Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee) to the Ambassador at Large (Jessup)1
top secret

Subject: British Review of Middle East Policy and Strategy

There is attached a British review (Tab A) of Middle East policy and strategy2 which the British Chiefs of Staff intend to use as a basis for the proposed U.S.–U.K. discussions commencing on October 23. This review, as indicated in the title, deals with two main subjects: 1) policy; 2) strategy. We have general and specific comments with regard to the parts of the review dealing with policy, but we have made no comments on the part dealing with strategy as we understand that the Department of Defense will deal with this section.

Those parts of the British review dealing with policy analyze in Part I the importance of the Middle East in Allied global strategy and, in Part II, review the present situation in the Middle East countries (Arab states and Israel, plus Turkey and Cyprus) and recommend the measures required to retain them within the Western orbit. Part III outlines the strategic plans.

Part IV of the British review concludes with a recommendation that the United Kingdom and the United States should concert measures for the retention of the Middle East countries within the Western orbit and should (in view of their limited capabilities) adopt as the basis for Anglo-American strategy in the Middle East the defense of [Page 218] the so-called “Inner Ring” in war. Our general and specific comments relate to the policy recommendation and not to the strategic recommendation.

To the British review there are attached summaries of existing strategic plans and a map showing the defense positions discussed in the strategic plans.

General Agreement. We are in general agreement with the British conclusions as stated in Parts I and II, with respect to the importance of the Middle East in Allied global strategy and with respect to the present situation in the Middle East countries including the recommended measures required to retain them within the Western orbit (as summarized in paragraph 38 of Part II) subject to such comments as are stated below. It is observed that, even if there should be a radical revision of the British strategic plan outlined in Part III, we would be in general agreement with the recommended cold war measures required to retain the Middle East countries within the Western orbit as outlined in Part II. It seems to us that these measures are sufficiently general and far-reaching to be applicable under a wide variety of circumstances and should be pursued with the objective of retaining the Middle East countries within the Western orbit.

Specific Comment: With respect to Part I, paragraph 2, the British review states that “to retain the countries of the Middle East within the Western orbit is a vital cold war objective and the Allies must be prepared to make military sacrifices to that end”. As already stated, we agree that it is a vital cold war objective to retain the countries of the Middle East within the Western orbit. We consider it necessary, however, to clarify the question of military sacrifices which the Allies must be prepared to make. If the military sacrifices are those cold war measures summarized in Part I, paragraph 38, we are in agreement. We understand that the JCS are opposed to any measures which would commit or tend to commit U.S. forces to the Middle East in the event of global war.

With respect to the review of the present situation in the Middle East countries outlined in Part I, we are attaching our own analysis (Tab B) of the attitudes and reactions which may be expected from the Arab states and Israel in the face of a number of eventualities related to the U.S.S.R.3 This analysis was prepared following the original conversations between Bradley–Tedder and yourself.4

With respect to the summary of recommended cold war measures, in Part I, paragraph 38, we have the following comment on the alphabetically numbered British paragraphs: [Page 219]

