Agreed Conclusions of the Conference of Near Eastern Chiefs of Mission Held at Istanbul, November 26–29, 1949


After hearing the reports from each Chief of Mission, the Conference agreed that:

1) General policy consideration

The basic objective of U.S. foreign policy in the Near East must be the maintenance of peace and the development of area political and economic stability and security; the enhancement of U.S. prestige; and the orientation of the area to the U.S. and the Western powers and away from the USSR.

2) Need of impartiality in dealing with Arab States and Israel

In order to achieve United States objectives in the Near East we must maintain a policy of active interest within a framework of strict impartiality between the Arab states and Israel.

3) Collective security pact proposed by the Arab League1

The proposed collective security pact would in all probability not have any significant effect on relations between the Arab states in military affairs and does not therefore necessitate the taking of a definite position by the U.S. The U.S. should, if queried, reply as Ambassador Caffery has already replied, that we favor any arrangement [Page 169] in the Near East which tends toward bringing stability, peace, prosperity and general well-being to the area.2

4) Means of obtaining U.S. objectives in “cold war” period

The primary United States objective during the cold war period is to prevent the USSR from gaining control of any of the Near East countries by subversion or by any other means short of actual war.

In the case of states bordering on the USSR this can be achieved by extension of military aid and, where necessary, by economic aid and by encouraging the states to build up strong popular resistance to Communist aims.
In the case of countries not contiguous with the USSR military preparedness, except that required for internal stability, is not an important factor in the cold war. The technical and financial assistance required to achieve political and economic stability should be extended to these countries.

We must bear in mind that it is essential that all countries concerned keep their military forces and expenditures to the minimum consistent with the successful prosecution of the “cold war”, in order to avoid an unnecessary drain on their resources, recognizing that ultimate security can best be based on a healthy and viable economy. This point should be consistently urged upon the States concerned.

5) Security pacts between the United States and the Near Eastern States

The United States should not attempt to negotiate multilateral or bilateral security pacts with the Near Eastern States, at least until such time as it is prepared to commit military forces required to carry out the guarantees given. In the meantime, the Chiefs of Mission should do everything possible to prevent requests for U.S. consideration of any such pact, or for joint staff talks, being made by the Near Eastern States. This policy should be reviewed at such time as it appears that such pacts will be necessary in order to achieve United States objectives in the “cold war” period.

6) Saudi Arabia

It should be the continuing aim of the United States to develop particularly close relations with Saudi Arabia. Cognizant of Ibn [Page 170] Sand’s3 complex about encirclement we should reassure him on this score. An invitation to visit the United States would have a good psychological effect both on him and his neighbors, and, if approved by the President, should be extended to him.4 It is also felt that our Ambassador at Jidda should be able, on his return, to indicate that it is U.S. and British policy to discourage any form of, or tendency toward, aggression in the Near Eastern area, and that our Chiefs of Mission in the Near East should work actively to that end.

7) American military missions in the Near East

American military missions in the Near East are desirable adjuncts to any policy of supplying Near Eastern states with arms; and it would be definitely undesirable to supply arms to countries in the areas unless instructors were sent to ensure that the military forces of the countries concerned were adequately trained in their use. Military missions should, however, be reduced when it becomes apparent that local military forces are sufficiently trained in the use and care of American weapons. It is believed that first priority should be given to training and that as many trainees as possible, highly selected, should be sent to the United States, not to Germany.

8) Prospects of extension of Communism in the Near East

Communism is striving to spread in the Near East with the general objective of dominating states in the area through subversion. Economic and social conditions, particularly among the Palestine refugees, are ripe for such a movement; however, the situation at this juncture seems well under control by most governments through police and other repressive measures. It must be recognized that the refusal of the older political cliques to permit the introduction of young, liberal elements into the governments may induce such elements to listen to and be influenced by Communist propaganda. Notice should be taken of the Soviet technique of playing upon the nationalist feelings of tribal and other minority elements, as for instance the Kurds, to create trouble. In Iran, where organized terrorism appears to have Communist connections and is being carried out for political ends, there is grave danger of chaos if an attempt on the life of the Shah and other leaders should succeed.

9) Current Israeli-Jordan peace negotiations and annexation of Arab Palestine to Jordan

Negotiations leading to a possible peace settlement between Jordan and Israel are in progress. Although it is in our interest that these [Page 171] negotiations should succeed, the U.S. should take no direct part in the discussions.

Noting that it has been the Department’s policy that Arab Palestine should eventually be incorporated into the Jordan Kingdom, it is felt that the time has come for the U.S. to indicate to the British that no objection is perceived to the early incorporation of Arab Palestine into Jordan, subject to the condition that annexation should be accompanied by appropriate steps which would ensure fair representation of Palestinians in the Jordan legislature. We should also indicate our willingness to convey this information to King Abdullah, jointly with the British and at a time mutually agreed. The automatic extension of British treaty provisions following union of the two territories would contribute to the stability of the area.5

10) Cyprus

In view of the strategic position of Cyprus, it is in the interest both of the United States and Great Britain to do everything possible to promote stability in the Island.

