No. 58
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Kopper)



  • British Views on the Early Establishment of the MEC.


  • Mr. Bernard A. B. Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy.
  • Mr. Denis Greenhill, First Secretary, British Embassy.
  • Mr. F. W. Marten, First Secretary, British Embassy.
  • Mr. Burton Y. Berry, Acting Asst. Secretary, NEA.
  • Mr. G. Lewis Jones, Acting Deputy Asst. Secretary, NEA.
  • Mr. Harold B. Hoskins, Regional Planning Adviser, NEA.
  • Mr. Alexander B. Daspit, Politico-military Adviser, NEA.
  • Mr. John H. Ferguson, Deputy Director, S/P.
  • Mr. Francis L. Spalding, Intelligence Adviser, RA.
  • Mr. Samuel K. C. Kopper, Acting Director, NE.

Representatives of the British Embassy called on Mr. Berry this afternoon to inform the Department of the most recent British views regarding the establishment of the Middle East Command. Mr. Burrows said that the Foreign Office now believed that it was time to get along with the establishment of the MEC. He then distributed the two attached memoranda1 which he said represented the latest thinking. He pointed out, however, that these papers had been prepared before the new government of Ali Maher Pasha had taken over in Egypt.2

Mr. Burrows said that the UK now believed: (1) there was no further obstacle to setting up MEC now that Greece and Turkey were just about in NATO; (2) it was necessary to get on with MEC if the Middle East countries were to take it seriously. There were points of tactics which remained to be settled such as the type of organization to be set up; timing of meetings; when to talk to the Turks, etc. The French Government was also being informed of the British views now. Finally, the UK thought that it would be a good idea to have a meeting of the sponsoring powers in London in the first part of March immediately after the NATO Lisbon meeting.3

Mr. Berry said that he was glad to see that there were proposals to get ahead with the MEC. He observed that we might have to talk with the Turks earlier. Mr. Burrows envisaged informing the Turks before Lisbon. Mr. Jones wondered whether the British had given thought to the possibility of Egypt joining in the post-Lisbon meeting. Mr. Ferguson believed that we ought to consider getting Egypt in if it was at all possible. Mr. Burrows said that several of these points had occurred to the British Embassy here. They had already made them known to London.

[Page 180]

Mr. Ferguson asked whether the MEC would have arms supply functions. Mr. Greenhill replied that this was to be left to the tripartite coordinating organization which would have the coordinating powers. Eventually it might be absorbed in MEC. There ensued a discussion as to when the Turks should be informed. Mr. Jones and Mr. Kopper felt that it ought to be as soon as possible. Mr. Marten thought that the three powers should first get their views in order. Mr. Berry said that it was essential that this be done before Lisbon.

Mr. Jones asked whether the Commonwealth would be in on the London meeting. Mr. Marten replied that the Commonwealth would be kept informed in the same way the Turks were being informed. Mr. Jones asked what sort of representation the British would expect at the London meeting. Mr. Burrows said that reasonably high representation on both the politico and military side. While the discussions would be secret, it would be no secret that the meetings were taking place. Mr. Spalding questioned whether London was the best place to hold the meeting. He suggested Cyprus. Mr. Jones inquired by inference about Washington. Mr. Burrows repeated that the British hoped it would be in London.

Mr. Hoskins said that we should keep the Arab States in mind and not do anything which was going to make our selling of the MEC more difficult. Mr. Burrows said this was a good point which they would keep in mind as well as the desirability of having Egypt join in the talks.

[Attachment I]

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Middle East Command

Since the summer of 1951 the United States and the United Kingdom have been agreed in principle on urging the desirability of setting up a Supreme Allied Command in the Middle East.

In November 1951 the Governments of France, Turkey, U.K. and the U.S., with the knowledge and support of the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, published proposals for the establishment of an Allied Middle East Command.
These proposals had been submitted to the Egyptian Government before publication with the suggestion that Egypt should join with the other four Powers in sponsoring them. The Egyptian Government [Page 181]refused to have anything to do with the proposals. After the Egyptian refusal, the four Powers re-affirmed their intention to establish the Command.
It has been necessary to defer action until now so that the relationship of Greece and Turkey to the NATO command structure could be determined. Now that this issue is on a fair way to settlement by the inclusion of Greece and Turkey in NATO under SHAPE, and leaving aside the question of Egyptian participation, the time has come to consider what practical steps can be taken in the immediate future and to discuss what form the embryo organisation should take. It may not be opportune at this time to set up a Supreme Allied Headquarters of a fully operational nature such as SHAPE and SACLANT but the British Government urges that first steps towards the establishment of the Command on the lines of the attached memorandum be taken forthwith.
Air Chief Marshal Sir William Elliot is giving copies of the attached memorandum to General Bradley and General Ely. His Majesty’s Ambassador in Paris is informing the Quai D’Orsay of the nature of the steps suggested in the memorandum. We would like to obtain the general agreement of the U.S. and French Governments to our suggestions, so that we can also approach the Turks and the Commonwealth countries concerned.
We realise that the Turks may hesitate to join in any discussions about the organisation of the Middle East Command until they have been finally admitted to NATO and are certain of their position under SHAPE. We would therefore propose that the politico-military talks in London should not begin until after the Atlantic Council Meeting in Lisbon.
Our idea is that the Council should agree that Turkey and Greece should form part of Admiral Carney’s Southern Command and should pass a resolution to this effect to come into force automatically on their entry into NATO. This should go a long way to meet Turkey’s fear that she will be side-tracked into the Middle East Command before her position in NATO is firm. At the same time we would propose that Turkey should receive formal assurances on this point from the three Standing Group powers. The effect of these assurances would be that Turkey’s position in relation to the Middle East Command would be identical with that of the United States, France and ourselves, i.e. Turkey would be a full member of NATO who, by reason of her non-NATO interests, had decided to collaborate with other NATO powers in making arrangements for the defense of the Middle East. We should hope that the effect of these assurances would be to obtain Turkey’s agreement to start discussion on the Middle East Command immediately after Lisbon.
If agreement is reached in time for an announcement to be made at the Lisbon meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the sponsoring powers could meet in London early in March to take the first steps toward establishment of a Middle East Command.
We should be glad to have the views of the United States Government on this proposal.