Assistance to Turkey. This task is already well under way. It will be necessary, however, for Turkish priority for arms deliveries to be worked out in relation to U.S.–U.K. commitments elsewhere. No new course of action seems indicated beyond those presently under consideration in the U.S. Government with regard to strengthening Turkish military capabilities.
Settlement between Israel and the Arab States and Arab State Economic Development and Social Reform. We have these subjects under continuing consideration with the objective of action. Regarding a settlement, the U.S. has played an active role as a member of the Palestine Conciliation Commission and in frequent diplomatic conversations with the Arab and Israeli Governments. We favor the continuation of the PCC and ad hoc diplomatic approaches and will be continually alert to take advantage of any situation which might lead to a partial or full settlement between the Arab states and Israel. Regarding Arab State development and social reform, we plan to continue to urge the Arab States to take action in these fields through such means as Point TV, aid to Arab refugees and Export–Import Bank loans.
Military essentiality of Israel. The attitude of Israel and its military essentiality is further described in paragraph 22, Part II. We are in general agreement with the British view that there are indications that Israel’s policy may be evolving in the direction of the West. We observe that if the British have in mind the defense of the Cairo-Suez area only, it might logically follow that the friendly cooperation of Israel is militarily essential in order to secure the strategic facilities required in that country in war. On the other hand, if the British have in mind the defense of the Middle East, as a whole, it might more logically follow that the friendly cooperation of all of the Middle East States would be militarily essential in some degree. In any event, we believe, as pointed out in Tab B, that the Israeli position in the face of Soviet intervention in the Middle East would follow the same negative pattern anticipated among the Arab States.
British position in Egypt. We have consistently supported the British objective of retaining base rights in the Suez area in time of peace and the right of further entry in time of war. We have hoped that Britain and Egypt could reach agreement directly and have as occasion offered urged progress and moderation on both.
Deployment of a brigade. We agree that a detailed examination should be made of the possibility of deploying advanced elements of the British forces earmarked for Southern Persia sufficiently far forward to enable them to move into the Abadan area. Such deployment would, in our opinion, increase the confidence of the Middle East countries. The detailed examination contemplated should include further consideration of the area, such as Iraq, Kuwait or Bahrein, to which such deployment would be made. We believe the United States Government should give consideration to the possibility of stationing forces at the Dhahran Air Base.5 We believe that such action would also increase the confidence of the Middle East countries, even if such forces should be limited. Such action would be particularly helpful [Page 220] in reassuring King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia and in strengthening U.S. relations with that country. Furthermore, the United States Forces at Dhahran would be reassuring to the American personnel of American oil companies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and would prove helpful in implementing the oil denial program under NSC 26/2.6
Financial aid to the Middle East countries: The United States has already provided for extending limited financial aid to Middle East countries through such agencies as Point IV, Aid to Palestine Refugees, and the Export–Import Bank. We plan to continue such assistance as opportunity offers. Furthermore, we are presently studying the possibility of grant aid to selected countries of the Near East and South Asia. Such programs must, however, be related to programs in other areas of the world and must be approved by the Congress. It must be remembered that U.S. resources are not inexhaustible and that no program will, in the last analysis, be effective in promoting economic development unless the Arab States and Israel are willing to cooperate.
Arab police and security forces. We believe we might contribute to such assistance through a survey in the United States of technicians available for such assignments. With information as to individuals available and with funds to pay them, we should be in a position to generate Arab requests for such assistance.
Training of Arab and Israeli Armed Forces. We believe that the British should continue to assist Israel and the Arab States, particularly Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, with which the U.K. is in treaty arrangement, in building up or training their armed forces, both in the Near East and in the United Kingdom. We also believe that the United States should continue its present policy of accepting members of the Arab and Israeli armed forces for schooling in the United States. We doubt the desirability at the present time of providing American officers to Israel and the Arab states, except Saudi Arabia, for such activity in the Near East, unless they proceed in a civilian capacity.
Omitted in British paper.
Arab Legion. We believe that the Arab Legion is a force for stability in the area, but consider that an increase in its strength and efficiency is a matter for military determination.
British discussion with Arab and Israeli military representatives. We believe that such action should prove reassuring to the Arab and Israeli Governments and provide further evidence of British military interests in the Middle East. We could support by independent visits of U.S. officers. U.S. officers will, in any event, be visiting in Saudi Arabia because of the Dhahran Air Base and because of our intention to extend cash-reimbursable military assistance to Saudi Arabia.
Anglo-American arms policy. We believe that the present arms policy of the United States, United Kingdom and France, as outlined in the Tripartite declaration (Tab C)7 should be continued. This policy provides for the export of arms to the Near East on a restricted basis for the purposes of internal security, self defense and defense of the area as a whole. Shipments of light material should continue as an indication of our interest in the area. The U.S., U.K. and France should continue consultations and exchange of information regarding shipments. The U.S. is planning at the present time to extend cash reimbursable military assistance to Saudi Arabia in connection with the continuation of the Dhahran Air Base. The U.S. has no plans at the present time for extending such assistance to the other Arab States or to Israel.
Syrian Air Fields. We believe that reconnaissance projects such as this can be arranged without great difficulty not only in Syria, but in the other Arab States.


We believe that the British and the United States Governments should keep in close touch with regard to each of the foregoing on a regular basis with the objective of taking ad hoc action along the foregoing lines as the situation develops and warrants.

  1. Drafted by Fraser Wilkins, Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs. The source text, along with the Paper drafted by Mr. Stabler regarding various attitudes and reactions, to be anticipated from the Arab States and Israel, dated October 24 and printed infra, were two of four memoranda prepared in NEA and transmitted to Mr. Jessup by Frederick Nolting, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs. The two memoranda not printed are entitled “Study Papers on Iran”, dated October 24, and “British Paper entitled ‘Persia’”, dated October 19. For information on the British paper entitled “Persia”, see pp. 445 ff. A copy of the Study Papers on Iran is in Department of State file 780.00/10–2050. In his memorandum of transmittal dated October 20, not printed, Mr. Nolting informed Mr. Jessup that he was sending copies of these four memoranda to the Office of the Secretary of Defense with the request that they be referred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for comments, if possible prior to the US–UK political-military talks set for October 26. Mr. Nolting added that Mr. John Howard, of NEA would discuss with Mr. B.A.B. Burrows, Counselor of the British Embassy, the State Department’s comments on the British paper regarding Persia and on the source text in advance of the October 26 meeting (780.00/10–2050). The conversation between Mr. Burrows, Mr. McGhee, Mr. Howard, and other State Department officials on October 24 is printed, p. 230.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Infra.
  4. Reference is to the United States–United Kingdom political-military talks of July 20–24, p. 188.
  5. The sentence regarding the Dhahran Air Base was underscored in pencil and a notation at the side of the source text reads: “ask Bradley”.
  6. NSC 26/2, not printed was a Report to the National Security Council by Executive Secretary James S. Lay, Jr., December 30, 1948, entitled “Removal and Demolition of Oil Facilities, Equipment and Supplies in the Middle East.” A copy of this Report is in NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351.
  7. Not found attached; reference is to the Tripartite Declaration Regarding Security in the Near East, issued after a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, and France in London in May 1950. For documentation on the meetings and the Declaration, see vol. iii, pp. 828 if. For text of the Declaration, see the Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1950, p. 880.