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(3) Vichy has given orders that the defenses of Syria be immediately strengthened. Numerous new earthworks and gun emplacements are being prepared all along the coast and on the Palestine border which can only be directed against England. There is also a rumor that Germany has demanded the use of ports and landing fields (see paragraph 3 of my 49, February 26 32). I feel that the situation will soon require some such action on our part as suggested in the last paragraph of my telegram 49 if it is not to deteriorate still further. Repeated to Vichy.
740.00112 European War 1939/2344: Telegram
Secretary of State
LONDON, March 14, 1941–8 p. m.
[Received March 144:42 p. m.] 998. Department’s 477, February 13, 11 p. m., and 501, February 15, 6 p. m.33 Information and representations in reference cables relating to Syrian trade promptly conveyed to higher officials Ministry Economic Warfare who received them sympathetically and indicated that although questions would have to go before a committee dealing with questions pertaining to French territory an early reply was anticipated. In conversation reference was made to two schools of thought among Government officials, one favoring strong measures strictly applied and others favoring greater elasticity in dealing with particular situations. Officials with whom matter was discussed seemed disposed to go along with line of policy supported in Department's telegrams and Ministry of Economic Warfare was reported as expressing his [its] own willingness agree to export of Syrian goods to the United States provided there was no objection to control through navicerts on return imports to Syria. Aside from the controversial question as to desirability of continued pressure on French Syrian authorities the opinion was expressed that increased exports to the United States of Syrian products should benefit all concerned; also the willingness expressed by Department to control exports of United States of America goods to Syria through license system was regarded as assisting the case for favorable reply to Department. It was indicated, however, that it was necessary to take into consideration views of the Free French and particularly of Catroux 34 who has been firm in his insistence on strong economic pressure on Syria and whose views are respected. It was necessary to communicate with Catroux in Cairo; but it was thought unlikely he would oppose a clear indication of British wishes.
32 Post, p. 688.
33 Latter not printed; it summarized telegrams Nos. 32, February 11, 8 a. m., 33, February 11, 9 a. m., and 34, February 12, 10 a. m., from the Consul General at Beirut, and stated that the Department concurred in the Consul General's view that in return for relaxation of British pressure the High Commissioner would adopt a more conciliatory and accommodating spirit in dealing with British interests (740.00112 European War 1939/22094).
Unfortunately, unexpected delay was caused by the departure of the Foreign Secretary for the Near East, which would naturally affect consideration of matter involving delicate questions of policy in French territory, particularly in view of recent developments southeastern Europe. Ministry Economic Warfare keenly regrets continued delay of decision and Embassy was informed today that a further cable has been despatched to Cairo pressing for a decision which will enable appropriate reply to Department's telegrams.
740.00112 European War 1939/2392
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
[WASHINGTON,] March 15, 1941. The Ambassador 35 called at his request. He said that health conditions in Syria were very bad and that his Government desired that this Government request the cooperation of Great Britain to permit medical products from the United States to be sent to Syria and Lebanon. I replied that I would be glad to take this matter up with the British.
890D.48/110 : Telegram The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State
BEIRUT, March 19, 1941–9 a. m.
[Received March 20—7 a. m.] 82. The French Director of Foreign Commerce, M. Soule came to see me last night on behalf of the High Commissioner to ask if a decision regarding the milk products mentioned in my 33, February 12 , 9 a. m., could be obtained in the near future. He states that unless they arrive before the end of May infant mortality during the hot summer months will greatly be increased.
34 Gen. Georges Catroux, Free French representative in the Middle East; after overthrow of Vichy regime in Syria, he was appointed French Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in Syria and Lebanon.
35 The French Ambassador, Gaston Henry-Haye.
He then referred to the subject of my 34, February 12, 10 a. m.; 40, February 18, 10 p. m. [a. m.]; and 63, March 7, 9 a. m.,36 and said that the British were making a great mistake if they thought Syrian products could not reach Germany because Turkey would delay or obstruct transit. Turkey seemed to be giving all necessary facilities and some wool, silk and casings had already reached Germany. He confirmed the information I had obtained from another source-see second paragraph of my 74, March 13, 11 a. m.--and said Germany was demanding more and more and in return would gladly send pharmaceutical products, hospital equipment and chemicals urgently needed in local industries. He assured me that all Frenchmen in authority here wished to avoid trading with "the enemy" but that unless stocks of wool and silk were immediately purchased by England or the United States they would surely go to Germany.
I am, of course, informing my British colleague of the above conversation but I venture to suggest that the Department too bring matter to the attention of the British Government. Repeated to Vichy.
8900.00/805 : Telegram
The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State
BEIRUT, March 19, 1941–3 p. m.
