780.5/2–3152: Telegram

No. 66
The Ambassador in Turkey (McGhee) to the Department of State1


994. Section one of two.


Paris 5711, Mar 19,2 London’s 101, Mar 25,3 Dept’s 8514 and 852, Mar 25,5 all contribute greatly to furtherance our common [Page 200]understanding difficult problem of four power cooperation in ME security matters. Paris 5711 particularly valuable for revealing real Fr position, London’s 101 in giving perspective and Dept’s reftels in clearly elucidating basic principles for four power coordination with which this Emb is in thorough accord. Inescapable fact emerges from all reftels that four power collaboration essential to achieve fundamental security objectives in ME.

While I agree with London’s 101 that we shld not raise in MEC internal ME problems which can be avoided, I nevertheless feel that there are certain existing “facts of life” in ME which cannot be ignored if true cooperation is to be achieved. The success of our efforts to build in the ME a regional defense against external aggression will depend on our success in obtaining cooperation of individual ME states, which in turn involves their relations with four powers separately as well as collectively. Dept’s 851 which faces squarely problem posed by Fr position in Syria and appeals for real four power cooperation transcending rivalries for ME spheres of influence, is welcome note.


In considering measures to strengthen ME cooperation we must keep in mind background of power relations in ME. The secret Anglo-French “non-substitution” agreement of Dec 13, 1945 provides that “the two govts affirm their intention to undertake nothing to supersede each other in the interests which they possess [Page 201]or in the responsibilities which they mutually recognize in the ME”.6 Agreement would appear to confirm respective Fr and Brit spheres of influence, particularly Fr position in Syria and Lebanon. Since agreement is presumably still in effect, it probably explains Brit–Fr reactions referred to in Damascus 377 which have constituted deterrent to four power cooperation there.

Basis of present US–UK cooperation in ME, which was initiated by Wright visit to US in 19488 is understood to be that US will not compete with or seek to displace Brit responsibilities or interests in ME, indeed, will seek to strengthen Brit where it can; however US does not recognize any exclusive UK spheres of influence and UK agrees desirability US make contribution over and above Brit contribution wherever it is in common interest. It is believed that Brit have lived up to this agreement. Altho they show natural desire protect interests, particularly in Jordan and Iraq, they have not opposed constructive contributions other powers in ME. Policy of Fr in recent years would appear however to seek to preserve special position in Syria and Lebanon even at expense progress these countries and four power cooperation there. Altho Fr understandably are not, in accordance with Paris 5711, in position extend assistance to Syria and Lebanon or pursue dynamic policy in ME, this would not appear to justify their consistent efforts prevent other powers make contributions where needed.


Following comment is made with ref to Fr (Paris 5711) doubts of Turk participation in milit assistance to Arab states because these countries against all outside powers. This includes of course US, particularly because of our participation in Palestine affair. There is probably some residual reaction against Turks remaining from Ottoman Empire; however, principal complaint ME countries at present is believed to be derived from Turk solidarity with Western Powers on ME questions. On imperialist grounds alone, Brit and French have had conflicts with ME Nationalist aspirations, which on occasions have involved actual warfare, more recently than demise of Ottoman Empire. In my discussions with Presidents of Syria and Lebanon approx year ago, they both emphasized that under no conditions would they permit entry of Fr troops into their countries either in peace or war.

With ref to present Turk position I have no evidence of desire by Turks to advance own special interests in ME at expense of Fr or [Page 202]anyone else. Turks withdrew from ME after World War I and have formally renounced any claim to territory or exclusive influence outside their present frontiers. Apart from isolated local ME reactions, which are believed revived mostly for polit reasons by Communists and opportunists, it is believed that ME countries now possess respect and growing confidence in Turks. Syrians have sent officers and noncoms to Turkey for training in recent years without apparent misgivings. Ultimate decision on acceptance aid from Turkey would in any event, as Dept comments, rest with Arab Govts themselves.

Section two of two.

