183. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Syrian Nationalization of Socony Mobil Marketing Subsidiary


  • Socony Mobil
  • Rawleigh Warner, President, Socony Mobil Oil Inc.
  • E.L. Waggoner, Relations Advisor to President of Mobil International
  • William Henderson, Manager, International Government Relations
  • Z. William Ross, Manager, Government Relations Washington office
  • NEA—Phillips Talbot
  • OR/FSE—John G. Oliver
  • NEA:NE/E—George M. Bennsky

Mr. Warner opened the conversation by saying that the Syrian nationalization of the Socony subsidiary was worrisome because of its possible repercussions and precedents elsewhere in the Near East and the world in general where his company has much larger interests. He then requested Mr. Talbot’s views on how the Syrian nationalization fitted into the current Near Eastern situation.

Mr. Talbot reviewed the situation and motivations of each of the Near Eastern countries in the context of such major developments as the Unified Arab Command, the Arabs’ Jordan River diversion activities, the West Germany-UAR confrontation, the growing UAR economic and military difficulties, and US–UAR relations. Among his observations on Syria were the following:

The Syrian Government has been taking various extreme actions in an attempt to prop up its shaky regime. Syrians consider themselves as the vanguard of Arabism, and they are out to one-up the Egyptians whenever they can, whether it be in terms of Arab socialization (nationalization) or struggle against the “imperialists.” It should be noted also that the nationalization of the oil marketing companies is but part of a much larger Syrian socialization program that gained new impetus in January.

Mr. Warner asked Mr. Talbot’s views on Nasser’s possible reactions given the tightening UAR economic situation. Mr. Talbot said that Nasser has shown that he can and will lash out when confronted. The UAR is in economic straits and, even though Nasser has received some substantial commitments from Communist countries and possibly also from Kuwait, [Page 331] it appears that Nasser would like to keep his contacts with the West open. Our problem is to keep Congress from cutting off our contact with the UAR and bringing about a confrontation that would lead to a dangerous polarization in the Near East, with the West and Israel on one side, ranged against the Communists and the Arabs on the other.

In parting, Mr. Warner told Mr. Talbot that Socony would make no public denunciation of the Syrian nationalization of its marketing subsidiary and would try, in coordination with ESSO and Shell, to negotiate an acceptable settlement with the Syrian Government. After Socony has had a chance to see how things are going, he plans to come back for further discussion with Messrs. Mann and Talbot respectively.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, PET 15–2 SYR. Confidential. Drafted by Bennsky.