81. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State 1

4494. Subject: Cyprus: Further Reflections from Athens.

The evidence to date seems clearly to implicate Ioannides with the coup in Cyprus. It is also clear operation against Makarios was carefully planned, as declaration called “Government of National Salvation” demonstrates.2 This is a carefully prepared document taking into account main threats to successful execution of coup. Whether Ioannides has in fact unlocked Pandora’s box or provided principally for the replacement of Makarios with some far more pliable Greek remains to be seen.
However, the brutality of the operation as well as the skillful manner in which it was pursued indicate once again how dangerous and unreliable General Ioannides can really be—a concern which my reporting and analysis of the November 25 coup clearly reflected.3
Makarios apparently misjudged Ioannides, believing his confrontation with Turkey would make him more amenable to elimination of the Greek National Guard officers as a major power element on the island. Instead, in the Ioannides posture, there is evidence the Greek military considered the Greek military presence in Cyprus important in their own overall military posture vis-à-vis Turkey, because it kept important Turkish forces in southern Turkey and away from Aegean and Evros areas. Makarios meanwhile sought continued and perhaps [Page 282] strengthened support of Eastern Europe, Russia, Peking and probably other Third World elements.
Ioannides and his cohorts, it must be remembered, are fanatically anti-Communist. With them, whose leaders participated in the “sacred war” against Communism in Greece in the 1940’s, only Christianity, perhaps the obverse to them of Communism, ranks in national values with it. Makarios in his misjudgment committed in eyes of Greek military regime the unpardonable sin of not only rejecting and repelling the “Motherland” but adding insult to injury by publication of the Makarios letter to Ghizikis 4 without GOG approval. The philotimo of the Greek military was sharply and clearly challenged at a time of national crisis with Turkey. These probably led to decision for violent confrontation with Makarios.
Available information [1 line not declassified]indicates GOG made last effort to deter Makarios but failing had clearly completed contingency plans to remove him. Dept will recall that earlier Ioannides stated flatly he could get rid of Makarios within 24 hours whenever he wished. Frankly, this proves once again how dangerously narrow a view Ioannides holds (see Athens 8294 November 27, 1973—”Greece’s apparent master: Demetrios Ioannides: some fears”),5 but even more alarming his willingness to resort to violence and perhaps even murder. This bodes darkly indeed for a peaceful solution to the Aegean problem between Turkey and Greece. A negative substantive reaction on our part will likely lead to negative substantive reaction from them.
A further question in present context of the problem is the effect upon the internal stability of the regime. Certainly, the people of Greece will not be happy with the violent extermination of Makarios and loss of liberty of the island. In fact, the real opposition to these military adventures, to call them what they are, is likely to deepen greatly. On the other hand, Ioannides remains effectively in control of the armed forces at this point. His stress on clearing out “anarchic” elements on the island will not weaken his present hold. Greek military are even likely to feel that clearing out the “Communist” elements on the island against prospect of an imminent confrontation with Turkey may make a lot of military sense. Thus, the immediate effect upon Greek regime’s stability does not appear visibly negative.
Of course, if the context should change in a fashion clearly demonstrating ineptness on the part of Ioannides and his adherents as “sacred custodians” of Greek national interest, this could affect reaction. While fight on Communism, internal and external, and the confrontation with Turkey will not impair Ioannides’ strength, serious difficulties with the U.S. and its NATO allies could create problems for his continued leadership.
Look forward keenly to comments from Nicosia, Ankara and London regarding their reaction to all this.6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated Immediate to Nicosia, London, Ankara, USNATO, USUN, and USCINCEUR.
  2. Transmitted in telegram 1342 from Nicosia, July 15. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1312, Saunders Chron File, NSC Secretariat, Richard M. Nixon Cables/Contingency Plans 1974, Cyprus and Greek-Turkish Contingency Plans)
  3. See Document 8.
  4. Makarios wrote Ghizikis on July 2, as reported in telegrams 1276 and 1303 from Nicosia, July 5 and July 9, respectively. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)
  5. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  6. The Embassy in Ankara responded in telegram 5589, Document 85. No response from Nicosia or London was found.