I welcome Dept’s recognition of Turkey as important element in “new deal” approach to ME states.9 Association of Turkey, as a neighbor with strong ME ties and no justified suspicion of colonial intent, shld greatly assist in proving bona fides of other powers in MEC approach. Turkey is only significant mil power in ME and Turk army has given ME countries their only real basis of security in post-war period. With Turkey’s admission to NATO and further build-up of mil strength Turk prestige in ME shld reach new high. Turks are in position moreover to make fol concrete contributions to ME defense:
Since it is unlikely that Fr and US ground troops will be available for defense of MEC in event aggression and since Brit ME forces are unfortunately now pinned down in Egypt and Commonwealth troops long distance off, Turk troops are only ones available for land defense of ME. Turk troops are moreover located where they can be best utilized for ME defense, i.e., at the northern mountain line;
Turks, with large efficient training schools organized with cooperation JAMMAT, are in unique position provide mil training for ME countries and are as matter of policy willing to do so. Participation in Turk training program of 638 US officers and NCO’s assures latest US mil methods applicable ME and direct American influence on ME trainees. Training in Western countries would not only be much more expensive, but would raise new polit issues and would be under conditions so different from ME, that it would be difficult for trainees to make transition on return;
In addition, Turks are in position now to sell arms to ME states and would, if we agreed replace them later, be in position to give arms. There is in Turkey considerable unused capacity for manufacture small arms and ammunition which could be used to supply ME states.
It is agreed that tripartite declaration is basically for internal ME problems and does not necessarily require discussion in MEC; [Page 203]however, declaration overlaps interests of MEC in that it involves policy with respect to arms shipments to ME states for area defense. I am pleased to note, therefore, Dept’s interest in possible inclusion of Turkey in declaration.10 Altho I have not put this matter to Turks directly I believe, from discussions I have had, that Turks would be willing associate themselves with declaration. FonOff officials have in fact expressed surprise that they were not originally consulted. Turks are convinced that assurance against aggression among ME states is necessary precedent to ME stability, and are willing, now that they are admitted to NATO, to play more positive role in ME. PriMin told me recently Turk Govt would take positive steps to gain confidence Arab States and allay their suspicions. Association with other powers in tripartite declaration may work against this objective; however, it will, it is believed, tend to relieve inference in minds ME states that declaration designed to protect Israel and affirm Western spheres of influence.
Summarizing I hope Dept will:
Continue to press for sincere four power cooperation in ME security matters;
Seek thru bilateral discussions with powers involved to overcome existing barriers to this cooperation including secret agmts or spheres of influence concepts;
Sound out Brit and Fr and attempt to obtain their agreement to Turk adherence to tripartite declaration in preparation for approach to Turks and;
As soon as Egyptian situation permits proceed with MEC mtg proposed by Brit, and seek to resolve in this mtg any remaining problems which stand in way of effective four power action.
  1. Transmitted in two sections. Repeated to Paris, London, and Damascus.
  2. Not printed; it reported a conversation between an Embassy officer and a member of the French Foreign Ministry on the general subject of military assistance to the Middle East. The last paragraph reads: “In FonOff attitude we feel that any suggestions to broaden tripartite declaration to include Turkey would meet with serious Fr objections. Despite obvious enthusiasm of Turks to cooperate with US, even to complete exclusion of Brit and Fr, we believe that policy of supplementing and not supplanting waning influence of our two old Allies in NE is right one. Under present Fr economic and polit circumstances we find it difficult to believe that French are in position materially to expand current modest role in NE or much less to embark on any dynamic policy.” (740.5/3–1952)
  3. Not printed; it advised the Department of State the Embassy agreed some means should be found to eliminate local differences in the Middle East and make cooperation more effective, but was concerned with the wisdom of raising matters involving friction in individual countries. It suggested that the United States, as the most disinterested “go-between”, should work quietly behind the scenes outside MEC to reconcile the special interest of the MEC partners in specific countries with the larger joint interest of security of the area as a whole. (780.5/3–2552)
  4. Not printed; it was a response to telegram 5711 from Paris. The Department of State suggested that if attempts to maintain national positions on a strictly national basis had been effective the Western powers would not be faced with the present difficulties in the Middle East, and unless the interested powers closed ranks and demonstrated a common front the Western position in the Middle East would further decline. It reads, in part: “We think Turkey is important element in ‘new deal’ approach to ME states. If we work on strictly US–UK–French basis it will be ‘business as usual.’ Whether it is too early for former Ottoman subjs welcome collaboration with Turks is matter for assessment. Fr doubts this score may have some validity but we think this decision is strictly up to Turks and Arabs.”
  5. Not printed; it reported the Department of State was attracted by a proposal made by the Embassy in Turkey that the tripartite declaration of May 1950 be changed to a quadripartite basis by associating Turkey with it. It asked the Embassy to find out, without approaching the Turks, if Turkey would be interested in associating itself with the declaration to an extent which would justify informally approaching the United Kingdom and France through diplomatic channels with the idea. For documentation regarding the Tripartite Declaration, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 122 ff.
  6. For documentation regarding the Anglo-French agreements of Dec. 13, 1945 and their public texts, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. viii, pp. 11741189.
  7. Not found in Department of State files.
  8. Michael Wright was Superintending Under Secretary, Eastern Department, British Foreign Office. For documentation regarding the U.S.–U.K. talks in 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. v, Part 1, pp. 69 ff.
  9. This reference is to telegram 851 to Ankara, Mar. 25, which is summarized in footnote 4, above.
  10. This reference is to telegram 852 to Ankara, Mar. 25, which is summarized in footnote 5, above.