CFM files: M–88: May FM Meeting, C & D Series, Box 149

Report Prepared in the Department of State1
top secret

Regional Security Arrangements in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern Areas

the problem

1. To discuss with the French and British the various positions the United States has taken as regards regional security arrangements in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East if the subject is raised with the Secretary at the May Foreign Ministers meeting.


2. The creation of the North Atlantic Pact, in which the United States has joined in a collective defense arrangement with such countries as France and Italy to the exclusion of the other Mediterranean and the Near Eastern countries, has tended to increase the feeling of insecurity and exposure on the part of the peripheral countries of [Page 153] Greece, Turkey and Iran. These countries, already suffering throughout the post war years from the Cold War tactics of the Soviet Union, have repeatedly expressed their keen desire for a regional security association of which the United States would be a member. Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon have approached us unilaterally with reference to possible security arrangements with this country. So far, we have declined to be associated with these countries in such arrangements. In the case of the GTI countries, the Secretary has established the line, and has informed their representatives that we could not consider pacts with them because we could not yet tell whether we were over-committed in Europe. He has said repeatedly that only an increase in Europe’s own defensive strength, resulting from the North Atlantic Treaty and the Military Aid Program, would permit us to consider further security arrangements.

3. Greece, Turkey and Iran have been and are definitely unhappy about our attitude on this point despite our attempts to reassure them by pointing out what we are doing for them in the field of military and economic assistance, and our argument that the North Atlantic Treaty itself constitutes a strengthening of the Western world and therefore an added element of protection for the whole free world, including the Near East.

4. The creation of a Pacific security pact, currently under consideration within the Department, would increase the pressure for a Near Eastern Pact and might well underscore the vulnerability of the Near East vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. Our promotion of a Pacific pact would constitute a reversal of the position we have taken hitherto and, in the absence of a disposition to review our policy regarding Near Eastern regional arrangements, would most certainly lead the governments of that area to conclude that we regard them as being at the bottom of our list in the world picture.


Greece, Turkey and Iran.

5. The security of the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East is stated, in the NSC memorandum “Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—Basic U.S. Position”, approved November 24, 1947 (subsequently quoted in NSC 5/2, February 12, 1948, NSC 42/1, March 22, 1949 and NSC 47/2, October 17, 1949)2 to be critical to the security of the United States, to the extent that any potentially hostile power should be denied a foothold in these areas. The National Security Council has found that the United States should as a matter of policy [Page 154] assist in maintaining the territorial integrity of Greece, Turkey and Iran and be prepared to make full use of its political, economic and, if necessary, military power for this purpose.

6. The loss of Greece either directly to the Soviet Union or through the satellites or through a Greek puppet government would increase the Soviet domination of the Balkans and pose an actual threat to both the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean thereby outflanking the Dardanelles and endangering the Suez Canal. The loss of Turkey as a buffer against the expansion of the Soviet Union into the Mediterranean and the Near East would pose an even more serious threat to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the highly valuable oil resources of the area. The loss of Iran would deny our most important ally, Great Britain, a highly important source of oil and open a further route for the penetration into the vast oil producing areas of the Persian Gulf. Our security requirements and interests in these areas are similar to those of our potential allies and closely interwoven with those of Great Britain.

7. The foregoing discussion must be considered in light of the fact that the primary security interests of the United States outside the Western Hemisphere lie in the North Atlantic area.

This fact is reflected by the North Atlantic Treaty and the Mutual Defense Act of 1949.3 Greece, Turkey and Iran are included in the latter but not in the former. Nevertheless, the political and territorial integrity of the Near Eastern area as a whole and particularly certain countries in that area are of such importance to United States security as to justify strenuous efforts in the political, economic and military fields.

8. The United States has provided Greece over a period of the past three years almost every possible form of political, economic and military support for the purpose of preserving the independence of that country and of preventing it from succumbing to the onslaught of the communist-supported guerrilla forces and becoming another Soviet satellite. The United States has provided technical advisers to many sections of the government and military experts in almost all branches of the Greek National Forces. As a direct consequence of our aid, the Greek Government has been able to defeat the guerrilla forces and drive them from Greek soil.

