29. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0


  • NEA’s Views on U.S. Adherence to the Baghdad Pact

NEA’s thinking on possible U.S. adherence to the Baghdad Pact closely parallels that of the S/P memorandum of July 18, 1958.1 Admittedly, the Pact’s ability to influence Middle East developments has thus far been limited. It is, nevertheless, in our interest that the Pact be maintained as a potentially useful chain in the system of Free World alliances. Our principal reasons for not adhering would largely disappear if Iraq were to withdraw. We think U.S. adherence in these circumstances should be seriously considered. In saying this, we emphasize that the effect of formal U.S. adherence would be more psychological than practical since we already participate in almost all Pact activities. It is the psychological aspect of the question that deserves special consideration.

On the negative side, U.S. adherence would undoubtedly offend certain pro-Western area states, such as Greece, as well as neutralist states such as India and Afghanistan. It would give rise to the suggestion that the U.S. now intends to take sides in intra-area disputes. Moreover, even if it takes place after Iraqi withdrawal, we may expect Nasser to oppose it. This, in turn, would doubtless cause widespread Arab opposition. Additionally, U.S. adherence at any time would probably still generate pressure from Israel and Israeli supporters for some sort of a security guarantee to that country.

On the positive side, U.S. adherence is probably essential to keep the Pact going. It would demonstrate publicly and positively that we are in dead earnest in our willingness to continue to assist the “northern [Page 97] tier” states to combat the Soviet threat. It would allow us to exercise greater leadership in Pact counsels to make it a more effective body.

On balance, therefore, the advantages of U.S. adherence in the circumstances outlined above outweigh the disadvantages. Any such action would, however, require careful spadework. Clearly, it should not be taken unless and until Iraq has actually withdrawn from the Pact. It will also probably be necessary to arrange for a prior recasting of the present treaty document to delete the present provision permitting automatic membership rights for Arab League States if pressure for a security guarantee to Israel is to be parried. Greece should be informed in advance of our proposed action and our reasons for taking it. Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Jordan should also be informed in advance. Any such action should probably be accompanied by a specific “Understanding,” similar to that inserted in the SEATO Treaty, that U.S. membership applies only to Communist aggression. Finally, adequate advance consultation with appropriate Congressional bodies is necessary. All of this will take time.

We do not feel that any firm announcement that we are seriously considering U.S. adherence in the event Iraq withdraws should be made at the London session. Instead, we should state we can make no definite commitment on this matter at this time, but will sympathetically reconsider the question of U.S. adherence in the event Iraq withdraws from the Pact.


That the U.S. plan formal adherence to a reconstituted “Baghdad Pact” to take place at such time as Iraq has withdrawn.
That NEA, in consultation with S/P and H, be authorized to draft an implementation plan for this contingency, including plans for countering the adverse reactions noted above.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/7–2358. Secret. Drafted by Eilts.
  2. The memorandum, drafted by Mathews and seen by Dulles, concluded: “On balance, US adherence to the Baghdad Pact shortly after an Iraqi withdrawal would now appear to be a useful political and psychological move, provided that it can be accomplished without estranging Greece from the US and the West generally.” (Ibid.)

    In a memorandum to the Secretary, July 18, Legal Adviser Loftus Becker noted that under the terms of the Baghdad Pact, Iraq could not withdraw until at the earliest February 24, 1960, and that the pact would remain valid for the other members. (Ibid.) Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Kohler sent Dulles a memorandum on July 18, agreeing with S/P’s conclusions that if Iraq left the pact it would be in the U.S. interest to join it. (Ibid.) According to a July 18 memorandum from Howe to Reinhardt, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Affairs Macomber thought no commitment should be made until he was able to “sound out” key Congressmen. (Ibid.)

  3. According to a note by Greene to S/S, July 24, the issue raised in this paper was discussed at the NSC meeting on July 24; see Document 31. According to Greene, “what is really needed is an entirely new pact, with a new name, as the Baghdad Pact does not lend itself to adherence by us even if the Iraqis should denounce it. The new pact would comprehend the present Moslem members of the Baghdad Pact and it would be for decision what the US and UK would do about participation in or adherence to a new treaty.” Greene assumed that the action in the second recommendation was already under way in light of the NSC discussion. Greene suggested taking the papers on U.S. adherence to London for the Baghdad Pact ministerial council meeting. (Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/7–2458)