15. Memorandum From the Chief of the Plans Staff, Near East and Africa Division, Directorate of Plans ([name not declassified]) to the Acting Chief of the Policy, Plans and Review Section, Office of Policy Coordination, Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency ([name not declassified])1
- Comments on your memorandum, “The Limitations of Diplomacy,” dated 13 March 19512
1. Iran is an interesting case in the context of the attached correspondence. It should be noted at the outset, however, that Iran does not fall into the category of countries we have helped too lavishly. We have in fact given the Iranians very little; they feel this keenly in view of what we have done for Greece and Turkey, and are genuinely skeptical of the sincerity of our interest in Iran. Moreover, Iran is threatened with an actual Soviet invasion (as distinct from an indirect, Soviet-inspired invasion). So it would be somewhat unrealistic to expect Iran to throw itself lock, stock, and barrel into the Western camp—particularly in the absence of military commitments from us.
2. These factors necessarily limit the objectives of a covert program. The best we can hope for is to prevent Iran’s falling into Soviet hands during the cold war period. To this end we are taking various steps designed to strengthen the present (or any anti-Soviet) regime; to divide, weaken, and discredit the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party and other hostile elements; to do the same respecting the intensely nationalistic and chauvinistic elements which, wittingly or unwittingly, serve Soviet ends by creating instability; and, in the long run, to bring to Iran a measure of stability. There is no need at this time to establish an Opposition in the commonly accepted meaning of that word. We are, however, actively investigating the possibility of establishing an energetic progressive party designed to attract the best elements from various factions (including leftists) and to push the economic and political reforms necessary to make the people less vulnerable to the blandish[Page 65]ments of Communism as painted by Soviet propaganda. Our purpose is not to threaten the present regime (it is in our interest to preserve that) but to encourage it, by introducing progressive elements into the government, to enact reforms and withstand Soviet pressures. These measures cannot prevent the USSR from forcibly taking over Iran at will, but they can, if accompanied by a strong overt US policy, help shore up Iran against subversion, disaffection, defection, and revolution—developments which might in turn lead to rapprochement with or surrender to the USSR.
3. We are even investigating the feasibility of establishing a local or “Titoist” Communist Party as a possible means of splitting and therefore weakening the Soviet Communist movement in Iran. This is obviously a dangerous undertaking which, if not very skillfully handled, could turn out to be a boomerang. Its potentialities as an anti-Soviet weapon, however, demand that we give it careful consideration.
4. It thus seems to me that our current plans for Iran include active political warfare in the spirit if not in the literal sense of your excellent memorandum. I should be happy to discuss this with you further.