783.56/7–1151: Telegram

The Minister in Syria ( Cannon ) to the Department of State 1

secret

19. Deptel 7079 June 25 to Paris.2 As seen from here, fol factors seem important in determining US attitude on supply aircraft Syria.

1. We fully agree Syrians still have far to go in making best use of even conventional aircraft. Indeed their air force within period predominant in our mil thinking can hardly become serious element in defense of ME, however equipped.

2. It wld be great mistake, however, to ignore polit and psychological value of few planes. We must find way to counteract two pernicious beliefs: (a) That we hold Syrians incapable of using modern arms; and (b) That in case of war Western Powers have no serious intention of firm stand beyond shores of Mediterranean and Suez. Any talk of concept of security in Dept has thus far been taken with extreme skepticism.

3. Syrian Pri Min recently demanded with reference to General Robertson’s visit in Feb, and Brit Min was authorized to give, assurances re defense of ME. These were built around concept Suez wld be “base not line of defense”. Syrians expect this “guarantee” to be given concrete expression by early delivery mil equipment of kinds arid quantities sufficient to demonstrate real intent to strengthen ME. Our hopes for favorable attitudes in Arab hinterland and possible bases here in event major conflict depend on concrete action which wld give grounds for confidence our intentions.

4. Syrians’ favorite example of unreliability of Anglo-Saxons is Brit failure to deliver dozen Gloucester Meteor Jets ordered and paid for more than year ago and for which several pilots already given Jet training in UK.

5. As in everything else, Israel question and problem of maintaining balance in arms supply cannot be ignored. We must anticipate bitter reaction here to denial of event token sales Jet aircraft to Syria when Syrians learn of recent sale by France to Israel of 40 Mosquitos with reported 80 more to follow. They will, of course, assume this deal had prior US approval. Our Air Att thinks Israeli Air Force already has greater potential than North Arab States and shld soon be more than match for all Arab Forces combined.

6. We may well deplore trend toward policy under which questions of supply apportionment or withholding of Jet planes become yardstick of internatl affections. Rationally we probably shld continue to deny Jets to NE States not ready for them but US has itself done much to make other nations regard their security problems in terms of air [Page 1080] power. Unless we are ready with substantial substitutes, we must expect this pressure to increase and can hope for little support from local mil for such programs as MSP if they get notion it contemplates supply only outmoded material.

7. Syrians know any major help from West means prior coordination but wld try to capitalize on special US–UK and French interest. Since French take advantage of every opportunity to build up their own special econ and polit position here, some partial fulfillment of prior Brit commitment shld be arranged if any Jets are to be made available to Syria.

8. Best of all wld be demonstration direct US interest. With improvement in our supply position and supposing easing of demand for combat use in Korea, US might venture few planes as primarily polit and morale proposition. Joint US–UK project might be easiest entry, MSP then to take over.

9. Amb Hare’s reflections re SA (last para Jidda’s 750 June 25)3 highly pertinent with difference that in Syria material aid must be visible before training missions begin to arrive.4

Cannon
  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Ankara, and Arab capitals.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. In telegram 28 to Damascus, July 17, the Department thanked the Legation for the penetrating analysis in telegram 19 and assured it that no U.S. jets and, to its knowledge no French or British jets, had been released to Israel. It listed several reasons why the French supply of other combat aircraft to Israel should not be viewed with alarm by the Syrians. As regards U.S. supply, telegram 28 stated that the limited supply of U.S. jets, the present tension in the Near East, the high combat potential of jets, the lack of sufficiently experienced crews in either Israel or the Arab states, and the still inadequate mechanism for coordinating U.S., U.K., and French arms supply to the area, all argued for delay in considering Syrian requests for jet aircraft. (783.56/7–1151)