United States Minutes of United States–United Kingdom Political Military Conversations, Held at Washington, October 26, 19502
|Marshal of the Royal Air Force, The Lord Tedder
|Field Marshal Slim
|Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Slessor
|Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fraser
|Air Marshal Elliot
|Captain Coleridge, RN
|Brigadier Price, BA
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2. Bases in Egypt
While considerable doubt was expressed by both U.S. and U.K. representatives as to whether U.S. participation in a U.S.–U.K.–Egyptian tripartite arrangement for bases in Egypt, including one [Page 234] U.S. base, would change the attitude of the Egyptian Government toward the base question, it was agreed that there is a possibility that this might be the case and that this possibility should be thoroughly explored. Ambassador Jessup suggested that the matter be examined jointly by the U.S. and U.K. and Ambassador Franks expressed agreement.
General Collins raised the question as to whether there would be advantage to making U.S. equipment available to the Egyptians. He emphasized that we had no desire to dissipate valuable equipment in this way but that, since the Egyptians appeared to feel that the British are preventing them from buying arms wherever they wish, a demonstration that this is not the case might be useful. Marshal Slessor suggested that it would be preferable that such a suggestion come to the Egyptians from the U.K. rather than from the U.S. Ambassador Jessup suggested that there might be joint U.S.–U.K. consideration of an Egyptian arms request and General Collins added that any tripartite arrangement might deal with arms as well as with bases. Field Marshal Slim pointed out that the U.K. had told the Egyptians that it can provide arms only for those nations who stand with us and that it is important that the Egyptians receive arms only in so far as they cooperate with us. It was agreed that this subject also would be given further joint study.
Ambassador Jessup declared that the U.S. has informed the Greek Government, and will continue so to inform them, that the present world crisis is not a proper time in which to raise the question of the status of Cyprus.4 Ambassador Franks said that the U.K. would appreciate it if the U.S. continues to take this line. Air Marshal Slessor urged that both the U.K. and the U.S. point out to the Greeks that Cyprus will be of great importance for operations in the next war, since the Greeks are inclined for their own purposes to play down its military importance.
4. Middle East and Iran
General Bradley pointed out that there are some political aspects of the question discussed by the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs on October 23 in regard to a communist revolt in Iran or a tribal incursion over the frontier.5 What U.S. action would be in these circumstances would depend on the situation at the time, on the attitude of the U.N., etc. He raised a question as to whether it would be more useful for the U.S. to send a carrier to the Persian Gulf in such a time of crisis, as [Page 235] had been suggested, or rather to send carriers on periodic visits during normal times to indicate our continuing interest. Ambassador Franks declared that any situation calling for U.N action was one thing but that in a case failing short of obvious U.N. concern the U.K. felt that the dispatch of a small U.K. force to southern Iran would have a steadying and not a provocative influence. The U.K. felt that the dispatch of a brigade to Basra in 1946 had perhaps had as much to do with Soviet withdrawal from Azerbaijan as had the U.N. action. He felt that a small U.S. contribution to a force of this kind would be useful as a demonstration.
Ambassador Jessup indicated that the U.S. agreed that the dispatch of a U.K. force to Iran would have a steadying influence in certain cases such as the re-entry of Soviet forces into Azerbaijan, or a communist seizure of power in Tehran, or such widespread disorders that such a seizure seemed imminent. He questioned, however, whether it would be desirable to dispatch such a force into Iran in case of an ostensibly local uprising in Azerbaijan without intervention of Soviet forces. This might merely give the Soviets an excuse for sending in such forces under the 1921 treaty. In a case of this kind, the U.S. would feel that the dispatch of British forces to a nearby area such as Iraq would be preferable. Admiral Sherman pointed out that this would have the additional advantage of facilitating a later withdrawal of these forces without loss of face if that should prove desirable. It was agreed that there should be further consultation between the U.S. and U.K. in regard to appropriate action in case of a tribal uprising in Azerbaijan without Soviet overt intervention.
General Vandenberg suggested that the difference in point of view on this point might reflect the difference in the U.S. and U.K. estimates of the readiness of the Soviets to risk general war in the near future. Air Marshal Slessor pointed out that it is characteristic both of the Soviets and of the Russians under any regime to conduct probing operations outside their borders but to pull back if confronted by force. General Vandenberg agreed but wondered how many times the Soviets would feel they could “bump their noses” in this way without irreparable loss of face.
Ambassador Jessup referred to the steps which the U.S. Government is taking to strengthen the position of the Iranian Government in the cold war and pointed out the important contribution which a favorable AIOC settlement6 could make to this end. Ambassador Franks replied that he could not comment on this point but that he took note of it.[Page 236]
Ambassador Jessup raised the question as to the exact meaning which should be attached to the word “vital” as applied to the Middle East, pointing out that we used this word freely in planning but that in practice we seemed to question whether a large part of the area at least can be held. Ambassador Franks replied that it is the U.K. view that whoever controls the Middle East controls the access to three continents. Whether or not this area is held will determine whether or not we have a “big free world” or a “little free world”. From the political point of view the U.K. attaches the greatest importance to the joint strategic study on the spot which the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs have agreed is to go forward.
