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740.00112 European War 1939/21323: Telegram The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, January 31, 1941–3 p. m.

[Received February 1–9 a. m.] 24. Department's 9, January 28, 5 p. m. In view of the fact that the British Ministry of Economic Warfare has recently declined to permit several shipments of Latakia tobacco to the United States but has authorized a shipment of olive oil, I believe it would avoid confusion and uncertainty if the Department could informally and confidentially bring to the attention of British authorities the desirability of encouraging in principle all Syrian exports to the United States. We have usually taken much if not most of Syria's wool, tobacco, hides and skins, casings, et cetera, and we may want silk and olive oil as well. Now that the Franco-German clearing agreement is being applied to Syria—see my 21, January 27 21—Germany is making a desperate attempt to obtain all these commodities from Syria herself, to supply pharmaceutical goods and chemicals urgently needed in Syria even though shipment via Turkey is expensive and subject to much delay. Unless, therefore, normal exports to America are facilitated it may confidentially be expected that they will be diverted to Germany. The only alternative would be for the British to buy up these commodities themselves which seems absurd as they can apparently find a ready market in the United States and the British do not want them.

I have talked very frankly with my British colleague in the above sense and he is making similar representations to his own Government.


740.00112 European War 1939/22093 : Telegram The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, February 11, 1941–8 a. m.

[Received February 12—10:10 a. m.] 32. My 24, January 31, 3 p. m. British Consul General has received a reply from his Ministry of Economic Warfare to the effect that it would not object to the export to the United States of total stocks on hand of Syrian wool estimated at not less than 3,000 tons and for which the French authorities are now willing to resume issuing export permits. The import of foodstuffs and newsprint would be permitted by the British in return.

The British would likewise have no objection to the export of Syrian silk to the United States. I believe Latakia tobacco and casings

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should also be included in authorized exports and my British colleague agrees. Please see in this connection also my next telegram number 33.22


890D.48/108: Telegram The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, February 11, 1941–9 a. m.

[Received February 12—10:15 a. m.] 33. I have received an official request orally and in writing from the French High Commissioner 22a to use my good offices with the British authorities with a view to obtaining permission for the importation into Syria in 1941 of some 1200 cases of Nestle's sweetened and unsweetened milk from the United States. He states this is urgently needed to prevent serious undernourishment of children both native and foreign. He adds that distribution will be closely supervised under medical certificates and he offers to give guarantees regarding such distribution.

I have informally promised to submit the matter to the Department to discuss it with the British Consul General.


740.00112 European War 1939/22093 : Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, February 12, 1941—10 a. m.

[Received 2:15 p. m.] 34. My 32, February 11, 8 p. m. [a. m.], and 33, February 12 [11], 9 a. m. Both telegrams should of course be considered in the light of British policy which is to bring pressure to bear on the French authorities in Syria. My British colleague has therefore been instructed to obtain from the High Commissioner an undertaking that if certain exports to the United States are authorized no surplus stocks will be sold to Axis Powers or to countries from which they might reach the Axis.

Considering the possible imminence of a German move which may involve Turkey it is of paramount importance that we should assist in creating a situation here which would prevent any local decisions inimical to British strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. I have recently discussed with Colonel Donovan 23 in Jerusalem all phases of the problem and have told him that the French in Syria need outside encouragement if they are to become reconciled to the British blockade. With Von Hentig 24 a certain amount of German infiltration has already begun which is making prodigious efforts to win the native Syrians over to Germany's cause. He is known to have discussed details regarding possible German Syrian economic collaboration and seems intent on eliminating British and American trade and influence from Syria.

22 Infra.
2a Gen. Henri-Fernand Dentz.

23 Col. William J. Donovan, unofficial observer for the Secretary of the Navy in the Near East and Southeast Europe, December 1940–March 1941.

The French here are going through a distressing moral crisis which requires careful and sympathetic handling. The High Commissioner is in a very paradoxical position as he is personally opposed to any abject subservience to Germany but dreads the thought of disobeying Marshal Pétain.25 On the other hand he knows that the British Government is pledged to the full restoration of the integrity and independence of France even without French help, and the brilliant British victories in North Africa have had a cheering effect in French political and military circles. I therefore believe this an opportune moment to assist the High Commissioner in such matters as those referred to in my numbers 32 and 33. I think he would understand that in return honor and interest alike would seem to point to a conciliatory and accommodating spirit on his part in dealing with British interests. Repeated to Vichy.


