117. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Near Eastern and European Posts 0

629. UAR Ambassador Kamel made following points to Department official October 1, stating that his presentation had been discussed and approved by Foreign Minister Fawzi 1 and should be taken as official:

UAR appeals strongly to USG not to consider question of recognition of new Syrian regime. Nor should USG take active role regarding admission of Syria to UN.
From the political point of view UAR wishes point out that no communist or neutralist country had recognized or even given any hint of recognition of new regime whereas thus far only countries which have recognized are closely identified with the West. If this trend continues, suspicions of Western involvement in the Syrian coup, which are already beginning to develop, will spread and prejudice US and Western position in Middle East as a whole.
From legal point of view unification of Syria and Egypt was outcome of a free referendum in 1958, which has not been canceled by another referendum. Legally nothing has changed and the UAR continues to exist. Any hasty recognition by the US would be contradictory to its policy of insisting on changes of the status quo by constitutional means (sic).
Since gaining independence in 1946, Syria has experienced innumerable coups d’etat and has known no stability until union with Egypt in 1958. Hasty recognition would tend to encourage additional coups.
Internal situation in Syria still fluid. Baathists have not yet shown their hand. Moreover according news reports, new Syrian Minister of Interior, who believed pro-Soviet, has released political prisoners. USG should urgently investigate whether communists among these and if so consider all the implications that would entail for the stability of Syria.
Rightist complexion of new government runs contrary to present world trends, rendering its permanence all the more unlikely.
Secession is not going to be a simple matter for Kuzbari to implement. Untangling the relationships that have developed since the union will be a difficult piece of work and it is not certain Kuzbari can succeed.
If Zionists try stir troubled waters, USG should remind them since unification, Syria-Israel borders have been relatively quiet. UAR predicts that whatever his personal desires may be, Kuzbari will be forced to pursue activist policy on Israel borders in order consolidate his internal position in Syria.
It would be unfair that a friendly government would rush into recognition without allowing opportunity to see if the solution could be found to the present difficulties (Kamel could offer no specifics as to what kind of solution would be possible in present circumstances).
USG should carefully observe what Arabs, neutralists and, above all USSR, are doing in respect recognition.UAR predicts USSR will not recognize rightist government of Kuzbari for foreseeable future. USSR has everything to gain and nothing to lose by a policy of watchful waiting. If rightist government continues in power, Soviets will exploit “reactionary” character thereof in its propaganda. If there is an anti-coup toward a reunification of Egypt and Syria, “everyone would be grateful” to USSR for having abstained from recognition whereas, if there is an anti-coup toward establishing a communist regime, gain for USSR is obvious.
If great country like US should “jump” to recognition while forgetting trends in the area, forgetting its impact upon public opinion in the Arab world, it will be endangering its own interests and antagonizing the biggest country in the area (Egypt) and “putting the UAR in a most delicate situation in light of our recent severance of our diplomatic relationships with Jordan and Turkey.”

In reply Department official said he would report views Dr. Fawzi and Ambassador Kamel to his superiors. Whereas unable to state what [Page 278] the official USG reaction would be, he felt obliged make certain comments in order that Ambassador not be misled about US intentions. From a legal point of view the US generally regarded de facto control of the country, acquiescence of the people, and willingness to fulfill international obligations as its criteria for recognizing a new regime. Acquiescence of the people did not necessarily imply that there had to be a positive action, such as a referendum, but merely that public as a whole accepted the existence of the new government and was prepared to cooperate with it. As the Ambassador had pointed out, there had been innumerable coups in Syria prior to union, some of which might have been interpreted as in favor of Western interests and some of which might have been interpreted as against Western interests, but in every case the USG, as well as other governments of the world, had been obliged to accept the realities of the situation and the necessity of establishing relationships with the regimes which came to power, irrespective whether that power had been achieved by constitutional processes. Department official felt that, if the present de facto control of Syria by the new regime could be maintained and its international obligations are respected, there would be no insurmountable legal obstacle to extending recognition.

Department official said he agreed, however, that this was a special situation in that it was not a matter of a new regime having supplanted an old regime, but of a new regime having been created side by side with the previous regime. Therefore, it was necessary to take a broad view of the problem and consider all of its aspects in relationship to the feelings of both regimes. Department official said he felt he could assure the Ambassador that the USG would take no hasty action but would consult fully with the UAR in respect to the recognition question and, if and when recognition should ultimately, in our view, become necessary, would ask for the UAR’s sympathetic understanding. Department official said he hoped, however, that UAR would not take the attitude that any positive action vis-à-vis the new Syrian regime would ipso facto be taken as hostility toward the UAR, since this was not our intention. If the UAR should harden its position to this extent, it might well create an impasse in future US–UAR relationships which would be difficult to surmount. Department official said that if it were UAR desire that USG not proceed unilaterally toward recognition of new Syrian regime without at least informing UAR, it was equally essential that UAR not proceed to hasty unilateral actions tending to create embarrassments. Kamel asked if Department official had in mind such actions as the UAR having severed relations with Jordan and Turkey, and Department official replied affirmatively.

Department official said that he had been impressed by Ambassador Kamel’s statement that USG should carefully observe what the [Page 279] other Arabs were doing on the question of recognition. It seemed to him that this is an Arab problem in which the voice of the Arabs ought to be heard. If a majority of the Arab states should decide upon recognition of the new Syrian regime, it would be very difficult for the USG to justify delaying much longer in taking similar action.

Kamel at first agreed with this point of view but later reversed himself and said that he felt the USG should be more concerned with Soviet policy and the advantages the Soviet Union could derive from delaying recognition. Department official replied that actions of the Soviets were of course an important consideration which would be taken into account by USG in making its decision. However, he did not feel that USG policy could necessarily be governed by Soviet actions. Evidence thus far received indicated new Syrian regime wanted friendly relations with all countries including US. Persons included in that regime were not “Chinese Communists” on whom we could turn our backs indefinitely.

Department official re-emphasized that any gestures we might make toward new Syrian regime did not imply antagonism toward UAR, that we continue desire friendly relations with the UAR and that this desire sincere and heartfelt.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786B.00/10–261. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Barrow, cleared in draft by Hewitt and Strong, and approved by Talbot who initialed for Rusk. Sent to Bonn, London, Cairo, Jidda, Baghdad, Tripoli, Benghazi, Rabat, Tunis, Khartoum, Amman, Paris, Rome, Damascus, Ankara, and Beirut.
  2. On September 30, Fawzi spoke with Secretary Rusk in New York and urged that the United States not be hasty in recognizing the new Syrian regime. (Memorandum of conversation, September 30, 9 a.m.; ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330)