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141. Letter From Secretary of Defense Lovett to Secretary of State Acheson1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

In response to a request for advice concerning planned or feasible United States military courses of action in Iran in the event of a successful Tudeh coup, the Joint Chiefs of Staff undertook military planning based on assumptions contained in the request for advice. The studies undertaken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff have now proceeded sufficiently to produce tentative conclusions. Their views are forwarded as inclosure for use in connection with the current revision of NSC 107/2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have stated they will re-examine the courses of action, and initiate planning as appropriate to implement any course(s) of action which the revision of NSC 107/2 may indicate.

A copy of this letter and inclosure are being furnished the Director of Central Intelligence. The study of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not being circulated to the National Security Council.

Sincerely yours,

Robert A. Lovett

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Enclosure

Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Lovett

October 31, 1952.

SUBJECT

  • Iran

1. Reference is made to paragraph 3 of the memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated 5 September 1952, on the above subject.2 The studies referred to have proceeded sufficiently to produce tentative conclusions which are forwarded herewith for such use as may be appropriate in considering the revision of NSC 107/2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will reexamine the courses of action noted below and initiate planning as appropriate to implement any course(s) of action which the revision may indicate.

2. If the United States national policy requires the retention of the Middle East within the free world, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize that one action which might contribute to the security of the Middle East would be to provide positive U.S. military support to that area in collaboration with the British, the Turks, and the Middle East countries involved. It is believed that U.S. armed forces can be deployed to the Middle East with the sympathy and cooperation of the indigenous governments. An active indication of positive U.S. military action in the Middle East would demonstrate both to the Communists and to the free world that the United States is not going to permit Soviet domination of the Middle East.

3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to emphasize that the United States cannot deploy forces to Iran without a grave risk of inciting the USSR to invoke, with or without Iranian consent, the Soviet-Iranian Mutual Defense Pact of 1921.3

4. Studies were made to determine whether or not, under present conditions, there are feasible U.S. military courses of action which would strengthen the Western orientation of Iran and to determine what military courses of action are feasible in the event of an appeal by the Iranian Government to the United States for direct military assistance. The conclusions in this regard are:

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a. Without dislocation of current force deployments the only feasible U.S. military course of action under present conditions, to strengthen the Western orientation of Iran, is the present one, i.e., a continuation of arms aid and training missions. However, recent events indicate that this course of action alone cannot be expected to produce major results.

b. If a modification of current force deployments is decided upon, the United States can demonstrate some tangible evidence of greater U.S. determination to support the nations of the Middle East in their opposition to communism by stationing U.S. armed forces in the Middle East. The stationing of United States forces in the Middle East would necessitate substantial upward revision of U.S. force ceilings or a reduction of our commitments elsewhere.

c. Further, in event of an appeal by the Iranian Government to the United States for direct military assistance, the following courses of action are feasible from a military viewpoint:

(1) Conduct a show of force by periodic flights of carrier aircraft, or aircraft from land bases outside of Iran, over key centers.

(2) Assist the loyal Iranian Army with logistic support by augmenting the present policy of arms aid.

5. With regard to feasible U.S. military courses of action in the event of a Tudeh coup in Iran, studies were conducted within the framework of four conditions:

Condition I

Communist (Tudeh) Party completely controls Iran. U.S. national objective requires military action to prevent further spread of communism in Middle East.

Condition II

Communist (Tudeh) Party completely controls Iran. U.S. national objective requires military action to re-establish a Western oriented government.

Condition III

Anti-Communist Iranian forces withdraw to south and oppose Tudeh regime. U.S. national objective requires military action to prevent further spread of communism in Middle East.

Condition IV

Anti-Communist Iranian forces withdraw to south and oppose Tudeh regime. U.S. national objective requires military action to re-establish a Western oriented government.

