788.5 MSP/1–852

No. 141
Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret


  • Application to Iran of Section 511(a), Mutual Security Act.2


To establish the Department’s position concerning the letters dated January 8 from the Department of Defense to the Secretary of State and Mr. Harriman 3 asking that the President, after appropriate [Page 306] Congressional consultation, avail himself of his plenary powers under Article II of the Constitution and continue such military assistance to Iran as may be necessary, regardless of Iran’s failure to comply with Section 511(a) of the Mutual Security Act.


In discussions with Ambassador Henderson in Tehran, Prime Minister Mosadeq thus far has categorically refused to give the assurances required under Section 511(a) of the Mutual Security Act in order to permit continuation after January 8 of military aid and economic and technical assistance in support of the military effort. Dr. Mosadeq’s refusal to give these assurances in any form appears to have been based upon his reluctance to take a position which might be interpreted as aligning Iran irrevocably with the United States in opposition to the Soviet Union, thus militating against Iran’s current efforts to maintain a neutral position in the East-West struggle. An important factor in Dr. Mosadeq’s position is that he clearly is not sympathetic towards United States military aid to Iran or the expenditure by Iran of substantial sums of money for the maintenance of its military forces. He has taken the position that what Iran needs is United States financial support and for the United States to agree to buy Iranian oil. His attitude appears to be that the American military missions in Iran and the military aid programs are more for the convenience and advantage of the United States than of Iran.

On the other hand, the Shah and Iranian leaders loyal to the Shah are greatly interested in the continuation of American military aid to that country. The Shah has exerted considerable pressure upon Prime Minister Mosadeq to find a way of meeting the legislative requirements which would prevent any interruption in the military programs. While these efforts may have softened Dr. Mosadeq to some extent, they have not substantially altered his position. In a recent conversation with Ambassador Henderson, Dr. Mosadeq said that he hoped some arrangement might be worked out in further discussions, although the Ambassador in reporting the conversation cautioned that this might have been no more than Persian courtesy.

The position of the Department in the matter of obtaining assurances from Dr. Mosadeq has been to be as lenient as legally possible in implementing the requirements of the legislation. When it became apparent that Section 511(a) assurances could not be obtained in any form before January 8, it was considered in our national interest to devise a formula which would at least permit the continuation of the economic program now being implemented by TCA. It was considered that the necessity of announcing the termination [Page 307] of economic assistance, as well as military assistance, to Iran after January 8 would cause political reactions which might well make it most difficult for the United States to exercise any influence in that country and thus render it impossible for us to obtain our objectives. Accordingly, we proceeded with a plan to obtain from Dr. Mosadeq in some suitable form assurances under Section 511(b) of the legislation which would permit continuation of “simple” economic aid. After difficult negotiations even on this point, Ambassador Henderson was successful in obtaining from Dr. Mosadeq a letter which, although not wholly satisfactory, at least contained assurances that Iran adheres to the principles of the United Nations, those principles including the principles set forth in Section 511(b). An exchange of notes on this basis was accomplished on January 5.4

The Department has consulted the Department of Defense at every important stage of the negotiations and has obtained its clearance upon all important telegrams to Ambassador Henderson in this matter. It has been pointed out to Ambassador Henderson that one of our concerns is that the failure of Iran to comply on time with the provisions of Section 511(a) should not result in the withdrawal of our military missions. When it became clear that the assurances would not be forthcoming, Ambassador Henderson was advised that expenses of the military mission in Iran would at least for the time being continue to be paid; that military aid goods which actually had left continental United States ports before January 8 would be delivered; and that Iranian military trainees already in the United States would be permitted to complete their training. It is expected that discussions with Dr. Mosadeq will be continued on an urgent basis in an effort to find a solution to the problem in order to permit the resumption of military shipments at the earliest possible date.

The Department agrees entirely with the Department of Defense upon the importance of maintaining military aid to Iran and of continuing our military missions in that country. There is little question that the necessity for terminating these programs might have very serious consequences in Iran and upon the possibility of United States attaining its objectives there. The only question at issue is how we should proceed in endeavoring to assure that the intransigent position of the Iranian Government does not result in [Page 308] such termination of assistance and the forced withdrawal of the missions.


