Tehran Embassy Files: Lot 59 F 17: 400 MDAP

The Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Jernegan) to the Ambassador in Iran (Wiley)


Dear Mr. Ambassador: For the past several months GTI has been working very hard to have some medium tanks made available to Iran under the Military Aid Program. After much study, the Department of Defense has reported that 50 such tanks will be physically available.1 The earlier model, with a 75 mm. gun, could be provided relatively quickly at a cost of about $1.5 million, while the later 76 mm. gun model would cost about $2.5 and would be available about a year later than the 75’s. However, Defense does not consider that either tank, or any other medium tank, would have any military utility in Iranian hands. Consequently, they are willing to include this item in the program only if the State Department considers it absolutely necessary for political reasons.

Our own military assistance unit, under Ambassador Bruce and Jack Ohly, is dubious about the whole matter but has agreed to include [Page 484] the 50 medium tanks if the Iranians absolutely insist on having them. As a sort of compromise I have agreed with Ohly and General Lemnitzer (head of the Defense Department’s military aid unit) that the program initially presented to the Iranian negotiators shall not include medium tanks but that this is to be a bargaining position rather than a final position on our part. If the Iranian representatives ask for the tanks, our people will advance all the military arguments they can think of against the idea: for example, that they would not be suited to the realities of warfare in Iran, that they would be difficult to operate and expensive to maintain, that spare parts might not be available after a year or two, that they are expensive and later models will be much more expensive still, etc. If this fails to shake the Iranian determination, we will then discuss the possibility that other parts of the Iranian program will have to be cut down, eliminating items such as trucks which we consider would be much more useful to the Iranian forces than medium tanks. However, if all of these fail to discourage them, it seems virtually certain at this stage that the military aid people will agree to provide the 50 tanks. (No one is willing to consider the Shah’s request for 150.)2

The major question remaining unresolved among our own people here is whether, if the tanks are furnished, their cost should be covered by a corresponding reduction in other items programmed for Iran or by transferring additional funds to the Iranian program from the Greek program. We expect to save a fairly substantial amount in the Greek program this fiscal year, but there are other, high priority claimants for these savings in addition to Iran.

At this point I am somewhat uncertain as to just how important the tanks are in the Iranian picture. Since the Shah’s visit here, we have heard little or nothing from Iranian sources on this subject. The latest word is a recent telegram from you quoting General Razmara as describing the Shah’s desire for jet planes3 and medium tanks as “fantastic”.4 This would seem to imply that it is only the Shah who feels strongly on the subject and that even he may be talked out of it. This is one of the main reasons that I have agreed to the type of bargaining and delaying tactics outlined above. We could not [Page 485] justify the provision of these tanks, even to ourselves, unless their refusal would have definitely bad repercussions in Iran.

I should be very glad to have your latest thinking on this subject.

Sincerely yours,

  1. See the memorandum, February 16, by Major General Lemnitzer to Mr. Bruce, p. 475.
  2. Regarding the Shah’s request for 150 medium tanks, see footnote 1, Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, p. 557. He again stated that Iran needed tanks at a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon on November 18, 1949; see the editorial note, ibid., p. 581.
  3. Regarding the Shah’s desire for the supply of jet planes to Iran by the United Kingdom, see telegram 282, March 12, 1949, from Tehran, and telegram 1355, October 22, 1949, from Tehran, ibid., pp. 488 and 565 respectively.
  4. Telegram 267, February 14, from Tehran, not printed, reported that Lt. Gen. Razmara made this statement in a conversation with Mr. Dooher on February 13, 1950 (788.00/2–1450).