6. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Iran:
  • General Bahram Ariana, Chief of the Supreme Commanders Staff, Imperial Iranian Armed Forces
  • Colonel Vali Allah Dana, Military, Naval and Air Attaché
  • Turkey:
  • General Cemal Tural, Chief of the Turkish General Staff
  • UK:
  • Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Charles Elworthy, Chief of the Defense Staff
  • Air Marshal Sir Frederick Rosier, Permanent Military Deputy to CENTO
  • Pakistan:
  • Lieutenant General Akhtar Hussain Malik, Permanent Military Deputy to CENTO
  • US:
  • General Theodore J. Conway, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strike Command, U.S. Representative
  • General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Harold H. Saunders, Senior Staff Member, National Security Council
  • USPMD:
  • Lieutenant General Stanley J. Donovan, Permanent Military Deputy to CENTO

The President greeted the group in the Cabinet Room where the Generals were lined up by the French doors in order of rank. After being introduced by General Wheeler and shaking hands with each one, the President invited the group into the Oval Office where he said it would be less formal. The group ranged itself on the sofas and chairs around the burning fire with the President sitting at one end of the sofa by the fireplace.

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After a brief session for the photographers, the President opened the conversation by saying that the international situation had changed a great deal since CENTO was formed, but that “the threat was still there.” He noted that in the year since the formation of CENTO we have become much more conscious of the relationship between economic progress and security. He felt that the military had played an important role in this progress by maintaining a framework of stability within which it could take place.

The President conceded that each nation had its political difficulties from time to time, including our own. He specifically expressed his concern over the political trouble in Pakistan and pointed out that President Ayub Khan and his military colleagues had played an important role there in bringing stability to Pakistan in the past.

General Wheeler and the other Generals agreed on the importance of this military role. The President returned to his thoughts of the Soviet threat. He noted that the atmosphere within all of the alliances had changed in recent years—even in NATO. However, he had been impressed during his recent tour of NATO capitals2 of the need for a strong alliance, not only for military purposes, but also so that the members of the alliance could negotiate credibly from a position of strength. He said he accepted changes in these relationships as normal evolution, but he remained convinced of the importance of keeping the relationship strong, even in a changing context.

The President noted that he had visited each of the countries of the Generals present. In the course of the conversation, he found an occasion to mention each country by name—Iran, in connection with impressive economic progress; Pakistan, in connection with the combination of a firm military and economic progress; Turkey, in its connection as a NATO member; and Great Britain in connection with his European trip.

The President concluded by saying that he had just wished to express a few of his views but would welcome the opportunity to hear from his guests.

General Ariana of Iran, the only one of the guests to speak through an interpreter, commented very briefly that he was honored to meet the President and concurred in the President’s views that the the important role of the military is to provide a stable atmosphere within which development and progress can take place.

Air Marshal Sir Charles Elworthy spoke of how deeply he and his colleagues had been impressed with the President’s NATO trip. He [Page 26] said that he had stressed to his colleagues after the President’s European trip the importance of the contribution of the European governments to the alliance. He felt that the President has spoken truly when he pointed out that the Europeans could not expect Americans to do more if Europe did less. The President agreed, saying he had pressed this point on Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.

Harold H. Saunders3
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1234, Saunders Files, CENTO 1/20/69–12/31/69. Confidential. Drafted by Saunders on April 11. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted from 10:51 to 11:15 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) On March 17, Kissinger had recommended to Nixon that he meet with CENTO officials because “Our real policy toward CENTO is to keep it going until these countries are ready for something to replace it. The patterns of cooperation built up within CENTO have blossomed modestly into broader relationships in the field of communication, politics and investigation of complementary economic projects. Everyone knows CENTO itself is not a vital organization, but everyone also recognizes that Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, Jordan and even Israel clandestinely are groping for some new relationship in the region which would be meaningful for them in the face of British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, increased Soviet activity and radicalization of some Arab governments.” (Ibid., Box 212, Agency Files, CENTO)
  2. Between February 23 and March 2, Nixon traveled to Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Vatican City.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears Saunders’s typed signature.