10. Memorandum of Discussion at the 354th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Report by the Secretary of State on His Recent Trip to the Near East

Secretary Dulles stated that the Baghdad Pact meeting had been satisfactory. While it had been shaky at the start, we had ended stronger than we began. If the United States had not undertaken a very active part in the proceedings and accepted a very positive role, the whole thing would have fallen apart. Secretary Dulles said he had cut out all references to the role of the United States as an observer at the meeting and, indeed, had taken a stronger part than had ever before been played by the United States. He had pointed out to the Pact members that the commitments of the United States were at least as strong as the commitments of the Pact members themselves. He had emphasized the Eisenhower Doctrine as the chief raison d’etre of our presence there. These points of view had been well received by the other delegates.

Secretary Dulles pointed out that the shakiness in the Baghdad Pact meeting, to which he had initially alluded, came primarily from two sources: Iran and Iraq. In Iran, factors of personality, particularly the personality of the Shah, gave rise to serious complications. The Shah considers himself a military genius, and is insistently demanding a further military build-up in Iran. In arguing for assistance to this end from the United States, the Shah compares the situation of Iran very unfavorably with that of its stronger military neighbors, Pakistan and Turkey. He sums up a picture of the Russians pouring into the gap (Iran) between the two strong powers of Pakistan and Turkey.

Moreover, continued Secretary Dulles, the Shah has not been willing to play the role of constitutional monarch. This refusal makes for severe internal complications in Iran because the rest of the government does not agree with the Shah’s estimate of his proper role. Many of the leaders in the Iranian Government are seeking for more economic development and less military build-up, and they want something approaching a balanced budget. However, we have refused U.S. assistance to help Iran’s budgetary difficulties, because we feel that the country has enough natural resources and wealth to handle their own budget. Thus there is a confused internal situation. The Shah was actually talking [Page 38] about getting out of the Baghdad Pact if the United States did not join it when Secretary Dulles arrived in the Near East, but he had taken a different view by the time the Secretary left. Secretary Dulles indicated that he had invited the Shah to come to Washington to talk over Iran’s military problems with the President, who was so obviously qualified to discuss such things. Accordingly, it is quite possible that the Shah will come to this country about next June.

Turning to Iraq, Secretary Dulles pointed out that this country was in an awkward position because it is the only Arab nation in the Baghdad Pact. There have been heavy pressures on Iraq from the other Arab states, who play up the theme of Arab unity as opposed to the Baghdad Pact, which they regard as a barrier to Arab unity.

Secretary Dulles felt that the Baghdad Pact meetings had been particularly useful in one respect—namely, that there had been so many opportunities for restricted private conversations. In one of these, the Iraqi delegates requested the rest of the conferees to give a great lead in a campaign to bring all the Arab nations back into a position of sympathy toward the West. In pursuit of this theme, several delegations pointed out that the only areas in the Near East which seemed capable of initiating anything were Egypt and Israel. In reply to these arguments, Secretary Dulles had pointed out to the other delegations how difficult it was for the United States to take such an initiative as had been suggested. It was up to some other Arab state, like Iraq, to take the initiative, which the United States would then back up to the hilt. Experience had taught us, continued Secretary Dulles, that if the United States takes some such initiative as was being requested, it would find that the Arab states would repudiate our initiative in the name of Arab unity or some other Arab interest. We could not afford to be put into such a situation again as had happened in the past.

The dominant theme in the private conversations at Ankara was the union between Syria and Egypt. There had been practically no solid intelligence at Ankara as to how this union had actually come about. Intelligence material available in the Near East does not compare in quantity or quality with what is available to us here in Washington, and the U.S. Delegation accordingly felt very isolated and very much in the dark. Nevertheless, there had been a strong feeling in all the different delegations that the Egyptian-Syrian union was a bad development and that it would strengthen Nasser’s hand. There was strong pressure on the United States to speak out against the union. Again, said Secretary Dulles, he had taken the position that we wanted first to know where friendly Arab states stood vis-à-vis the Egyptian-Syrian union. Once they determined their position, the United States would back them up; but we would not take the initiative.

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Secretary Dulles added that there was a general impression at Ankara that he wanted the National Security Council to be aware of. He thought that we had not developed an adequate military doctrine for the Near East, and particularly for Iran. We must in the future pay more attention to this problem, and we must have available larger forces for the defense of Iran than we now have. We must get rid of the pervasive fear in Iran of a Soviet invasion. This fear amounts almost to an obsession. General Taylor had had some good ideas on this subject.

General Cutler pointed out that in our latest revision of our policy toward Iran, the defense line had been moved further north in Iran than had been the case in previous policies, although we had cut down the force levels in Iran. Secretary Dulles commented that the Military Committee of the Baghdad Pact seemed to think that we needed some 16 divisions in Iran, and there were actually only six. The great question was where the rest were to come from.

The National Security Council: 1

Noted and discussed an oral report by the Secretary of State on his recent trip to the Near East, including attendance at the Baghdad Pact meeting.

2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows Allen Dulles’ briefing on unrelated subjects.]

Mr. Dulles said that the details with respect to the union of Egypt and Syria were far from clear, although it was sure that Nasser was to be the boss of the new Arab state. Public reaction in Syria to the union had been slow and not very enthusiastic. Syrian businessmen were pessimistic at the prospects, and Syrian labor was unenthusiastic because it feared large-scale immigration of unemployed Egyptians into Syria. Even in Egypt, enthusiasm was lacking in a good many circles, and the government had had some difficulty in organizing mass demonstrations in favor of the union. The plebiscite which is to occur on February 21 would be a mere formality. Prince Badr of Yemen has finally arrived in Cairo, where he will discuss not the union of Yemen with Syria and Egypt, but some looser form of federation.

While, said Mr. Dulles, the union has caused considerable apprehension in the Baghdad Pact states, the intelligence community does not believe that the USSR was behind the move toward union, as the Turks all seem to believe. Indeed, the evidence that we have indicates opposition to the union by the Syrian Communists. Moscow has been puzzled [Page 40] as to what attitude to take. Accordingly, the union of Egypt and Syria may actually produce opportunities for weakening these two countries. On the other hand, it would put Iraq in a tough position for a time, at least, and Iraq must be strengthened by nations friendly to it.

Secretary Dulles commented that King Saud had not been very receptive to the proposal for a meeting of himself with Kings Hussein and Feisal.

[Here follow discussion of unrelated subjects and agenda items 3–6.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on February 7.
  2. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1855, approved by the President on February 7. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)