Ankara Embassy files, lot 57 F 72, 400 MED, 1953–54

No. 157
The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Jernegan) to the Ambassador in Iran (Henderson)1

top secret

Dear Loy: In your despatch No. 196 of September 30, 1953,2 you referred to Cairo’s telegram No. 280 of September 3,3 reporting that Nuri Said had told Ambassador Caffery that when the Shah was in Baghdad he had proposed a regional military agreement among Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey. You remarked that if the Shah actually made such a proposal he must have done so in a “moment of ebullience” and you went on to say that the Shah had not given any indication to you of a belief that the time may be at hand for Iran to enter into any such agreement. You added, however: “there is a possibility that if the Western Powers would undertake to modernize the Iranian Army, the Shah would show more interest in the establishment of an alliance among Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and Turkey.”

Your despatch happened to reach us at a moment when this subject had just been recalled to our thoughts as a result of working-level consultations with the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We had found very keen working-level interest in the possibility of just such a regional arrangement as Nuri mentioned, comprised of the same four countries. This grouping would be ideal for the implementation of the strategic concept they favored.… You will recognize this as the classic British plan which has never been embraced by our own Joint Chiefs. We are unable to guess whether [Page 425] the enthusiasm of the staff planners indicates that the Chiefs are finally veering around to this concept. The thought expressed by the Pentagon planners was that initially we should attempt to bring about a four-power planning organization along the lines of the moribund Middle East Defense Organization concept but without the direct and overt Western participation which that contemplated and without attempting to bring in any of the Arab States except Iraq. The ultimate objective, of course, would be a full defensive pact possibly with additional participation from states both within and without the Near East, but our military contacts in question thought that much could be accomplished toward the defense of the area without going that far.

Having convinced themselves that it could be utilized to implement the strategic concept they favored, the Joint Staff working group thought we should concentrate most, if not all, of our available military aid funds for the Near East, in this and succeeding fiscal years, on strengthening Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. (Turkey, of course, would get substantial help in any case.) They would propose to do this even if only three, or perhaps only two, of the four countries in question were disposed to enter into the kind of arrangement contemplated. In other words, they considered that joint planning even if confined to Turkey and Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, Turkey and Iraq, or any other possible combination of two or more would be a significant step toward an eventual satisfactory arrangement for the war-time defense of the Middle East and South Asia and one which we should support to the extent of our abilities.

I do not know how far this thinking has spread in the Department of Defense. We may have further indications within the next week or two since the Joint Chiefs of Staff are expected shortly to give us their views on the manner in which military aid funds should be apportioned in the area. On the part of the staff planners, it seems to have been compounded of a number of elements: (a) the changed situation in Iran and reports they had read of the Shah’s interest in building an effective defense force; (b) the insistently expressed desire of Pakistan leaders for closer military ties with us; (c) continuing indications of Iraqi concern with the menace of the North and consequent disposition to co-operate with the British and ourselves; (d) the possibility which the combination of these elements with the elimination of the old Arab–based MEDO project seemed to afford of developing an organization which could be keyed directly to what they considered a viable strategic concept.

I need hardly say that in the abstract, the idea of the four-power pact appeals as much to the Department of State as to anyone in the Pentagon. It is directly in line with the Secretary’s idea of concentrating [Page 426] on the “northern tier”, which he formulated on his return from his Near Eastern trip last Spring. If the pact should be developed, and the Defense Department endorses the strategic concept which it would appear to carry with it, we would be provided with a solid basis for military programs to the region which is now altogether lacking. The modest military assistance programs which will be developed this year must be justified almost entirely on political grounds, and in the absence of more solid military justification prospects for future programs will not be too bright. The Chiefs have implied that they will be prepared to start a real military build up once we had a regional defense arrangement in being which would make possible joint planning of the Western Powers with the Middle East states. The difficulties of Congressional persuasion would also be considerably eased. Since we are now reaching a critical stage in the development of national policies concerning foreign aid, whether or not in the next six to twelve months there appears to be a political base on which to build a Middle East defense structure may be decisive in determining whether we ever attempt a military program of real significance in the Middle East. Putting forward at this particular time, however, does raise some serious problems for us:

