288. Editorial Note

Following the release of the Turkish-Iraqi joint communiqué of January 13, indicating that the two countries would conclude a military alliance and invite other Middle Eastern states to join, the Syrian Government at first refused to commit itself to a set position on the proposed pact. On January 14, Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes spoke with Syrian officials in Damascus, but the talks reportedly were inconclusive. (Telegram 323 from Damascus, January 15; Department of State, Central Files, 033.8283/1–1555) Ambassador [Page 515]James Moose, acting in response to Department telegram 348 to Damascus, raised the topic in separate conversations with Foreign Minister Fayid al-Atasi and Prime Minister Khuri on January 18, but neither Syrian official would express an opinion on the proposed pact. (Telegram 331 from Damascus, January 18; ibid., 033.8283/ 1–1855; and telegram 336 from Damascus, January 19; ibid., 782.5/ 1–1955) During the Arab League meeting in Cairo (January 22–29 and February 3–6), however, Syrian representatives took the position that Iraq had not violated the Arab Collective Security Pact (ACSP). (Telegram 1077 from Cairo, January 31; ibid., 780.5/1–3155; telegram 862 from Ankara, February 2; ibid., 682.87/2–255; and telegram 372 from Damascus, February 4; ibid., 674.87/2–455)

On February 6, members of the Syrian National Party withdrew from the Khuri Cabinet, thereby causing its downfall. At the time, Khuri maintained that the position taken by Syria at the Cairo summit was a contributing but not a major factor in the Cabinet’s collapse. Syrian President Atasi, however, later told Moose that the efforts of foreign states (primarily Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and to a lesser extent France) to reverse Syria’s position on the proposed Turkish-Iraqi Pact was a major cause of the Cabinet crisis. (Telegram 381 from Damascus, February 8, ibid., 783.00/2–855; and telegram 427 from Damascus, February 21, ibid., 783.00/2–2155) On February 13, Sabri al-Asali of the Syrian National Party, who reportedly was backed by an anti-Western coalition (telegram 394 from Damascus, February 12; ibid., 783.00/2–1255), announced the formation of a new cabinet; and on February 22, in a major ministerial statement, Asali in effect committed his government to a policy of complete neutrality, rejected adherence to the proposed Turkish-Iraqi pact, and affirmed Syria’s “aversion to alliances” in accordance with the recommendations of the Cairo conference. Asali also promised to spare no effort to obtain the support of all of the Arab States for this policy; he labeled Zionism the number one enemy, and excluded exclusive collaboration with the West. (Telegram 435 from Damascus, February 24; ibid., 683.00/2–2455) The Asali Cabinet received a vote of confidence from the Syrian Parliament on February 24. That same day in Baghdad, Turkish and Iraqi officials signed a Pact of Mutual Cooperation between Iraq and Turkey, subsequently known as the Baghdad Pact. For text, see United Nations Treaty Series, Volume 233, page 199. The Pact was adhered to by the United Kingdom on April 5, by Pakistan on September 23, and by Iran on November 3.