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6. Under Condition I—Communist (Tudeh) Party completely controls Iran. U.S. national objective requires military action to prevent further spread of Communism in Middle East. The feasible military courses of action are:

a. Furnish additional arms aid to appropriate Middle East countries so as to eventually enable them to possess the strength to secure their frontiers against effective Communist infiltration.

b. Encourage the U.K. and/or other Commonwealth nations to undertake a commitment to deploy additional forces to Iraq on the order of 1 Division reinforced and appropriate air forces, subject to Iraqi agreement, with a mission of assisting Middle East governments in preventing the spread of Communist power to their countries.

c. Deploy appropriate Air Force units on the order of 1½ wings plus support units, to southern Turkey with a mission of assisting Middle East governments in preventing the spread of communist power to their countries. This mission is to be accomplished in conjunction with friendly forces that may be deployed to the area. Since Turkey, the key to Middle East defense, is the strongest anti-communist nation in the Middle East and since its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission supports the U.S. war plans, stationing of U.S. Air Forces in Turkey would materially demonstrate evidence of U.S. support. Additionally, the combination of the U.K. forces in Iraq mentioned above and the U.S. forces in southern Turkey would further deployments in support of NATO war plans.

d. Deploy U.S. forces on the order of 1 Division reinforced and necessary supporting air and naval forces to the vicinity of Basra with a mission of assisting Middle East governments in preventing the spread of communist power to their countries. This mission is to be accomplished in conjunction with friendly forces that may be deployed to the area. It should be recognized that such a deployment would be tantamount to associating the United States militarily with the United Kingdom in a ground defense of the Middle East. Current war plans do not contemplate the deployment of U.S. ground forces in this area, and no provisions in this regard are included in current operational or mobilization plans.

7. Under Condition II—Communist (Tudeh) Party completely controls Iran. U.S. national objective requires military action to re-establish a Western oriented government. The feasible military courses of action are:

a. Same as Condition I.

b. These limited U.S., U.K., and/or other Commonwealth forces probably could not insure the re-establishment of a Western oriented government in Iran, but could cooperate with and covertly support the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as required in the overthrow of a Tudeh regime and re-establishment of a friendly government.

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8. Under Condition III—Anti-Communist Iranian forces withdraw to south and oppose Tudeh regime. U.S. national objective requires military action to prevent further spread of Communism in Middle East. The feasible military courses of action are:

a. Same as Condition I.

b. Provide additional logistic assistance to the anti-Communist Iranian forces including augmentation of the U.S. Military Missions.

9. Under Condition IV—Anti-Communist Iranian forces withdraw to south and oppose Tudeh regime. U.S. national objective requires military action to re-establish a Western oriented government. The feasible military courses of action are the same as Conditions I, II and III. These limited U.S., Iranian, U.K., and/or other Commonwealth forces probably could not insure the re-establishment of a Western oriented government in Iran, but could cooperate with and covertly support the Central Intelligence Agency as required in the overthrow of a Tudeh regime and re-establishment of a friendly government.

10. The Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to emphasize that in the foregoing discussion they are not recommending that a decision be made to employ U.S. military forces in the Middle East for the purposes indicated in this memorandum. Rather, they are only indicating certain courses of military action which might be feasible in the event that such a decision is made by appropriate governmental authorities. While this memorandum is primarily concerned with the stationing of U.S. military forces in the Middle East under conditions short of war, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that in the event of Communist aggression in the area the resultant situation would be not unlike that we face in Korea, and it is unlikely that we could withdraw those forces. Under such circumstances we would find ourselves committed to military operations in the Middle East involving substantial forces, supplies, and other logistical support.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

W.M. Fechteler4
Chief of Naval Operations
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.5/11–1052. Top Secret; Security Information. On another copy of this letter is a handwritten note, dated November 19, that reads: “Delivered to the President for information, and returned.” (Eisenhower Library, Disaster File Series, NSC Staff Papers, Box 69, Iran Section)
  2. Not found.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 145.
  4. Printed from a copy with this typed signature and an indication that the original was signed.