891.24/12–947: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in Iran

top secret

5. Arms purchase discussions Washington (Deptel 776, Dec 132) and communications Tehran (urtel 1213, Dec 93) point up question of possible direct US aid to Iran (ur letter to Henderson Nov 184 and Deptel 740, Nov 225), in context over-all Iran-US relations vis-à-vis Soviet Union (Deptel 434, July 296). Since provision arms is only one aspect total problem, we consider it advisable analyze whole picture with view to determining how best we can serve essential US interests in Iran. Following represents Dept thinking at this time:

Security of Iran is substantially as important to US as is security Greece and Turkey. Question to be solved is how best to assure Iran’s independence, stability, and friendship, recognizing remoteness of Iran and inherent weaknesses Iranian Govt.
Basic considerations re Soviet threat to Iranian security stated Deptel 434 July 29 are, in our opinion, still generally valid. We recognize that Soviet “hostile action” note to Iranian Govt Nov 207 may represent effort lay basis anticipated action against central Govt. It is still felt, however, that Soviet military and political disposition vis-à-vis Iran, in light of over-all US-USSR relations (urtel 1092, Nov 118) makes overt aggression improbable in near future.
US military assistance should continue be aimed at internal security, not national defense, of Iran. (MA–R539, Dec 10) Power relations Iran and USSR cannot be altered appreciably by provision US [Page 89] military supplies. Iranian arms program intended (1) replace lost or obsolete equipment Iranian Army to permit effective display central Govt power, patrol border areas and insure quick repression of foreign-inspired uprisings, and (2) increase effectiveness Gendarmerie in maintaining law and order throughout country. We inclined think provision of arms for first-line defense would be fruitless and provocative to USSR.
In view non-availability substantial quantities supplies from surplus (Deptel 776, Dec 13) it is virtually certain special assistance by US Govt to Iran on any large scale could be provided only by act of Congress. Indicated attitude of Congressmen who have devoted attention to Iranian situation gives some hope that Congress might be favorably disposed. However, only convincing ground we can see for requesting legislation would be to support Iranian independence in face of Soviet threat. Iran would have to make strong appeal and Dept would have to speak out frankly and publicly. Result would be to place Iran definitely in same category as Greece and Turkey9 in minds of Russians and world public.
We believe this would be displeasing to many Iranians who are anxious avoid open break with USSR. Apart from this consideration, such open alignment of Iran in opposition to Soviet Union might deprive Iran Govt of opportunities for diplomatic maneuver, delaying tactics, conciliatory gestures, and the like which it has employed with considerable success in past. US might assume very serious responsibility if it encouraged Iran to burn its bridges in this fashion in view of fact we could not guarantee to protect it in event of Soviet attack.
We believe US should be especially careful avoid any appearance of forcing loan or gift on Iran both because of adverse effect such appearance would have on Iranians, who are perhaps justifiably hesitant obligate themselves financially to foreign Govts, and because of plausibility it would lend to Soviet-inspired charges of American dollar imperialism. Consequently, it seems to us that any initiative in discussion of special assistance to Iran from US should always be left to Iran Govt and we should make no move this regard without specific and formal request. It should also always be kept in mind that even if request were made and favorably considered by Dept, political situation in US might make action impracticable. Limitations imposed by financial and economic demands of US interim aid and ERP should be recognized.
Dept hopeful transportation charges for surplus purchases will be reduced by possible provision ships to Iran following strong Dept appeal favorable reconsideration Iranian application by Maritime Commission. Financial strain arms purchase upon Iranian dollar resources might be alleviated to some extent by Iran purchase available items or substitutes from British.
Important US contribution to Iranian security forces can be made, we think, by Iranian acceptance advice Grow10 and Schwarzkopf11 [Page 90] re organization, administration, and personnel. On our part, we will press strongly for Congressional passage Military Missions Bill permitting continuance missions beyond national emergency.
We continue feel that US objectives in Iran can be best achieved by economic development to strengthen social structure and popular loyalty to central Govt. World Bank currently giving favorable preliminary study Iranian intention apply for loan. We reiterate we are prepared support reasonable request for loan. Should such loan materialize, we will give every possible assistance in obtaining material and personnel for Iran, even in present short-supply situation. Iran should be prepared permit considerable Bank supervision loan expenditure for broadest, most economical benefits to country.
There is considerable opinion here supporting earlier Emb view that by modification of currency reserve requirements plus modest World Bank loan, Iran could obtain all foreign exchange it could effectively utilize for economic purposes during next two or three years. Would like your present views on this.
Implementation Fulbright Bill, passage Mundt Act, and availability Imbrie funds should contribute to furtherance US objectives Iran. Voice of America expected to reach Iran soon in Persian and Turkish languages.

Foregoing represents only tentative thinking subject modification in light any additional info you may be able to furnish or additional considerations you may suggest. Our attitude will of course also be affected by course of developments in Iran and in relations between Iran and USSR.

This message cleared with Army who will advise Grow concerning current thinking Iran’s strategical importance upon his return.

Sent Tehran 5 repeated London 16 Moscow 9.12

  1. Not printed; but see footnote 1, ibid., p. 993.
  2. Ibid., p. 993.
  3. Letter, presumably from Ambassador George V. Allen, not found in Department of State files. Loy W. Henderson was Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, p. 984.
  5. Ibid., p. 924.
  6. Ibid., p. 981.
  7. Not printed; but see footnote 2, ibid., p. 977.
  8. For documentation on American aid to Greece and Turkey (the Truman Doctrine), see vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  9. Brig. Gen. Robert W. Grow, Chief of the American Military Mission with the Iranian Army.
  10. Brig. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Chief of the American Military Mission with the Iranian Gendarmerie.
  11. Moscow on January 8, expressed its agreement with the Department’s analysis. It concluded that “While Kremlin may be expected fully exploit opportunities gratuitously presented in Palestine [and] of any weakness on our part in Greece, Iran or other parts Near East, current Soviet emphasis appears to have by-passed this area for Asiatic East.

    “By way specific comment reference telegram, while in long-range terms security of Iran may be as important to US as that of Greece or Turkey (paragraph one) we believe Kremlin would assign first priority to either of latter, circumstances being equal.” (telegram 38, 891.00/1–848)