Events around date of publication of this item.
|Wed, 4 Jun 2003|
|Thu, 22 May 2003|
|Israeli troops shoot Kamal Amjad Nawahda, 13, in Jenin|
|Fri, 16 May 2003|
|Al Qaeda suicide bomb attack in Casablanca kills more than 40|
|Wed, 14 May 2003|
|Israeli troops shoot Diya Gawadreh, 13, in Jenin|
|Fri, 2 May 2003|
|British TV camerman, James Miller, shot by Israeli army|
|Wed, 30 Apr 2003|
|US unveils "road map"|
|Suicide bombing at Mike's Place|
|Security guard at Israeli settlement in Jordan valley shoots and kills Palestinian who was relieving himself|
|Mon, 21 Apr 2003|
|North Cyprus announces it will start to allow crossing of Cypriot barrier|
|Fri, 11 Apr 2003|
|Shooting of Tom Hurndall in Rafah|
1949-1958, Syria: Early Experiments in Covert Action
: 1949-1958, Syria: Early Experiments in Covert ActionBy
: Douglas Little Date of issue
: May 2003Topic(s) addressed
: People/entities mentioned in this item:
Timeline event(s) mentioned in this item:Commentary Abstract
The CIA secretly encouraged a
right-wing military coup in 1949. Repeated
CIA covert action during the
following decade stimulated Arab anti-
Americanism, drove the Syrian left
closer to the Kremlin, and made overt
military involvement more likely.
In late 1945, the Arabian
American Oil Company (ARAMCO)
announced plans to construct the
Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE)
from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean.
With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured
rights-of-way from Lebanon,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian
right-of-way was stalled in parliament.
Violent anti-U.S., anti-Israeli
demonstrations in November 1948,
forced Prime Minister Mardam to resign.
He was succeeded by Khalid al-
Azm. During this crisis, CIA operative
Stephen Meade, made contact with
right-wing Syrian army officers.
Declassified records confirm
that beginning in November 1948,
Meade met secretly with Syrian Army
Chief of Staff Col. Husni Zaim at least
six times to discuss the “possibility [of
an] army supported dictatorship.” U.S.
officials realized that Zaim was a “‘Banana
Republic’ dictator type” with a
“strong anti-Soviet attitude.”
Meade and Zaim completed plans for the coup in early 1949. On 14 March, Zaim “requested U.S.
agents [to] provoke and abet internal
disturbances ‘essential for coup d’etat’
or that U.S. funds be given him [for]
this purpose.” Nine days later, Zaim
“promised a ‘surprise’ within several
days” if Meade could secure U.S. help.
As rumors of a military coup grew
stronger, Assistant Secretary of State
George McGhee arrived in Damascus,
ostensibly to discuss resettling Palestinian
refugees but possibly to authorize
U.S. support for Zaim. Shortly
thereafter, students protesting government
corruption and mishandling of
the war with Israel took to the streets.
On 30 March, Zaim staged his coup,
arrested Quwatly and suspended the
constitution. Meade reported on 15
April that “over 400 Commies [in] all
parts of Syria have been arrested.”
Zaim’s performance far exceeded
Washington’s expectations. On
28 April, he told the U.S. ambassador
that Syria was resuming peace talks
with Israel and would consider resettling
250,000 Palestinian refugees in
Syria. On 16 May, Zaim approved
ARAMCO’s TAPLINE. Two weeks
later he banned the Communist Party
and jailed dozens of left-wing dissidents.
In July, he signed a Syro-Israeli
armistice. Zaim anticipated swift
U.S. approval for $100 million in military
and economic aid. However, on
14 August, Zaim was overthrown and
executed by Col. Sami Hinnawi.
Almost at once, the frictions
that had bedevilled Syria-U.S. relations reappeared. Elections in November
produced a victory for Hinnawi’s Populist
Party, which announced plans for
a Syrian union with Iraq’s Hashe-mite
dynasty. On December 19, 1949, Col.
Adib Shishakli ousted Hinnawi in Syria’s
third coup in nine months. This
was the first of what would become
seven civilian cabinets in 23 months.
The U.S. again encouraged a
military quick-fix, this time with
Shishakli cast in Zaim’s strongman
role. Shishakli had approached U.S.
officials in March 1950 seeking “military
aid for army modernization ‘to
maintain order.’” U.S. officials realized
that Shishakli was “one of the
strongest anti-Communist forces in the
country.” Washington hinted that Syria
might soon receive U.S. weapons.
U.S. officials confirmed in early
July that “Shishakli had been making
friendly overtures.” One of his chief
lieutenants asked the U.S. military
attaché, “What do you want us to do?”
Shishakli had a “cordial 2 hour discussion”
with the CIA’s Miles Copeland
and others at the U.S. embassy
on November 23, 195l. When Ma’aruf
Dawalibi, long regarded by U.S. observers
as pro-Soviet, announced a
week later that he would head Syria’s
eighth cabinet in less than two years,
Shishakli dissolved parliament and set
up a military dictatorship.
U.S. officials were aware of
Shishakli’s plans in advance and welcomed
his coup. Chargé d’affaires
Harlan Clark cabled Washington on 30
November that “if U.S. is to profit from new sit[uatio]n, it will be more than
ever necessary...to show Shishakli how
and when we can help him.” The State
Department won Pentagon approval
“on political grounds” within days for
“early delivery to Syria...of a limited
amount of selected military material.”