9. The United States regards the maintenance of Turkish independence and security as a matter of strategic importance to its own security and has provided political, economic and military assistance to this end. It is the United States objective in Turkey to provide a military [Page 155] establishment of sufficient size and effectiveness to ensure resistance against Soviet pressure and to develop combat effectiveness to the extent that any overt Soviet aggression can be deterred or delayed. Great Britain has treaty obligations with this country providing for mutual defense and should Britain become involved as a result of any Soviet aggression, it is not unlikely that the United States would also become involved.

10. The United States has publicly manifested great interest in the security of Iran and by its strong support of the Iranian case before the Security Council was largely instrumental in bringing about the evacuation of Soviet forces from Azerbaijan in Northern Iran.4 In 1948 it extended credits for the purpose of assisting Iran in obtaining badly needed military equipment. Under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 authority has been extended to provide Iran with grant and reimbursable military aid. The United States long-range security objective should be to supply the Iranian army with sufficient equipment and support as would reasonably ensure maintenance of internal security, a stabilized government and the prevention of interference from outside forces, other than direct invasion.

11. It seems unlikely that Greece, Turkey and Iran will join together in any new regional security arrangement with each other or with other countries of the Near East except on the basis of participation by the United States.

Israel and the Arab States.

12. Three regional pacts already exist in this area. One is the Pact of the League of Arab States (May 22, 1945) between Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. It provides methods for settling disputes between the members and for their cooperation in political, economic and social matters. Another is the Saadabad Pact (July 8, 1937) in which the Arab State of Iraq is joined with Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. This Pact provides for non-interference, non-aggression and consultation regarding all international conflicts affecting the members’ common interests. Another is the Saudi Arab-Iraqi Treaty of Arab Brotherhood and Alliance of 1936, to which Yemen subsequently adhered, and Syria may join in the future. The treaty was aimed at Saudi Arab-Iraq diplomatic and military collaboration for the prevention of aggression. The weakness of the key provisions of these Pacts reflects the weakness of the members, singly and in combination. It follows that no important results for the security of the Near East from external aggression can be expected to flow from the existence of these Pacts.

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13. The creation of a regional arrangement, pure and simple, of the Near Eastern countries offers no solution, not only because of the discord among them which has been created by the Palestine question, but also because of the deep-rooted suspicions which antedate that question and have been intensified by it. Moreover, and this is a fundamental difficulty, the area lacks a power center on the basis of which a pact could be built.

14. The creation of a regional pact in the Near Eastern area linked to the strongest members of the North Atlantic Treaty—the U.S. and the U.K. in present circumstances—would probably place too heavy a commitment at this time on these two countries which must be entirely free to be the judges of what, if any, resources they can devote to the security of the area and to select the recipient countries. While admittedly the United States attaches great importance to this area, and the U.K. attaches a strategic importance to the Near East as an area second only to that of the homeland, it nevertheless seems preferable that, should the question be raised, the Secretary should follow the line that we shall be unable to enter any new regional association pending development of European strength under the North Atlantic Treaty and the Military Aid Program.

15. The Arab countries, while having a pervading fear of the Soviet Union have a closer and more immediate problem in Israel. They feel, in fact, that they require protection from threats from three sources: Israel, the Soviet Union and each other. Similarly, Israel has a deep sense of insecurity in its exposed position surrounded by unfriendly Arab states and according to statements of its own government is fearful of the beginning of the second round of hostilities on the part of the Arab states.

16. The latest regional proposal is based on the agreement of the Arab League Council in October 1949 to conclude a regional collective security pact. If the proposed pact consisting of the Arab League members should involve extensive integration of military policies and military forces, it may well be doomed to failure since the Arab states would probably be reluctant to relinquish sovereign control over their armed forces to this extent. On the other hand, if the pact should be formulated as a series of interlocking mutual defense treaties, its formal conclusion might be feasible, although its enforcement would be very doubtful at the present time. The proposed pact is stated to be directed not against Israel or against any other potential aggressor, but, like the Atlantic Treaty, against any aggression as such. However, one of its primary motivations is undoubtedly the feeling of the Arab states that they require protection against Israel. A second important motivation of the pact is that of protection against Soviet aggression.

