Baghdad Pact

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Central Treaty Organization
Flag of CENTO.svg
Cento zoom.svg
CENTO members shown in green
Formation24 February 1955
Extinction16 March 1979
Type Intergovernmental military alliance
Headquarters Ankara
Region served
Western Asia and Europe

The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), originally known as the Baghdad Pact or the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), was a military alliance of the Cold War. It was formed in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom and dissolved in 1979.

Military alliance alliance between different states with the purpose to cooperate militarily

A military alliance is an international agreement concerning national security in which the contracting parties agree to mutual protection and support in case of a crisis that has not been identified in advance. Military alliances differ from coalitions, which formed for a crisis that already exists.

Cold War Geopolitical tension after World War II between the Eastern and Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. The historiography of the conflict began between 1946 and 1947. The Cold War began to de-escalate after the Revolutions of 1989. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 was the end of the Cold War. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

Pahlavi dynasty Dynasty that ruled Iran from 1925 until 1979

The Pahlavi dynasty was the last ruling house of the Imperial State of Iran from 1925 until 1979, when the Persian monarchy was overthrown and abolished as a result of the Iranian Revolution. The dynasty was founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, a former brigadier-general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, whose reign lasted until 1941 when he was forced to abdicate by the Allies after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.


US pressure and promises of military and economic aid were key in the negotiations leading to the agreement, but the United States could not initially participate. John Foster Dulles, who was involved in the negotiations as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, claimed that was due to "the pro-Israel lobby and the difficulty of obtaining Congressional Approval." [1] Others said that the reason was "for purely technical reasons of budgeting procedures." [2]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

John Foster Dulles United States Secretary of State

John Foster Dulles was an American diplomat. A Republican, he served as United States Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. He was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, advocating an aggressive stance against communism throughout the world.

Dwight D. Eisenhower 34th president of the United States

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was an American army general and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. During World War II, he was a five-star general in the Army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful Invasion of Normandy in 1944–45 from the Western Front.

In 1958, the US joined the military committee of the alliance. It is generally viewed as one of the least successful of the Cold War alliances. [3]

The organization's headquarters were in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1955 to 1958 and in Ankara, Turkey, in 1958 to 1979. Cyprus was also an important location for CENTO because of its location in the Middle East and the British Sovereign Base Areas on the island. [4]

Baghdad Capital of Iraq

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, as well as hosting multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Centre of Learning".

Iraq Republic in Western Asia

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Ankara Metropolitan municipality in Central Anatolia, Turkey

Ankara, historically known as Ancyra and Angora, is the capital of Turkey. With a population of 4,587,558 in the urban center (2014) and 5,150,072 in its province (2015), it is Turkey's second largest city after Istanbul, having outranked İzmir in the 20th century.


Three U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II aircraft parked at Shiraz Air Base, Iran, during exercise Cento, 1 August 1977 F-4Es 50th TFW in Iran 1977.JPEG
Three U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II aircraft parked at Shiraz Air Base, Iran, during exercise Cento, 1 August 1977

Modeled after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), CENTO committed the nations to mutual cooperation and protection, as well as non-intervention in each other's affairs. Its goal was to contain the Soviet Union (USSR) by having a line of strong states along the USSR's southwestern frontier. Similarly, it was known as the 'Northern Tier' to prevent Soviet expansion into the Middle East. [5] Unlike NATO, CENTO did not have a unified military command structure, nor were many U.S. or UK military bases established in member countries, although the U.S. had communications and electronic intelligence facilities in Iran, and operated U-2 intelligence flights over the USSR from bases in Pakistan. The United Kingdom had access to facilities in Pakistan and Iraq at various times while the treaty was in effect.

Containment American political strategy against spread of communism

Containment is a geopolitical "strategic foreign policy pursued by the United States". It is loosely related to the term cordon sanitaire which was later used to describe the geopolitical containment of the Soviet Union in the 1940s. The strategy of "containment" is best known as a Cold War foreign policy of the United States and its allies to prevent the spread of communism after the end of World War II.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal sovereign state in northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Lockheed U-2 Ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft

The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is an American single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, high-altitude, all-weather intelligence gathering.

On July 14, 1958, the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. The new government was led by General Abdul Karim Qasim who withdrew Iraq from the Baghdad Pact, opened diplomatic relations with Soviet Union and adopted a non-aligned stance. The organization dropped the name 'Baghdad Pact' in favor of 'CENTO' at that time.

