780.5/6–1853: Telegram

No. 141
The Ambassador in Turkey (McGhee) to the Department of State

top secret

1511. I believe it important that decision be made soonest regarding United States position on Middle East defense. Uncertainty as to definitive United States views will, I fear, result in increased differences among several MEDO–sponsoring powers and perpetuate current speculation there are serious differences between United States and Turkey this subject. Before my departure1 I wish submit following observations as of posible use to Department in deciding best course of action. (See Embtel 1454, June 22 and Emb-desp [Page 391] 791, June 33 regarding Turkish proposal on Middle East defense):

Turk position as given reference telegram in essence writes off possibility Arab collaboration in MEDO in forseeable future and proposes United States, United Kingdom, France and Turkey move to establish Middle East defense organization open to later adherence by any Middle East state. British will likely support this proposal if stalemate with Egypt on Suez persists.

Turk reaction is that Secretary’s reference Middle East defense June 1 address rather negative. They feel we recognize that establishment MEDO with Arab participation now remote possibility, but that we fail draw what they consider logical and necessary conclusion to go ahead with defense organization without Arabs. Statement in Secretary’s address that Middle East collective security system “should be designed and come from within out of a sense of common design and common danger” leads Turks to fear we are prepared wait indefinitely for such manifestation Arab disposition cooperate with us. Turk argument is that we must close dangerous Middle East security gap soonest, and positive action this direction may actually spur Arab participation.

Nub of whole problem obviously effect on Arabs of overt establishment Middle East defense organization by four powers. It may eventually be necessary to take some such open step if Soviet threat still considered to exist. However, we feel immediate Arab reaction to overt planning for defense their area in absence their approval and participation likely to be negative, and that the eventual achievement our political objective of collaboration with Middle East states would therefore be rendered more difficult. We do not, in fact, believe in the “set up shop” theory of attracting the Arabs.

It would seem that we could find middle course between immediate overt action by four powers as proposed by Turks (and presumably British), and no action at all. Desirable course of action might be to leave MEDO project in abeyance for time being while intensifying unpublicized planning for defense Middle East by United States, British and Turkish military representatives. This course would leave way open for later Arab initiative or for capitalizing on particular situations, such as Iraq, envisaged by Secretary, especially if Suez question eventually resolved.

Informal exchanges of views among British, United States and Turkish military have already taken place, (General Robertson, General Wyman and Turkish General Staff representatives) which could perhaps be stepped up and formalized. French participation not considered necessary or desirable at present since only first [Page 392] three powers presently have military forces this area (counting United States Sixth Fleet). Such interim approach would, I believe, satisfy Turkish anxiety take affirmative steps, while avoiding danger negative Arab reaction during present very fluid period.

This connection, in my final substantive meeting with Foreign Minister June 17 latter indicated in passing that he personally favored covert approach to Middle East military planning at present time. He did not, however, indicate any official change in Turkish position as stated in note transmitted Embassy Despatch 791. This remark could have meant official Turkish position, which was first announced by Prime Minister during his visit with Foreign Minister to London last fall, derives from Prime Minister personally and views, being similar to those of British, may be ones which British persuaded him to adopt during his visit.

  1. Ambassador McGhee left his post in Ankara on June 19, 1953.
  2. Not printed; it summarized a memorandum handed to the Embassy Counselor by the Turkish Under Secretary of State on June 1. The memorandum reviewed the lack of favorable reaction from Egypt and other Arab States on the Middle East Defense Organization proposals and concluded that Arab participation in a defense organization was unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Turkish Government concluded, therefore, that the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Turkey should immediately establish a Middle East Defense Organization, clearly stating that the organization would be open to accession by all Middle East countries. (780.5/6–253)

    The Department of State answered in telegram 1477 to Ankara, June 18, not printed. It informed the Embassy that problem of further measures re ME defense planning arrangements now under study USG. Reply to Turks proposal to set up shop promptly must wait completion this study. However, Foreign Minister might be told informally that while Department agrees dangerous leave ME defense gap indefinitely, inclined question tactic of openly establishing exclusively Western defense organization for ME in face of Arab opposition. (780.5/61053)

  3. Not printed; it transmitted the Turkish memorandum of June 1.