Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Jernegan) to the Assistant Chief of the Division of South Asian Affairs (Thurston)2


Last week Ray Hare3 suggested to me that it would be well for us to formulate our thoughts with regard to the assistance we are furnishing or may furnish to Greece, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.4 He pointed out that there is a tendency on the part of each of these four countries to compare itself with the others and to argue that because each is exposed to Soviet attack, it should receive substantial assistance from the United States of the same type and magnitude as that being provided one or more of the others. In particular, the Iranians insist that their country is at least as important as Turkey, strategically and politically, and should be aided on the same scale and in the same way, while the Afghans point to assistance allegedly being furnished Iran and argue that they should be treated on an equal basis because they, too, are a link in the chain of defense.

The attached rough draft is my attempt to compare the three GTI countries and to explain why all three are not receiving the same sort of aid and support from the United States. I think it would be useful for SOA to add a similar appreciation of the position of Afghanistan, after which we could sit down together and go over the whole thing to see whether it hangs together and would be of assistance in discussion with the countries concerned or in formulating future policies.

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Subject: Analysis and Comparison of United States Policies with Regard to Aid to Greece, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan

Fundamentally, American policy with respect to all four countries is the same. It is to support their independence and integrity, which is presently threatened by the Soviet Union and its satellites, and to further their economic and social development. However, the situation of each country differs in some respects from that of each of the others, and for this reason the implementation of our fundamental policy is different in each case. The following is an attempt to analyze the reasons for extending aid to each country and for the differences in the aid furnished to each.

Greece: During the period from 1944 to February 1947, Greece was kept alive only by the very large UNRRA supplies and the direct logistic support of the Greek forces by the British Government. On February 24, 1947 the British Government informed the United States that it could no longer continue to support the Greek forces.5 At about the same time the end of UNRRA operations came in sight. Without some substitute for these two supports, the Greek state would have collapsed completely, and unquestionably would have fallen under Communist control. The only possible source from which assistance on the required scale could have come was the United States.

The Department recognized this situation and further realized that to allow Greece to fall behind the Iron Curtain would be a political disaster of the first magnitude. The decision to furnish aid was taken as an emergency measure for purely political reasons.

Because of the dire economic straits into which Greece has fallen and because of the magnitude and persistence of the Communist-led guerrilla movement, it will be necessary to continue large-scale aid to Greece for a considerable period of time. This will be done on the economic side through the European Recovery Program, in which Greece is a participant by virtue of being a European state. Had it not been possible to include Greece in the ERP, it would have been necessary to continue the original special economic aid program, since Greece simply could not borrow or otherwise obtain the necessary funds from any other source. Special military aid to Greece (outside ERP) is being continued because the military threat to the economy of Greece and to the existence of a democratic government in Greece has not been removed. However, there are no plans for making Greece [Page 3]into a military bastion against Soviet aggression. It is our understanding that American military authorities do not consider it possible to strengthen Greece sufficiently to resist full-scale attack, no matter how much assistance might be provided. Consequently, direct military aid to Greece on any substantial scale will probably be terminated as soon as large-scale guerrilla activity is ended.

Turkey: The British decision to end aid to Greece was accompanied by a decision that the British Government could extend no assistance to Turkey. This did not have the same significance as in the case of Greece, because there had been little British aid extended to Turkey since the end of the war and the British plans for future assistance to Turkey were comparatively modest. The Turkish state could have maintained itself without special foreign aid. However, during the period preceding February, 1947 Turkey had been under severe Russian pressure6 and its government and people were justly afraid of becoming the object of even stronger pressures. They were therefore maintaining a large and costly but inefficient army which the nation could not afford if it were to progress economically and socially.

The American program of aid to Turkey was designed to fulfill three purposes:

To reassure the Turkish Government and people of the concrete determination of the United States to support Turkey against the Soviet Union and to prevent any feeling on the part of the Turks that they were being abandoned, such as might have been produced by the knowledge that British aid was not to be forthcoming and that there would be no substitute for it from another source.
To improve the combat efficiency of the Turkish armed forces in order to deter the Soviet Union or its satellites from aggression against Turkey. At the same time, the strengthening of the Turkish forces was designed to increase the confidence of the Turkish people in their ability to defend themselves and so to increase their determination to resist the pressures short of war being brought against them by the USSR and its satellites.
To release badly needed man power from the armed forces by increasing the mobility and fire power of those forces, thus enabling a smaller number of men to provide an equal or superior defense.