There was a general awareness that Cyprus is complementary to Turkey in a military sense and that its security is extremely important in case of aggression against Turkey.

In connection with the existence of a strong Communist group in Cyprus, it is felt advisable to indicate to the British, at an appropriate time, our concern about the situation and our hope that they will increase their efforts to promote security there; the Conference also believed that our policy of discouraging Greek desire to acquire the Island for nationalistic reasons was the correct one to follow. At the same time it was felt that we should make clear to the Turks that we had no intention of supporting any Turkish claim to the Island and our belief that irresponsible and inflammatory statements by the Turkish press and certain Turkish organizations serve only to keep the pot boiling.

11) Foreign service morale in the Near East

The efficient operation of the U.S. Foreign Service in the area is of primary importance to the pursuance of our foreign policy objectives. It was the opinion of the conferees that a factor adversely affecting [Page 172] the morale of the Foreign Service and its ability to carry out U.S. foreign policy, was the housing problem and the difficulties and inordinate delays in F.B.O.’s implementation of its program.

12) Visits of Chiefs of State of the Near East to the U.S.

With the exception of the proposed visit of Ibn Saud, no other visits of Near East Chiefs of State seemed necessary or desirable during 1950. It was felt that Chiefs of Mission in the Near East should do everything possible to discourage additional visits. Such visits, it was agreed, while capable in individual cases of doing good, must continue to be carefully timed and separated in order to bring the best results.

13) Extension of military assistance to other Near Eastern States

It is not considered necessary or desirable to extend military assistance to Near Eastern States not now included in the present Military Assistance Program, except to extend the right to Saudi Arabia to obtain arms on a reimbursable basis, when authorization can be obtained from Congress. It may be desirable to send military training missions to certain states, such as Syria, on request, as a means of increasing the discipline and efficiency of the army and in recognition of the proper role of the army in assisting regularly the constituted government to maintain security and reestablish public confidence and stability. Care must be taken to observe strict impartiality as between Israel and the Arab States in fulfilling requests for military training missions and for places for trainees in the United States.

14) The McGhee–Wright talks

There was general agreement with the conclusions reached in these talks, and it was felt that we should continue to maintain close cooperation and consultation with the British on Near Eastern matters. It was recognized that closer cooperation should be obtained from some British officials in the field along common lines; however, it was agreed that we would and could work out any such problems, if not locally by referral to Washington and London.

With regard to the country papers6 handed to Mr. McGhee by Mr. Wright, the policies represented were in general approved, however, it was the general opinion that they were collections and descriptions of projects more than comprehensive plans and were in many instances outdated.

15) Proposed creation of Institute of Near Eastern Affairs

An institute, along the lines of the Institute of Inter-American Affairs, should be set up in Washington under the State Department [Page 173] to coordinate all of United States economic and cultural efforts in the Near East, including those through the United Nations and those jointly sponsored with the British. No regional office should be set up in the area for this purpose, coordination with the United Kingdom being effected between London and Washington.

16) Treatment of minorities in the Near East

Whenever necessary, our representatives in the Near East should take the occasion to stress United States interest in the fair and reasonable treatment of minorities, and should endeavor to ease the situation of minorities when it is found that they have been the subject of discrimination.

At the same time it is of great value for the Department to have, as promptly as possible, any information which would indicate that allegations of mistreatment of minorities are being circulated for political or other reasons.

17) The ESM report

The ESM interim report displays excellent workmanship and grasp of the situation and is heartily endorsed. Implementation of the report, particularly with respect to carrying out of the pilot projects, may be handicapped at the start in certain states because of ESM’s connection with the PCC and the Palestine problem. The draft setting up the proposed United Nations Work and Relief Agency recommended by the Interim Report is approved. It should in no way be connected with the PCC and every effort should be made, consistent with United States objectives, to separate, in the public mind, the carrying out of pilot projects from refugees, Palestine, the PCC and the ESM.

18) Position on U.S. standard treaty form

The Conference was of the opinion that the Department’s standard form for a treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation could not be advanced in every case; that it was much too complex for some areas, such as Saudi Arabia, where a simple form of treaty would suffice, if needed. In other areas, such as Lebanon, the standard form of treaty would be useful and can be negotiated. It was felt that an individual approach to treaty problems was essential.

19) Point IV

It was the consensus of the Conference that the Point IV program is admirably adapted to the furtherance of U.S. policy in the N.E. and the development of the resources of that area for the benefit of its peoples. However it was felt that the program must be flexible and adapted to the particular needs of each country; and in no case should Point IV technicians be proposed until requested by the receiving [Page 174] country and evidence produced that the assistance would be effectively utilized.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

20) U.K. treaty system

The United States should not encourage the extension of the U.K. treaty system to other countries.

