Military Review

Moscow - Damascus: December 1943-th ... The USSR was at the forefront of the independence of Syria and Lebanon

Moscow - Damascus: December 1943-th ... The USSR was at the forefront of the independence of Syria and LebanonIn Lebanon, Independence Day is officially celebrated on November 22, 1943. A month later that same year, December 23, France granted full internal self-government to Syria (both countries were the French protectorate of the Levant after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire). But the USSR played an almost decisive role in gaining independence by Lebanon and Syria.

Thus, even during the Great Patriotic War, our country helped prevent the intervention of the Allied and Soviet powers in some of their colonies and protectorates, thereby helping to respect the right of peoples to self-determination and independence. Although the United States, Great Britain, and other countries believed that the struggle against fascist Germany and its satellites would not allow the USSR to pursue an active foreign policy. Moreover, to hinder the Allied military-political actions in non-front-line regions of the world. The realities were different.

For example, in mid-December 1942, at the very time when the Soviet counter-offensive developed near Stalingrad, the NKID of the USSR issued a statement in support of the independence and territorial integrity of Albania, in connection with the British plans for dividing it between Greece and Yugoslavia, including London military bases in the Albanian Adriatic ports. The establishment of diplomatic relations of the USSR during the war period with, for example, countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Cuba, Chile showed that the Soviet Union is still pursuing a foreign policy in all azimuths. And it does not intend to limit the sphere of its geopolitical interests. Confirmation of this, we repeat, is the Syrian-Lebanese crisis in November-December of 1943.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1918-1919), Lebanon and Syria became a French protectorate called the Levant. However, the independence movement there is constantly growing.

In the middle of June, 1941, General Georges Katra, on behalf of the DeGoll "Fighting France", declared the abolition of the French protectorate against Syria and Lebanon. But due to the continuation of the war, DeGolle and British troops were left here, as well as the French administration (although its powers were limited from June 1941).

By this time, the pro-German authorities and the Levant troops, subordinate to Marshal Petain, the head of the pro-German Vichy "government", capitulated to the troops of Great Britain and "Fighting France." Thereby, the German-Italian plan 1940 of the year to create a large Middle Eastern foothold within Turkey and the Levant for military-political operations in the Middle East against the anti-fascist coalition was thwarted.

5 November 1943. The government of Lebanon submitted to the national parliament for discussion a bill that provided for the proclamation of the full sovereignty of Lebanon. This document was supported by the Syrian side. It provided, for example, the exclusive right of the President of Lebanon to conclude international agreements; the creation of a national army; the refusal to recognize the French language as the only state language; on the introduction of the national currency, etc. The Lebanese Parliament 8 November overwhelmingly approved the bill.

They went the same way in Syria. It can be said, on the basis of the Lebanese experience 28 on November 1943, the Syrian parliament began discussions on the expulsion of the article 116 from the country's Constitution, according to which the French authorities had the right to dissolve parliament, change the government and suspend the Constitution. Soon, the Syrian parliament approved the deletion of this article, and France, represented by the DeGoll authorities in Damascus, December 23 1943 handed over the majority of administrative and administrative functions to the country's government.

Some Turkish and Middle Eastern media have reasonably noted that the Levant has sought to accelerate independence, taking advantage of the growing prestige of the USSR, disagreements between de Gaulle and Churchill, as well as the weakening of France’s international position.
But the French side at first did not make concessions. 11 November 1943, General Ella, General Delegate (emissary) of France to Syria and Lebanon, declared Lebanon under martial law, disbanded parliament and government, arrested Lebanese President Bishar al-Khoury, Prime Minister Riad Al-Solha, a number of influential ministers (Pierre Gemayel, Camille Chamoun) and parliamentarians. The important strategic position of Lebanon, in particular, the presence of large transit ports there, controlled by France at that time, did not allow Paris to simultaneously “leave” Syria and Lebanon, that is, from the Eastern Mediterranean. Especially since it was planned to bring some Lebanese ports to 1944-1947. new transit oil pipelines from the Arabian Peninsula, from Iraq and British (until June 1961) Kuwait.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, due to the actions of the French side, mass riots began, which began to spread to neighboring areas of Syria, including the capital. And with some anti-French groups in these countries, British and Turkish intelligence links have been established. In the context of these trends, during the conversations in the USSR NKID with DeGoll representatives in Moscow at that time (Roger Garros, Raymond Schmitten), the Soviet side noted the unacceptability of such actions in Lebanon, it was stated that the situation could quickly spread to Syria. This development, according to Moscow, will seriously weaken not only the southern flank of the anti-Hitler coalition, but also the overall role of France in the final period of world war. In addition, the French side was aware of the plans of Washington and London to completely oust France from the Near and Middle East, and indeed from among the world powers.

Already in the middle of November 1943, the British envoy in Beirut presented General Ella (also in Beirut) with a joint protest of Great Britain and her dominions against the actions of France in Lebanon. At the same time, the US State Department presented a similar protest to de Gaulle representatives in Washington. Such "moves", of course, forced France not only to make concessions in Lebanon, but also did not allow her to act as aggressively in Syria in the 1943-1944 years.

However, while Washington and London mainly protested against French actions in this region, Moscow, we emphasize, focused on supporting Lebanon and Syria’s desire for independence.

Thus, the NKID of the USSR at the end of November 1943 sent a telegram to the Lebanese government, in which it declared recognition of Lebanon’s right to independence and its important role, together with Syria, in the fight against the fascist aggressors. The USSR, as we see, moved Lebanon to gain independence and was one of the first in the world, already in November, 1943, in fact recognized its independence. In this regard, the official assessment of those events by the Russian embassy in Lebanon is not without reason: “... In 1943, the USSR was one of the first to recognize the independence of Lebanon. In August, 1944 established diplomatic relations at mission level. ” Therefore, French emissaries in Lebanon and Syria noted the growing influence of local communists, calls for hope for national self-determination and support from the USSR, but not from England or the United States.

