73. Letter From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Knight) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy)0

Dear Bob: The Department of Defense has become increasingly concerned about the possibility that the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO)1 may be seriously weakened, if not dissolved, as the result of an apparent feeling on the part of Middle East members that the United States refuses to give this organization whole-hearted support. A number of our people are convinced that this possibility may arise as a result of the negative attitude which the United States has had to take toward some of the proposals of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. The consequences of dissolution of CENTO are so grave as to mean that we must take every reasonable action to remove the risk of such a development.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have presented a number of proposals directed toward the assertion on the part of the United States of a more [Page 236] active role in the Central Treaty Organization’s military affairs. Foremost among these is the proposal that the United States immediately join CENTO as a full member rather than participating, as it does now, as an observer having full membership on certain subordinate committees.

In the past, Defense has been advised that joining the Baghdad Pact might place some limitations on our relations with the Arab States and with Afghanistan and India, and that, additionally, political problems might be presented by submission of our joinder to Congress for ratification. However, in view of the changes which have taken place in the Middle East and in India and of our present commitments through bilateral agreements with the present CENTO Treaty members, and particularly in view of the needed strength that CENTO would derive from our membership, this Department believes that a reappraisal of the U.S. position on joining CENTO is urgently required.

In addition it is requested that urgent attention be given to the following JCS proposals:

That the Military Committee be invited to participate in informal discussions just prior to the Council meeting in October.
That the United States announce that we support the concept of the Permanent Military Deputies Group and are prepared for its early establishment.
That the United States accept the position of Chief of Staff of the Combined Military Planning Staff as a continuing commitment.2

Sincerely yours,

Robert H. Knight
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/8–3159. Top Secret. On August 14 Murphy’s position was raised to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
  2. The Middle East Treaty Organization (Baghdad Pact) was redesignated the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) on August 21, 1959.
  3. In a letter to Knight, September 11, Murphy responded that the Department of State concluded that because of the political risks involved, the time was not right for the United States to join CENTO, although the Department did not rule out the possibility of U.S. adherence in the future. Murphy agreed that the United States should take every reasonable effort to strengthen CENTO and stated that the Department of State concurred in JCS proposals (a) and (b), but did not concur with proposal (c). (Department of State, Central Files, 780.5/8–3159)