12. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Irwin) to Secretary of State Dulles0


  • U.S. Foreign Policy and Military Assistance in the Middle East

United States policy1 in the Middle East has for some time placed considerable emphasis on the desirability of developing the so-called “northern tier” concept of regional defense. The Baghdad Pact is today the principal manifestation of this concept. What is more, it is the only avowedly pro-Western political grouping in the Middle East. Although not a member of the Pact, the United States was largely responsible for its formation and has consistently given it strong moral and material support. In April, 1956 the United States agreed to participate in the Pact’s Economic and Counter-Subversion Committees. Following the passage of the Joint Congressional Resolution on the Middle East in March of 1957, the United States accepted an invitation to participate in the work of the Pact’s Military Committee.2 That resolution also enunciated [Page 43] the willingness of the United States to come to the aid, on request, of any Middle East state subjected to overt aggression by international Communism.

Prior to the establishment of the Pact,3 the United States gave military assistance on a bilateral basis to Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. The United States has continued its Military Assistance Program (MAP) to these nations on a bilateral basis but has indicated that such assistance as it gives to each Pact member will be within the force objectives approved by the Pact. The primary emphasis of the MAP with respect to Iraq and Iran (and to a lesser degree with Pakistan) has been to increase the internal security capability of the recipient and thereafter to improve its ability to contribute to defense against external aggression. From a United States military point of view, there has been little need for these nations to have a military capacity much beyond that necessary for internal security. This view is based, perhaps in part on United States global strategy, but also on recognition of local inability to stand up to a Soviet aggression in any case and on the likelihood that incursions from other nations were either remote or possible only on a small scale. In the event of Soviet aggression, the Pact nations have been advised that they could rely on the strategic retaliatory power of the United States. At the Pact meeting in Ankara in January, 1958, the United States, in effect, guaranteed to use that power if any Pact member were the subject of communist aggression. However realistic the United States view may be in the light of our own political and strategic concepts, it is clear that it is not the view of the Pact members. In fact, in their minds the United States has already associated itself with their view by engaging in defense planning on a regional basis.

The Pact members are concerned over the possibility of external aggression, in whatever form it may take. Iran, for example, points out that Soviet power on its border could overrun a large part of Iran before or even after United States airpower devastated Russia unless stopped or delayed by power immediately available to the Pact members. Iran questions the ability of United States power, as presently deployed, to come to its aid quickly and effectively enough to prevent invasion. The fact that Iran may be eventually liberated after invasion occurs gives as little comfort to the Iranian government as similar prospects would to our NATO allies. All Pact members are aware that NATO considers the [Page 44] “Shield” as essential as the “Sword” in deterring aggression or preventing invasion.

This concern of the Pact members is accentuated and twisted by the play of each member’s national interests. In addition, all Pact governments are weak economically and politically, and each wishes to increase its economic development and political longevity at the same time that it builds military strength.

For such reasons the Pact members will undoubtedly continue to press the United States for more military assistance. I believe the United States will be susceptible to such pressure for several reasons: because of the entry of the USSR into the Middle East and the volatile political situation throughout the area; because of our encouragement of and increasing participation in Pact military planning and our pledged support of the Pact; and because of the counter-attraction of neutralism if we appear to falter in our support.

The heavy financial drain which large military establishments in Pact countries would entail is not desired at this time by the United States, nor can Pact nations afford it without substantial assistance. Once large forces are created, our experience indicates it is extremely difficult to effect reductions even when the situation warrants a reduction. For example, the United States is now engaged in an effort to reduce the size of Korea’s army and has considered a like possibility with Turkey’s. The only way such force reductions appear to be feasible in either country is to guarantee an increased firepower to smaller forces. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Similarly, it may be necessary to provide increased firepower to the forces of Pact nations in order to offset further pressures from their governments for larger forces or to counter demands for deployment of United States forces in the area on a permanent or rotational basis. Alternately, it may be desirable that the United States undertake further military commitment in the area as to the most efficient means to satisfy local concern and thereby reduce demands for increased local capability. Such alternatives, of course, would entail heavy costs, but the political and military return for the money spent might be greater.

It would, therefore, seem helpful, both politically and militarily, to consider fully the alternatives now, rather than to continue to proceed under a policy of developing the internal security capability of the Pact nations. Otherwise each year we may be pushed to support forces above and beyond those needed to maintain such a capability, particularly when the United States is actively assisting the Pact in planning a coordinated military defense against invasion.

The general abilities and the technical capacity of the Pact members, especially Iran and Iraq, mean that only slow progress can be made toward modernizing their armed forces sufficiently to constitute an [Page 45] effective “Shield” against external aggression. However, the fact that the United States would work with them toward such a goal, however distant, would go far to bolster their morale and determination to remain allied to the West.

[2 lines of source text not declassified]; but the United States has already delivered 8” howitzers to all Pact nations, Honest Johns and F–100 aircraft are programmed for delivery to Turkey in FY 1959, and IRBMs may be deployed to Turkey within the next several years. [6-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

These factors [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] pose problems respecting training, utilization and maintenance of technical equipment as well as serious political questions concerning neighboring countries in the area and the USSR.

Looking further into the future it may be desirable militarily and politically to deploy IRBMs to Middle Eastern countries other than Turkey: militarily, to disperse the targets for USSR missiles; politically, to increase the United States bargaining power vis-à-vis Russia, at the same time creating in those countries the thought of United States confidence in them and thus increasing further their pro-Western orientation.

In view of the above, I recommend that the Departments of State and Defense study4 the alternatives open to the United States in the Middle East respecting the forces of Pact nations and military assistance policy for these forces. The United States should review again the applicability of its present military policies toward Pact nations, re-examine existing force objectives, and in light of these studies determine whether within the next few years weapons modernization [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] would advance United States interests. Even though it be determined that present policies should not be changed, consideration should be given to the preparation of contingency plans because of the habit of events changing policies overnight.

John N. Irwin II
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/3–658. Top Secret. Copies were sent to Reinhardt, Gerard Smith, and Rountree. In a brief covering memorandum Irwin indicated that this memorandum reflected his “principal impressions” after his visit to Tehran and Ankara.
  2. As expressed in NSC 5801 and related documents and statements. [Footnote in the source text. NSC 5801 as approved by the President is printed as Document 5.]
  3. On January 13 Secretary Dulles, with the concurrence of Allen Dulles and CIA, approved U.S. informal membership in the Baghdad Pact’s Liaison Committee. In a Staff Note to the President, January 22, which Eisenhower initialed, the Department of State informed the President of this action. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries)
  4. As used in this memorandum, the use of “Pact” or the phrase “Pact nations” refers primarily to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. The dual pact status of Turkey (NATO) and Pakistan (SEATO) must be taken into account but that fact does not affect the premise of this memorandum. Although this memorandum refers only to the Middle East, a similar approach could, and perhaps should, be made with respect to the members of SEATO and to Viet-Nam, Republic of China, and Korea and, possibly at some time, to Japan. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Any study should cover the possibility of a member of the Pact withdrawing and of a reorganization or termination of the Pact. [Footnote in the source text.]
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.