Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to the President

top secret

Subject: Proposals for Union of Syria with Iraq under King Faisal, II Hashemite Ruler of Iraq.

I wish to inform you that on September 29, 1949, acting under instructions from the British Government, representatives of the British Embassy in Washington informed officers of the Department of State that the governments of Iraq and Syria had approached the British Government for assistance in negotiating a political union of these two countries under King Faisal II, Hashemite ruler of Iraq. The British representatives stated that this information was being communicated confidentially to the Department on the assumption that the United States Government would not disclose it to any other government. While the plans put forward by the Iraqi and Syrian governments vary in detail,1 they have declared their intention to resolve these differences by referring them to a mixed commission of experts. The resultant organic plan of union would be submitted to the parliaments of Iraq and Syria for ratification, in accordance with constitutional procedures.

The two governments are likewise reported to have signed an agreement on September 27 outlining the procedure they would follow in achieving unification. This agreement provides, among other things, that should the two governments learn through the British Government that the United States Government is favorably disposed, they will approach the United States and British governments directly for advice as to the degree of unification they should endeavor to achieve.

The British Government states that it has scrupulously refrained from expressing any opinion about the form which the proposed closer relations between the two governments should take, except in so far as the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty might be affected.

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Officers of the Department received this information without comment, emphasizing the gravity and importance of the problem and the necessity for careful study. They also stated that pending such study the absence of a formal reply should not be regarded as acquiescence in or approval of the proposals.

The Department immediately telegraphed our Missions in London, Paris and the Arab capitals, requesting their appraisal of the consequences in the area should the unification plans be implemented. Replies have not yet been received from most of the Missions to which the Department’s telegram was addressed. Appropriate divisions in the Department and officers of the Central Intelligence Agency are making a comprehensive and coordinated study of all factors bearing on the situation in order to determine what attitude this Government should adopt toward the proposals.

I shall inform you as to the results of this study before a final decision is reached.

  1. The Iraqi plan “envisaged the federation of Iraq and Syria under a single crown on a ‘commonwealth’ basis. The two states would retain their identity in the federation and would even have separate armies, separate legislatures and separate representation in the United Nations, but would ‘for purposes of convenience’ be represented in foreign countries by a single diplomatic mission.

    “The Syrian counter proposal was that a more centralized administration should be established with a single Iraqi and Syrian parliament in which the two countries would have equal representation and which would convene alternately in Baghdad and Damascus every six months. A federal council would be elected to draft a federal constitution. King Faisal would remain in Baghdad but would be represented in Damascus by a viceroy (not named). Appointments to the posts of Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs would be by the King’s commission.” (memorandum of September 29 by Harlan B. Clark of a conversation with British Embassy officials, 790D.90G/9–2949). Mr. Clark was Officer in Charge of Lebanon–SyriA–Iraq Affairs.