891.24/1–948: Telegram

The Ambassador in Iran (Allen) to the Secretary of State

top secret

22. Comprehensive statement of Department thinking regarding aid to Iran (Deptel 5, January 3) has been most timely and valuable. I concur in general policy expressed and have been guided especially by paragraph 5 in my subsequent conversations with Prime Minister and Shah.

Full discussion of telegram held at meeting yesterday with Embassy staff and military advisors. Comments on few points in telegram may be of value. As regards paragraph 3 we are inclined to think rather more emphasis than desirable may be placed on whether Iranian army is intended for internal security or for national defense. When our thinking is based solely on Iranian army for internal security our thoughts inevitably become apparent to Iranians, wounding their pride and discouraging their self-confidence, which they need badly. Improved Iranian army would be valuable both for internal security and for national defense. It would of course be impossible to build Iranian army to make substantial defense against USSR but stronger army might have some effect on discouraging aggression or retarding enemy progress for few vital days if we help to build self-confidence along with supplying better arms.

As regards question of placing Iran in Greek-Turkish category (your paragraph 4) this subject has many aspects. I concur that in [Page 94] absence of ability to assure Iran prompt support, we would assume considerable responsibility by forcing Iran off fence onto our side. At same time, I am not certain that policy of diplomatic maneuver, delaying tactics and conciliatory gestures is desirable basis for foreign policy of Iran or any other country when issue is totalitarian aggression against democracy. Difference between American policy of support for Iranian independence and Soviet policy here during past two years has been difference between white and black, and everyone should recognize it. Soviets are forever telling Iranians to beware of American imperialism, and many Iranians who follow policy of balance or neutrality swallow this line at least half way. They profess to see no distinction between “Soviet imperialism” and “American imperialism” and cry plague on both houses. Continued policy of neutrality would result, if hostilities should come, in disinterested attitude by Iranians who would regard conflict as being between two imperialisms. Even now we face great difficulties in strengthening Iran economically, since Iranians who follow policy of balance hesitate to request economic aid from either side.

Moreover, for better or worse, Iran’s geographical location and petroleum resources of Persian Gulf will make it impossible for Iran to remain neutral in any future war and I am not certain we are benefiting Iranians by encouraging them to hope they might. It is entirely true that many, perhaps most, Iranians wish fervently that all great powers, including US, would go away and leave Iran alone. But no great power will or can abandon it to another. Stakes here are too important. Since Iran must choose sides eventually, it should be on side of freedom and independence. Sooner whole free world is lined up clearly on that side, less likelihood there will be of totalitarian aggression. I agree that we should avoid pushing Iran off fence against her will. However we should emphasize to Iranians in every possible way difference between American and Soviet policy in Iran and should encourage Iran to show her recognition of this difference and to realize that US and Iranian interests are parallel.

Embassy hopes to report regarding economic considerations (your paragraphs 8 and 9) within few days.