Monday, November 27, 2006

Six formerly Secret communications of interest concerning relation between the USA, UKGB, State of Israel, and Arab Republic of Syria, 1945 to 1948

Consisting of 6 communications. Archived text version (.pdf) [], via ( []

More context at
* A review of “The ‘Missing Dimension’: Britain’s Secret War against France in Syria and Lebanon, 1942–45,” by Meir Zamir []
* "An intimate alliance: The joint struggle of General Edward Spears and Riad al-Sulh to oust France from Lebanon, 1942 – 1944" (by Meir Zamir) abstract []
* "De Gaulle and the question of Syria and Lebanon during the Second World War: Part I" (by Meir Zamir), pg. 1 []
* " ‘Bid’ for Altalena: France's Covert Action in the 1948 War in Palestine" (by Meir Zamir), abstract []
* "The Arab States and the 1948 War in Palestine: The Socio-Political Struggles, the Compelling Nationalist Discourse and the Regional Context of Involvement" (by Michael Eppel), abstract []
* "On the first Arab popular overthrow of a dictator: the fall of Gen. Shishakli" (2011-01-20, []

1. Secret agreement between President Quwatli and Ernest Shone , the British Ambassador
to Syria and Lebanon


Exchange of letters no. 1

I, the undersigned, Shukri al‐Quwatli, President of the Republic of Syria, pledge on my honor, in my name, and in the name of the Syrian nation that has honored me by making me its President, to make the utmost effort to realize the unity of Syria in its natural borders, that is, from the Taurus to the desert, to Egypt and to the Mediterranean Sea.
I promise to do my utmost to realize the unity of Bar al‐Sham* and to be a soldier in the struggle for Syria’s absolute unity, a natural step towards complete Arab Unity.
This is our agreement, and God is our witness.
Damascus, May 29, 1945
S/ Shukri al‐Quwatli
Approved by the President of the Republic
S/ Jamil Mardam Bey

* (Translator’s note []): Literally, “Desert of Damascus,” an expression denoting geographical Syria.
(Additional): Not delivered to the Foreign Ministry.
This document was provided by he who drew it up and who served as secretary.

2. Constantin Zureiq, Counselor to the Syrian Legation in Washington, to the Syrian Prime Minister Sa'adallah al-Jabiri

Secret ‐ Coded

From the Syrian Legation in Washington
to H.E. the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Damascus

The American Government is surprised by the position the Arabs are adopting towards it, in relation to the Palestinian question. In the whole of this affair, America sees only humanitarian work and this is the basis on which it has made promises to the Jews; but the British have a different position, and the American Government expresses surprise that the Arabs consider it to be the only ones showing them hostility and threatening them with the Jews.
First of all, they say, the Balfour promise is British, not American.
Second, Great Britain wishes to exploit the Arab‐Jewish conflict because it is the only way for it to remain in Palestine, to dominate all the Arab countries.
The American Government strongly desires to find a friendly settlement between the Arabs and the Jews, but it is convinced that the British colonial authorities will do everything to prevent that, as Great Britain wishes for incidents to worsen in Palestine and for disorder, where blood is spilt, to take place.
Our interest, as far as I can see, is to find a definitive settlement, to work for the withdrawal of Great Britain from Syria and Palestine and for the plan the American Government will put forward concerning the definitive settlement of the Near East question. I believe that such a plan would win the agreement of all the states, except of course Great Britain.
November 7, 1945 For the Minister Plenipotentiary
s/ Constantin Zureiq

3. President Quwatli to his Cabinet members


From the President of the Syrian Republic
to the noble Council of Ministers

The mission of General Clayton, head of the special section of Arab Middle Eastern affairs, has two aims:
First: to convince us that Syrian unity will come about;
Second: to seek an understanding between Syria and Turkey.
For the understanding with Turkey we have confirmed to him that we have given our agreement and that we want it within the limits of the British memorandum that has been presented to us.
As for unity, he presents us with two plans:
‐ Syrian unity including Syria, Transjordan and part of Palestine with a plebiscite on the nature of the regime and on the choice of king if the regime is a monarchy.
‐ Arab unity including Iraq, Syria, Transjordan and part of Palestine. Then the king would be Faisal (King of Iraq) and there would be three guardians to the throne. Laws, rules, armies etc., would be unified.
Having highlighted our clear will for independence and having asked his opinion on France’s attitude and the agreement concluded with it, he said, “This is not under discussion; when you want unity everything will be settled with France.”
Our replies were negative, but were tied to Great Britain’s attitude towards us by comparison with France. If Great Britain attained the removal of French troops from Syria and Lebanon it will then be possible for us to discuss the plan he has presented. Before that, any discussion is impossible.
January 1, 1946 The President of the Syrian Republic
S/ Shukri al‐Quwatli

4. King Ibn Sa'ud to President Quwatli

Top secret

To His Excellency the President of the Syrian Republic – Damascus
(through the intermediary of the Saudi Legation in Damascus)