The course suggested by the Department of Defense can best be considered in light of the factors which favor it and those which would argue against it:

Arguments for:

Such presidential action would enable the United States to proceed with its military programs in Iran with no interruption.
Should our military aid be terminated without immediate prospects of resumption, it is probable that the Mosadeq Government eventually would insist on the termination of all United States military activities in Iran and compel the withdrawal of our missions. In addition to the loss of prestige for the United States, this would leave a military vacuum which would be a very attractive target for Soviet penetration. It would also make it virtually impossible for the United States or any other like-minded power to reenter the picture in the foreseeable future and strengthen Iran’s military forces.
Without United States military assistance, both in goods and advice, it is difficult to see how Iran can maintain its security forces. Iran for many years has been dependent upon outside sources of supply for virtually all of its military equipment. As a result of the loss of its oil revenues, the Iranian Government is not now in a position to purchase any equipment abroad, and the cutting off of American aid will in the course of time mean a drastic reduction in Iran’s armed forces to the point where it is doubtful that they will be able to successfully resist an internal Communist uprising.
The termination of American military aid and the consequent eventual withdrawal of the American military missions would be a signal triumph for Prime Minister Mosadeq and a defeat for the Shah in the eyes of a wide segment of the Iranian people. While the Shah has admittedly had very little influence upon the policies of the Mosadeq Government, he has remained in the opinion of most non-fanatical Iranians the only source of leadership and of hope for the future. It is widely known that he is preoccupied with military affairs and has for several years earnestly sought American military assistance. The loss of face involved in the present matter might very well reduce the Shah to little more than a figurehead totally unable to exercise any restraining influence upon the unreasonable policies of the Mosadeq Government.
If, in the absence of drastic action, the United States military missions are forced to withdraw the Administration might be criticized for not having taken all measures at its disposal. It would be difficult to prove to the public that waiver of the legislative requirements would not have prevented the situation.

Arguments against:

The proposal to make use of the plenary power of the President poses a fundamental, and perhaps novel, constitutional problem, because it involves the use of this power in the face of a specific [Page 309] Congressional prohibition that military aid not be provided unless the requisite assurances have been obtained. It is assumed that on this question the President would seek the advice of the Attorney General. In this regard, the extent of the immediate threat to United States national security is a critical consideration.
It is probable that there would be very strong Congressional and public reaction to this step taken in violation of legislation, particularly if it were taken only a day or so before Congress is convened and if the consequences of failure to act were not demonstratively extremely dangerous to the national interest. It would be extremely difficult to explain to the American public why such drastic measures are being taken to permit continuation of assistance to a country which is unwilling to accept the principles set forth in the legislation.
The action of the United States in waiving the provisions of the legislation in the case of Iran would be interpreted in Iran as capitulation to Dr. Mosadeq and would be a signal victory for him which, undoubtedly, would increase his obstinacy and the difficulty of dealing with him on all matters.
This drastic measure taken by the United States in order to permit the continuation of military assistance and missions in Iran would demonstrate that the United States is willing to go to almost any lengths to retain its missions in that country. This could be expected to be used by unscrupulous Iranian leaders as a means of further blackmailing the United States in relation to many matters. Dr. Mosadeq might well say that if the United States did not come forward with financial assistance, the Iranian economy could not afford to maintain the present level of its armed forces or to meet its share of expenses of foreign advisory groups, and that such groups would, therefore, have to be withdrawn. Similar arguments might be used by him in his efforts to persuade the United States to begin purchases of Iranian oil.
There is thus no assurance that the drastic step proposed would in fact result in the maintenance of our military assistance program and military missions in Iran; indeed, as pointed out above, the consequences of such action might be to make it considerably more difficult to maintain the missions in that country.
An extraordinary step of this nature, the justification of which would receive very wide publicity, might lead the Iranians to believe that, as charged by the Russians, the United States entertains ambitious military plans in Iran which are being jeopardized. This might lead them to fear that continuation of this situation would provoke Soviet intervention. They might in their alarm, therefore, ask for the cessation of all United States military activities including the advisory missions.
A waiver of the legislative requirements in the case of Iran could be expected to have repercussions in other countries participating in the Mutual Security Program. The extension of assurances required under Section 511(a) presents difficulties to a number of countries which would like to find some means of avoiding them. The purposes of the legislation might, therefore, be adversely affected in relation to countries other than Iran.

