The Death of CENTO’s Ghost: How the US Lost the Four Great Powers of Southwest Asia
CENTO – the Central Treaty Organization launched by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1958 is totally forgotten now. Even most regional experts on the Middle East and South Asia remember nothing about it. But it had a surprisingly long afterlife of 60 years, and its final, complete dissolution happening now before our eyes marks an epochal transformation of the Eurasian-Southwest Asia World Island.
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 with the blessing of the United States. The British saw it – farcically as it turned out – as an attempt to retain the phantom, craved after “influence” of their vanishing empire, which had left Pakistan in 1947.
METO did not last long. Within three years, the British –imposed and directed monarchy of the Hashemite dynasty in Baghdad had been literally wiped out in a bloody massacre. Iraq immediately pulled out of METO as fast as it could. METO was renamed CENTO with Eisenhower’s approval in 1958. One of the four “pillars” of the Anglo-American world order in South and Southwest Asia was down: Three to go.
Next to go was Iran in 1979. Its last Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was a megalomaniac egged on by American liberal social engineers who farcically imagined they could recreate President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in Tehran. Millions of people were upended from their homes in enormous industrial and relocation programs while SAVAK, the Shah’s notorious secret police inflicted a reign of torture and terror.
The end result was the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that swept away the Shah and took Iran forever out of the Anglo-American orbit. After that, CENTO was finally officially dissolved. Eisenhower’s dream was dead and gone. But its ghost would endure for another 39 years.
Two down and two to go: For the next 40 years Pakistan and Turkey both remained strong, consistent and important US allies. After 2001, tensions between Washington and Islamabad inexorably grew as the US invasion of Afghanistan and its following endlessly bungled policies to build a so-called modern, democratic and centralized nation backfired in endless war.
This year, Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), simultaneously with its next door neighbor India. Both nations turned their back on US claims of global hegemony and opted instead for a future of cooperation and security with Russia and China in the SCO.
That left only Turkey of the original METO or Baghdad Pact four still in the US orbit. Turkey remains a NATO member as it has been since 1955: The same year it also joined METO. However, since the failed Turkish military coup of June 2016, US –Turkish relations have plunged to their worst state ever. The US Congress seems intent on pouring ever more gasoline of the funeral pyre of the relationship.
Yet Turkey is vastly more important to US, European, NATO and Middle East security than all the tiny and ludicrous nation-building schemes Washington has pursued in the region over the past 25 years put together.
US policymakers – Republican and Democrat alike – remain obsessed with “creating” new “showcase,” supposedly “modern” and “democratic” states in Kurdistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. They see the tiny three Baltic States, Georgia and even Ukraine with its neo-Nazi militias as shining examples that are supposed to inspire the rest of the world to follow the same Washington-directed paths.
None of these American visionary “geniuses” ever stops to remember why Iraq and then Iran opted out of METO/CENTO as fast as they possibly could. None of them stops to consider what the consequences of losing the friendship and trust of nuclear-armed Pakistan with its population of 200 million will be. None of them has ever raised publicly the issue of how totally untenable the reckless US forward naval and strategic deployment in the Black Sea will be if Turkey finally turns its back on the US and NATO.
CENTO is gone. The Baghdad Pact is dead. Now even CENTO’s ghost is dying: The four great buffer powers that the US and the UK looked upon to dominate the northern tier of Southwest and South Asia have abandoned Washington or are about to do so. The consequences of this development – born of a generation of stupid, heedless and selfish US policy bungles – will reshape the world.