Status Quo Side: Syria
Non-Status Quo Side: Turkey
Region: Middle East
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Strategic
US alarm at Soviet emergence after Suez [see SUE] as vocal champion of Arab nationalism increased when Syria's President visited Moscow in November 1956. Subsequent warnings of a massive Soviet arms build-up in Syria were denied by Damascus, which claimed Cold War neutrality and complained to the UNSYG of Turkish threats to its security. Both the Eisenhower Doctrine aimed at preventing Soviet expansion into the Middle East, and the April 1957 Jordanian crises over an alleged communist plot against the king, widened the gulf separating Syria from the US and Baghdad Pact members, notably Turkey.
With pro-Soviet elements reportedly strengthened in Damascus, US officials were accused of a plot to overthrow the government and expelled. The US accused the USSR of seeking to take over Syria, and expedited arms shipments to strengthen Turkey in case Syria as a "victim of international communism" was "pushed into aggressive acts". The USSR pledged support to Syria and accused the US of deploying threatening troop concentrations on the Turkish border. On September 19 the US warned that Turkey faced military danger from the Soviet arms build-up in Syria, allegedly concerted with Soviet concentrations on Turkey's northern border, and some probably imaginary Soviet overflights. After an exchange of gunfire across the border on October 8 (arising out of a smuggling incident), Syria declared a state of emergency on October 16 which precipitated renewed charges by the western allied powers at the UN as well as threats and promises of support.
Plans for a federal union of Syria with Egypt (reportedly to avert a communist coup), Arab League support of Syria, a Turkish pull-back and deft US and UNSYG diplomacy, defused the crisis although occasional border incidents continued.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton