783.13/8–1251: Telegram

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


81. Legdes 427, April 9.2 Formation Hakim Cabinet3 has temporarily settled long-standing feud between army and Populists. In period since resignation Qudsi Cabinet last March, Populists had effectively discredited army-picked Azm Cabinet (Legdes 436 April 112) and had clearly demonstrated that Azm could command neither real confidence nor cooperation from Parliament. Events of past few weeks had revealed that if army and Populists cld not come to agreement Syria was in danger of rigged elections (to reduce [Page 1081] Populist membership in Parliament) or possible military dictatorship. Reliable Leg source had reported that Shishikli 4 had considered these as only alternative to “dictatorship by Populists”.

We thus consider new cabinet as compromise arrangement which rids country of Azm who had become source of embarrassment to army and was “bete noire” of Populists. Populists are in strong agreement with PriMin Hakim’s ideas on “economy in govt” (Hakim is reputed to have army permission to economize even in military expenditures) but at same time most of new Ministers known to be well-disposed toward army. Since five Populist Mins are “army friends” and are members of “Republican” wing of People’s Party, army has some assurance there will be no moves toward Syro-Iraqi or other Hashemite Union plans. In general, cooler heads compose new cabinet, and this should make it easier to patch up army-Populist differences and move ahead with essential legislation.

Probably most encouraging aspect new cabinet is definitely pro-western disposition of PriMin and greater part of his cabinet (Legtel 72 August 7).5 If Leg is correct in its analysis that it has been formed on sound basis, new cabinet [may be?] means of bettering US–Syrian relations and securing Syrian cooperation in matters of mutual interest. We anticipate that Hakim Govt will show more realistic attitude toward Point IV6 and MSP. Re former I intend letting PriMin set pace because he will have much to undo; re latter we will be guided by Dept and Congressional action, though we can proceed at once with indoctrination of new personalities. At earliest opportunity I will reiterate invitation to Jap Peace Treaty Conference at San Francisco and ascertain PriMin’s thinking re Syrian delegation.

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ankara, and Arab capitals.
  2. Not printed.
  3. On August 9, Hassan al-Hakim succeeded Khalid al-Azm as Prime Minister. The latter had resigned on July 31 following a strike of government employees.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Col. Adib al-Shishakli, Chief of Staff of the Syrian Army after May 31.
  6. Not printed.
  7. United States technical aid under the Point Four Program had been rejected by Prime Minister Azm in an announcement on June 7.