[Page 310]


It is concluded that, even if it should be determined that the President has the power to pursue the course recommended by the Department of Defense, such course would probably not accomplish the purpose for which it has been recommended and would involve dangers much greater than the immediate advantages which might be achieved.


It is recommended that in lieu of the course proposed by the Department of Defense, the following constitute the general line of our policy upon this question:

That the United States should not appear publicly or in discussions with Dr. Mosadeq to attach such importance to obtaining the required assurances as to give the impression that vital United States interests are involved, and should not pursue tactics which would increase Dr. Mosadeq’s intransigence and bargaining power. In this connection, it is suggested that the following line be taken with the press, the precise wording and manner of presentation to be worked out between the Department and DMS:

“Ambassador Henderson has held discussions during the past few weeks with the Iranian Government concerning American economic and military programs of assistance to Iran, and of the legislative provisions relating to the qualification of countries receiving aid under the Mutual Security legislation. The Iranian Government has already exchanged with Ambassador Henderson notes which make it possible for the United States to continue programs designed to assist in the economic development of Iran. Discussions regarding the military program are continuing and it is hoped that this matter can be worked out in the near future. In the meantime, because of the requirements of the legislation, additional shipments of military goods to Iran will after January 8 be temporarily withheld until the matter can be worked out.”

That Ambassador Henderson continue to exert every effort to work out the matter with Dr. Mosadeq and that he solicit all appropriate support from the Shah who is sincerely desirous of finding a solution.
That the United States be prepared to make considerable concessions in the form and wording of the assurances from Dr. Mosadeq, recognizing that Dr. Mosadeq or any Iranian Prime Minister would in fact have a very real political problem in giving the assurances without making it appear as though he has given up his policy of avoiding any action which might be provocative to the Soviets. In this connection, we have already authorized Ambassador Henderson to accept an arrangement under which Dr. Mosadeq would include in a general verbal statement before the Majlis or elsewhere a review of Iranian policies including a liberal paraphrase of the principles set forth in Section 511(a), provided a transcript [Page 311] of this statement is transmitted to the Ambassador under cover of a letter signed by an appropriate Iranian official associating the statement with the legislative requirements.
That, if it appears impossible to obtain compliance within a period of two or three weeks, the Department be prepared to seek some appropriate Congressional action which would waive the provisions of the legislation as they relate to Iran, provided that the circumstances at the time would appear to dictate this exceptional course.
That the Secretary, perhaps jointly with Mr. Harriman, arrange as soon as practicable to consult with appropriate Congressional Committees on this entire subject in order that they will be fully aware of the difficult problem with which we are confronted.
That, pending clarification of the issue, the effects of terminating military assistance be minimized insofar as possible: Delivery of military goods en route to Iran should be completed; students already in the United States for training should be permitted to continue; and the expenses of the military group in Iran responsible for the assistance program should be met.

  1. Drafted by Rountree and Ferguson. Concurred in by Vigderman, Brown, Nitze, Merchant, and Ohly.
  2. For text of Section 511 of the Mutual Security Act of 1951 (P.L. 82–165, Oct. 10, 1951), see American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955, vol. II, pp. 3073–3074.
  3. In both letters, Deputy Secretary of Defense Foster enclosed a proposed draft letter from W. Averell Harriman, Director for Mutual Security, to President Truman suggesting that the President continue military assistance to Iran regardless of Iran’s failure to comply with provisions of the Mutual Security Act. (788.5 MSP/1–852)
  4. Following the exchange of notes between Ambassador Henderson and Prime Minister Mosadeq on Jan. 4 and 5, a Technical Cooperation Administration Agreement was signed and entered into force on Jan. 20. For the texts, see 3 UST (pt. 4) 4741. Materials concerning the negotiation of this TCA agreement are in Department of State files 788.5 MSP and 888.00 TA.