Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Bad advice for the British about Syria and Lebanon
The British policy stance that would take direct action against the Vichy government whenever the opportunity presented itself obviously made any sort of compromise or negotiations impossible. The Middle Eastern leaders were very anti-French, as they resented France's continued occupation of countries on the Mediterranean Coast, such as Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Syria. Since the British government lacked a direct contacts in Syria and Lebanon, they had to rely on Middle Eastern sources and the people associated with Charles de Gaulle. The latter, in particular, always wanted to paint the French forces in Syria and Lebanon in the worst light, and would assert that they would surrender at the first sign of force. General Wavell's intelligence staff had a more cautious view. They had good intelligence of the size of the French military, naval, and air forces in Syria and Lebanon. The politicians insisted that Wavell's forces could walk into Syria unopposed. Churchill wanted Wavell to use "General Catroux" and his military force to take Syria. Wavell had a more realistic view and rejected the use of Free French forces of doubtful size and strength to take Syria. Wavell vowed to resign rather than rely on the Free French. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.