James Hugh Keeley, the US Consul to Syria, with his Syrian assistant in 1923

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Keeley served as a young diplomat in Damascus during the early years of the French Mandate. He was asked to leave by the Mandate authority, accused of harboring pro-Syrian nationalist sympathies during the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925. He returned to post-Mandate Syria when President Harry Truman appointed him Minister to Damascus on October 7, 1947. Keeley played an instrumental role in overseeing the first coup d'etat in Syria in March 1949, toppling the democratically elected President Shukri al-Quwatli and replacing him with Syria's first military strongman, General Husni al-Zaim.