NEA Politico–Military Adviser Files: Lot 484: Greek–Turkish Staff Talks

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Jernegan) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Rusk)

top secret

Subject: Iranian Bequest for Discussion of War Plans


The Shah and the Iranian Chief of Staff, General Razmara, have urged that the United States send a high-ranking general officer to Iran to discuss the proper utilization of Iranian forces in the event of war against Russia. In connection with this, they would like to know what assistance they could expect from the United States after the outbreak of hostilities. We must decide what reply to make to this request.

Background and Discussion

The Iranians have made several similar requests in the past, to which we have always replied that we could not discuss our own war plans with anyone. The present approach, however, differs from the others in that General Razmara says he would not expect us to reveal our own plans in such a discussion but is anxious to get an expression of opinion from us on the Iranian plans. There are, he says, a number of operations the Iranian forces could undertake in case of Soviet attack, including such things as demolition of communications, defense of certain strategic passes leading to the Persian Gulf and the Iraqi plain, defense of the southwestern portion of Iran adjacent to Pakistan, and defense of the Straits at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. In the event of Soviet occupation of the country, Iranian forces could operate as guerrillas against the railway system, the oil fields and other strategic targets. However, General Razmara does not consider that the Iranian Army is capable of carrying out all of these operations, and he would like to know which we consider of the highest priority so that Iranian activities would be coordinated with the overall strategy of the anti-communist nations.

Ambassador Wiley supports the request that a top level general officer be sent to Iran to spend perhaps three weeks in discussions along the foregoing lines. He believes this would have an excellent psychological effect by relieving the present feeling of frustration and doubt on the part of the Shah and his top military advisors.

On general principles, it would seem undesirable to involve ourselves in any closer relationship with the Iranian military authorities, [Page 474] even by implication. So far as the Department of State is aware, the Department of Defense is not prepared to plan on giving any military assistance to the Iranian forces in time of war and does not have a very high opinion of the potential effectiveness of those forces. Furthermore, we are not prepared to enter into any political defense arrangement with Iran. At the same time, I understand from Mr. Halaby1 that the Defense Department is presently attaching greater importance to the potential strategic bombing bases in the Dhahran-Cairo-Suez area, which I take to mean that it would also attach greater importance to the possibilities of defense in Iran as the first line of defense for Dhahran. If we intend to attempt to hold Dhahran, even for a short period, it is obviously desirable to have the Iranian forces put up the most effective response of which they are capable. Since General Razmara now appears to be thinking in very realistic terms, it might be worthwhile to encourage and guide this tendency by giving the Iranians concrete advice as to the best use they could make of their forces in delaying Soviet access to the Persian Gulf.

There are attached a set of recent telegrams from Tehran2 giving the full story of the Iranian request and our Ambassador’s attitude.


It is recommended that you discuss this question at your meeting with General Burns next Monday morning3 for the purpose of getting at least a preliminary reaction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Department of Defense, which we could use to guide us in preparing a reply to the messages from Tehran. You might point out that we have three possible alternatives:

To accede to the Iranian request and send out a general officer of the type of Lieutenant General Wedemeyer4 or Major General Maddocks,5 who could go over the Iranian war plans and make informal suggestions for their modification in the light of Iranian capabilities and type of operations which would fit best into our strategic planning. (It would be simplest to authorize General Evans, head of [Page 475] our Military Mission in Iran, to give this kind of advice, but this is forbidden by the terms of his “contract”6 with the Iranian Government. Also, he could not provide the psychological effect, desired by Ambassador Wiley, which would result from a special mission by an officer from Washington.)
To accede to the Iranian request in principle but state that no qualified officer can be spared from Washington and to suggest that the Iranian Chief of Staff or his Deputy pay a visit to this country for discussions of the type desired. (General Razmara has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit the United States and it is quite probable that he would be glad to make a trip for this purpose.)
To inform the Iranians that, since we are not in a position to enter into a political defense arrangement, we cannot commit ourselves even to the extent implied in giving them military advice on their own war plans. We could state that this action would imply a commitment to assist Iran in carrying out whatever plans might be adopted, and that the Executive Branch of the Government could not do this in the absence of a political arrangement approved by the Congress.

In discussing the question, it is recommended that you explain the continuing unhappiness of the Shah and Iranian military leaders at our unwillingness to commit ourselves more clearly to Iran’s defense in time of war and at the limited nature of the military assistance we propose to furnish under MDAP. Although these psychological factors are not decisive, they should nevertheless be taken into consideration in determining whether or not to give a favorable response to this latest Iranian démarche.

  1. Najeeb E. Halaby, Jr., Director of the Office of Military Affairs, Department of Defense.
  2. Attachments, not with the source text, were the following telegrams from Tehran: telegram 187, February 2 (711.5888/2–250); telegram 222, February 8 (788.5 MAP/2–850); ARMISH telegram S–1151, February 9 (S/ISA Files, Lot 52–26, MDAP–Iran); telegram 243, February 13 (788.5 MAP/2–1350); telegram 259, February 14 (ante, p. 470); and telegram 264, February 14 (788.5 MAP/2–1450). The S/ISA lot files contain records of the Office of the Director, International Security Affairs, Department of State, covering the years 1949–1951. They form a part of FRC Acc. No. 62 A 613.
  3. No memorandum of conversation, February 20, by Dean Rusk with Maj. Gen. James H. Burns, USA (retired), Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Foreign Military Affairs and Military Assistance, has been found in Department of State files.
  4. Lt. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Commanding General, Sixth Army, Presidio of San Francisco, Calif.
  5. Maj. Gen. Ray T. Maddocks, Army Member, Joint Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  6. Article 8 of the agreement between the United States and Iran respecting a military mission to Iran, signed at Tehran on October 6, 1947, excepted the giving of advice and assistance on tactical and strategical plans from the duties of the Mission (Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1666, or 61 Stat. (pt. 3) 3306).