Faced with this situation, de Gaulle was forced to yield. By 21-22 in November 1943, all repressive actions of the DeMollian authorities in Lebanon were stopped, and already on 22 in November, the Lebanese parliament, together with de Gaulle’s representative, General J. Katr, declared the country’s independence from France. And then, 23 December of the same year, France entered into an agreement with Syria, as well as with Lebanon, according to which Paris, confirming their independence, transferred from 1 January 1944 to the local authorities almost all the administrative functions of the French administrations.

The desire for active cooperation with the USSR in the middle of the 1940-x, including under the influence of the Soviet anti-colonial position towards Syria and Lebanon, covered an increasing number of Arab countries and political movements.

Say, the founders of the Arab Renaissance Movement - Michel Aflyak and Salah ad-Din Bitar, who later became (1947) the Arab Socialist Revival Party in Syria and Iraq, declared in 1944 that “Arabs shouldn’t be hostile to such a great state as the Soviet The Union, which since its inception showed sympathy towards peoples fighting for their independence. ” According to them, “the goal is to establish friendly relations with the Soviet Union on the basis of formal intergovernmental agreements with it”.

As for the further development of Soviet-Lebanese and Soviet-Syrian relations and assessing the role of the USSR in obtaining these countries' independence, we note that official Soviet-Lebanese and Soviet-Syrian diplomatic relations were established in late July-early August 1944. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in connection with their establishment, said that this fact “... corresponds to the deep aspirations of the Lebanese nation, who feels the greatest admiration for the magnificent heroism of the peoples of the Soviet Union. The Lebanese people are convinced that Soviet foreign policy is based on respect for ... principles incompatible with attempts at conquest and domination. ”

A similar opinion was expressed by the Syrian side. 21 July 1944. Syrian Foreign Minister Jamil Mardam addressed V.M. Molotov with a proposal to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Syrian minister noted that "... driven by her admiration for the Soviet people ... Syria, which just after long efforts and tremendous sacrifices saw a solemn recognition of its international existence, ... would be happy to maintain friendly diplomatic relations in this capacity with the USSR."

Moscow has already 26 July agreed. And at the end of October, 1944, the first president of Syria, Shukri al-Quatli, stated that "Syria, for its part, will try to do everything to preserve good relations with the USSR, based on friendship and cooperation."

27 February 1945 Lebanon and Syria declared war on Germany, thus obtaining the right to participate in the United Nations Constituent Conference in San Francisco.

But back in May, 1945, during the San Francisco Conference on the Establishment of the UN, France attempted to keep its troops, not fully withdrawn from Syria and Lebanon, in a number of areas of these countries. Especially those that adjoin the Mediterranean, including the Syrian ports of Tartus and Lattakia. Thus, France provoked a new military conflict in its former Levant.

An important reason for these actions of Paris in 1945-1946. consisted in the fact that the Syrian authorities were in favor of the reunification of Syria with one of the border Mediterranean regions of Turkey (the so-called Alexandretti Sanjak), transferred by the French authorities of Turkey at the end of 1938. In Damascus, it was believed that France arbitrarily disposed of part of the Syrian territory, therefore either Paris must reconsider the decision, or Syria will independently seek reunification with the area. In addition, construction of new trans-arabian oil pipelines began in the second half of 1940-s by US and UK companies, one of which was planned to lead (which was implemented at the beginning of 1960-s) through Syria to the ports of the region disputed by Syria from Turkey. This factor, we repeat, could not but provoke attempts by France to maintain its presence in Syria. But all was in vain. The creation of the mentioned pipelines was completed precisely after the "departure" of France from Syria and Lebanon. And under the influence of Washington and London in 1945-1947. Damascus, as they say, lowered the degree of claims to the Alexandrets region of Turkey. USSR Government 2 June 1945 sent a message to the governments of Great Britain, France, USA and China, stating that "armed clashes between France, Syria and Lebanon - three members of the United Nations organization - do not correspond to the goals of the conference, which took place in San Francisco." It was also noted that “... hostilities are taking place on the territory of Syria and Lebanon; the French troops there were confronted with Syrian and Lebanese, producing artillery and mortar shelling, as well as shelling from the aircraft of the capital of Syria - the city of Damascus ... "Based on the interests of international security, the Soviet government stated that" urgent measures should be taken to in order to stop military operations in Syria and Lebanon and to settle the conflict by peaceful order ... ”

This stance of Moscow had a sobering effect on France, and by 1947 its troops had been completely withdrawn from Syria and Lebanon.

The strategic role of the USSR in gaining independence by Lebanon and Syria and in the withdrawal of foreign troops from there was emphasized by the Secretary General of the united Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon Khaled Bagdash in his speeches on the XIX (October 1952) and XX (February 1956) CPSU congresses. Thus, the USSR stood at the origins of the state independence of Syria and Lebanon. Even in the difficult war years, the Soviet Union was present in the Middle East and other regions of the world. What is not a lesson for modern Russia?
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  1. 311ove
    311ove 28 December 2013 15: 11
    Well written, thanks for the interesting information! hi
  2. knn54
    knn54 28 December 2013 20: 55
    And today, Russia is hindered by world-wide bondage.
  3. kirgudu
    kirgudu 29 December 2013 17: 21
    The main thing is to save Syria now. They will be our most loyal allies.