74. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Dillon) to Secretary of State Herter0


  • Iran and CENTO

In accordance with your desire, I have reviewed our position in regard to CENTO in view of the strong desire of the Iranians that we join as full members. In order to arrive at a sound position it is first necessary to make an estimate of the Iranian reaction in case we fail to join. It is the considered opinion of our best experts on the subject that Iran will not leave the CENTO Pact and adopt a neutralist attitude in her relationships with the Soviet Union simply because we fail to become full members of CENTO.

This being the case, arguments against joining would seem to considerably outweigh those in favor. If we should join it would sharply reduce our influence in another critical country—Afghanistan, and we would also have little ability to mediate between India and Pakistan on such matters as Kashmir and the Indus Waters.

In addition, our membership in CENTO would not diminish the Shah’s appetite for military assistance and might even increase it. The final argument against joining CENTO is the vague character of the treaty itself. In Senate considerations of the treaty it is likely that the Foreign Relations Committee would either through reservation or legislative history try to define more precisely our obligations under the treaty. This could very well lead to a situation where even though the treaty was accepted our hands would be more closely tied than they are at present, and our freedom of action restricted. For all these reasons, I believe that our present policy of avoiding full membership in CENTO should be maintained.

Since we are not in a position to give substantially increased military or economic aid to Iran, I have organized an inter-departmental working group to see if we cannot break a number of bottlenecks on smaller projects which are of importance to the Shah, the execution of which could help to strengthen our position in Iran.

I also feel it is important that we treat the Prime Minister of Iran with the greatest courtesy possible during his visit at the time of the CENTO Meeting. I believe that arrangements should be made for the President to see him and the Turkish Prime Minister separately in their [Page 238] capacities as Heads of Government. I also feel we should take special steps through protocol to assure that high level attention in the form of greeters at airports, etc., is provided for both the Prime Ministers of Iran and of Turkey. This means that they would be treated more as Heads of Government on an informal visit to the United States than as merely members of a conference.

Finally, if it should continue to develop that the Iranians and other members of CENTO really wish us to chair the CENTO meeting here, I would recommend that we recede from our opposition and gracefully accept that chore, which has no practical effect. We have, as you know, some indication from our Embassy in Tehran that the Iranians might feel flattered at the opportunity of serving as chairman themselves, and I would only consider our serving if this proved not to be the case.

Douglas Dillon
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 378/9–2359. Secret. Copies were sent to Murphy and Jones.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.