We have informed the British Minister Plenipotentiary that we will under no circumstances give our consent to a plan to divide Palestine.
We have also informed him of the surprise caused by the certainty reached by us that it is British agents and individuals who are working to create disorder and unrest in Syria and to shake the stability of the Government and create a throne for Abdullah there.
We have also given him clearly to understand that, if that is really their true ambition, these maneuvers will remain unsuccessful and that if they are only a pretense, they would not know how to induce Arab countries to preserve their friendship with England. We have added that Syria would not agree to be the victim by abandoning Alexandretta to the Turks and resigning themselves to the arrival of Abdullah. He promised to give me a prompt answer.
Abd al‐Aziz Ibn Rahman al‐Sa'ud
November 14, 1946

5. Syrian Prime Minister to the British Foreign Minister

Top secret

From the Syrian Legation in London
to H.E. the British Foreign Secretary

Dear Minister,
For the seventh time I call Your Excellency’s attention to the intrigues of British officers who have the upper hand over the army of Transjordan from where aggression is directed against Syria and Syrian independence.
What makes the situation even more delicate is that the plot organized against Syria is welcomed by all the British officials in the Near East.
Neither the Syrian government, nor the Syrian people, would ever have thought that Great Britain had helped Syria drive France out so that British sovereignty could replace French sovereignty in Syria, for Transjordan and King Abdullah, as is well understood, are working to achieve British sovereignty and British interests and no more.
To prove our good intentions, I place before Your Excellency the Soviet memorandum which was presented to us and to which we have so far refused to reply.
But if the British Government were to push us to despair, we would have recourse to any foreign aid whatsoever to safeguard our independence which, today, is threatened more than at any other time in the past.
I hope that you will want to undertake an act that will put an end to the state of extreme tension which, in the Middle East, creates a man with illegitimate appetites who acts with the acknowledged inspiration and advice of the British.
Yours sincerely,
June 3, 1947 The President of the Council
The Minister of Foreign Affairs
Jamil Mardam Bey

6. Part of French intelligence report from Beirut. Its contents reached Ben‐Gurion on the following day
via the French Consulate in Jerusalem
French Legation in Lebanon Beirut, May 11, 1948
Military, Naval and Air Attaché

Intelligence Report no. 68

It appears that the resolve of the Arab states regarding the struggle over Palestine has grown stronger over the last few days.
They have suddenly realized their considerable loss of prestige in the entire world if they abandon Palestine to the Jewish enterprise after so much ranting.
They would prefer risking a military defeat rather than inaction, which they consider to be a disgrace. All the states have decided on an extensive military effort with quick and massive action, whatever the price, against the Jewish State itself, hoping that a sudden and violent strike, using all the means available to the Arabs, would lead to a favorable outcome before the Jews, under vigorous attack in the vital areas of their territory, would have time to rally and organize themselves. Arab military circles rely on the lack of heavy weapons (artillery, tanks) and war planes on the Jewish side, for the success of the operation.
The beginning of action is planned for May 15, and it appears that 1) the first main objective of the regular armies will be Tel Aviv itself, and 2) the Arabs have considered the aerial bombardment of this city. The region of Tel Aviv will be the goal of the Egyptian army. (Knowing the Arabs, we can’t rule out, without making any guesses, that not many of them would be prepared for a blitzkrieg.)
The Egyptian troops will be gathering at al‐Arish. The British oppose their crossing the Palestinian border before May 15.
The Iraqi troops are concentrated in Mafraq, the Syrian troops in Kuneitra.
The Lebanese troops, already in place on the Lebanese‐Palestinian border, don’t appear to have to take an active part in the operations, but to make only some demonstration intended to hold back a part of the Zionist strength……………..
The removal of Ismail Pasha Safwat from his post as Commander of the Arab forces must have been
motivated by his refusal to acquiesce in the British orders concerning the future progression of operations in Palestine, notably the question of Haifa, which Safwat wanted to attack and take over. The British opposed this, wanting to keep the port for the evacuation of their troops. Safwat protested. Abdullah and the Iraqi Regent gave in to the British demands. Safwat was removed from office and replaced by the Iraqi Division General, Nur a‐Din Mahmmud, the Regent’s man, whose compliance with the British is well‐known.
The American government’s proposal – conveyed a few days ago to the Arab states and consisting of extending the British mandate over Palestine by ten days in order to facilitate an agreement between the Arabs and Jews – would have been accepted, it appears, straightaway by Azzam Pasha, Riyad al‐Sulh, Jamil Mardam and Haj Amin al‐Husseini, but rejected by King Abdullah. The others, even if they didn’t want to, would then agree with him, in the present circumstances – not wanting to appear less enthusiastic defenders of an Arab Palestine than the Hashemite sovereign.
Certain circles in Damascus fear the consequences, after May 16, of the USSR’s recognition of the establishment of the Jewish State and the immediate conclusion of a Judeo‐Soviet treaty, on the positions of the Americans and the British vis‐√†‐vis the Jewish State.

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