82. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State0

2465. CENTO. Conversations we have had here with representatives regional CENTO members, especially Iran and Pakistan, since meetings of military and economic committees have revealed high degree frustration and disillusionment. What we believe is new element is unprecedented stress, not as in past on degrees of US material contribution to CENTO project, but on regional members uncertainty re basic US attitude toward CENTO itself. Several fairly high-ranking officials have said they felt US policy treats regional members as if they children, and [Page 250] that US gives lip service to CENTO but more and more clearly reveals US heart not in it. There is feeling that US has been stringing regional members along re US support for organization, that CENTO without full US support cannot have vitality or meaning, and that unless US attitude changes regional members might as well reconsider what value CENTO is to them. One Iranian official has just expressed to us hope that at forthcoming ministerial meeting US can make some gesture to demonstrate its faith in CENTO. Command structure not necessary, he said, just something to give members confidence in US commitments to CENTO. I know that it is customary prior to ministerial meetings for regional members to press for greater US support, but I believe that above conversations have revealed degree of bitterness and frustrations re US attitude toward CENTO much deeper than in past. There is feeling CENTO deliberations becoming farcical owing ambivalent US attitude, which casts regional members in undignified and even insulting role.

Given factors governing US attitude toward CENTO difficult see how US policy could be radically altered in direction regional members would like, but if above conversations are any indication would seem current US policy may be on point of running its course as far as regional members concerned. In view of this, and presuming that US delegation is bringing nothing basically new for ministerial meeting, what delegation says and attitudes it displays toward regional members will be of signal importance. Anything which can be done to remove “bad taste” left by discussion on command structure and telecommunications circuit will be well worth the effort. There is feeling CENTO, let alone going forward, is not even standing still but slipping backward.

I should emphasize above reflects attitude middle-level officials, and that I have received no indications this dissatisfaction from Shah, Prime Minister or Foreign Minister. In fact, Department will recall (Embtel 2246)1 Prime Minister exhibited sense of relief that command structure decision once again deferred. Shah April 16 merely said he hoped we would be ready proceed on command structure after Summit meeting. Nonetheless, I believe there is important undercurrent of disillusion in CENTO which must be taken into account.

Would be of interest know if Ankara and Karachi have same impression.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 378/4–1660. Secret. Repeated to Ankara, Karachi, and London.
  2. Dated March 29. (Ibid., 378.75/3–2960)
  3. In telegram 2286 from Ankara, the Embassy reported that although it had received no recent expressions along the lines of Tehran telegram 2465, it did believe that the telegram “fairly reflects widely held views working level regional officials concerning CENTO.” (Department of State, Central Files, 378/4–2160) No documentation has been found on the views of the Embassy in Karachi.