295. Editorial Note

On April 22, Syrian Army officer Colonel Adnan Malki, member of the ASRP and reportedly the most popular and influential officer in the Syrian Army, was shot and killed while attending a soccer game in Damascus by an assassin who then committed suicide. The assassin, Sergeant Younis Abd al-Rahim of the military police, was promptly linked to the Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) and before long SSNP offices were closed throughout Syria and many members of the party were arrested. The Government’s investigation, run by Major Sarraj of the Army’s G–2 section, took on an anti-Western cast and Syrian newspapers began to print accusations that the United States was supporting the SSNP. On April 26, during a session of Parliament, Prime Minister Asali noted that the military inquiry had developed new evidence indicating that [Page 524]the assassination was part of a plot to seize power and change the country’s policy and that the conspirators had “thrown themselves at the feet of a foreign state seeking its help and support in order to make an unethical coup—as they all did—to seize power”. Several Syrian newspapers identified that foreign power as the United States. On April 28, Ambassador Moose received the authorization which he had sought to issue an official public denial of the accusations, but before releasing it he discussed the accusations with the Syrian Prime Minister. Asali responded by referring to evidence that members of the SSNP in New York had approached United States officials and requested assistance for a coup to be followed by Syrian adherence to the Iraqi-Turkish Pact. Asali told Moose that he was unsure as to whether the evidence was genuine and did not believe that the United States had acted upon the approach. After additional discussion, Asali agreed to Moose’s request that a statement be issued which would correct the false impression given by Asali’s earlier remarks to Parliament. Later that day as promised, Asali issued a statement explaining that he had not referred to any specific state as being involved, nor had he indicated any foreign state as an instigator of the plot, but had only said that the party under investigation (the SSNP) had thrown itself at a foreign state and that the state had not responded to SSNP wishes. Documentation from the Embassy in Damascus detailing the Malki assassination and its aftermath is in Department of State, Central File 783.00.