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

220. Pass Army. Deptel 130.2 Embassy received from Foreign Office on September 3 note dated September 13 enclosing list of military equipment (trucks, jeeps, and trailers) desired by Syrian Army on reimbursable basis from US. In conversation with C/S Shuqayr prior to receipt of note ArmAtt4 suggested desirability deferring transmittal of list to Washington because of Gaza situation and Shuqayr agreed. However, September 8 Nazir Fansa5 called at Embassy on behalf Shuqayr seeking real reason our desire delay transmittal and indicated Shuqayr intends press for action.

For number of reasons Embassy considers it to advantage of US to agree now to negotiate a Section 106 arms sale agreement6 with Syria:

Public statements of US policy have declared that US Government considers defense of ME essential to defense of US and free world;
1950 tripartite declaration recognizes Arab States and Israel need maintain certain level of armed forces for purposes of internal security, self-defense and defense of area as a whole;
ME States except Syria and Yemen have signed military aid agreements of one sort or another with US, in case of Jordan, with UK;
Syria is seeking defensive equipment only (cf. list transmitted with ArmAtt report R372–55, August 29, 1955).
Obtaining Syrian signature to an agreement of this sort with US would be significant development in US-Syrian relations. Follow-up would encourage Syrians believe that they can cooperate with US without danger of US intervention or any loss of independence and would create better atmosphere for winning Syrian acceptance proposals for cooperation in other fields, e.g. Jordan unified development plan, Secretary’s suggestions re Palestine problem, regional defense plans. With new government coming into power7 which may not be unfavorable to US objectives this area, exceptional opportunity exists to convince responsible leaders of advantages cooperation with US. Our refusal would weaken position Syrians who wish improve relations with US;
Reestablishment of French position here after reverses in 1945 was accomplished largely as result French willingness sell arms, even though generally poor quality. French have continued as one of Syria’s main sources supply. US in position now secure similar good will.
C/S Shuqayr personally initiated this request. He appears increasingly well-disposed towards US and it is in our interest to encourage this attitude. Our willingness sell military equipment to Syria at this time will strengthen his control of army and thereby better enable him maintain internal stability. Furthermore, for better part of six years, person holding position of Chief of Staff has been most powerful single individual in Syria;
If US does not supply this equipment Syria can obtain it elsewhere (see ArmAtt cable SA800, August 29, 1955,8 re Syrian purchase of tanks in Czechoslovakia).

Refusal on our part to negotiate agreement now, even though we indicate willingness to reconsider at some time in future, will no doubt make Syrians believe we are singling them out for discriminatory treatment. With respect to procurement of equipment, refusal can be expected strengthen leftists and cause Syrians turn to USSR, which has just assigned first MilAtt to Syria and which is believed to be prepared to supply arms to Syria, or to increase dealings with satellites, from whom Syria has bought in past, or both. Most [Page 542] important, if it is known we have rejected this request we can hardly expect Syrian cooperation in US proposals involving joint efforts.

Action on request will be necessary within a short time. I appreciate that there are other factors outside of Syria involved. However, present situation within Syria offers possibility considerable improvement US position and conclusion this agreement would provide major impulse in that direction. I urge Department’s favorable consideration. Request instructions soonest. ArmAtt concurs.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/9–1055. Secret.
  2. In response to several reports from the Embassy in Damascus that Syrian Chief of Staff Shuqayr was exhibiting considerable interest in the possibility of Syria concluding a reimbursable military aid agreement with the United States, the Department cautioned the Embassy on August 27 (telegram 130 to Damascus) that it was “not inclined favor negotiating Section 106 arms sale agreement at this time and Syrians should not be encouraged.” The Department did, however, suggest that the Embassy make available to the Syrian Government the text of the U.S.-Lebanese military aid agreement as a model. (Ibid., 780.5/8–2555) For text of the U.S.-Lebanese military aid agreement of 1953, see 5 UST (pt. 3) 2908.
  3. Attached to despatch 95 from Damascus, September 27. (Ibid., 783.56/9–2755) The list primarily included military transport equipment such as trucks and trailers.
  4. Colonel Robert W. Molloy, U.S. Army Attaché in Damascus.
  5. Chief of the Syrian Government’s Department of Propaganda.
  6. Reference is to Section 106 of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, which contained provisions governing the sale of military equipment, materials, and services. (Public Law 665, August 26, 1954; 68 Stat. 836)
  7. On August 18 the Syrian Chamber of Deputies elected as Syria’s ninth President Shukri al-Quwatli by a vote of 91 to 41 over Khalid al-Azm, who subsequently tendered his resignation as Syria’s Foreign Minister and assumed a leadership role in the opposition. Quwatli was sworn into office on September 6; and on September 13 Said al-Ghazzi, an independent deputy, announced the formation of a new cabinet in which Ghazzi held the positions of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. (Department of State, Central File 783.00)
  8. Not found.