The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), originally known as the
Baghdad Pact or the
Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), was formed
in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan,
Turkey and the United Kingdom. It was
dissolved in 1979.
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
U.S. Secretary of State
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." Others said that
the reason was "for purely technical reasons of budgeting
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
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
British Sovereign Base Areas on the island.
3 Secretaries General
4 CENTO railway
5 Cultural and research institutions
5.1 CENTO Scientific Council
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
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
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. 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
Iraq at various times while the treaty was in effect.
On July 14, 1958, the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military
coup. The new government was led by General
Abdul Karim Qasim
Abdul Karim Qasim who
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.
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
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.
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, and the
United States Congress halted Turkish military aid despite two
Presidential vetoes. 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
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
Turkey signed a Pact of Mutual Cooperation with
24 February 1955: A military agreement was signed between
Turkey, and the term "
Baghdad Pact" started to be used. Iran,
Pakistan, and the
United Kingdom join the
1959 March: The new republican regime of
Iraq withdrew the country
from the alliance.
19 August 1959: METO renamed CENTO.
Pakistan tried to get help from its allies in its war against
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 211 on
September 20 and the
United States and the
United Kingdom supported
the UN decision by cutting off arms supplies to both belligerents.
1971: In a new war with India,
Pakistan again tried unsuccessfully to
get allied assistance. (The U.S. provided limited military support to
Pakistan, but not under the rubric of CENTO.)
1979: The new government of Islamic Republic of
Iran withdrew the
country from CENTO.
A Secretary General, appointed by the council of ministers for a
renewable three years, oversaw CENTO activities. Secretaries general
1955 – 31 Dec 1958
Osman Ali Baig
1 Jan 1959 – 31 Dec 1961
Abbas Ali Khalatbari
Jan 1962 – Jan 1968
Jan 1968 – 1 Feb 1972
1 Feb 1972 – Jan 1975
Ümit Haluk Bayülken
Jan 1975 – 1 Aug 1977
Sidar Hasan Mahmud
Aug 1977 – Mar 1978
31 Mar 1978 – 1979
CENTO sponsored a railway line, some of which was completed, to enable
a rail connexion between
Tehran via Van. A section from
Lake Van 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.
Cultural and research institutions
Like its counterparts
NATO and SEATO, CENTO sponsored a number of
cultural and scientific research institutions:
CENTO Conferences on Teaching Public Health and Public Health
CENTO Cultural Works Programme 
CENTO Institute of Nuclear & Applied Science
CENTO Scientific Coordinating Board
CENTO Scientific Council
CENTO Symposia on Rural Development
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. It also arranged
at least one symposium on the problem of foot-and-mouth and
The organisation that became the CENTO Institute of Nuclear Science
was established by Western powers in the
Baghdad Pact, as CENTO was
then known. It was initially located in Baghdad, Iraq, but was
relocated to Tehran,
Iran in 1958 after
Iraq withdrew from
CENTO. Students from
Turkey as well as those from
Iran were trained at the Institute.
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".
Economic Cooperation Organization
Regional Cooperation for Development
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance
^ Selwyn Lloyd; Suez 1956: A Personal account
^ Hadley, Guy. CENTO: The Forgotten Alliance ISIO Monographs,
University of Sussex, UK (1971): 2.
^ Martin, Kevin W. (2008). "
Baghdad Pact". In Ruud van Dijk; et al.
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.
^ Dimitrakis, Panagiotis, "The Value to CENTO of UK Bases on Cyprus",
Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 45, Issue 4, July 2009, pp 611–624
^ a b George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East,
1990, p. 88
^ "CENTO pact members to dissolve alliance soon". The Gazette.
Montreal. AP. 1979-03-17. p. 46. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
^ US National Archives. 333.8 Records of the Central Treaty
Organization (CENTO) 1956-79.
^ CENTO nation help sought by Pakistan. Chicago Tribune. September 7,
^ The India-
Pakistan War of 1965. Office of the Historian, Bureau of
United States Department of State 
^ From Encyclopedia Iranica.
^ Geneva Times, 15 April 1971. p9
^ 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?).
^ Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh. OUP (2011) Conceiving Citizens: Women and
the Politics of Motherhood in Iran. p. 291.
^ See, for example, in "Solo exhibitions":
^ ASME web page for Mr. Sadik Kakaç.
^ Beeman, William O. (1986). Language, Status, and Power in Iran.
Indiana University Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780253113184.
^ Amad, Mohammad Javad (2011). Agriculture, Poverty and Reform in
Iran. Routledge. p. 172. ISBN 9780415614382.
^ 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".
^ "CENTO Seminar on the Control and Eradication of Viral Diseases in
the CENTO Region: With
Special Emphasis on Foot-and-mouth and
Rinderpest and Renderpest-like dieases " CENTO (1973).
^ Restivo, Sal P. Science, Technology, and Society: An Encyclopedia.
OUP (2005). p 534.
^ 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".
^ Orr, Tamara.
Iran and Nuclear Weapons. Rosen. (2009).
^ Entessar, Nader.
Middle East Policy Council website. "Iran's Nuclear
^ Smith, ML. "The Role of Science in the Development of Natural
Resources with Particular Reference to Pakistan,
Iran and Turkey".
Cohen, Michael J. "From ‘Cold’ to ‘Hot’ War: Allied Strategic
and Military Interests in the
Middle East after the Second World War."
Middle Eastern Studies 43.5 (2007): 725-748.
Jalal, Ayesha. "Towards the
South Asia and Middle East
Defence in the Cold War, 1947-1955." International History Review 11.3
Kuniholm, Bruce R. The origins of the
Cold War in the Near East: Great
power conflict and diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece (Princeton
University Press, 2014).
Podeh, Elie. The quest for hegemony in the Arab world: The struggle
Baghdad Pact (Brill, 1995).
Yesilbursa, Behcet Kemal. The
Baghdad Pact: Anglo-American Defence
Policies in the Middle East, 1950-59 (2003) excerpt
Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) entry in Encyclopaedia Iranica
A film clip "
Baghdad pact. Unified Military Command Seen, 1958/01/30
(1958)" is available at the Internet Archive
CENTO on the US State Department's website.