316. Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant for Intelligence (Armstrong) to the Secretary of State1


  • Intelligence Report: The New Soviet Approach to Syria2

The shift in Soviet tactics in the Middle East is analyzed in this Intelligence Report of the current Soviet approaches to Syria and I commend it to you.

Its general conclusions are as follows:

Largely during the past year Soviet policy with regard to the Arab states shifted from a largely negative approach consisting of warnings against Western influence, attacks against pro-Western leaders and reliance upon weak local Communist parties to a vigorous diplomatic offensive.

Though Moscow still utilizes the local Communist parties in support of Soviet policy goals, it relies primarily on government-to-government dealings.

This new Soviet policy may find a particularly fertile field in Syria which has been a major focus of foreign intrigues and has suffered from chronic governmental weakness.

From the Soviet point of view a Syria, neutralist but oriented against Iraq and the West, would inhibit the development of the Northern Tier structure but would not pose the problems which a Communist Syria would create.

A Communist takeover at this time might alarm the other Arab states and make them less receptive to Soviet “non-ideological” overtures.

It would also be much easier for the USSR to limit or terminate its support for a neutralist Syria, should that be desirable from a standpoint of overall Soviet policy, than to abandon a Syrian Communist regime.

It is thus not likely that dangers to the Western position with regard to Syria will arise in the near future from any dramatic Communist move within Syria. It may result rather from a Soviet-supported Syrian drift into a firmly anti-Western position.

A similar memorandum has been sent to the Under Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.83/3–2755. Secret. Macomber initialed the memorandum, but the source text contains no indication as to whether it was seen by Secretary Dulles.
  2. Attached to the source text but not printed is Intelligence Report No. 7117, December 15, 1955, entitled “The New Soviet Approach to Syria: Diplomacy Rather than Ideology”. The report was prepared by the Division of Research for the Near East, South Asia, and Africa from information available through November 25.