even if they wished. Most they could possibly accept in way compromise at this stage would be Bernadotte formula, coupled with curtailed borders autonomous Jewish state too small permit further significant immigration.

Since this unlikely, vital problem for Arab Govts is procurement arms. None could refuse a Soviet offer such arms and survive. If no progress made in GA toward acceptable solution and US and UK [Page 1371] continue arms export ban Arab Govts may in fact feel obliged to approach Soviet Govt for help, if only to force British and Americans to come to their senses. Arab leaders realize risks involved such course but Arab proverb justifies deal with devil when no other course open.

It is inconceivable that Arab-Jewish conflict might eventually be settled by act of realistic statesmanship like Venizelos-Ataturk 1930 agreement3 ending ages-old Greco-Turk strife. Situation is not parallel because Israel is frankly expansionistic (as witness even Ben Gurion’s recent interview with Time correspondent) and because no Arab leader exists with strength and stature comparable Ataturk. End digest.

Source must be protected.

Sent Dept 1843; Dept please pass Damascus 2, Beirut 4, London 194, Cairo 2, Jerusalem 14, Baghdad 5, Jidda unnumbered.

  1. Latter not printed; it reported allegations that the visit of Minister Solod to Moscow was in connection with a Syrian Offer to grant bases in Syria to the Soviet Union in return for arms to he used in defense of Palestine (861.20200/8–2748).
  2. Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinsky, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.
  3. Treaty of Friendship, Neutrality, Conciliation, and Arbitration between Greece and Turkey, signed at Ankara, October 30, 1930; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cxxv, p. 11.