292. Telegram From the Embassy in Syria to the Department of State1

466. Embassy telegram 465.2 Embassy believes that continuation of Asali Cabinet endangers US interests by giving opportunity to Communist-infiltrated ASRP gain control of essentials of power within few months. As participant in coalition Cabinet ASRP has co-sponsored Syrian declaration of intent to join Egypt and Saudi Arabia in basically neutralistic arrangement contrary to US interests. ASRP Cabinet expected to do its best to carry out declaration even if Jordan and Lebanon stand aside. Once in full control, ASRP ability to guide Syria into cooperation with Saudis and Egyptians as well as its capacity for embarrassing Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon will be increased; and its grip on Syrian affairs may be difficult to shake off.

(This connection, Foreign Minister Fayid Atasi recently quoted to Embassy officer statement by Nasser at recent conference of Prime Ministers at Cairo, as follows: “West has much greater need for Arabs than Arabs have for West. Let us act accordingly”.)

It would be most helpful to us if Department would provide at early date an appreciation of meaning of current Syrian developments to US in terms of Near East as whole for such appreciation, together with indications of what limitations on US action here should be taken into account, will be helpful in giving Embassy perspective.

Pro-West elements here still have considerable strength but need courage to use their strength at critical moment because they fear army will intervene to install even more radical government. As method of encouragement, Embassy requests authority to remind Syrian officials both in and out of Cabinet orally that recognition of leftist government established by army pressure or violence would [Page 520] not be automatic. Understand British Ambassador and Turkish Chargé both have sought similar authority.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 683.74/3–855. Secret. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, Jidda, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, and Ankara.
  2. In telegram 465, March 8, Moose reported that, upon hearing reports of a Syrian agreement with Egypt, he spoke with Prime Minister Asali on March 5. According to Moose, Asali stated flatly that Syria had decided to side with Egypt against Iraq because Egypt was in a position to lend greater assistance in the form of a second front during any war with Israel. But Asali also asserted that Syria had retained the right to conclude a bilateral agreement with Iraq at a later date. Moose commented that the Embassy in Damascus had little confidence in Asali’s interpretation that Iraq could be associated with the new Egyptian-sponsored pact by later conclusion of a bilateral agreement with Syria so long as leftist, pro-Egyptian, and anti-Iraqi elements dominated the current government. (Ibid.)
  3. On March 18, the Department replied to telegram 466 as follows: “If occasion arises when you think it would serve useful purpose you may indicate Syrian officials and others as appropriate that USG would deplore establishment government by army pressure or violence. FYI Department reluctant use recognition question this connection since it might lead awkward situation later.” (Telegram 487 to Damascus; ibid., 783.02/3–855)