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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June 09, 1954

CONFIRMED INFORMATION REGARDING THE POSITION OF THE SYRIAN ARMY AND THE LATEST SERIOUS SITUATION IN SYRIA

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    Update on the status of the Syrian Army, including jeopardization by government feuds, possible Army intervention, and a report from Aleppo's Chief of Police.
    "Confirmed Information regarding the Position of the Syrian Army and the Latest Serious Situation in Syria," June 09, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 15, File 18A/15, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176142
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18A/15

9 June 1954; from Aleppo

Confirmed information regarding the position of the Syrian Army and the latest serious situation in Syria

I met with many influential officers in Aleppo and learned from them the following information:

Colonel Adnan al-Malki from Damascus, one of the most influential leaders, went to see the President of the Republic a week ago and described to him in detail the poor current situation in Syria. He relayed to him the state of administrative chaos and the ongoing secret intrigues and plots, which are not only harmful to the country, but also threatening to the Army's security. He confirmed to the President the following:

The Army's well-being is being jeopardised by Syria's latest position and the disagreements between the Government and political parties.

The two governing parties are conducting ominous contacts with the Iraqi Government and seeking to form a union with it in order to end all intervention by the Syrian Army and vanquish it, once and for all.

These two parties, together with a number of Iraqi parties and foreign countries, seek to torpedo Syria's independence and its republican system, and impose on it the demeaning British treaty, and a monarchy, against the Syrian people's wishes. The two parties' ultimate objective is to put an end to the Army's influence and to that of the popular socialist and nationalist movements. The Army has irrefutable proof of this.

Rushdi al-Kikhya has gone to Turkey after meeting with the Turkish Consul who arranged secret meetings for him with politicians in Ankara and Istanbul. He is also in full agreement with Minister al-Said Pacha, and the two parties have a common understanding of this union similar to how the British want it done.

The Army will have no choice but to intervene in an effective manner and take power from civilian hands if the latter do not give up their secret and ominous endeavours; also military communiqué No. (1) is ready and waiting at the military headquarters. The President of the Republic should therefore take all necessary measures before it is too late, and before the Army does anything displeasing to you.

I also learned that the Army's attitude is a source of worry to the 'Asaly Government and the national and popular parties, especially when they realised that a coup will very soon take place. This information was confirmed by well-informed political circles.

Akram al-Haurani, officers that support him and various other parties would and encourage another coup if it is to the advantage of the socialists. Sultan Pacha al-Atrache, whose policies are inspired by the Baathists and socialists, and chiefly by Jalal al-Sayed, has recently agreed with the Druze officers concerning the need to support Akram al-Haurani and the socialists and include them in the cabinet. This is why Akram al-Haurani’s position is now threatening to the current government which is in danger of falling at any time, unless it resigns or announces free elections to be held under the auspices of a neutral body that would be acceptable to the communists and socialists. Akram al-Haurani assures his supporters that the cabinet is doomed to fall at any moment and that when this happens the socialists will assume power and, once the current Assembly has been dissolved, will hold new elections.

Efforts of Defence Minister al-Dawalibi in Aleppo

On account of the above, before the storm starts to blow, and in order to take advantage of the Feast Holidays, Maarouf al-Dawalibi arrived in Aleppo to see for himself the state of the Army and learn the intentions of Aleppo's and Northern Syria's officers and garrisons.

Although the head of the Aleppo garrison, Colonel Faisal al-Atassi, is a supporter of the Government as well as of Hizb al-Watan and al-Shaab, he nevertheless does not have enough influence over a number of officers and military leaders, and this is a source of worry for him.

Maarouf al-Dawalibi failed to sway Aleppo's and Northern Syria's officers and garrisons or take from them the undertakings he was seeking.

He also failed to reconcile the points of view of the two governing parties and dispel the disagreements between them.

Finally, before he went back to Damascus, Maarouf al-Dawalibi agreed with Ihsan al-Jabiri to undertake a trip to Iskandarun, where Soghoq Olok Centre is, and await there for Rushdi al-Kikhya's return from Turkey in order to update him on the results of his efforts and negotiations with various Turkish groups, in preparation for the expected onslaught on the current government. 'I also learned that Turkey's Consul in Aleppo went with them to Soghoq Olok and spent one night with them there before pursuing his journey to Latakia and Lebanon.'

Colonel Faisal al-Atassi sent a special report to the Army's General Command to the effect that a large schism existed within the ranks of the Army and that this did not bode well. The report said that the majority of the officers did not harbour good intentions towards the present administration and that the socialists and communists, who found in this state of affairs a good opportunity to further their cause, are now active within nationalist and military circles. He added that all the secret meetings and plotting going on among the officers foretell of the huge storm that could throw Syria's internal affairs into disarray.

It also said that various parties are arming themselves hastily and heavily, and that this is likely to bring Syria nothing but suffering and destruction. He added that if the Government does not quickly remedy the situation, soon a very dangerous coup d’état would take place in the country.

Maarouf al-Dawalibi held several meetings with a number of officers and military leaders to try to convince them that rumours to the effect that a colonialist union project was being prepared were untrue, and that at present, it is only being considered by Syria. The officers, however, are convinced that Maarouf al-Dawalibi is trying to trick the Army, is still pursuing his party's (Hizb al-Shaab) policy, and is seeking to befriend both the socialists and communists at the same time. They are also convinced that a union with Iraq would deal a deadly blow to their position and influence in the country.

Finally, officers and military leaders in Aleppo told Maarouf al-Dawalibi that they ‘are neutral and the Army would not interfere unless its own, and the country’s safety, are threatened.’ Al-Dawalibi, however, was not reassured by these hypocritical and treacherous promises

When al-Dawalibi attempted to express his lack of reassurance and anxiety regarding the officers loyal to Adeeb al-Shishakli, one of the officers at the meeting told him: ‘Leave al-Shishakli and his supporters alone and turn your attention instead to all the intrigues, conspiracies, and dangers taking place at present. This meeting, which al-Dawalibi left without receiving the answers he sought, left a deep impact on him.

Al-Dawalibi has heard many say, within local and military circles that ‘al-Shishakli’s time was better than the present.’

When he was asked about military assistance by the United States to Syria and about a union with Iraq, Jordan, and other Arab countries, he denied them all. He insisted that the current government is only transitional and its duty is limited to holding elections. However, al-Dawalibi's statements are always received with doubt and suspicion, and lack reassurance. I managed to learn this from the circle around Maarouf al-Dawalibi’s father, a long-time friend of mine, who gave me all the information he had.

I also learned that Aleppo's Chief of Police has submitted a long report to the government in which he chided the current government on its position; on its lenient attitude towards the communists, socialists, and their activities; and on the dangerous way they are arming themselves which is threatening the country's safety.

The report also condemned the constant squabbling among the parties, and the government's weakness in this regard, in particular the threat it poses to the country’s safety and independence. It also said that conspiracies that are currently being hatched, on the one hand by various Syrian parties and circles in neighbouring Arab countries, and by foreign countries, on the other, do not bode well for the country.

The Chief of Police in Aleppo, Colonel Mohammad Diab, claimed that he could not remain idle in the face of the present situation and insisted that the central administration accept his resignation.

When I met him personally, and asked him why he had resigned, he told me: ‘the future of the country is bleak and Syria is at the threshold of very dangerous and unexpected events. A very big coup d’état will take place in the near future, even the very near future, and because of that I would rather not remain at the Sûreté Générale.’

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