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

19. Embtel 14.2 References in SSNP indictment US policy and US officials together with recent departure army attaché3 and acting PAO4 and impending transfer political officer have been used by anti-western newspapers in attempt show link between SSNP and USG. Without accepting all details, many Syrians incline to belief some bases for charge exist on theory “where there’s smoke there’s [Page 538] fire“. Climate has thus been created which is favorable increasing pro-Communist agitation (ostensibly on behalf “martyr” Malki).

If it has not connived at creating this state of affairs, GOS in any case bears fundamental responsibility since (A) it has authority exercise large measure control over press; and (B) inclusion in indictment of alleged letters from SSNP members in US is clear attempt implicate USG, and particularly noteworthy after my objection to Prime Minister when allegations US involvement first appeared (Embtel 6195). GOS officials have privately assured Embassy they see no basis for charge US involved but GOS public attitude demonstrates either (A) complete ineffectiveness stop civilian officials; or (B) their genuine belief that, while positive proof lacking, there is credible evidence USG connection SSNP; or (C) both. Extent to which this “evidence” accepted may be indicated by fact that portions Sharabi’s alleged exposition US policy (Embtel 26) was almost identical to Foreign Minister Azm’s interpretation US policy to Parliament (Embtel 7347).

A thread of consistency in GOS actions re Malki murder is effort destroy SSNP. Attempt to establish relationship between party and USG is intended to serve that purpose.

A second thread is supplied by Syrian resentment toward US because of Palestine problem. Though not always mentioned, this resentment explains readiness of Syrians to criticize and to believe the worst of the US as well as the willingness of local politicians to pander to public prejudices.

While Department’s denial was timely, I believe local situation requires that I follow up with approaches to Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Suggest for Department’s consideration that I say to them in substance that USG has noted (A) attempt of Syrian officials to show, by inclusion in indictment of extraneous, irresponsible and unfounded observations re US policy and officials and by other means, that USG encouraged or assisted SSNP and was implicated both in Malki murders and in alleged plot to overthrow GOS; (B) GOS indifference to vicious attacks in Damascus press against [Page 539] USG and Embassy; (C) GOS failure to observe diplomatic amenities in arrest of Embassy employee Adil Yacoub;8 (D) Foreign Minister’s effort to give impression that USG was exercising pressure on Syria to influence Syrian foreign policy; (E) GOS tolerance of activities of CP, a subversive organization having a deputy in the Syrian Parliament and dedicated to the destruction of the forms of government and society now existing in Syria; (F) obvious deterioration of political situation in Syria under present cabinet to advantage of Communists and near-Communists but to prejudice of real Syrian interests, of Arab interests and of the general interest.

Suggest that I be instructed to say further that USG derive no satisfaction from the danger to Syria implicit in the developments noted above; that the pattern of recent action by the GOS inevitably raises the question whether or not the present Syrian Cabinet wishes to maintain normal friendly relationship with the US; and that in this connection the USG will give more weight to the actions of the Syrian authorities than to their assurances.

The Department may wish to make addition to the foregoing.9

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 983.61/7–755. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Jidda, London, Paris, and Tel Aviv.
  2. In telegram 14 from Damascus, July 6, Ambassador Moose reported that following the issuance of the Syrian indictment against the alleged SSNP conspirators, which included charges that SSNP officials had been in contact with USIS employees, an anti-American campaign had reappeared in the Syrian press. (Ibid., 983.61/7–655)
  3. Colonel Robert Molloy replaced Colonel Hugh Stevenson as the U.S. Army Attaché in Damascus on February 22, 1955.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Not printed, but see Document 295.
  6. Telegram 2 from Damascus, July 1, contained a summary of the bill of indictment handed down by the Syrian military court that had begun deliberations on June 29. The bill of indictment cited as evidence of U.S. complicity a letter by Hisham Sharabi, who had recently received a visa to teach at the Institute of Languages and Linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington. The letter allegedly indicated that SSNP leader Issam Mahayri was to visit the United States in connection with the conspiracy and that an instruction from Francis Allen had facilitated his obtaining a visa. (Department of State, Central Files, 783.00/7–155)
  7. Telegram 734, June 13, contained a summation of Foreign Minister Azm’s hour-long foreign policy statement to the Syrian Parliament on June 9. (Ibid., 683.00/ 6–1355)
  8. According to telegram 16 from Damascus, July 6, Yacoub, who had worked for USIS, was indicted under the name Adil Ujeimy, which he had used previously in Lebanon. Although his indictment had not been published, he was presumably being tried as a member of a secret organization and as a foreign agent. (Ibid., 103.02–USIA/ 7–655)
  9. On July 9, the Department directed Moose to make the following points orally to Asali and Azm:

    • “1. USG has noted: A, B, D and E as given third from last paragraph reftel [Damascus telegram 19] and F with omission phrase ‘under present cabinet’.
    • “2. USG: a) regrets GOS is permitting propaganda campaign against US which will inevitably cause deterioration US-Syrian relations; b) fails understand motivation anti-US campaign in view fact, as Assistant Secretary Allen recently stressed to Foreign Minister Azm, USG has not and will not interfere in Syria affairs, and c) regrets danger to Syria implicit in GOS toleration of communist and fellow travellers and consequent deterioration political situation in Syria.” (Telegram 15 to Damascus; ibid., 983.61/7–755)