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17. It would appear that the proposed Syro-Iraqi union has little chance of implementation in the foreseeable future. We have taken the position that we would look with disfavor upon any modification of the status of the present sovereign entities of the Near East which was accomplished by force or external intervention. However, since it is a cardinal principle of our policy to respect the right of peoples freely to choose their own form of government we would not oppose unions of peoples brought about by the freely expressed wish of the peoples concerned. While we might view with favor some form of Arab union after reviewing the information available to us, we have reached the conclusion that the U.S. should not at this time adopt an attitude either favoring or disfavoring the present Syro-Iraqi union proposals. This conclusion was based on the considerations: (1) that there is insufficient evidence on which to gauge the degree of popular support such a union would obtain in Syria and Iraq, and the general effects of the proposed action on Near Eastern stability and peace; (2) that we should not express an opinion in advance of consideration of the proposed move in an open and constitutional way within the two countries and before the latter have consulted with other states which may consider themselves affected; (3) that before expressing any judgment, we would expect Syro-Iraqi assurances that the proposed union would safeguard legitimate U.S. interests, would carry out existing international obligations of both states and would undertake to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the neighboring states.

18. A separate paper deals with the possibility of some form of assurances or guarantees that might be given by the United States and/or the United Kingdom coincidental with the conclusion of peace treaties or non-aggressive pacts between Israel and the Arab States.5


19. It is recommended that, in the event the Secretary is requested by French and British representatives to discuss regional security arrangements in the Eastern Mediterranean area, he indicate our present position as follows:

We are not in a position to consider any security pacts with Greece, Turkey, Iran or other Near Eastern countries at the present time because we cannot tell whether our capabilities at this time are adequate to defend our vital interests in Europe. Only an increase in Europe’s own defensive strength, resulting from the North Atlantic Treaty and the Military Aid Program, would permit us to consider further security arrangements.
That we neither encourage nor discourage the spontaneous creation of any Eastern Mediterranean grouping for defensive purposes, [Page 158] provided it does not depend directly or indirectly on the support or association of the U.S., and provided it is non-provocative in character.
That if we are approached concerning the proposed Arab League Pact we might point out that the United States could not oppose or discourage formation of any regional grouping which was conducive to the maintenance and improvement of security in the Near East, non-provocative in character, and of a nature which would strengthen the ability of the states concerned to resist Soviet aggression. Conversely, it would be contrary to the best interest of the Near Eastern states to make any regional arrangement which would serve further to aggravate existing tensions and frictions in the area by creating the impression that it was being formed against Israel, any Arab state, or any combination of states within the Near East.
If we are approached for our views on Syro-Iraqi union we might indicate that we would look with disfavor on any such union if accomplished by force or external intervention, but would not object if brought about by the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned and if we received Syro-Iraqi assurances that the proposed union would safe-guard legitimate U.S. interests, would carry out existing international obligations of both states and would undertake to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the neighboring states.
We should seek to emphasize that the present armistice agreements are binding upon the Arab states and Israel and that the most effective measures which both sides could take towards the strengthening of collective security consists in making concrete progress toward the conclusion of final peace settlements.

  1. This report, FM D D–1c, was drafted by the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs and fully cleared within the Department. It was for use as a possible course of action for the Secretary of State to follow during the May Foreign Ministers meeting in London. Source text is the third draft of this report, the first being prepared on April 13 and the second on April 18. The comparatively late date of this draft, when Secretary Acheson was already engaged in discussions with the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and France at London, suggests that it may have been prepared not only in response to earlier JCS comments and criticisms, but also as a result of regional security discussions at London during the preparatory meetings leading up to the Foreign Ministers meetings as reported in telegrams Secto 98 of May 3, p. 144, and Secto 194, supra. There is no indication from Department of State files that this report was used by the United States Delegation at London nor that it was the subject of discussion by the Foreign Ministers.
  2. For documentation on the November 24, 1947 NSC memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 575576, 623624. For text of NSC 5/2, see ibid., 1948, vol. iv, p. 46. For texts of NSC 42/1 and 47/2, see ibid., 1949, vol. vi, pp. 269 and 1430, respectively.
  3. For documentation on the North Atlantic Treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.; for documentation on the Mutual Defense Act of 1949, see ibid., vol. i, pp. 249 ff.
  4. For documentation on the Azerbaijan crisis of 1945–1946, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. viii, pp. 359 ff.; and ibid., 1946, vol. viii, pp. 289 ff.
  5. Report entitled “Near Eastern Security”, April 28, p. 138.