By A. B. Gaunson
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Additional resources for The Anglo-French Clash in Lebanon and Syria, 1940–45
Fighting began there on 2 May with an RAF bombardment on the Iraqi positions, and the siege was soon abandoned. A week later the first German and Italian aircraft, refuelling in Syria and Lebanon en route, appeared, but the RAF was ready for them and strong enough to cope. With insufficient Axis support, Rashid Ali's venture succumbed to an old imperial sequence: dour defence by a British garrison, the arrival of a relieving force, the collapse of the revolt. In this case decisive relief came from the meagre resources of Middle East Command.
The existence of any such policy was, of course, debatable. Churchill decided to correct this in a vigorous and simplistic memorandum: 'If we can hold our own in the Western Desert and in Crete', he began, 'the invasion of Syria must take first place in our thoughts. For this, we must have an Arab policy'. Nothing loath, the Prime Minister produced one, along with many other dubious assertions and suggestions: Desperate Measures 39 The French have forfeited all rights in Syria since they quitted the League of Nations ....
Only Free French control of the Levant could guarantee that the pass would not be sold to the Axis. De Gaulle's conclusion was simple. If all could be lost by doing nothing, the Allies had little to lose by a bold gamble. He 'believed he could rally the French in the Levant provided he was helped to carry out his propaganda . . and the movement of Vichy troops into Palestine, both singly and in large bodies, was encouraged ... '9 Spears endorsed de Gaulle's argument. His report to Churchill concluded that 'we ought, even at some risk, to endeavour to rally Syria to the Free French cause.
The Anglo-French Clash in Lebanon and Syria, 1940–45 by A. B. Gaunson