334. Instruction From the Department of State to the Embassy in Syria1



  • Consultation with Turkish Authorities Concerning Situation in Syria

The following instruction has been sent to the Ambassador at Ankara:2 The Turkish Prime Minister3 recently informed … the Syrian situation was of great concern to Turkey. Turkey does not know what plans the United States and Great Britain have with regard to Syria, if they have any. The Turks can not be mere spectators in a situation that is of such close concern to them. It was … impression the Prime Minister felt he was being kept “in the dark and at arm’s length” with regard to our planning on Syria…. recommended that the United States Government pass to the Prime Minister some information about United States plans and activities concerning Syria through Department of State … channels.

It is important that the Turks not gain the impression that we are purposely not consulting them in our planning for Syria. You should seek an early opportunity to inform the Turkish Prime Minister and perhaps other high level Turkish officials of United States policies and actions. You should discuss these matters with the Turks orally… .

You should base your oral remarks to Turkish officials on the following summary which is not to be confirmed in writing: [Page 592]

The United States shares the concern of the Turkish Government over the present situation in Syria and understands the security problem which a chronically unstable, leftist-oriented Syria constitutes for Turkey. The inability of conservative political leaders to cooperate among themselves to oppose the steady swing to the left, the increasing responsiveness of Syrian Cabinets to pressure from leftist elements within and without the Army, the growing tendency to accept, as unavoidable, leftist-dominated mob rule and the increasing discouragement of those elements which are traditionally well-disposed toward Turkey and the West in general are particularly important aspects of this problem. Closer ties between Syria and the Soviet Bloc and a consequent likelihood that Syria will become more dependent politically, economically and militarily on the Soviet Bloc likewise constitute an important threat to the Turkish and Western position in Syria. Egyptian … activities in Syria have also promoted Soviet objectives in Syria and have served to encourage Syrian withdrawal from close relations with the West.
While the present policy of the Soviet Union appears to be to avoid direct intervention in Syria, the Syrian Communist Party, which is believed to include approximately 10,000 members, is a well-organized and tightly disciplined instrument available for use by the Soviets when the occasion demands. Communist infiltration of the Arab Socialist Resurrectionist Party, of the Army, of the labor unions and of important branches of the civil service is increasingly successful. Of particular importance is Communist influence in the State-controlled educational system. Attempts to convince the Syrian public that the Syrian Communist Party is independent of Moscow and that Communism and Arab nationalism are compatible have also been relatively successful. The Communists in Syria have been able, as a result of these and other developments, to convince many Syrians that Communism is “respectable” and constitutes no threat to the independence of Syria or to the security of most individual Syrians.
With the above in mind, the United States has increased its efforts to counteract leftist influence in Syria and will continue to do so. Recent efforts along those lines have included the following:
Recognizing the considerable influence which Saudi Arabia exercises in Syria, we have on several occasions pointed out to King Saud the dangers inherent in the Syrian situation and have urged him to use his influence to stop the drift to the left. We now have reason to believe that he is aware of the problem…. We believe that this change in Saudi attitude will continue and we shall take every opportunity to encourage King Saud to cooperate in opposing leftist influence in Syria;
A source of instability in Syria has been the conflict of Iraqi and Saudi interests there. We have encouraged and continue to encourage a rapprochement between Iraq and Saudi Arabia which, we believe, would contribute substantially to an improvement of the situation in Syria;
We have sought and are continuing to seek means of assisting Western firms which are bidding for the contract for construction of the Syrian national oil refinery in competition with bids from the Soviet bloc. We have discussed with the [Page 593] Iraqis the possibility that they might be able to assist in securing the contract for a Western firm.
It is unnecessary to emphasize that we respect and will welcome Turkish views on what might be done to improve the situation in Syria. Turkey, for historical and geographic reasons, is in a unique position to know and understand Syria and the Syrians… .
We understand that conservative elements in Syria, dissatisfied with the present situation, are considering steps which might be taken to bring about an improvement. We are endeavoring to obtain more information about the activities of these conservative elements. As soon as we are more fully informed concerning this development, we will be happy to discuss the Syrian situation further with the Turkish authorities.4

. . . . . . .

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783.00/9–2156. Secret. Drafted by Waggoner and Wilkins, cleared by Williams, and approved by Rountree.
  2. The instruction to Ankara has not been found.
  3. Menderes.
  4. In telegram 864 from Ankara, October 19, Warren reported that in the absence of Prime Minister Menderes, he had discussed the Syrian situation with Foreign Secretary Birgi, who affirmed that the Turkish diagnosis of the situation was the same as that of the United States. Birgi spoke of the need for Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom to work together and carefully assess their aims; but he was cautious in projecting what could be done in the current situation. On the one hand, he maintained that the main objective should be to cast out Russian and Egyptian influence from Syria. On the other, he cautioned against being overly optimistic and noted that while they could not achieve an ideal solution, they could obtain one better than what existed. (Department of State, Central Files, 783.00/10–1956)