101. Telegram 249640 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Turkey1 2


  • CENTO Political Working Group—U.S. Commitment on CENTO


  • Ankara 7083

1. As requested in para 3A of reftel we are providing the following background information on the U.S. commitment to CENTO which we hope will be helpful to you during discussions at future CENTO political working group meetings. During such meetings U.S. representatives should continue to take the position as noted in para 2 of reftel that in U.S. view CENTO’s existing policy documents are adequate.

2. The U.S. attitude on its CENTO commitment has been consistent throughout the 17 years of our association with the alliance. We have over the years defined our commitment in a manner that:

A) Prohibits U.S. participation in CENTO planning against threats other than those that are communist-inspired, and

B) Makes clear U.S. opposition to CENTO involvement in intra-area disputes unrelated to the Sino-Soviet threat, i.e., to the threat of international communist aggression, both actual and potential.

3. These themes run throughout our history of involvement in CENTO, and the principle upon which they are based is documented in the bilateral agreements of cooperation, signed in 1959 with each of the three regional members. The U.S. commitment under Article I in each of these agreements obligates us to render military assistance only against communist aggression. Article I refers to the U.S. taking “in accordance with the constitution of the U.S. such appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon and as is envisaged in the joint resolution…” (Note: The Joint Resolution to Promote Peace and Stability in the Middle East—Joint Resolution 117, March 9, 1957—The Eisenhower Doctrine.) The Joint Resolution, in turn, states that the U.S. “is prepared to use armed forces to assist any nation or group of such nations (nations of the Middle East) requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism…”

4. U.S. negotiators at that time (1959) were under instructions to conclude executive agreements, not treaties, pursuant to the Joint Resolution of 1957 and the Mutual Security Act of 1954. Our obligation to render assistance was thereby limited to those instances when the region faced communist aggression. The new bilateral agreements were thus in line with the provisions and intent of the Joint Resolution and drafted with care to guard against the U.S. taking on any new and expanded obligations in the Middle East. (Dean Acheson it should be noted, in 1957 criticized the Joint Resolution, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, for not taking into account the more important danger of subversion.)

5. The American negotiators resisted attempts by Iran to have the U.S. undertake a broader commitment, but they allowed the preamble of the bilateral agreements to contain the phrase, “to resist aggression, direct or indirect” in referring to the Baghdad Pact’s original purpose. It must be emphasized, however, that this obligation was not and is not considered to be something new or different. Rather, it has been viewed as supplemental both with respect to U.S.–CENTO relations and to U.S. relations with each of the three regional states concerned.

6. The history of the U.S. association with CENTO, therefore, indicates that, from the beginning, there was an effort to circumscribe the extent of our commitment under the bilateral agreements. This history also reveals a continuing effort by Iran and Pakistan to have this commitment include U.S. assistance against their respective regional adversaries. Over the years the U.S. has gone to some lengths to convince Congress that our obligations under these agreements were entirely consistent with the Joint Resolution. It is most unlikely, to say the least, that Congress would be any more receptive now than in years past to our undertaking a broader CENTO commitment.

7. Given the limitations outlined above we, nevertheless, have attempted to be reasonably responsive to regional country efforts to update the guidance used for CENTO military exercises like Zanjeer. The Department cleared JCS message dtg 112210Z August 76, defining a proper scenario for exercise Zanjeer.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Confidential; Immediate. It was drafted by Larry Semakis (INR/RA) and Philip Stoddard (INR/RNA); cleared by EUR/SE; and approved by NEA/RA. It was repeated to Islamabad, Tehran, and London.
  2. The Department reiterated the view that the United States’ commitment to CENTO was limited to threats emanating solely from communist countries.