Free French Mandate

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Attempt by France to control Lebanon and Syria.

In June 1941, Free French troops joined British imperial forces in overthrowing the Vichy administration in Damascus. General Charles de Gaulle's envoy to Cairo, General Georges Catroux, initially offered Syria and Lebanon independence if they would accept Free French rule. But de Gaulle then made independence conditional upon the conclusion of treaties ensuring continued French predominance over the two countries' economic, military, and cultural affairs. Catroux became delegate-general for Syria and Lebanon, a post virtually identical to the earlier office of high commissioner.

Free French officials could not block the integration of Syria and Lebanon into either the sterling area or the AngloAmerican Middle East Supply Center. In addition, London pressured the Free French to meet local nationalists' demands, resulting in the restoration of the two countries' prewar constitutions. Elections in July 1943 gave the National Bloc control of Syria's national assembly; nationalists captured Lebanon's parliament two months later and immediately took steps to dis-mantle the mandate. Free French authorities responded by arresting the Lebanese leadership, but massive popular demonstrations forced the prisoners' release. When the government in Damascus adopted a similar program, the Free French first tried to suppress the Syrian nationalist movement but then agreed to a series of negotiations, which culminated in the dual evacuations of April and August 1946.

See also Catroux, Georges; De Gaulle, Charles.

Fred H. Lawson