The Middle East and South Asia became extremely volatile areas during the 1960s with the ongoing Arab–Israeli Conflict and the Indo-Pakistani Wars. CENTO was unwilling to get deeply involved in either dispute. In 1965 and 1971, Pakistan tried unsuccessfully to get assistance in its wars with India through CENTO, but this was rejected under the idea that CENTO was aimed at containing the USSR, not India.

Universal Newsreel about the Baghdad Pact

CENTO did little to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence to non-member states in the area. Whatever containment value the pact might have had was lost when the Soviets 'leap-frogged' the member states, establishing close military and political relationships with governments in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. By 1970, the USSR had deployed over 20,000 troops to Egypt, and had established naval bases in Syria, Somalia, and P.D.R. Yemen.

The Iranian revolution spelled the end of the organization in 1979, but in reality, it essentially had been finished since 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus. This led the United Kingdom to withdraw forces that had been earmarked to the alliance,[ citation needed ] and the United States Congress halted Turkish military aid despite two Presidential vetoes. [5] With the fall of the Iranian monarchy, whatever remaining rationale for the organization was lost. Future U.S. and British defense agreements with regional countries—such as Pakistan, Egypt, and the Persian Gulf states—were conducted bilaterally.

With the withdrawal of Iran, the secretary-general of CENTO, Turkish diplomat Kamran Gurun, announced on March 16, 1979, that he would call a meeting of the pact's council in order to formally dissolve the organization. [6]



Turkey's role in the Baghdad Pact was one of a unique and elevated nature compared to other nations such as Iraq. It was given "special" attention by the West primarily due to their geopolitical importance. It was believed that they could draw other Arab countries, such as Iraq, closer to the projected anti-communist Arab alliance, as the former would have been of inspiration for other “like-minded” countries. It was also hoped that by agreeing to the Baghdad Pact the Turkish and the Iraqi relations would get their time in the sun. However, this optimism was not rewarded as Iraq was under constant threat of the infiltration of Turkish troops and Nuri was desperate to strike an agreement. [7] Finally, the Turkish courting by western nations, such as the USA, did not have the outcome that was desired as Arab countries, primarily Egypt, turned hostile to the pact.


Secretaries General

A Secretary General, appointed by the council of ministers for a renewable three years, oversaw CENTO activities. Secretaries general were: [11] [12]

NameStateIn office
Awni Khalidy Flag of Iraq (1924-1959).svg  Iraq 1955 – 31 Dec 1958
Osman Ali Baig Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan 1 Jan 1959 – 31 Dec 1961
Abbas Ali Khalatbari State Flag of Iran (1964).svg  Iran Jan 1962 – Jan 1968
Turgut Menemencioğlu Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey Jan 1968 – 1 Feb 1972
Nasir Assar State Flag of Iran (1964).svg  Iran 1 Feb 1972 – Jan 1975
Ümit Haluk Bayülken Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey Jan 1975 – 1 Aug 1977
Sidar Hasan Mahmud Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan Aug 1977 – Mar 1978
Kamuran Gurun Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 31 Mar 1978 – 1979

CENTO railway

CENTO sponsored a railway line, some of which was completed, to enable a rail connexion between London and Tehran via Van. A section from Lake Van in Turkey to Sharafkhaneh in Iran was completed and funded in large part by CENTO (mainly the US and UK). The civil engineering was especially challenging because of the difficult terrain. Part of the route included a rail ferry across Lake Van with a terminal at Tatvan on the Western side of the lake. Notable features of the railway on the Iranian side included 125 bridges, among them the Towering Quotor span, measuring 1,485 feet (453 m) in length, spanning a gorge 396 feet (121 m) deep. [13] [14]

Cultural and research institutions

Like its counterparts NATO and SEATO, CENTO sponsored a number of cultural and scientific research institutions:

The institutions supported a wide range of non-military activities, with a particular focus on agriculture and development, In 1960, for example, CENTO had funded 37 projects covering agriculture, education, health, economic development and transportation. [20] It also arranged at least one symposium on the problem of foot-and-mouth and rinderpest. [21]

The organisation that became the CENTO Institute of Nuclear Science was established by Western powers in the Baghdad Pact, as CENTO was then known. [22] It was initially located in Baghdad, Iraq, but was relocated to Tehran, Iran in 1958 after Iraq withdrew from CENTO. [23] [24] Students from Pakistan and Turkey as well as those from Iran were trained at the Institute. [25]

CENTO Scientific Council

The CENTO Scientific Council organized a number of scientific symposia and other events, including a meeting in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1962, entitled "The Role of Science in the Development of Natural Resources with Particular Reference to Pakistan, Iran and Turkey". [26]

See also

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The following lists events that happened during 1959 in Iraq.


