Richard Usborne, 21 April 1988
When France fell in the summer of 1940, practically all Arabs of the Levant were sure that the Axis would win the war. This would probably free their countries, Syria and Lebanon, from the French mandates under which they had lived resentfully since 1920. But then an Italian Armistice Commission turned up in Beirut (one of its members brought his grand piano). That their future overlord would be Italy was not a pretty thought for the Levantines. Meanwhile, on Pétains orders, the French bureaucrats went on with their jobs, and the French Army of the Levant, their weaponry unused and intact, remained the ruling power.