783.5 MSP/12–3151: Telegram

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

top secret

387. General policy outlined in Deptel 213, Dec 6,2 and Deptel 238, Dec 14,3 completely sound provided new Syrian regime continues to show disposition to cooperate with west. We suppose French hesitancy implied in their emphasis on necessity for unobtrusiveness (para 2 Paris tel 3619, Dec 17 to Dept),4 is due to fact policies new regime not fully apparent and perhaps not fully formulated. French FonOff’s arguments do not show, however, that speed, cooperation between missions, and reporting of conclusions can not be carried out unobtrusively. Moreover, coordination as envisaged in suggested informal comite wld not necessarily have to be exclusively in Damascus.

From para 4 Paris tel 3619 it wld seem French doubts spring chiefly from association Turks in program. We think Turks shld participate, but other three powers cld confer, at other levels if necessary, without Turks if that wld satisfy French.

We shld have thought French wld welcome chance to have full exchange info. Their arguments para 1 Paris tel 3619 seem to hide other reasons. We agree that Syrians might be uneasy about our pooling classified info about their country, but surely any disadvantages resulting from their finding out about comite wld be more than offset by advantages we all wld have when Syrians realize they can not succeed in playing four powers off against each other.

Ref is being made in separate tels re Dept’s comments in para 5b Deptel 238 not to mislead Shishikli about what can be done re Israel.

I interpret my talk with Shishikli (Legtel 385, Dec 31)5 as having conveyed good idea substance our aid program, particularly in econ field and fair idea our sense urgency. He showed no anxiety for special speed. We can form rounder judgment on regime’s program after talk with Selo (last para Legtel 385). We shall then have more substantial info for informal comite consultations, especially since other chief of missions are equally anxious for more first hand info from new leaders.

[Page 1098]

I wld add as general comment that merit of comite idea must not blind us to fact that unless there has been more progress in forming unified great power policy than we have any inkling here, local chiefs of mission will continue to be guided by special and not always parallel national interest. Put bluntly and perhaps unkindly this may mean since aid program will be largely at US expense others stand to profit by cooperation while quietly pursuing their own ends. Comite may be check and deterrent to British, French and perhaps Turkish schemes, but not cure. Thus even if French and British are gradually coming to align their long term objectives in Middle East with ours they can make no comparable contribution while profiting from ours: As for Turkey, we here consider her increased prestige in Middle East added to her intransit strength to be a most beneficient element. Turkey can be real help, too, in promoting UNRWA program. But if Syrians are still skittish about foreign aid in general they may ponder on how they are better off if beholden to four powers all of whom they still mistrust for one reason or another than if beholden to only one against whom their one grief is clearly definable. We know there are intangibles of great weight to justify comite method as manifestation coordinated program. We enter this caveat only to point up appreciable differences between procedures essential to MEC and those practicable for aid program.

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem, Jidda, and Tel Aviv.
  2. Not printed; but see footnote 2, p. 1088.
  3. Ante, p. 1090.
  4. Ante, p. 1095.
  5. Not printed; it summarized Cannon’s comprehensive talk of that date during which Shishakli indicated that he was generally prepared to cooperate in a discreet manner in accepting Western assistance, with the realization that he must have American aid to carry out his planned economic reconstruction program. On other matters, the conversation revealed that Shishakli wanted genuine elections as soon as public interest and intelligent judgment about Syria’s problems had been awakened, desired to release the political prisoners as soon as possible, favored progressive and relatively rapid but not revolutionary reform, was amenable to early and realistic measures concerning the refugee problem, and was realistic on the problems involving Syrian relations with Israel. (Memorandum from Worcester (NE) to Jones, January 7, 1952; 783.00/1–752)