349. Memorandum From the Chief of the Near East and Africa Division, Directorate of Plans (Roosevelt) to Director of Central Intelligence Dulles1


  • Position Paper/Re: Recommendation Submitted by Ambassador Henderson that NSC 136/12 be Amended With Regard to U.S. Policy Toward the Iranian Armed Forces


  • (1) American Embassy Tehran Cables No. 1102 and 1103 of 14 November 19533
  • (2) Memorandum to the Director from NEA Division dated 29 October, entitled “Certain Aspects of the Present Situation in Iran Which Appear to Require Further Attention By the U.S. Government; The Significance and Value of an Appropriate Program of Military Assistance”4

1. Policy Recommendation Under Consideration:

In paragraph 1 of Embassy cable No. 1103 Ambassador Henderson made the following policy recommendations:

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a) That the following sentence be added to paragraph 4 (E) (of NSC 136/1):

“In this connection in order to strengthen the will and ability of the government and people of Iran to suppress internal Communist activities and to resist external Communist pressure, the U.S. will accede to the request of Iran to assist in reorganizing, rearming and retraining the armed forces of Iran so that these forces will be capable of strong withdrawal—delaying action if Iran should be invaded by the armed forces of international Communism.”

b) And that paragraph 4 (H) be amended to read as following:

“Plan and execute the reorganization, rearming and retraining of the armed forces of Iran for the purpose referred to in (E) above in such a way as to facilitate eventually the employment of these forces in cooperation with the armed forces of other free Middle Eastern countries in a common defense of the Middle East against international Communist aggression in accordance with any regional defense arrangement which may later be developed.”

2. Basis for Recommended CIA Position:

The situation in Iran is currently dominated by efforts being made to reach an oil settlement. Therefore, from a short range point of view, events in Iran, U.S. reaction to such events, and U.S. decisions regarding Iran will be necessarily greatly influenced by this fact. From a long range point of view, U.S. interest demands not only a going oil industry but the permanently strengthened pro-West Shah in partnership with an essentially friendly Iranian government possessing the will to prevent domination by the Soviet Union or International Communism, as well as the ability and financial wherewithal to do so. U.S. policy, tactical decisions, and operations in Iran should be formulated to insure this state of affairs.

Compatible with these immediate and longer range U.S. aims, the NEA Division believes that an expanded and re-oriented military aid and advisory program would:

a) Immediately and on a long term basis increase the prestige, influence and actual power of the Shah, who we consider to be the most effective instrument for maintaining and strengthening Iran’s orientation toward the West, and resisting pressures from within or without by international Communism.

b) Immediately increase the strength and confidence of the Zahedi government which would further encourage this government to reach an oil settlement in the face of opposition influences within Iran.

c) Contribute to building the Iranian Army into a force under the leadership of the Shah which can unquestionably dominate the internal situation so as to leave no doubt as to its ability to preserve order and security.

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d) Represent the first step in the ultimate creation of an Iranian Army capable of delaying action in the event of an invasion, and which can possibly contribute to any regional defense arrangement which may later be developed. It is not anticipated that the Iranian Army can reach this degree of competence in the near future and it may be over-sanguine to believe it can ever do so. However, by increasing the power of the Shah and insuring internal security, an improved Iranian Army will help to create a condition in which such aspirations will at least come within the realm of possibility.

e) Have a profound psychological effect on the nation as a whole by apparently demonstrating U.S. confidence in Iran’s ability to play an active role similar to that of Turkey in military defense against Soviet imperialism.

Should the USSR become aware of a revised U.S. attitude toward the Iranian Army, it can be expected to exploit this to the fullest in its propaganda efforts through Communist and anti-West elements. Furthermore, it is possible that the Soviet Union would take this occasion to threaten Iran on the basis of the 1921 Treaty. However, it is estimated that the Soviet Union would not go beyond such threats; and the benefits derived from a strengthened Iranian Army would more than compensate for the propaganda opportunity given the Soviets.

Opposition to an expanded military program may be expected from other segments of the Iranian population; i.e., those who believe economic improvement should take priority over military expansion; neutralists who reject alliance with either East or West, and tribal elements which traditionally oppose central authority and the Army. Such opposition is not, however, considered of serious proportion.

3. Recommended CIA Position:

When Ambassador Henderson’s proposals per paragraph 1 above come before the NSC, it is recommended that you support them and that you concur in the reasoning put forth by Ambassador Henderson in reference Embassy cables No. 1102 and 1103.

Kermit Roosevelt5
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Secret; Security Information. The memorandum is attached to a covering memorandum from Wisner to Dulles, dated November 23, in which Wisner recalled that the memorandum “was prepared for your proposed use in connection with your desire to point up in conversations with members of the NSC and the military establishment (particularly the Army), the fact that not all is serene in Iran and that further significant action is required to solidify and exploit the advantages which were gained in August. (Actually, the recommendations of the Embassy and the US Military Mission in Teheran go well beyond what we were inclined to recommend at the end of last month.)” Wisner then requested Dulles to allow him to communicate the views expressed in Roosevelt’s memorandum to the NSC Planning Board. To the left of this request, Dulles wrote “OK” by hand.
  2. Document 147.
  3. In telegram 1102 from Tehran, November 14, Henderson reported on several recent conversations he had with the Shah on the future of the Iranian army. The Shah had made clear his view that the Iranian army should do more than just maintain internal security. Rather, it should have the capability of performing a holding action against the Soviets in case of a Soviet attack on the West. Henderson expressed his view that in order for the Iranian army to perform such a function, the MAAG program would have to be expanded to enable the Iranian army to increase its defensive capabilities. Moreover, should Iran consider itself part of the Western defense system, it would of necessity have to consider entering into defense agreements with other countries. The Shah responded positively to the suggestion that the MAAG program be expanded, but he expressed reservations regarding Henderson’s suggestion that Iran consider defense agreements with neighboring countries on the grounds that such arrangements might give the Soviet Union reason to invoke the 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty. For the text of telegram 1102, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 831–834 (Document 385). Telegram 1103 was not found.
  4. Document 339.
  5. [name not declassified] signed for Roosevelt above Roosevelt’s typed signature.