The CIA backed a right-wing coup in Syria in 1949, a mere 3 years after Syria became an independent country.
Clark University History professor Douglas Little notes:
Recently declassified records… confirm that beginning on November 30, 1948, [CIA operative Stephen] Meade met secretly with Colonel Zaim at least six times to discuss the “possibility [of an] army supported dictatorship.” [“Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal, Winter 1990, p. 55]
As early as 1949, this newly independent Arab republic was an important staging ground for the CIA’s earliest experiments in covert action.
The CIA secretly encouraged a right-wing military coup in 1949.
The reason the U.S. initiated the coup? Little explains:
In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterra- nean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian right-of-way was stalled in parliament.
In other words, Syria was the sole holdout for the lucrative oil pipeline.
On August 12, 1957, the Syrian army surrounded the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Claiming to have aborted a CIA plot to overthrow neutralist President Shukri Quwatly and install a pro-Western regime, Syrian chief of counterintelligence Abdul Hamid Sarraj expelled three U.S. diplomats ….
Syrian counterintelligence chief Sarraj reacted swiftly on August 12, expelling Stone and other CIA agents, arresting their accomplices and placing the U.S. embassy under surveillance.
More importantly, Syria also had control of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connected pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey.
The report said that once the necessary degree of fear had been created, frontier incidents and border clashes would be staged to provide a pretext for Iraqi and Jordanian military intervention. Syria had to be “made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments,” the report says. “CIA and SIS should use their capabilities in both the psychological and action fields to augment tension.”
The plan called for funding of a “Free Syria Committee” [hmmm … sounds vaguely familiar], and the arming of “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities” within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze [a Shia Muslim sect] in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.
Newly-declassified CIA documents show that in 1983, the CIA drew up plans to pressure the Syrian government by using Iraq, Israel and Turkey as proxies:
Syria at present has a hammerlock on US interests both in Lebanon and in the Gulf — through closure of Iraq’s pipeline thereby threatening Iraqi internationalization of the [Iran-Iraq] war. The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad [Sr.] through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey. Iraq, perceived to be increasingly desperate in the Gulf War, would undertake limited military (air) operations against Syria with the sole goal of opening the pipeline. Although opening war on a second front against Syria poses considerable risk to Iraq, Syria would also face a two-front war since it is already heavily engaged in the Bekaa, on the Golan and in maintaining control over a hostile and restive population inside Syria.
Israel would simultaneously raise tensions along Syria’s Lebanon front without actually going to war. Turkey, angered by Syrian support to Armenian terrorism, to Iraqi Kurds on Turkey’s Kurdish border areas and to Turkish terrorists operating out of northern Syria, has often considered launching unilateral military operations against terrorist camps in northern Syria. Virtually all Arab states would have sympathy for Iraq.
Faced with three belligerent fronts, Assad would probably be forced to abandon his policy of closure of the pipeline. Such a concession would relieve the economic pressure on Iraq, and perhaps force Iran to reconsider bringing the war to an end. It would be a sharp blow to Syria’s prestige and could effect the equation of forces in Lebanon.
If Israel were to increase tensions against Syria simultaneously with an Iraqi initiative, the pressures on Assad would escalate rapidly. A Turkish move would psychologically press him further.
According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business,” he told French television: “I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”