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

2377. Paid farewell call on President Quwatli this morning and transmitted reassurances re USG’s attitude toward UAR (Department telegram 1809).2

President reiterated at some length his previous remarks (Embassy telegram 2210)3 that creation UAR offered US excellent opportunity re-establish with combined Syrian and Egypt good relations which had existed several years ago. He urged US not confuse Nationalism with Communism. He claimed we had been misled by sensational and false reports of vast quantities Soviet arms and number Soviet technicians entering Syria, which had created mistaken impression Communists had taken over country. Actually Syria had purchased from Soviets without strings, and later it had been refused permission purchase them in West, only sufficient arms for defense against Israel. In this connection he referred recent French offer to Israel to supply latter with unlimited arms (presumably Ambassador Gilbert’s Rotary Club speech February 18).

Quwatli insisted, while Syria had had good relations with Soviets for reason above cited, Communists had never acquired dominant position in Syria and now that UAR established, would not be able to [Page 430]do so. UAR would follow policy “positive neutrality” but would firmly suppress internal activities of Communists. However, good relations between UAR and West are essential for this purpose.

President said he knows Nasser well and Nasser is not ill-disposed (Mechant). It is up to US not to act as to make him ill-disposed. If we “build fires under his chair,” we can hardly expect him to sit in it quietly. If we make effort, it will be possible work with him.

President also received Noble of Tapline this morning and urged him to proceed with and promptly conclude current negotiations, since some Syrian Ministers claim Tapline is dragging its feet. Quwatli told Noble Communists have now been squeezed out of Syria and it is up to US to see to it they do not come back. He claimed he had sent personal appeal to President Eisenhower for more favorable US bid on Syrian oil refinery but had received no response. He urged US show comprehension and understanding in future lest UAR forced again to turn to East for essential aid.

Comment: Eagerness of President for US support is indicated not only by what he said but by fact he received two Americans during next to last day in office at time when endless stream of delegations is inundating Palace to bid him farewell.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786.00/2–2058. Secret. Repeated to Cairo, Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Paris, London, Jidda, Tehran, and Karachi.
  2. Telegram 1809, February 15, stressed that Yost should try to correct any misunderstandings that Kuwatly and Bitar might have as a result of Dulles’ February 11 press conference. (Ibid., 786.00/2–1358) For the transcript of the press conference, see Department of State Bulletin, March 3, 1958, pp. 330–337.
  3. Telegram 2210, February 9, reported that Kuwatly, at a farewell reception for the diplomatic corps, had stated to Yost that the creation of the UAR offered the United States a unique opportunity to show its good will toward the Arab world. (Department of State, Central Files, 786.00/2–958)