79. Editorial Note

At a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and high-level Department of State officials on March 11, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Merchant raised the issue of a CENTO command and noted that U.S. involvement in a CENTO command structure was “premature,” would cause misunderstandings with other countries, and undoubtedly would lead to increased financial demands from pact members. Speaking for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Picher stated that as a military problem the Chiefs had a right and a responsibility to consider a CENTO command structure. Admiral Burke asked if State opposition to a command was “anchored in hard concrete,” and noted that “if we have CENTO we ought to have a command structure.” Merchant replied that the Department’s position was “anchored in soft concrete,” but the Department thought the idea politically premature. The Joint Chiefs felt that a command structure was a “question of keeping CENTO alive.” Asked by General Decker how the United States joining CENTO as a full member would affect the U.S. position in the Middle East, Merchant replied it was a combination of “unfulfillable expectations,” a possible diminution of NATO, false deductions which other Arab nations and the Soviet Union would draw, and probable increased Soviet pressure on Iran. Merchant stated that it was in U.S. interest to associate with CENTO “only a little bit at a time.” (Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, State–JCS Meetings)