  1. Selwyn Lloyd; Suez 1956: A Personal account
  2. Hadley, Guy. CENTO: The Forgotten Alliance ISIO Monographs, University of Sussex, UK (1971): 2.
  3. Martin, Kevin W. (2008). "Baghdad Pact". In Ruud van Dijk; et al. (eds.). Encyclopedia of the Cold War. New York: Routledge. p. 57. ISBN   978-0-415-97515-5 . Retrieved 2009-01-30. Thus, the Baghdad Pact is widely considered the least successful of the Cold War schemes engendered by the Anglo-American alliance.
  4. Dimitrakis, Panagiotis, "The Value to CENTO of UK Bases on Cyprus", Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 45, Issue 4, July 2009, pp 611–624
  5. 1 2 George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East, 1990, p. 88
  6. "CENTO pact members to dissolve alliance soon". The Gazette . Montreal. 5=AP. 1979-03-17. p. 46. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  7. Jasse, Richard (Winter 1991). "The Baghdad Pact: Cold War or Colonialism". Middle Eastern Studies. 27 (1): 140–156.
  8. US National Archives. 333.8 Records of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) 1956-79. Archived 2017-08-25 at the Wayback Machine
  9. CENTO nation help sought by Pakistan. Chicago Tribune. September 7, 1965 Archived 2015-09-09 at the Wayback Machine
  10. The India-Pakistan War of 1965. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State Archived 2015-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  11. From Encyclopedia Iranica. Archived 2013-11-17 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Cahoon, Ben. "International Organizations A-L".
  13. Geneva Times, 15 April 1971. p9
  14. Meklis, Y. Along the Path of a CENTO Railway: A Narrative with Text and Photographs Telling how Iran and Turkey, with the Support of CENTO Associates, are Repeating History by Linking Their Countries with a Modern Railway. CENTO Public Relations Division (1959?).
  15. Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh. OUP (2011) Conceiving Citizens: Women and the Politics of Motherhood in Iran. p. 291.
  16. See, for example, in "Solo exhibitions": Archived 2017-03-21 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ASME web page for Mr. Sadik Kakaç. Archived 2015-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Beeman, William O. (1986). Language, Status, and Power in Iran. Indiana University Press. p. 226. ISBN   9780253113184. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-18.
  19. Amad, Mohammad Javad (2011). Agriculture, Poverty and Reform in Iran. Routledge. p. 172. ISBN   9780415614382. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-18.
  20. CIA memorandum, released under US Freedom of Information provisions. "EIGHTH CENTO MINISTERIAL COUNCIL SESSION TEHRAN, APRIL 28-30, 1960 U.S. POSITION ON THE TURKISH- IRANIAN RAILWAY LINK". Archived 2015-06-18 at the Wayback Machine Archived 2015-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Lawrence, Mary Margaret (21 September 1973). "CENTO Seminar on the Control and Eradication of Viral Diseases in the CENTO Region: With Special Emphasis on Foot-and-mouth Disease and Rinderpest and Renderpest-like Diseases; [papers". Central Treaty Organization via Google Books.
  22. "Science, Technology, and Society" via Google Books.
  23. Sahimi, M. Website. "Iran's Nuclear Energy Program. Part V: From the United States Offering Iran Uranium Enrichment Technology to Suggestions for Creating Catastrophic Industrial Failure". Archived 2015-09-07 at the Wayback Machine
  24. Orr, Tamra B. (15 August 2009). "Iran and Nuclear Weapons". The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc via Google Books.
  25. Entessar, Nader. Middle East Policy Council website. "Iran's Nuclear Decision-Making Calculus". Archived 2015-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  26. Smith, ML. "The Role of Science in the Development of Natural Resources with Particular Reference to Pakistan, Iran and Turkey". Elsevier (2013).

Further reading