740.00112 European War 1939/21321: Telegram The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom


WASHINGTON, February 13, 1941-11 p. m. 477. The following telegram dated January 31, 1941, has been received from the Consul General at Beirut:

[Here follows text of telegram No. 24, January 31, 3 p. m., printed on page 673.]

The general question of American trade with Syria was discussed last December with Mr. Helm, First Secretary of the British Embassy here.26 He submitted our views to London and about 3 weeks ago gave us an informal reply to the effect that it was the British policy to apply strong economic pressure to Syria, but that the British Government would give sympathetic consideration to authorizing individual shipments in which we might be particularly interested.

We are skeptical of the desirability of applying strong economic pressure to Syria, not only because such a policy would be likely in


Georg Werner Otto von Hentig, German diplomat and agent. 25 Henri Philippe Pétain, French Chief of State.

See memorandum by Mr. Henry S. Villard, December 18, 1940, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. II, p. 632.


the long run to create internal disorders with repercussions in neighboring Arab countries, but also because Syrian trade is likely to be diverted to Germany.

Please take up this matter in whatever manner you consider best with the appropriate British authorities and urge the desirability of Syria being permitted sufficient trade to obviate the unfortunate results referred to in the immediately preceding paragraph. You may point out that this Government is able to, and will, control the export of goods to Syria through the issuance of licenses for the use of balances built up in this country.


740.00112 European War 1939/22093 : Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, February 17, 1941–2 p.m.

[Received 2:20 p. m.] 38. Department's 14, February 15, 7 p. m.28 Referring to the last sentence of my 34, February 12, 10 a. m., I am glad to be able to report that the High Commissioner has now restored to the British Consul General in Beirut the privilege of a diplomatic pouch service which had been withdrawn last October, see Jerusalem's 151, November 4, 9 a. m. to the Department.28 In return the British Government has permitted French transport Providence to leave for Marseilles without first calling at Haifa. General Dentz is giving personal assurance that no de Gaulle sympathizers will be sent to France for trial.

It is this kind of give and take I had been advocating ever since my arrival and I believe we are in a position to help matters along in connection with Syrian exports and imports. All indications of the American attitude and purpose are being followed with the closest attention. Being entirely cut off from normal intercourse with the west the authorities here find it increasingly difficult to cope with the problems of national provisioning and the whole economic system is undergoing a severe strain. But being accessible to British sea power Syrian merchants would like to broaden and improve the bases of their trade relations and any overtures in that direction would find a strong echo also in responsible French opinion in Syria. For many of the bolder elements want to follow their instincts of patriotic Frenchmen and express the hope that the United States may yet help France to become herself again. Repeated to Vichy.


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740.00112 European War 1939/22093 : Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, February 18, 1941–10 a. m.

[Received 12:30 p. m.] 40. My 38, February 17, 2 p. m. President of Silk Spinners Association called on me yesterday and told me that about 150 tons of raw silk and about 50 tons silk waste were now available for export and inquired whether all or a portion of it could be disposed of in the United States. Could the Department telegraph me as soon as possible names of firms who may express interest and to whom local exporters should make offers. Also specifications.

He added that the Germans are making every effort to obtain the entire supply for the manufacture of parachutes but that the French authorities would much prefer to see it go elsewhere. It occurs to me that in view of the uncertain situation in the Far East this source of supply might be useful to us.


740.00112 European War 1939/2345 : Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State


BEIRUT, March 13, 1941–11 a. m.

[Received March 145:10 p. m.] 74. My 70, March 11.30 The following are typical examples of instructions received by the High Commissioner from Vichy.

(1) Although the SS Providence referred to in the first paragraph of my telegram No. 38, February 17, left Beirut March 1 the French Government refuses to restore to the British Consul General his pouch service unless the British Government agrees to a monthly sailing between Beirut and Marseilles without stops at Haifa.

(2) The High Commissioner has been instructed to facilitate in every way all exports to Germany as Berlin has been complaining that the local authorities have recently been showing reluctance to grant export permits for goods destined for Germany. Please see in this connection my telegram 34, February 12, second [apparent omission] my 39 [38], February 17, my 40, February 18, my 63, March 7.31 As a result of German pressure some 50 tons of silk have just been shipped to Bulgaria apparently without encountering difficulties or delays in Turkey.


Post, p. 690.

Telegram No. 63 not printed; it dealt with the amount of Syrian wool available for export to the United States and with possible purchases by Germany (740.00112 European War 1939/23034).

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