Memorandum of Telephone Conversations, by Mr. Gordon P. Merriam of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs
On August 28 I telephoned to Mr. Buckley and informed him that the Iranian Government, through our Legation at Tehran, was pressing us for a reply on the question of obtaining American military aircraft. Mr. Buckley replied that the Iranian request had been placed before the War and Navy Departments and the National Defense Council. He doubted whether any decision had been reached, but said that he would be glad to ascertain the present status of the matter and to let me know. He promised to get in touch with me the next morning.[Page 653]
Not having heard from Mr. Buckley, I telephoned to him again on August 30. Mr. Buckley apologized for not having called me the day before, and said that it had not yet been possible for him to run down the present status of the question. However, he was positive that he would get hold of the facts before the end of the afternoon. He asked what the quid pro quo was and stated that if it was merely a matter of the payment of half a million dollars to some missionaries, that did not amount to much. I replied that the actual sum involved was in the neighborhood of a million and a quarter spread over three or four years. The first payment would be due in September, and while no understanding had been reached with the Iranians that the two questions were interdependent, it was a matter of some interest to keep the Iranians well-disposed.
Mr. Buckley then asked how far we wished to push the Iranian request, observing that the matter was primarily bound up with the question of priority in deliveries. I said that we most certainly did not desire to urge that Iranian needs be placed ahead of our own; that we had informed the Iranian Minister here of the deep interest of this country in the outcome of the “battle of Britain” and had given him to understand, without saying so directly, that the Iranians could not expect to be given priority over the British.
Mr. Buckley said that he was glad to know this, and asked how, from the viewpoint of our interests, we felt about Iran on the priority question with reference to the East Indies.
I said that this appeared to be a question for the authorities directly concerned, but that in considering it they would doubtless wish to bear in mind that the supply of airplanes to Iran was linked to the security of important American petroleum interests in the Persian Gulf, notably at Bahrein and in Eastern Arabia. Moreover, if there was a disposition to help the British war effort, sight should not be lost of the huge British petroleum production and refining installations in southern Iran.
Mr. Buckley replied that he was glad to be reminded of these points, and telephoned later to say that he had completed his survey. The most difficult part of the Iranian request to deal with related to pursuit planes. The Iranians wanted the very latest type, a machine designed to take the Allison engine. The production of fuselages is not much of a problem, but the production of the engine is the worst bottleneck in the industry. There have been several hitches in production already, another exists now, and more may occur in the future. No sooner do the manufacturers get started on production than something is found wrong and has to be ironed out. The Iranians have been given priority on delivery of these planes after ourselves and the British. However, it is not possible to give them a delivery date. [Page 654]It may not be possible to deliver such machines to the Iranians for eighteen months. Next week it may be possible to make a guess. On the other hand, there are several fighters approved by our armed forces which are still being currently produced for their use. Here the production situation is much better. Thus far, however, the Iranians have insisted on the latest type.
As to bombers, the Iranians have not yet decided what type they want. In order to make up their minds, they need specifications which the Committee is in process of acquiring from the manufacturers. Only when the Iranians decide what they want will it be possible to go into the question of delivery and priority.
Regarding the Iranian desire to secure a license to manufacture in Iran pursuit planes of the type 75–A, it is to be noted that they will have to purchase engines and other parts here. However, the engine situation is generally difficult. It would be desirable for Major Chaltchi to ascertain from the manufacturers what they can promise on delivery of engines and parts for this type and then check with the Committee, which might well have plans for the manufacturers of which the latter would have no knowledge when talking with Chaltchi. After all this had been done, a decision would be taken whether or not to license manufacture in Iran.
Asked if there would be any objection to telegraphing the gist of his remarks to the Legation for delivery to the Iranian authorities, Mr. Buckley said there would be [no?] objection, provided we did not make any unjustifiable promises on behalf of the Committee. He added that he knew the Department well enough to know that we would not do that.