The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), formerly known as the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO) and also known as the Baghdad Pact, was a military alliance of the Cold War. It was formed on 24th February, 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The alliance was dissolved on 16 March 1979.
Modeled after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), METO 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 Soviet Union's southwestern frontier. Similarly, it was known as the 'Northern Tier' to prevent Soviet expansion into the Middle East. Unlike NATO, METO did not have a unified military command structure, nor were many American or British military bases established in member countries, although the United States had communications and electronic intelligence facilities in Iran, and operated U-2 intelligence flights over the Soviet Union from bases in Pakistan. The United Kingdom had access to facilities in Pakistan and Iraq at various times while the treaty was in effect.
On 14 July 1958, the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. The new government was led by military officer Abd al-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 unsuccessfully tried to get assistance in its wars with India through CENTO, but this was rejected under the idea that CENTO was aimed at containing the Soviet Union, not India.
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, South Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. By 1970, the Soviet Union had deployed over 20,000 troops to Egypt, and had established naval bases in Syria, Somalia, and South 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 - Nos 9 and 35 Squadrons flying Avro Vulcan bombers, and the United States Congress halted military aid to Turkey despite two Presidential vetoes. With the fall of the Iranian monarchy, whatever remaining rationale for the organization was lost. Future U.S. and British defence 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 Kamuran Gurun, announced on March 16, 1979, that he would call a meeting of the pact's council in order to formally dissolve the organization.
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 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. 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.
February 1954: Turkey signs a Pact of Mutual Cooperation with Pakistan.
May 19, 1954: U.S. and Pakistan sign a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement.
February 24, 1955: Iraq and Turkey sign a military agreement in Baghdad and the term "Baghdad Pact" started to be used. United Kingdom (April 5), Pakistan (September 23) and Iran (November 3) joined the Baghdad Pact in the same year.
October 1958: Baghdad Pact headquarters moved from Baghdad to Ankara.
March 5, 1959: U.S. signs military agreements with Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.
March 24, 1959: The new republican regime of Iraq withdrew the country from the alliance.
1965: Pakistan tried to get help from its allies in its war against India. The 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.)
CENTO sponsored a railway line, some of which was completed, to enable a rail connection 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 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 institutionsedit
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 Practice
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 rinderpest.
The organization 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 Pakistan and Turkey as well as those from Iran were trained at the Institute.
CENTO Scientific Counciledit
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".
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