The objectives indicated have been achieved to a greater or less degree in each case. It is improbable that large-scale military aid to Turkey will be continued for very much longer. However, to avoid losing the benefits already gained and adversely affecting the morale of the Turkish people, it will probably be necessary and desirable to continue to provide military assistance on a small scale and to continue the military missions in Turkey for an indefinite period.

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No program of direct economic aid to Turkey has been undertaken, because the Turkish economy has been in reasonably good shape and is in no danger of collapse. However, the need for economic development is plain, both to improve the standard of living of the people and to increase Turkey’s powers of resistance in the event of war. Any reduction in the present low standard of living of the Turkish people might create internal political stresses which would weaken the hitherto firm structure of the government and open the way to Communist penetration of the sort which has proven so dangerous in Greece. Turkey has been included in the ERP and will receive modest credits from that source. It can probably also obtain credits from the International Bank, as it has in the past from the Export-Import Bank, and the United States will support its requests for credits in all cases where the projects involved seem economically sound. It is not considered that the economic needs of Turkey are sufficiently serious to warrant outright grants for economic purposes.

Iran: American aid to Iran to date has consisted entirely of relatively small credits for the purchase of surplus military equipment, surplus merchant vessels, and similar items, plus technical advice furnished by military missions and civilian advisers. The Iranian Government has never requested aid of any other type, although the Shah and certain other individuals in the Government and outside it have expressed a desire to obtain military assistance of the same type as that being furnished to Turkey. The Iranian Ambassador has recently indicated that the Iranian Government may make a direct request in the near future for special assistance on the Turkish model.

The Iranian economy is extremely backward and needs improvement in virtually every direction. However, it is not in a state of crisis, being probably about as stable as at any period in recent years. There is, therefore, no need for urgent economic assistance of the type being provided to Greece. Furthermore, the Iranian trade situation and the financial resources of the Iranian Government are such that the country should be able to borrow from the International Bank and the Export-Import Bank as much capital as it could effectively utilize for economic development during the next few years. We are encouraging the Iranian Government to approach those sources and have assured it of our support for any properly justified requests it may make for credits.

At the present time, Iran is probably even more seriously menaced by the USSR than is Turkey. It has shown commendable firmness in the face of this menace. The Iranians who advocate direct military assistance to Iran by the United States point to these political facts in support of their argument. Superficially, an excellent case could be made for building up the Iranian armed forces through a program [Page 5]of American military assistance. There is no doubt that if Iran were to fall under Soviet control, the consequences would be nearly as serious as those which would be produced by the fall of Turkey. The whole of the Middle East and India would be exposed to Soviet attack while the greatest oil reserves in the world would either be in Soviet hands or very gravely exposed.

Nevertheless, there are reasons for refraining from any attempt to build up large-scale military forces in Iran. These reasons include:

The poverty of the country, which would make it economically impossible for the Government to support an army resembling that of Turkey, even if the external costs of equipment were borne entirely by the United States.
The unstable character of the political situation in Iran. Even though most Iranian political leaders are favorable to the western powers and opposed to the policies of the Soviet Union, the determination of the Government to resist the USSR in a crisis could not be taken for granted.
The relative remoteness of Iran from the United States would make it very difficult to support the Iranian Army in time of war. This being the case it would probably be a waste of our resources to make a heavy investment of them in time of peace and in an armed force which would have to be abandoned to its fate in time of war.
It is understood that the greater part of our military resources will have to be concentrated on the strengthening of the western European countries, whose fall would be an even more serious blow to our security than the fall of Iran. It is more than doubtful that any large quantity of military supplies could be spared for Iran during the next two or three years.
The relatively backward state of technical knowledge in the Iranian armed forces means that an enormous expenditure of time and effort, including the services of a large number of American military personnel, would have to be expended to train the Iranian forces in the use of modern weapons and equipment such as jet planes and radar.
There is some reason to fear that a greatly strengthened army would be used by the Shah or ambitious military leaders as a means of imposing a dictatorship on the country. This fear is strong in some Iranian circles and contributes to the unfortunate political instability.

Consequently, it is our present belief that the best measures to assist Iran are to provide only sufficient military aid to insure the maintenance of internal security together with encouragement and assistance in sound projects of economic development which will improve the condition of the people and consequently the stability of the government. Our objective is a limited one: to make Iran sufficiently strong to prevent its collapse through Soviet penetration or pressures short of war. We do not believe that Iran could be made sufficiently strong to protect itself against open attack nor that the benefit to be realized from any delay which the Iranian forces might impose on [Page 6]a Soviet march through Iran would compensate for the diversion of American resources from other needs.

