198. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Prospects for Arab Federation and United States Posture Toward the Syrian Arab Republic

Results of tripartite negotiations in Cairo indicate agreement in principle has been achieved on some form of Syria–Iraq–UAR federation.1 However, below the surface there is a contest for power between Nasser (and his supporters in Syria and Iraq) and the Baathist organization [Page 434] which may make it difficult to construct a mutually acceptable power structure for the federated state. In any case latent rivalry between Syria and Iraq on one hand and the UAR on the other is apt to continue whether or not a federation scheme is agreed upon. In the circumstances the following is the general posture we plan to adopt:

A Syro-Iraq counterweight to Nasser’s influence might have advantages for the United States but we believe it would more likely flourish as a home-grown product and we are thus studiously avoiding any implication of bias toward one party or another.
Irrespective of whether Baathists or Nasserists gain ultimate ascendancy in Syria, we perceive no direct threat to US vital interests and thus plan to seek friendship with the established government whatever the political orientation of its leaders.
We believe that any military unification among Syria, Iraq and UAR would be more a matter of form than substance and would not have any significant bearing on the current military balance in the Near East. Thus we should not be unduly swayed by probable alarms raised by other states of the area.
We plan to tactfully keep the Syrians aware of the dangers of a revolutionary policy in Jordan and would like to reach tacit agreement with them not to activate the Arab-Israel issue, the latter without prejudice to quiet efforts to make progress on the Arab refugee question or recognition of Israel’s right to draw a fair share of Jordan Waters.
We believe our current economic and military assistance program and arms policies are generally adequate.

In summary, we expect the new Syrian regime initially to be cautious in their attitude toward us but we believe there is a good chance for a gradual increase in mutual confidence, assuming survival of the regime.

Enclosed is a more detailed treatment of this subject.2

P.W. Kriebel3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1 NR EAST–US. Secret. Drafted by Barrow and cleared by Strong, Talbot, Padelford, General Fuqua, Elwood, and Anderson (AID).
  2. On March 10, delegations from Syria and Iraq, meeting in Damascus, issued a joint communique agreeing on the need to move rapidly toward a federal union of Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Subsequent negotiations among delegations of the three nations to decide upon the first steps toward unification were held in Cairo. (Circular airgram CA–10067, March 15; ibid., POL 2–2 NR EAST)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Kriebel signed for Brubeck above Brubeck’s typed signature.