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

2029. Ankara for USDel. In addition points mentioned Embtels 2019 and 20262 following matter covered in my initial substantive conversation with Foreign Minister yesterday:

I said that as he knew my government hoped designation Ambassador here would assist in removing misunderstandings and improve relations between two countries, that his cooperation and that his government would be needed if this to be achieved, and that would appreciate having his view as to subjects most needing attention and clarification.

Bitar replied basic question is that of understanding and sympathy for Arab aspirations. Soviets, whatever their motives and objectives may be, have successfully created impression they are attentive to Arab wishes and sympathetic to their aspirations. On other hand Bitar had impression USG not “open” and receptive to Arab appeals and aspirations but constantly prejudiced against them. I expressed conviction his impression re US attitude mistaken and this one of misunderstandings that can and should be cleared up. When he mentioned Arab unity as example, I responded as indicated Embtel 2019.

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I cited Baghdad Pact and Eisenhower Doctrine3 as subjects which seem widely misunderstood in Syria and gave brief recapitulation our attitude toward former and objectives in latter, emphasizing latter involved no pressure but simply offer of aid to those who desire it.

Bitar replied Syrians look on both as instruments designed to divide Arab world. Iran had been “forced against its will” to join Baghdad Pact and thence had been artificially split off from Arab world. Eisenhower Doctrine, whatever its object, had helped prolong artificial division among Arab States and introduce cold war atmosphere.

After some debate on these subjects, I asked Foreign Minister whether he was satisfied with results his Cairo visit.4 He said he was very satisfied. Since there are no obstacles to union, it can be brought about easily and quickly. It is true there is geographical separation but that exists in case Pakistan also and there is closer identity between Syrians and Egyptians than between East and West Pakistanis. Moreover Cairo closer to Damascus than to Amman or Luxor. (Bitar showed no disposition expatiate further on unification plans and Indian Ambassador informs me that, contrary Bitar’s usual practice, Foreign Minister was also not forthcoming to him on this subject.)

In closing interview I requested we pursue these subjects further before my return Washington on consultation. Foreign Minister agreed meet again January 30 and thereafter as necessary.

Comment: While Bitar did not pull his punches, his manner was entirely friendly and he seemed clearly desirous explore possibility move US-Syrian relations off dead center. Knowledgeable pro-Western diplomats here agree this is his desire. We shall see whether he is prepared and able make any concessions to this end.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.83/1–2458. Secret. Repeated to Ankara, Cairo, Baghdad, Amman, Jidda, Tel Aviv, Paris, London, and Moscow.
  2. Both dated January 23. Telegram 2019 reported that both the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister had raised the question of Arab unity and Yost had responded that it was to be determined by the Arab peoples. Telegram 2026 reported that Yost had delivered a copy of President Eisenhower’s most recent letter to Bulganin. (Ibid., 674.83/1–2358 and 661.00/1–2358, respectively)
  3. For text of the Eisenhower Doctrine, approved by the President on March 7, 1957, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1957, pp. 829–831. For documentation on the background to and implementation of the Eisenhower Doctrine, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XII, pp. 1 ff.
  4. Bitar returned from Cairo on January 21 and the Egyptian Chargé reported to a U.S. Embassy official that the Foreign Minister had been successful in persuading Nasser to accept the union of Syria and Egypt. (Telegram 2010 from Damascus, January 22; Department of State, Central Files, 674.83/1–2258)