[Received March 19—12:13 p. m.] 84. My 73, March 13 37 and last paragraph of my 70, March 11.38 Situation in Damascus continues somewhat tense and is being used by Nationalists to embarrass the French. High Commissioner has again gone to Damascus to discuss possible concessions with Syrian leaders.
Inasmuch as one of the propaganda arguments used by the Germans here has been that the British blockade was responsible for the present economic plight of Syria it occurs to me that in connection with my 82, March 10, 10 p. m. [March 19,9 a. m.], the British Government might be well advised for purely political reasons to grant certain trading facilities. The blockade has not so far succeeded in forcing the French authorities in Syria to throw in their lot with the British and is not likely to do so in any foreseeable future. As repeatedly intimated in these telegrams the best policy would seem to be to take advantage of the increasingly articulate local hope for a British victory and to foster a friendlier attitude on the part of the authorities irrespective of instructions from Vichy. Greater leniency in the application of the blockade might therefore not only create a happier atmosphere but 36 Telegram No. 63 not printed, but see footnote 31, p. 677.
Not printed. Post, p. 690.
would be particularly appreciated by the French at this juncture as a means of counteracting German propaganda strengthening their position vis-à-vis native agitators who are trying to exploit the specialists. Repeated to Vichy.
740.00112 European War 1939/2350 : Telegram The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul General at Beirut
WASHINGTON, March 19, 1941–8 p. m. 37. Your telegram No. 47, February 24, 1941 39 and subsequent telegrams regarding Syrian trade, you are authorized to advise the French authorities in Syria that the Treasury Department is presently prepared to issue licenses under Executive Order No. 8389,40 as amended, whereby the proceeds of the sale in the United States of silk and wool exported from Syria, aggregating not in excess of 1 million dollars, may be utilized for the purchase in the United States, its territories and possessions, other countries in the Western Hemisphere or in the Netherlands East or West Indies of newsprint and foodstuffs, including sugar, to be exported from such countries to Syria for consumption therein.
740.00112 European War 1939/2376 : Telegram The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary
LONDON, March 20, 1941-1 p. m.
[Received March 20—9:59 a. m.] 1087. Our 998, March 14, 8 p. m. Department's 477, February 13, 11 p. m., and 501, February 15, 6 p. m.41 Letter dated March 19 from Ministry Economic Warfare, after apology for delay in reply to Embassy's representations regarding trade with Syria, reads as follows:
“After a consideration of all the factors involved, including the arguments put forward by the United States Government, it has been decided to relax the restrictions on Syrian trade. Accordingly, His Majesty's Consul General in Beirut is being authorized to issue certificates of origin for Syrian tobacco, casings, olive oil, hides and skins, to be exchanged against harmless imports from the United States of
Not printed. 5 Federal Register 1400. 4 Telegram No. 501 not printed, but see footnote 33, p. 678.
America in addition to silk and wool, the export of which has already been authorized.
We have already agreed in principle to the despatch of foodstuffs and newsprint to Syria in barter for wool and silk. We are now prepared to grant navicerts for a wider variety of harmless United States goods destined for Syria in exchange for Syrian exports. Provided there are no suspicious circumstances regarding the particular transactions concerned, we shall authorize His Majesty's Ambassador in the United States of America to issue navicerts for the United States goods involved in any barter deals arranged on these lines.”
890D.48/110 : Telegram The Acting Secretary of State to the Consul General at Beirut
WASHINGTON, March 22, 1941–7p.m. 41. Your No. 84, March 19, 3 p. m., unnumbered [No. 82], March 19, 9 a. m. and previous. The Embassy at London has received the following letter from the British Ministry of Economic Warfare dated March 19 regarding trade with Syria:
[Here follows text of letter quoted in telegram No. 1087, March 20, 1 p. m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, printed supra.]
Applications for navicerts covering milk products were referred to London some time ago and the British Embassy in Washington is telegraphing its Government now urging prompt action. You may inform the High Commissioner that we expect favorable action in the very near future.42
740.00112 European War 1939/2376 : Telegram The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United
WASHINGTON, March 22, 1941–7 p. m. 972. Your No. 1087, March 20,1 p. m. In an urgent telegram dated March 19, 9 a. m.43 the American Consul General at Beirut reports that the French authorities in Syria are most anxious to obtain a favorable decision regarding the shipment of milk products from the United States to Syria. Unless these products arrive before the end of May infant mortality during the hot summer months is expected to increase greatly.
2 The Consul General was notified in telegram No. 50, April 2, 5 p. m., that the British Embassy had informed the Department that navicerts for four shipments of Nestle's milk to Syria were issued on March 31.
43 Telegram No. 82, p. 679.