347. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Egypt1

2878. For Ambassador.2 While King Saud is in Cairo3 and preferably in context of discussion about other ME matters you should orally refer to group prominent Syrians sentenced to death [Page 613] for alleged plotting against GOS.4 To avoid leaving King Saud with undesirable impression you should not indicate you are speaking under instructions. Your comments might be cast along following lines:

Recall discussions in Washington in which we set forth our deep concern re increasing Communist penetration Syria and leftward swing GOS. Add you believe manner in which trial these individuals conducted and severity of sentences disturbingly similar Communist practices. Recall that important feature of Communist take-over in Eastern European countries now satellites was trumped-up trial and execution of patriotic and truly nationalist elements. Add that at this moment when solutions to difficult ME problems are being sought execution these individuals will reflect unfavorably upon Syria and whole Arab people. Express your hope that His Majesty may be willing use his influence urge upon GOS that matter be handled in accordance universal principles of justice.5

. . . . . . .

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783.00/2–2757. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Wilkins and Rockwell and cleared by Rountree who signed for Dulles.
  2. Raymond Hare.
  3. King Saud was in Cairo, February 24–27, attending a conference with President Nasser, King Hussein, and President Quwatli.
  4. On January 8, the trial began in Damascus of 47 Syrian political figures (18 in absentia) charged with plotting to overthrow the current government and establish a pro-Iraqi one. On February 26, 11 Syrians and 1 Lebanese were sentenced to death (6 in absentia); 3 were acquitted; and 30 were given prison sentences. For documentation containing reports of the trial, see Department of State, Central Files 783.00 and 783.551. A French translation of the bill of indictment, issued on December 22, 1956, which linked the alleged conspirators with certain Iraqi officials, is attached to despatch 303 from Damascus, January 10. (Ibid., 783.00/1–1057) In despatch 303, Moose noted that “to date there has been no apparent intention on the part of the Syrian authorities to implicate the United States.”

    Subsequent to these developments, the Iraqi Government requested that the United States intervene on behalf of the Syrian political leaders condemned to death. On February 27, Rountree informed Ambassador Shabandar that the Department believed that a U.S. approach to Syria would be ineffectual, but that it had instructed Ambassador Hare to discuss the matter discreetly with King Saud. (Memorandum of conversation by Newsom, February 27, 1957; Ibid., 7S3.00/2–2757)

  5. Telegram 2878 arrived in Cairo subsequent to King Saud’s departure, and consequently the Department directed the Embassy in Jidda to take the action requested. (Telegram 344 to Dhahran, March 2; Ibid., 783.00/3–257) On March 3, Embassy Counselor Alfred Jenkins discussed the matter with King Saud who responded positively. (Telegram 418 from Dhahran, March 5; Ibid., 783.00/3–457) On March 6, the Syrian Government announced that the death sentences for five conspirators had been commuted to life imprisonment. (Telegram 2039 from Damascus; Ibid., 783.551/3–657)