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Digital Archive International History Declassified

1980

ADEEB AL-SHISHAKLI. ATTEMPT TO ORGANISE A MILITARY COUP IN SYRIA

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    Description of Adeeb al-Shishakli's visits to Lebanon and attempt to organize a military coup in Syria.
    "Adeeb al-Shishakli. Attempt to Organise a Military Coup in Syria ," 1980, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 16, File 91/16, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176165
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Adeeb al-Shishakli. Attempt to organise a military coup in Syria

Al-Shishakli was brought over twice to Lebanon, in total secrecy, to organise a military coup in Syria.

The first time was in 1955 by a well-known Lebanese political party in Lebanon, and the second was part of an organised international conspiracy.

Although I played no role in either visit, in my professional capacity as someone entrusted with his country's security and safety, I was duty-bound to be at least aware of all that was going on in the country. Furthermore, since the issue did not involve Lebanon and my superiors, who knew what was going on, did not entrust me with any responsibilities in this regard, I did not interfere and was content to observe the situation closely lest it posed a threat to Lebanon at some stage.

The person in charge of facilitating al-Shishakli's entry into Lebanon was a First Lieutenant in the Lebanese Army, and a member of the above-mentioned party, assisted by another member who works in the observation tower at the airport.

Al-Shishakli arrived by plane wearing Arab dress, Kefiyeh, and 'Igal, and carrying a Saudi passport, forged of course. The employee at the observation tower went up to the plane and told him to come down from the plane last. A car belonging to the Shell Oil Company drove up with the refuelling truck which was assigned to refill the plane and, just like it has entered, it exited with this truck after it had finished refuelling the plane, from the tanker terminal which was guarded only by airport security. The guards did not notice him in the car, and he was driven to a house in the mountains where he stayed as a guest of the party's leader.

He began by contacting officers in Damascus who were loyal to him and on whom he could count, because he himself had appointed them in the Army and therefore they owed him their positions; he also met with high government officials in Beirut.

His contacts in Damascus were not as fruitful as he had expected; so he decided to go there personally and meet with officers whom he had called ‘my guys who are ready to kill themselves for me.’

A prominent journalist, and a member of the Said Party, took it upon himself to do the necessary. He and his wife drove Adeeb al-Shishakli in their car, and when they reached the two border posts, the latter hid in the boot of the big American car. Since the owner of the car was a very prominent personality, he was able to cross the borders without his car being searched.

Shishakli stayed two nights in Damascus during which he held several meetings with ten different officers before returning to Beirut.

He said that the officers had not responded positively to him; this is only natural, since those who held lower military ranks, during his time, had by now been promoted several times, earned senior status, and were enjoying the privileges that came with it.

After this failure, a decision was taken to take him out of Lebanon, and opinions differed in this regard; some suggested that he be taken out aboard a yacht which had already docked in Beirut before al-Shishakli's arrival, and which I suspected was there to take the plotters out if the coup failed. Others proposed that he leave through Beirut Airport and the Lieutenant who had arranged his entry into the country took over this responsibility. He dressed him in Arab garb and took him into the airport; once there, he was recognised by one of the employees of the Sûreté Générale. It was five a.m. when the said employee called me to ask for instructions as to what he should do. In such circumstances, the decision is left up to (…)

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