Record of Informal United States-United Kingdom Discussions, London, Monday Morning, September 18, 1950 1
top secret

Subject: Security of Middle East and Iran

Participants: Mr. Michael Wright, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
Mr. D. P. Reilly, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
Lt. Col. C. S. Godwin, British Chiefs of Staff Secretariat
Mr. G. W. Furlonge, Counsellor, Commonwealth Liaison Dept.
Honorable George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State
Joseph Palmer 2nd, First Secretary of Embassy

Mr. Wright opened the meeting by stating that the Foreign Office was anxious to take advantage of the current conversations with Mr. McGhee to discuss certain strategic aspects of the Near Eastern situation. In particular, the Foreign Office wished to inform Mr. McGhee of the politico-military papers on Iran and the Midle East area which had been prepared by the Foreign Office and the British Chiefs of Staff for the Bradley–Tedder conversations in Washington.2 The Chiefs of Staff have already approved the papers, which are now being reviewed in New York by Mr. Bevin. Mr. Wright hoped that the Department [Page 194] would agree with the Foreign Office that there should be political as well as military discussion of the two documents. Mr. McGhee expressed his agreement with this principle and promised to recommend this course to the Department.

[Here follows a discussion of the British paper on Iran. For a record of this discussion, see page 591.]

At Mr. Wright’s request, Mr. Furlonge then proceeded to outline the main lines of the paper on the defense of the Middle East, in the following terms:

The paper begins by reaffirming the vital nature of the defense of the Eastern Mediterranean and renews the conclusions of the US and UK Chiefs of Staff made in 1947.3
The Paper then proceeds to summarize the various Allied commitments in the area, including the treaties of the UK and French with the states in the area.
The paper emphasizes the importance of strategic points in the region including Suez and Cyprus.
It analyzes the internal position in each country and particularly the administrative and economic stresses which constitute sources of weakness in the countries in the area. It also analyzes such external stresses as the Arab–Israeli and Hashemite problems.
The paper considers it essential that all of the Middle Eastern states be kept in the Western camp. Toward this end, it should continue to be UK policy to improve relations with the states in the area; to conserve existing strategic facilities and create an atmosphere favorable to the attainment of new ones if needed; and to improve economic and social conditions.
However, the foregoing are long range measures and the paper proceeds to examine what short term measures can be taken. It recommends the following:
The continuance of arms aid to Turkey.
The promotion of a settlement of the Palestine question.
Military cooperation with Israel, which is considered vital.
The retention of bases in Egypt (the key to the area) which is indispensable. Efforts should be intensified to obtain a satisfactory defense arrangement with Egypt.
The redeployment of military forces throughout the area to create positions of strength. In this connection, it is considered that even a small US ground force at Dhahran would have a good psychological effect. (Mr. Wright, at this point also suggested the possibility of stationing ground troops in Tripolitania.)
The continuation of economic and financial aid, including increased contributions to PRA.
Inducement of the Arab states to accept assistance with respect to strengthening their security forces (CID and police) to combat Communism.
Persuasion of the Arab states to accept military training assistance where this is not being done at the present time and to intensify it where it is being done.
Consideration to increasing size and armament of the Arab Legion which could make a significant contribution to the defense of the area.
Visits by the Commander in Chief of the Middle East Land Forces to all the Arab states and Israel in order to discuss defense measures, thus giving those states the feeling that they are being taken into consultation on questions affecting their security. (In point of fact, the C in C has already made plans to visit Jordan and Iraq in the near future for such discussions).
The drawing up of joint Anglo-American arms policy, but deliveries should be contingent on the cooperation in general defense matters of the states concerned.
Examination of the possibilities of RAF cooperation in Syria, as informally suggested by the Syrians, particularly in the construction of air fields.
On the military side, the paper reviews the past history of operational planning in the Middle East and discusses the various defense rings from the most to the least ambitious.
The paper recommends that positive action should be taken along the lines of ponts 6 A–L inclusive. It also recommends an examination of the defense ring which would be held by the allies in various contingencies.

Mr. McGhee spoke of the US effort in the area. He pointed out that this year we are putting an additional $193 million into Greece, Turkey and Iran beyond that already appropriated. So far as Turkey is concerned, our military authorities tell us that we are already putting in practically everything which can be absorbed. As for possible military assistance for the other states in the area, we run into the problem of priorities. It is unlikely that much in the way of additional military assistance could be made available to the other states in the area, except possibly for Saudi Arabia, where such assistance may be necessary to obtain the 20 year lease which we require at Dhahran air field. Our total arms commitments at the present time do not leave very much for non-priority countries. The Arab states and Israel derive considerable security from our assistance to Greece, Turkey and Iran and he wondered whether it was worthwhile diverting, for example, equipment from Greece, Turkey and Iran to help the Arab states.

Mr. Furlonge felt that a comparatively small outlay of military equipment in the Arab states would have a disproportionately greater return by enhancing the feeling of security of those states.

Mr. McGhee indicated that we felt that this was largely the UK’s responsibility, but that we might be able to help to a limited extent. Mr. McGhee stated that he had noted with interest that in the British paper on the Middle East, considerable importance seemed to be attached [Page 196] to the pro-western orientation of Israel. We also considered this to be of importance and we now believed that when the chips were down Israel would be basically with us.

Col. Godwin said he wished to emphasize very strongly the importance which the British attached from a military point of view to cooperation with Israel.

  1. Drafted by Palmer.
  2. Regarding the Bradley–Tedder conversations at Washington, see extract of US–UK Talks—July 20–24, p. 188. Copies of the draft papers under reference have not been identified further; however they seem to have been earlier drafts of the papers handed to the State Department in October 1950 in anticipation of the meeting of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff in Washington on October 23, 1950. For information on these papers, see the memorandum by Mr. McGhee, October 19, “British Review of Middle East Policy and Strategy”, p. 217, and footnote 1 thereto. For the approved summary of conclusions and agreements reached at this meeting, see vol. iii, p. 1686.
  3. For documentation on the 1947 US–UK military talks on the Eastern Mediterranean, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 485 ff.