Afghanistan: 7 To date the United States has extended no direct aid to Afghanistan, on either a loan or a grant basis.* The Afghan Government, long desirous of receiving financial assistance from the United States, is only now preparing its request for a loan of something like forty-one million dollars from the Export-Import Bank for construction and development work.

A preliminary request for limited military assistance has recently been made. Action on this request must await the receipt of additional specific information concerning Afghanistan’s present military resources and future needs. Afghanistan’s military requirements were formerly supplied by the UK and the Government of India. Since partition, the Indian Government, while ostensibly honoring the prepartition arrangement, has furnished only a fraction of the normal annual quota of military supplies to Afghanistan.

The Afghan economy is undeveloped, almost totally lacking in industrial plant, with no railroads whatsoever and only rough roadways connecting the major cities and towns. The country is very mountainous and largely arid; development opportunities, while they indeed exist, are limited to improvement of transport and communications facilities, agricultural development (including irrigation), mineral exploitation and relatively small industrial plants.

Any extensive program of economic and military assistance to Afghanistan at this time is considered inadvisable for the following reasons:

Owing to limitations in man power and productive potential in the event of war, it is only on the basis of regional cooperation between Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India that Afghanistan would be able to offer more than a token resistance to invasion from the North. The prospects for cooperation among these four countries at the present time are not promising.
The undeveloped condition of the country and the lack of general education would make the equipping and training of a truly effective army, even a small one, for defense against external aggression expensive and difficult beyond the utility it would have as a delaying force, and beyond the Afghan Government’s ability to maintain it.
The need for allocating our not unlimited resources to the first line of defense, i.e., Western Europe.
Unlike Iran, Afghanistan is not now being subjected to overt political pressure from the USSR. The Soviet position seems to spring from a not unjustified confidence that Afghanistan could be occupied by Soviet troops within two weeks, and the preliminary “softening up” would be an unnecessary expense and provocation.
The present government has maintained its stability for seventeen years. Although the country is faced with problems of inflation and great poverty, the economy is not in a critical condition and there is not yet a grave internal threat to the stability of the government.

For these reasons it is considered that assistance beyond a small loan for development purposes and assistance in buying military equipment to assure the Government’s ability to maintain internal order is not advisable at this time. Limited financial assistance through the Export-Import or World Bank would have the Department’s support.

In connection with assistance to Afghanistan in buying military equipment in the United States, the training of Afghan personnel to operate any equipment so acquired could most advantageously be given by the American firms supplying it. The Department should recommend that provisions for training be made a part of the purchase agreement.

A U.S. military mission to Afghanistan is considered inadvisable. The presence of such a mission would proclaim Afghanistan’s alliance with the West and its latent antagonism to the USSR to a degree which might well provoke overt action by the latter, and which would jeopardize present correct relations between the two countries.

To attempt to train Afghan personnel in U.S. service training schools is considered impracticable owing to the considerable lag between the Afghan’s general knowledge of motorized equipment and that of the average American trainee.

Afghan officials repeatedly stress the thought that stability and national morale require some recognizable indication that Afghanistan is not isolated from United States interest in the area; they point out that with changed conditions on their eastern and southern borders the government is less than ever able to cope with internal disorders on two or more fronts. They assert that they have definite proof that their integrity and independence are threatened.

The evidence and the views of Afghan leaders indicate that arms supply sufficient for the assurance of internal order would go far to meet a definite hazard to security and to offset the persistent feeling among Afghans that United States strategic interest stops at their [Page 8]frontiers. Deterioration in economic conditions which might enhance the opportunities for Soviet penetration may be cheeked by relatively modest financial assistance.

  1. Addressed also to Richard S. Leach of the Division of South Asian Affairs. The text as typed included various passages that were subsequently crossed out. These and other drafting changes are not indicated here.
  2. Raymond A. Hare, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  3. For further documentation on the question of aid to Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, see pp. 227 ff., 1638 ff., 471 ff., and 1777 ff., respectively.
  4. For the text of the British aide-mémoire of February 21, 1947, handed to the Secretary of State on February 24, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, p. 32.
  5. For documentation on the demands of the Soviet Union for the revision of the Turkish Straits régime and on other matters affecting Turkish-Soviet relations, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. vii, pp. 801 ff.
  6. The pages on Afghanistan, numbered separately, were presumably added by the Division of South Asian Affairs, as recommended by Mr. Jernegan in the covering memorandum.
  7. In two eases prior to July, 1947, small grants-in-aid were given to American teachers in Afghanistan. [Footnote in the source text.]