General Collins emphasized that the U.S. Chiefs consider that the Middle East is a British responsibility in case of a hot war, at least during the first two years of such a war, and that our activity and interest in the area during the cold war period should not give rise to any misunderstanding on this subject. He felt that in case of hot war even our tactical naval air would be required in Italy, where we would endeavor at least to hold the Piave line. Our Military Mission would, however, stay in Iran in case of general war and we are hopeful that, if time is available, an effective Iranian force may he brought into being. Admiral Sherman added a footnote to the effect that, if the Russians were not attempting to break into Italy, we might be able to provide some tactical naval air assistance against them in the Aegean or Middle East.
Ambassador Franks replied that the U.K. is quite clear on the distinction between U.S. aid in the cold and in the hot war periods. It continues to hope, however, that circumstances will enable the U.S. to change its mind in regard to its contribution to this area in a general war.
There was considerable discussion of the question of the demolition of oil wells and refineries in the Middle East, particularly in Iran. The U.K. representatives were unable to state exactly what is the status of planning for such demolition but they did state that it is planned that such demolition will take place if it appears that the areas are to be overrun and that the demolition will be carried out not by the military, but by civilian experts from the oil companies. General Bradley reported his understanding that the wells will be plugged with cement but that the refineries will not be destroyed before evacuation. The Air representatives expressed full confidence that the refineries could be easily destroyed by bombing operations. Grave doubt was expressed as to whether the Russians could in fact, because of the very unsatisfactory communications, get much oil back to the Soviet Union. If the refineries were destroyed, they could not even supply their own forces in the Middle East from these fields. [Page 237] Both U.S. and U.K. representatives laid emphasis on the harmful effect on morale in Iran’ and other Middle Eastern countries which would result if it became known, as it very likely would, that we are making detailed plans for demolishing the oil facilities The discussion resulted in the conclusion that there as serious doubt whether, in light of the unlikelihood that the oil can be useful to the Russian and of the serious effect on our cold war position which could follow knowledge that we are planning to demolish, we should in fact proceed, with our plans for demolition. It was agreed that there should be further joint study on this problem.
Ambassador Franks raised the question as to whether there should not be further study on the importance to us of Middle Eastern oil in case of general war. The results of such a study would have an obvious effect on our strategic planning in the Middle East. It was suggested that the appropriate technical authorities should give further study to this question. General Vandenberg reported that there are such wide differences of opinion among the oil experts in the oil companies that he doubted that any firm conclusion could be reached. It appeared to him, however, that Middle Eastern oil would be needed at least after the first two years of war.
5. Satellite Attack on Greece or Turkey
Referring to the discussion of this subject in the July U.S.–U.K. meetings,7 General Bradley said that it had been the U.S. military opinion that the Bulgarians are not in a position to conduct a successful offensive against Greece. Ambassador Jessup pointed out that, regardless of Bulgarian capabilities, they might be launched against the Greeks for reasons of over-all Russian strategy. Should this occur we are not at all clear as to who does what. While the U.N. would presumably recommend help for the Greeks, who would take the initiative in supplying that help? The British military representatives agree that since British forces are nearest to Greece they would have to act under such circumstances. The Korean situation would be reversed in that the U.K. would have to put in troops and the U.S. would help with ships. The question was raised of Turkish assistance to the Greeks in case the Greeks alone were attacked and the view was expressed that the Turks would not in these circumstances be likely to act. As to Bulgarian capabilities, it was pointed out that, while the Bulgarians could probably not defeat the Greek Army, they could without difficulty occupy Eastern Thrace and move down to the Aegean.[Page 238]
The question was raised as to whether U.S. and U.K. Military representatives in Greece should, like those in Turkey and Iran, be instructed to make a fact-finding review of the strategic position there. It was decided that Greek problems should be more carefully thought through in Washington and London before our missions on the spot were asked to make a re-examination. After the fact-finding on Turkey and Iran has been completed it would be easier to judge how Greece fits in.
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The meeting adjourned with expressions on the part of both the U.S. and U.K. representatives of the usefulness of the conversations.
- Lot 64 D 563 is the master file of documents, drafts, records of meetings, memoranda, and related correspondence for the years 1947–1953 of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State.↩
- There is no indication on the source text as to whether these were agreed minutes. They were prepared by Charles Yost.↩
- This document is printed in full in vol. iii, p. 1689. The omitted portions, deal with a French proposal of October 24 on European defense and German participation, with Berlin, and with various Far Eastern matters.↩
- For documentation on United States relations with Greece, see pp. 335 ff.↩
- See Item 6 of the approved summary of conclusions and agreements reached at the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs of Staff meeting on October 23, printed in vol. iii, p. 1688.↩
- For documentation on the outstanding issues between the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the Government of Iran, see pp. 445 ff.↩
- See extract of memorandum by Jessup to Secretary Acheson, July 25, and “Agreed United States–United Kingdom Memorandum of Discussions on the Present World Situation”, July 25, pp. 188 and 189.↩