[Attachment II]

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Allied Middle East Command

1. The United Kingdom believes that there should be no further delay in taking the first steps to establish the Middle East Command. It may not yet be opportune to set up a fully operational command and headquarters, but nevertheless the need for coordinated planning is as great as ever, if not more so.

2. We are still anxious that Egypt should participate in the Command arrangements. Irrespective of the decision on this question, we feel, however, that it is now necessary to proceed with the preliminary steps. With this end in view the United Kingdom proposes that there should be a meeting of the Four Powers concerned in the Declaration and the interested Commonwealth countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

3. Subject to the agreement of the powers concerned, it is suggested that the Conference should be held in London in early March, soon after the conclusion of the Lisbon NATO meetings, and that an announcement to this effect should be made at Lisbon.

4. The United Kingdom’s views on a possible Command Organisation and its functions are outlined below.

the middle east command organization (meco)

5. The aim should be to set up a nucleus Middle East Command Organisation, outside NATO, in accordance with the principles set out in the Quadripartite Declaration, which would be an effective Planning Organisation for planning the defence of the Middle East in war.

6. Since it seems unlikely that the Headquarters of such an organisation can be in Egypt under present conditions, the United Kingdom is prepared to offer Cyprus for the purpose. This would be without prejudice to the eventual location of the headquarters of the Middle East Command Organisation.

[Page 183]

7. The first stage of the Command should be as a planning, coordinating, and liaison organisation only, rather on the lines of the early Western Union organisation at Fontainbleau. It should, nevertheless, be called and be organised as a Command Headquarters since, should war occur before MECO has progressed beyond this embryo stage, it would provide an immediate basis for expansion to a Supreme Command Organisation.

8. Later the Command should evolve in accordance with paragraph 11 of the Paris Declaration into a fully fledged integrated Allied Command with forces assigned or earmarked. It is impossible, in present circumstances, to estimate when this state of development might be reached, nor is it necessary to consider the matter at this stage, except insofar that the basic organisation must allow for such eventual progress.

9. There should be no Forces placed under the Allied Command until the organisation has taken shape and the present unsettled situation in the Middle East is resolved or greatly improved. Nor at this stage should the Head of the organisation be called a Supreme Commander but something on the lines of Chairman of MECO and Supreme Commander designate.

functions of meco

10. The functions of the Command must follow closely those outlined in the Paris Declaration and should be:—

To be a centre of cooperative efforts for Defence of the Middle East as a whole (para. 3 of the Declaration).
Planning and providing the Middle East States on their request with assistance in the form of advice and training (para. 5).
The coordination of requests by Middle East States for arms and equipment (para. 5).
To make plans for the operations in War of all Forces within or to be introduced into the area (para. 6) and to coordinate them with the operations of the adjoining NATO Command in the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor.
To initiate the Middle East Defence Liaison Organisation which is to be the link between the MECO and Countries ready to join in the Defence of this area (para. 7).
To reduce such deficiencies as exist at present in the organisation and capacity for defence in the area (para. 10).

higher direction of meco

11. Middle East Command Organisation will require some form of Higher Direction in the political, military and supply spheres. Broadly these might take shape as follows.

12. Political: The method of conveying political guidance to the Command requires further consideration.

[Page 184]

13. Military: There should be a Middle East Military Committee consisting initially of representatives of the seven sponsoring powers, but it would appear that some smaller body, for instance a Steering Committee, will probably be necessary.

14. Logistics: The supply of arms must, at present, come from U.S., U.K. and France. This sphere may conflict with NATO and should thus be closely allied to it. The proposed tripartite arms agency for the Middle East could be dovetailed into the NATO organisation for coordination of supply and production.

coordination with adjacent comamnds

15. It will be for MECO, when established to evolve the arrangements for operational coordination between the Command and the adjacent Allied Commands. In the case of adjoining NATO Commands in the Mediterranean this will have to be resolved between the Chairman of MECO and SACEUR.

  1. The attached memoranda comprise one part of a British diplomatic-military approach to the U.S. Government. Also, on Jan. 31, the British Air Chief Marshal sent a letter to Gen. Omar Bradley concerning the establishment of a Middle East Command. For a summary of the letter, see footnote 2, Document 64.
  2. For documentation regarding the fall of the Wafd government following the Jan. 26 riots in Cairo, see Document 956 ff.
  3. For documentation on the Lisbon meeting, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 107 ff.