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The hijacking of a pact: the formation of the Baghdad Pact and Anglo-American tensions in the Middle East, 1955—1958*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 October 2010


The creation of the Baghdad Pact, a regional defence organization linking Britain to Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, in 1955, has been surrounded by historiographical confusion. Much of this is explicable in terms of the impact of rapid international changes on long-term strategy, the importance of which has tended to be neglected by historians of the pact. So, one school of thought focuses on the American promotion of the ‘Northern Tier’ concept during the period 1953–4, and on the British preference for an organization based on her Suez Canal Zone Base in Egypt.1 Applyingthis concept to the year 1955, the Baghdad Pact can become ‘the United States’ final victory over Great Britain during the Cold War, a victory which the Suez Crisis of 1956 served to confirm.

Research Article
Copyright © British International Studies Association 1993

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1 A. Jalal, ‘Towards the Baghdad Pact: South Asia and Middle East defence in the Cold War, 1947–55’, The International History Review, II (1989).

2 Jalal, ‘Towards the Baghdad Pact’, p. 433.

3 Stivers, W., ‘Eisenhower and the Middle East’, in Melanson, R. A. and Mayers, D. (eds.), Reevaluating Eisenhower (Chicago, 1987), p. 200Google Scholar.

4 Seale, P., The Struggle for Syria, 2nd edn (London, 1986), pp. 186–7Google Scholar; Meyer, G., Egypt and the United Slates: the Formative Years (London, 1980), pp. 100–1Google Scholar.

5 Middle East Oil, 30/4/56, PRO F0371/121273.

6 Copeland, M., The Game qf Nations (London, 1969), p. 63Google Scholar.

7 Hahn, P. L., ‘Containment and Egyptian Nationalism: The Unsuccessful Effort to Establish the Middle East Command 1950–53’, Diplomatic History, WO (1987)Google Scholar.

8 Jalal, ‘Towards the Baghdad Pact’, pp. 409–33.

9 Jalal, Towards the Baghdad Pact’, pp. 431–3.

10 Reid, B. H., ‘The Northern Tier and the Baghdad Pact’, in Young, J. W. (ed.), The Foreign Policy of Churchill's Peacetime Administration (Leicester, 1988), pp. 159–79Google Scholar.

11 Louis, W. R., ‘The Tragedy of the Anglo-Egyptian Settlement of 1954’, in Louis, W. R., and Owen, R. (eds.), Suez 1956 (Oxford, 1989), p. 48Google Scholar.

12 FO-Cairo, 15/1/55: ‘I realize that there can be no complete Middle East defence arrangements without Egyptian participation &’. PRO F0371/115484.

13 E. and E. F. Penrose, Iraq: International Relations and National Development (London, 1978), p. 120.

14 Reid, ‘The Norther n Tier and the Baghdad Pact’, p. 176.

15 Seale, The Struggle for Syria, p. 189.

16 Shuckburgh's minute, dated 11/1/55, forms part of a dossier of documents assembled by Hadow of the Levant Department under the heading ‘The Baghdad Pact: Changes in the US Attitude’, dated 24/1/56, PRO F0371/121282.

17 Ibid, memo of a meeting between Shuckburgh and State Department officials, dated 28/1/55.

18 Telephone conversation, Eisenhower-Dulles, 7/4/56, Eisenhower Papers, Ann Whitman File, DDE Diary Series, Box 15, April 1956 Phone Calls.

19 Memorandum of a conversation between Assistant Secretary Allen and the Shah of Iran, US State Department 780,5/3–2255. Additionally, the telegrams quoted above assembled by Hadow illustrate the US's initial enthusiasm for the Pact.

20 State-Karachi, US State Department 780,5/3–755.

21 Meeting with Malik, 9/2/55, Eisenhower Papers: John Foster Dulles, General Correspondence, Box 1, Memos of Conversations, L through M.

22 Eden-Churchill, 21/2/55, PRO F0371/115492.

23 Stevenson-Shuckburgh, 28/3/55, PRO F0371/115504.

24 Ibid. Shuckburgh-Stevenson, 28/4/55

25 Beeley-Shuckburgh 24/3/55, Annex E, PRO F0371/121282.

26 Ibid. Eden-Beeley, 31/3/55, Annex F.

27 ‘The Turko-Iraqi Pact’, memo by Brewis, 28/3/55, PRO F0371/115505.

28 Ibid, memo by Arthur, 31/3/55.

29 State-Ankara, US State Department 780,5/5–2155; State-Karachi 780,5/5–2655; and State-Baghdad, Beirut etc, 780,5/7–1555.

30 NSC 260th meeting, 7/10/55, Eisenhower Papers: Ann Whitman File, NSC Series, Box 7.

31 Macmillan, H., Tides of Fortune (1945–55) (London, 1969), p. 653Google Scholar.

32 In fact, a comparison of British and American records of Macmillan's conversations with Dulles on this matter suggests that he may well have been presenting a distorted view of the American opinion on Jordanian accession to Eden. Compare memorandum of a conversation between Macmillan and Dulles, 28/10/55, FRUS, 1955–57, XIV, p. 671; and Macmillan-Foreign Office, 28/10/55, PRO PREM11/1033.

33 Dulles-Macmillan, 5/12/55, FRUS, 1955–57, XIV, p. 821.

34 Kyle, K., Suez (London, 1991), p. 91Google Scholar.

35 Eden-Eisenhower, 5/3/56, PRO PREM11/1895.

36 Conference with the President, 28/3/56, Eisenhower Papers, Ann Whitman File, DDE Diary Series; and Memorandum by the President, 28/3/56, ibid, Box 13, March 1956 Diary.

37 Memorandum for the Chairman, The Baghdad Pact, 21/3/56, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of the Chairman, Radford, 092.2.

38 Brief for Ministerial Meetings in Paris, ‘US accession to the Baghdad Pact’, 11/12/56, PRO F037121274.

39 Murphy-Hoover, US State Department 780,5/11–1656; Radford-Wilson, 30/11/56, Eisenhower Papers, White House Office, Office of the Staff Secretary, Defense Series, Box 1, D.O.D. Vol. 1 (3) September-December 1956; see also the covering letter to Radford's memorandum, Wilson-Eisenhower, 4/12/56.

40 For Eisenhower's views on Saudi Arabia see Eisenhower-Dulles, 12/12/56. Eisenhower Papers, Ann Whitman File, Dulles-Herter Series, Box 6, Dulles, F, December 1956.

41 Conference with the President, 21/11/56, Eisenhower Papers, John Foster Dulles, White House Memoranda Series, Box 4, Meetings with the President, 8/56 & 12/56.

42 For the internal debate in the State Department, see Jones-Burdett, US State Department 780,5/11–1556; Mathews-Burdett, US State Department, 780,5/11–1456; Nunley-Burdett, US State Department, 780,5/11–1556. For the alternative courses of action Dulles was considering see Memorandum of a conversation with Senator Knowland, 8/12/56, Eisenhower Papers, John Foster Dulles, General Correspondence, Box 1, Memos of Conversations, J through K.

43 Lloyd-Caccia, 25/1/57, PRO F0371/127813.

44 NSC, 373rd Meeting, 24/7/58, Eisenhower Papers, An n Whitma n File, NSC Series, Box 10.

45 The Baghdad Pact: Review of Existing Plans and Studies, Joint Planning Staff, 22/8/58, PRO DEFE6/51.

46 Morris-Foreign Office, 8/9/59, PRO F0371 /140717.