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

413. Department shares your concern at unstable Syrian political situation and plans approach French.2 Question of approach to SAG and GOE under consideration. Although continuing contest between pro and anti Iraqi elements and possibility military coup by either are disturbing, it does not appear in Department’s present view that there is anything we can usefully do in Syria to affect situation other than continue let it be known privately that USG fully supports Turkey–Iraq agreement and Northern Tier defense concept and therefore hopes Syrian Government whatever its composition will not oppose Iraq’s efforts develop realistic organization for Middle East defense.

FYI USG could not provide military aid for Syria at present moment even if pro-Iraqi group came to power and announced decision join Turk-Iraq pact. Department therefore believes it best avoid active support pro-Western groups to extent this might encourage belief tangible benefits from USG such as military or sizeable economic aid would be soon forthcoming if pro-Western group came to power. End FYI.

Would welcome your comment and that other recipient Embassies and any suggestions you may wish make as to actions we [Page 517] should take in Syria in event coup by pro or anti Western elements or downfall new cabinet after brief tenure.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/2–1655. Secret. Drafted by Francis Allen on February 15 and approved by Jernegan, who signed for Dulles. Repeated to Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Jidda, London, and Paris.
  2. In telegram 394, February 12, the Embassy in Damascus reported its belief that the Saudis, Egyptians, French, and Soviets were supporting various elements in the Nationalist–Azm–ASRP–Independent grouping which could be expected to adopt an anti-Western foreign policy if Asali were successful in forming a cabinet. It also requested guidance from the Department in case the situation within Syria deteriorated rapidly as a result of possible Syrian failure to form a government quickly, counteraction by either pro- or anti-Iraqi elements, or resignation of the new cabinet after a brief tenure. The Embassy further suggested that the Department consider counseling the Saudis, French, and Egyptians against actions in Syria which served to undermine the Western position. (Ibid., 783.00/2–1255) The ASRP (Arab Socialist Resurrection Party) was formed in 1953 when the Ba’th Party merged with the Arab Socialist Party.

    Telegram 390 from Damascus, February 12, contained a report on recent efforts by French Chargé André Nègre to elicit Syrian opposition to the Turkish-Iraqi Pact. The telegram characterized the French efforts to support the status quo as playing into the hands of the Soviet Union. (Ibid., 651.83/2–1255)

    On February 18, the Department instructed the Embassy in Paris to explain the U.S. position on the Turkish-Iraqi Pact to the French Government and to stress that the United States was very disturbed over reports that French representatives in Cairo and Damascus had expressed disapproval of the proposed Pact. (Telegram 2925; ibid., 682.87/2–1457)