26. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Syria1

489. Cairo telegrams 1342, 1312,2 Damascus telegram 484,3 Deptel 473 to Damascus.4 Department believes its policy on Middle East defense developments should continue to be expressed by: (1) continued firm support Turco-Iraqi Pact; (2) clear unwillingness support projected Egypt-Syria-Saudi Arabia alignment as now conceived and oriented; (3) discouragement actions by Arab states prejudicial eventual further development acceptable defense arrangements; (4) [Page 39] avoidance open clash with Egypt prejudicing long term Egyptian cooperation on defense and short term cooperation on other matters, including Afro-Asian conference. These are not mutually inconsistent.

Important consideration in foregoing is assumption that if Syria, Lebanon or Jordan go along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in condemning directly or by implication Iraq’s moves to associate itself with Turkey and West for defense purposes, Iraq’s difficulties will be increased and chances for ultimate rear-area defense system will be set back.

Missions at Damascus, Beirut and Amman should continue in their discretion and as opportunities arise make clear privately to local governments:

Firm US support Turco-Iraqi Pact.
While US fully respects sovereign right all NE states make such agreements with each other as they wish, US unable support or assist in any way arrangement such as proposed Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi Arabian agreement, which appears concentrate on intra-area quarrel and be in no way directed at formidable external threat whole area.
We hope, in assessing own best national interests, countries concerned will make no undertakings rendering difficult their eventual association with effective defense arrangements.

Because opinion in Syria sharply divided on merits of following Egyptian anti-Iraqi course, we believe Embassy Damascus explanations our views to Syrian Government and others have been useful and effective (Damascus tel 484).

Because of concentration authority and nature of attitudes GOE and SAG Department wishes leave full latitude Ambassador Byroade in handling this issue with, Nasser and Ambassador, Wadsworth with SAG. They should be guided by points given above.

During discussion March 15 of instructions to Stevenson described London’s 39875 British Embassy expressed London belief Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi arrangements doomed to failure, and that desirable avoid head-on clash with Nasser. However equally important forestall spreading of inspired rumors UK support Turk-Iraq Pact weakening. Instructions to Stevenson read to Department as well as Stevenson’s report resultant conversation with, Nasser and Fawzi. Department agrees tenor London’s instructions Stevenson as given London’s 3987. We are encouraged by Cairo Embassy view proposed [Page 40] Egyptian arrangements likely wither away and feel we should encourage this process. Public statements or other actions tending keep matter in public eye would probably have opposite effect Egypt and Department would like avoid public stand this question provided US views not further publicly distorted.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 682.87/3–1255. Secret. Drafted by Burdett and Hart and approved by George Allen who signed for, Hoover. Also sent to Cairo, Amman, Jidda, and Beirut; repeated to Baghdad, Ankara, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Karachi, and Tehran.
  2. In telegram 1342, March 14, Ambassador Byroade expressed the Embassy’s concern in regard to the exchanges with Syria that a valid charge could be made that the United States was using pressure to force adherence to the northern tier arrangements. (Ibid., 783.00/3–1455) Telegram 1312 is Document 22.
  3. In telegram 484, March 12, Ambassador Moose affirmed the Embassy’s belief that the suggested position presented in telegram 1312 from Cairo was inconsistent with the Department’s instructions of January 14 and February 4 (Documents 2 and 9) which had already been acted upon, as well as with positions taken by the British, the Turks, and the French. Moose advised that the adoption of the Embassy in Cairo’s suggestion would undermine Embassy efforts to encourage a pro-Western position in Syria. (Department of State, Central Files, 682.87/3–1255)
  4. See footnote 6, Document 23.
  5. In telegram 3987, March 11, Ambassador Aldrich reported that the British Foreign Office had telegraphed instructions to British Ambassador Stevenson in Cairo to avoid a head-on collision with Egypt but to take no action which might hamper Anglo-Iraqi relations. Specifically, Stevenson was to inform Nasser that the Damascus communiqué and Syrian and Saudi interpretations of the Pact were not consonant with Nasser’s statement that the proposed ESS Pact was designed to complement the Iraqi-Turkish Pact. Nasser was also to be told that the British Government was opposed to efforts to isolate Iraq. (Ibid., 674.83/3–1155)