307. Telegram From the Embassy in Syria to the Department of State1
336. Pass Army. Deptel 243.2 Syrian C/S Shuqayr has copy Lebanese agreement and expressed informally to ArmAtt opinion that none of provisions would be obstacle to GOS purchase of arms. Shuqayr has also been informed, when he asked what action being taken his request, that list (Embassy despatch 953) being studied in Washington for price and availability data. List constitutes official statement GOS present requirements.
However, it is Embassy view, in which ArmAtt concurs, that Syrians will not sign or even negotiate reimbursable military aid agreement until they have assurance equipment they desire will be delivered to them at price they can pay. Price and approximate date of delivery are, therefore, controlling factors. Embassy doubts value of asking GOS now whether it plans request negotiation agreement.
Department is aware urgency this matter arising from reported interest Soviet bloc in supplying arms to Syria and its implications. Embassy understands considerable quantities used military equipment surplus in Austria as result departure US forces. If offer of token delivery this equipment, at used rather than “as new” price, can be made Syria, this will be interpreted by Shuqayr and other Syrians as evidence genuine interest in helping Syria obtain requirements necessary for its defense. Any offer, to be effective, must be made soonest and if delayed even matter of days may be too late.[Page 548]
Request Department’s urgent advice.