780.5/7–3053: Circular airgram

No. 146
The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions 1


U.S. Position on Medo and Related Questions

The Department refers to Embassy despatch No. 10, July 1, 19532 which reports certain views of the Counselor of the French Embassy and of the Head of the Third Office of the Direction General of Political Affairs, Foreign Office, concerning Middle East defense and asks for information concerning developments in connection with MEDO and related questions.

So far as the Department is concerned, MEDO is, at least for the time being, on the shelf. The Secretary stated this position in his speech of July [June] 1st, 1953 in which he referred to a Middle East defense organization as a “future rather than an immediate possibility”. In the course of the Secretary’s tour of the Middle East, he found that Arab resistance to a Western-sponsored defense organization was so powerful as to rule out all possibility of securing their cooperation at this time. The British were informed of these conclusions in the course of the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Washington this month.

These views were discussed with the Turks during the Secretary’s visit at Ankara. The Turks agreed as to the impossibility of securing Arab cooperation at the present time but urged the establishment [Page 407] of an organization for Middle East defense to include the United States, Turkey, the United Kingdom and France.

The establishment of defense arrangements for the Middle East in which the states of the area would cooperate with certain of the Western powers remain an objective of US policy. The Department considers, however, that states within the area must themselves assume some initiative in creation of such an organization and that the role of the Western powers should not appear so dominant as in the MEDO proposals. The Department does not consider that it would be desirable to proceed with the establishment of an exclusively Western organization for Middle East defense as proposed by the Turks (and at various times by the French and British as well) since such an act would in all probability be interpreted by the Arabs as a challenge rather than an invitation, and would render more difficult the task of ultimately securing their cooperation.

In the absence of a regional organization it is the intention of the Department to promote increasingly close cooperation with those states of the Middle East which are most conscious of the Soviet threat and most disposed to cooperate with the Western powers. The new Mutual Security legislation authorizes an appropriation of $50 million for military aid programs to countries of the Near East and Africa other than Greece, Turkey and Iran and, assuming that appropriations are forthcoming, the Departments of State and Defense would expect to utilize these provisions in furtherance of this objective. It is hoped that these measures may contribute to the development of conditions out of which cooperative defense arrangements will evolve. However, there is no blueprint for such arrangements and the Department’s views as to the means by which they might be developed are too tentative and flexible to warrant description as a “design”. The Secretary in his speech of June 1 stated that collective security arrangements for the region “must grow from within”. It is the Department’s view that the Western powers most directly concerned should attempt to encourage and stimulate this growth, but not to force it or to impose a pattern for its development.

The question of possible steps which might be taken in the near future toward filling the gap which now exists in defense planning for the Middle East is now under study in the United States Government, and formal approaches to the other MEDO sponsors to acquaint them with current U.S. views on Middle East defense problems are being delayed until the completion of this study. The Embassy, therefore, should not take the initiative in discussing these problems with the Italian Foreign Office. The background information provided in this airgram is for use in the event the Embassy should feel called on to comment on these matters in response [Page 408] to questions from the Foreign Office or from representatives of the other MEDO sponsors.

  1. Sent to Rome and repeated to London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Amman, Pretoria, Canberra, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Wellington, Karachi, Jidda, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Athens. Drafted by Daspit and cleared by NE, GTI, WE, RA, BNA, G, and S/S.
  2. Despatch 10 from Rome, not printed, reported that the head of the Third Office indicated his personal belief that the Western powers, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, were devising a system of peripheral defense in the Middle East, which would obviate the necessity for a Middle East Defense Organization. (780.5/7–153)