338. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans (Wisner) to Director of Central Intelligence Dulles1


  • Iran; the present situation and the significance of an increased program of military assistance

1. Attached hereto is a memorandum dated 27 October which has been prepared by the NE Division as the result of your request, made orally at a recent morning staff meeting,2 for a draft paper which would be suitable for circulation to the Department of State, the Department of Defense and possibly the JCS. It was your thought in requesting the preparation of this paper that at some risk of having it appear that CIA is involving itself in matters beyond the scope of its responsibilities as an intelligence agency, you wished to point up the fact that despite the coup in Iran and the removal of Mossadegh, the situation there is still fraught with dangers and we cannot afford to divert our attention from the very serious problems confronting the regime. I believe that I recall your having suggested that we prepare the paper in the form of a brief summary of the present situation and recent developments, to be followed by certain suggested courses of action, including a program of military assistance. The military assistance program which you visualized was a relatively moderate one—not calculated to put the Iranian military forces on a footing to defend themselves against substantial Soviet military aggression, but enough to provide all the strength necessary to insure internal security and stability as well as to provide a very respectable frontier guard force.

2. Since I am not sure that the attached draft is exactly what you had in mind, I believe that it would be helpful to the Division to have your further comments and suggestions in attempting a redraft.

Frank G. Wisner

[Page 808]


Washington, October 27, 1953.


  • Effects of Proposed Increase of Military Aid to Iran

1. It is the view of this Division that United States military assistance to Iran on a scale designed to build the Iranian Armed Forces into an effective defense force would have decisive influence in consolidating Iran’s position on the side of the free nations. The Zahedi Government appears fairly well entrenched at this time, but already it is beginning to be faced with problems similar to those which undermined the Razmara regime three years ago and which led to the advent to power of Mossadeq and the extreme nationalists and to the concomitant upsurge of Tudeh influence.

2. We believe that an expanded military aid program would be likely to have the following effects:

a. Immediately and on a long-term basis increase the prestige and influence of the Shah, who we consider to be the most effective instrument for maintaining and strengthening Iran’s orientation toward the West. The principal source of the Shah’s power is the Army. We believe, therefore, that any strengthening of the Army will directly contribute to the strengthening of Iran’s Western orientation.

b. Immediately strengthen the prestige of the Zahedi Government, thus allowing it more opportunity to concentrate on basic social reforms and economic programs. Present leaders in the government are now prepared to commit themselves to a pro-Western alignment and to undertake a positive program of social reform and economic development. However, because of the seriousness of the problems confronting them and of their lack of experience, they are having great difficulty in formulating and initiating a positive course of action. It is our view that a military aid program would act as a catalyst and induce a program of development in Iran far transcending the military sphere.

c. Have a profound psychological effect on the nation as a whole by demonstrating United States confidence in Iran’s ability to play an active role, similar to that of Turkey, in military defense against Soviet imperialism. It would so bolster the morale of the people, the government and the army that under its impact Iran might well develop into an asset, rather than remain a liability, in the cold war.

3. The manner in which a military assistance program is negotiated with Iran will have a very important effect on its value to the United States. We are convinced that for the United States to obtain full benefit [Page 809] from such a program it must appear to the Iranian nation that the Shah has been primarily responsible for its successful negotiation. This will cement the loyalty of the strengthened Army, as well as the loyalty of the nation as a whole, to the one element in Iran (namely the Shah) that we feel is unequivocally committed to the West.

Kermit Roosevelt3 Chief
Division of Near East and Africa
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Secret; Security Information.
  2. An apparent reference to the Deputies’ meeting of October 23. At this meeting, DCI Dulles “indicated he had discussed the Iranian Army question with Admiral Radford and that the latter had agreed that we should encourage such a program. General Cabell suggested that the U.S. Army should be brought in on this and Mr. Wisner undertook to follow up.” (Ibid., Office of the Director of Intelligence, Job 80B01676R, Box 23, Folder 14, Minutes of Deputies’ Meetings)
  3. [name not declassified] signed for Roosevelt above Roosevelt’s typed signature.