Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of Lebanon–Syria–Iraq Affairs ( Gnade ) to the Acting Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs ( Kopper )1


Subject: Weekly Summary


The immediate cause of Colonel Shishikli’s seizure of power November 30 was apparently Dawalibi’s plan to appoint a new chief of staff as the first act of his cabinet. Shishikli tried to preserve the appearance of constitutionality by securing Dawalibi’s resignation but Dawalibi’s obstinate refusal to back down forced Shishikli into the role of dictator, a position he has attempted to avoid.

Saturday President Al-Atassi announced that the Dawalibi Cabinet had resigned and that Hamid Al-Khudja, of the pro-army bloc in parliament, had been designated Premier. Evidently the Populists in Parliament refused to cooperate by giving a vote of confidence to any new cabinet; therefore no formation of a replacement government was possible. In order to solve the impasse, President Atassi resigned his office yesterday (December 2) and turned over authority to Colonel Shishikli to act as Chief of State. A French ticker from Damascus announced today that Colonel Selo, former Minister of Defense, would take executive and legislative charge, exercising the powers of Chief of State, President of the Council and Minister of Defense. Shishikli has dissolved Parliament and announced his intention of holding new elections.

Dr. Dawalibi, most of his cabinet and his supporters are still in jail following their arrest early Thursday morning.

The Legation is hopeful that Shishikli may be able to give Syria the decisive leadership lacking in the past and even in the long run to develop a climate in which political democracy can function. However, if he has to fall back upon Haurani for support, he may not be able to retain the reins of government and Western interests may suffer. (Haurani and his Arab Socialists advocate a radical land reform program, which has occasioned a strong reaction from the landlord class. Even though Haurani himself is not a Communist, there are reliable reports that Communists have penetrated the top echelons of his party and the party might easily fall into Communist hands were Haurani’s influence removed. It is reported that Colonel Shishikli has been disturbed lest his close association with Haurani bring him harm).

Shishikli’s coup was carried out quietly with no known disturbances, injuries or loss of life, by few junior officers under Shishikli’s personal [Page 1085] supervision. There has been no active opposition in carrying out the coup, despite some dissident factionalism within the Army.

[Here follows a summary of the week’s events in Iraq and Lebanon.]

  1. Drafted by M. L. Smith (NE).