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345. Letter From the Officer in Charge of Iranian Affairs, Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, Department of State (Stutesman) to the First Secretary of Embassy in Iran (Melbourne)1

Dear Roy:

I consider myself an unusually fortunate Desk Officer in having such close personal relationships with my more or less opposite numbers in CIA. John Waller and [name not declassified] are men upon whose judgment we can all rely without qualification and Arthur Richards and I have been happy to observe that they go out of their way to maintain friendly and close relations with us, asking our advice often upon subjects which their organization might not normally discuss with working levels in the Department.

Since the change of Government in Iran, we have had many lengthy discussions here on the subject of action to take to exploit the new and favorable situation there. To set my own thoughts in order I divided the problem into four major segments:

1. Accomplishment of major policy objectives, involving definition of short and long-range objectives, determination of size and nature of economic and military aid, overt diplomatic action;

2. Settlement of the oil dispute, involving negotiations with the Iranians, the U.K. and American oil companies;

3. Initiating U.S. political action in Iranian internal affairs;

4. Initiating a propaganda campaign, involving definition of objectives and increasing the variety and effectiveness of our efforts.

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Naturally, all of these are almost inextricably interrelated; but, at least from this desk, it seems that different lines radiate to each of these major segments of the total Iranian problem. The first involves, in Washington, the NSC and constant in-fighting with FOA and Defense. The banner of the second is being carried at this moment by Mr. Hoover. My efforts in regard to meeting the 4th (propaganda) problem will be dealt with in another letter and involves close coordination with Clary Thompson of USIA and a host of propaganda experts in other crannies of Washington.

The third problem listed above has been the subject of much discussion with John Waller and Don Wilbur. The latter will be able to give you first-hand reports upon our discussions and our difficulties. The rest of this letter will be devoted to raising problems with you on this specific subject.

First of all, as I know you already realize, we have such great admiration for Ambassador Henderson and you that we have not sought to give you more than general indications of our attitude on political aspects of the Iranian situation. For instance, you will note that we have hardly expressed an opinion upon the question of whether to urge Zahedi to fill up his rump Majlis or elect a new Majlis. We have such confidence in the Ambassador that we feel it best to leave to his discretion final judgment upon such tactical problems. Therefore we are inclined more to backing you up than to calling the signals.

However, the problem presents a different face to our friends across the street. Without reflecting any lack of confidence in their station, they feel, and I consider it understandable, that they cannot allow much free-wheeling. They have already (and please treat this in confidence although I would expect you to inform Bill Rountree and the Ambassador) taken steps to pull in their horns a bit without any encouragement on our part, although Arthur and I know that this will meet with the Ambassador’s approval. They wish to give rather specific instructions at least so far as objectives are concerned, and they have asked for our advice.

We very much appreciate their consideration in seeking our advice but we consider it necessary to ask your views upon the questions which I shall raise below. Please let me have your informal advice. You may wish to discuss this with CAS and you are certainly free to explain the substance of what I have written above. Of course, I would like to have the Ambassador’s opinion as well as Bill’s.

My basic assumption is that we cannot avoid a responsibility to become involved in Iranian internal affairs. The grave risk we will run is that we will become known as an intriguing power and lose our important moral position as a nation dealing with other independent members of the free world as equals. On the other hand, I fear that re[Page 831]fusal to interfere in Iran would not only be disbelieved but could be as dangerous as refusing to stretch forth a hand to help an unstable man walk along a precipice.

1. Army—It would seem essential that there be an organization of preferably younger Army officers responsive to our guidance. This would seem to me to be Target No. 1.

2. Government—Aside from the information to be obtained from control of certain government employees, I do not see the advantage of directing a major effort toward controlling Cabinet-level officers. The British have apparently placed great reliance upon such measures, but the success of this maneuver has not been very impressive during the past four years in Iran. It is my present inclination to advise against concentration of covert resources upon high-level government officers since they are (a) generally undependable, (b) subject to many opposite influences, (c) constantly changing. Naturally, I would not suggest rejection of any person amenable to our advice, and in fact would urge on every occasion that we seek to further the careers of persons friendly towards us while generally discouraging the rise of persons basically unfriendly to us.

3. Majlis—Perhaps in contradiction to what I have said above, I think it is desirable to support the election of certain men to the Majlis. I do not delude myself that this would lead to the creation of any openly pro-American group but I would suggest this as at least a secondary target. However this leads to a larger question upon which I need your advice. Should we encourage the creation of a party which draws political influence from its closeness to the American Embassy? Is it to our advantage to have a group of politicians suspected of being American stooges? I can see some advantages and great disadvantages in an effort to encourage the creation of such a political group.

4. Potential opposition—Clearly there is a value in penetration of communist groups, as well as having at least listening posts close to extremist groups. What attitude do you believe we should take toward politicians and groups presently antagonistic to Zahedi? Should we support any potential alternate to Zahedi? We would run the serious danger of encouraging intrigue and antagonisms, and, in Iran, a land of intrigue, I doubt that we could long keep any support of an opposition group secret. However, and this I consider a most important point upon which I need your advice, it seems to me that Zahedi must not become our only arrow in the political quiver. Although we have never raised the question on a high level here it is my frank belief that in any show-down between the Shah and Zahedi, we can only side with the Shah. We have gone already very far in the direction of becoming identified with Zahedi and I dread the day when his increasingly unpop[Page 832]ular government will either fall of its own failures or he destroyed by the Shah or opposition forces.

For instance, our thoughts here are running along lines that it is not unlikely that Zahedi will fall to be replaced probably by Soheily to be followed by Baghai who in turn will be followed by someone of the Makki cast. This, of course, is predicated on an estimate that the oil dispute will not be settled and large sums of additional foreign aid will not be forthcoming.

5. Tribes

Perhaps because Mary’s pregnancy prevented us from accepting an invitation to visit the Qashqais, I have never acquired any very romantic feelings about the nomads of Iran or their political or military dependability in any time of crisis. I believe the actions of the Qashqai during recent months have shaken many illusions here, but there is still that undercurrent of affection which Joe Wagner once described as the American characteristic of being interested in people who wear funny hats. There has always seemed to me a contradiction in our policy of seeking on the one hand to develop a strong central government, while supporting with the other hand semi-autonomous groups who are inherently antagonistic to the concept of strong central government. However, particularly since they might be useful in time of war, I recognize that we would be foolish not to maintain relations with the tribes, particularly as they can sometimes affect political developments.

There are, of course, other resources which we can use to influence internal Iranian affairs, paramount among which is the TCA program. Arthur and I have shivers whenever the question of TCA participation in political affairs comes up, but it would be foolish to disregard the many contacts which they have and their entry into levels of Iranian society which are unreached otherwise by Americans. I frankly don’t know what to suggest in this regard. Perhaps you can furnish a guide line or two.

I realize this is an awfully large bite to offer you and I do not expect any more than preliminary views in reply. However, it is a question of deep concern here and every day that goes by chips away a little more from the great opportunity offered us in mid-August.


John H. Stutesman 2
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, GTI Files, Lot 57 D 529, Box 40, CIA. Top Secret; Security Information; Official–Informal.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.