21) The United Nations

We should make every effort to restore and increase the prestige of the UN in the Near Eastern area. We realize that our task in this area has been considerably lightened by the existence of the United Nations and its related agencies such as UNSCOB, PCC and ESM.

22) Negotiations between Israel and the Arab States

The U.S. should encourage direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab States, but should not abandon publicly its principles on refugees and territories. It should refrain from suggesting the nature of any settlement, leaving this to be determined by the relative bargaining positions of the parties.

The conference concurred in the statement of U.S. policy on Jerusalem made before the General Assembly.

23) Role of U.S. cultural institutions and commercial interests in N.E.

The great importance of United States cultural and commercial interests in the area is recognized and our representatives should continue vigorously to support them. The training which our cultural institutions have provided, and the fair practices which are characteristic of our commercial enterprises, are accepted as a most important aid in restoring good will for the United States in the Near East.

24) Effects of U.S.I.E. program

The Conference felt that the U.S.I.E. program, as presently conducted, is an excellent means of making American ideas known, and of giving a correct impression of the United States and its people to the N.E. It is also very effective in counteracting the effect of Communist propaganda and that of other undemocratic ideologies.

25) Syrian-Iraqi Union7

The idea of union is presently dormant but not dead. Syrian and Iraqi political and economic difficulties at present militate against it, and the proposed Arab League Security Pact seems to have diverted attention from the Union for the time being.

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The feeling in both Syria and Iraq, however, is that a Pact as projected would not prevent Union. So far as Syria is concerned, pressure for the solution of her economic difficulties, or any acute aggravation of the fear of Israeli expansionism, is likely to see a return of active interest in Syrian-Iraqi union, or at least the development of much closer economic and military ties.

In the case of Iraq there is reason to believe that the economic, social and cultural bases for union which are commonly advanced by Iraqi politicians are far outweighed by and in fact used as a cloak for the advancement of Hashemite8 ambitions.

26) Iraq

With respect to the possibility of extending the technical assistance program to Iraq, now unduly restricted by privileged-position provisions of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930, we would like to see an understanding concluded with the British on Washington-London level, envisaging, as regards American Point 4 and other experts, that such special position will not apply. We need not query the propriety of such demands because, by signature of the Portsmouth Treaty, Great Britain has already recorded its position to relinquish its exclusive rights in this regard.

27) American leadership in the Near East

Our Representatives in Near Eastern countries should, as far as possible within existing conditions, endeavor to assume a positive role in urging those countries to develop more representative and democratic forms of government and to adopt foreign policies consistent with U.S. objectives.

It was recognized, however, that the rate of progress toward these ends would be conditioned by distinctive factors in each country such as, for example, the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty and pending election in Egypt.

28) Conclusions

On the basis of experience gained during this Conference, the Department should encourage the Assistant Secretary to visit the area more frequently. The Department should authorize and encourage visits between Chiefs of Mission in the area. Advance notice should be given the Department when possible, but it would be left to the individual chiefs of mission to determine when they might be able to leave their posts for such visits. Weekend trips were suggested, and tentative boundaries of New Delhi, Addis Ababa, and Athens were proposed.

  1. For text, see p. 1506.
  2. Ambassador Caffery had informed Hassouna Pasha, Under Secretary of State in the Egyptian Foreign Office, along these lines on October 22 (telegram 986, October 23, 9 p. m., from Cairo, 890B.00/10–2349). The same message reported that at the meeting of the Arab League Council on October 22, a resolution was adopted “calling for the conclusion of a collective security pact among all the Arab states.” The purposes of the proposed pact were “to sidetrack Syrian-Iraqi unification and to present stronger front to communism and (although not mentioned) to Israel.” Documentation on the proposed Syrian-Iraqi unification is printed on pp. 180 ff.
  3. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, King of Saudi Arabia.
  4. Marginal notation by Secretary Acheson: “Not for 1950.”
  5. Marginal notation by Secretary Acheson: “Is this correct so far as Israeli reaction is concerned?” Mr. McGhee, in a memorandum of December 28, replied: “It was the feeling of the Conference that the automatic extension of British treaty provisions following the union of Arab Palestine with Jordan would contribute to the stability of the area in that it would help to remove the Arabs’ fear of Israeli expansion to the east. It is probable that Israel would not like the automatic extension of the British treaty provisions, but would accept it in the interest of obtaining a final settlement of outstanding questions between Israel and Jordan.” (867N.01/12–2849)
  6. Not found in Department of State files.
  7. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 180 ff.
  8. The ruling dynasty in Iraq and Jordan.