It omits all of the Arab States, except Iraq, and likewise Israel. We have been counting substantially on military aid to the Arabs, especially Syria and Egypt, as a lever to improve relations and solve some of the pressing regional problems such as Jordan Valley Development and the Suez Base. Saudi Arabia, too, is very restive and is demanding military aid as a quid pro quo for the Dhahran air base and other items we need. Egypt and Saudi Arabia can probably be taken care of as exceptions on military grounds; that is, Defense will probably agree to allocating aid funds to those two countries as the price of getting specific military advantages for our side, but Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel present relatively little military justification for assistance, and although we might succeed in securing limited funds for them this year, they would almost certainly be excluded from any future programs.
Pakistan (not to mention the others) would almost certainly be unwilling to join the pact unless she were assured of substantial American military aid, and this raises the spectre of strong Indian reaction. We may decide to risk this in any case even without a pact, but it is an important consideration.
If we attempt to bring about a four-power pact, there is a danger that this very fact will bring such heavy pressure from their own peoples and from other Arab States on the Governments of Iraq and Iran as to force them to pull back from their present very tentative overtures to the West, whereas assistance to them on a strictly bilateral basis would be accepted without trouble and even with pleasure.

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Other difficulties can also be envisaged such as strong Afghan objection (query: Should Afghanistan be included in the concept?) and the inevitable Russian charges of “aggressive imperialist encirclement”.

I am writing you this rather lengthy exposition and sending copies to Ambassadors Warren, Berry and Hildreth, in order to get the informal views of the men on the spot. I realize that little or nothing of what I have said is new to you, but I thought it might be helpful to set it down on paper as a basis for an exchange of ideas.

With regard to Iran, of course, the first question to be answered is whether the Shah and the Government would be willing and strong enough now and in the foreseeable future to risk the domestic and foreign repercussions of a public alignment with a Western-oriented group, even though that group would not be directly and formally tied to the Western Powers. The same question arises, though perhaps to a lesser degree, with regard to the governments of Iraq and Pakistan. Since it has a direct bearing on the answer to this question, I should make clear that in fiscal year 1954 the amount of aid which could be furnished to Iraq, Iran and Pakistan would necessarily be relatively small. As a guess, I would say that Iran might get a total of $20 million (including the amounts already earmarked). Iraq perhaps $10 million and Pakistan $15 to $20 million. If all went well, we would assume that larger amounts could be made available in succeeding years, the sums depending primarily on the military value received in the form of strengthened indigenous defense forces and increased military facilities for Western forces in time of need.

If it should be felt that political factors in the region made it feasible at least to plan for a four-power pact, the next question would be that of the timing and procedures to be adopted. When should the first overtures be made to the respective Governments? Through what channels? Should we try to get the Turks or the Pakistanis to take the lead …, while we lent discreet support in the background? Or would it be better for the United States to make simultaneous direct approaches to all four? How should Britain be brought into the picture? (It would seem impossible to leave her out altogether in a matter affecting Iraq and Pakistan.) Should France have any hand in the operation?

Many more questions of this kind could be posed, among them the economic capacities of the respective countries to support stronger military forces, but I doubt that it is worthwhile to take up space with them at this juncture.

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It would be a great help to us in NEA if we could have your comments and those of the other Ambassadors concerned at an early date.

Please treat this letter as strictly informal and personal. It has not been cleared by anyone outside of our Bureau and is intended merely as a preliminary sounding and not a basis for action.

With all best regards and congratulations on the splendid job you are doing.


John D. Jernegan
  1. Repeated to the Ambassadors in Turkey, Iraq, and Pakistan.
  2. Not printed; it contained comments about an alleged proposal by the Shah of Iran for a regional military agreement among Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and Turkey. (787.5/9–3053)
  3. Not printed; it reported a conversation between Caffery and Nuri Said. (641.74/9–353)