788.00/3–854: Telegram

No. 434
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State1

top secret

1897. 1. At suggestion Ala, Minister Court, I had audience with Shah evening March 6. Ala also asked me come early for preliminary chat with him. Ala said Shah extremely worried over future security Iran and would talk with me primarily re (a) possible effect on Iran of proposed Turkish-Pakistani regional defense arrangements and (b) future of Iranian armed forces. Shah concerned at reports coming to him to effect that US and UK had decided it would be useless to endeavor strengthen, or even maintain at present strength, Iranian army; that decision had been made that Iran so weak politically, economically, morally and militarily that efforts to assist Iran in maintaining its independence in case of Soviet aggression would be too costly for results received; that Iran therefore was no longer within area, maintenance of which vital of free world. Ala said Le Monde, generally well informed Paris newspaper, had recently published article defense Iran no longer contemplated by Western allies. He added Iranian circles at first had welcomed Turkish-Pakistani move as evidence increased interest on part US in defense this region. They had hoped US would assist [Page 944] Iran defense sufficient military strength to enable it eventually to join regional defense arrangements including Iran’s neighbors. Belief now growing however that no intention include Iran; that only defense Iran would be perhaps action Turkish troops to defend certain portions of Iranian Azebaijan, Iranian and Pakistani troops to occupy Iranian Baluchistan, and troops some character endeavor to defend Khuzistan and to try prevent Soviet troops from reaching Persian Gulf. Net results such arrangement would be disappearance Iran as independent country. Failure US respond to enquiries made by Shah several months ago re whether US considered Iran’s armed forces should be capable of delaying defense action tended to confirm fears of Shah that US determination to support political independence and territorial integrity Iran had weakened.

2. I said I sorry hear that Shah and other Iranian leaders again beginning to doubt determination leaders free world to support independence and territorial integrity Iran. Determination US in this respect had been demonstrated consistently over so many years it should not be lightly subjected to doubt. I could understand however how Iran, in view of its geographical position and of well-known Soviet covetousness of Iranian territory, should watch with anxiety any international development which might affect its security. In US opinion understanding re defense between Pakistan and Turkey should strengthen security of whole Middle East, including Iran. US position in this regard was being set forth very ably on March 7 by Mr. Jernegan,2 Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for NEA, who particularly well acquainted with circumstances surrounding Pakistani-Turkish conversations and with US policies affecting security this area. Jernegan in referring to these conversations was stating:

“US warmly welcomed this development. It seemed to us this step would provide increased assurance that these two countries and others in area would be better able to keep their independence. Moreover, it was evidence that need for collective security in Middle East was being realized by states of area themselves, as Mr. Dulles had said it must be.”

I said I understood Foreign Minister of Turkey in explaining nature proposed agreement had stated:

“Treaty in question will be open to interested peaceful states. It will not and cannot be directed against any country of goodwill.”

[Page 945]

Furthermore Assistant Secretary Byroade in a speech delivered March 5 in referring to “tightening of bonds between Turkey and Pakistan” had stated:

“We hope that other nations will see attraction in this move sponsored by two powers flanking Middle East. I do not believe this to be forlorn hope. Other nations in Middle East I am confident will recognize the purely defensive nature of the arrangement. Such developments must come by will of nations themselves although our interest in such trend would be great.”3

I added that I would make available to Shah and Ala such excerpts from these speeches as were available.

4. [sic] Ala said such statements would of course be encouraging to Shah. If only US, Turkey or Pakistan had suggested to Iran that it might associate itself with such regional arrangements as were being planned, even though it known in advance Iran not position become party, Iran would not have felt itself so isolated. I replied that spokesmen for Iran had already informally made it clear it not in position enter into such arrangement at the present time and had even intimated that in present circumstances the less said re Iran as immediate or eventual participation the better. Iran’s position this respect understood by US and I thought, by Pakistan and Turkey, although I no authority speak for these two countries.

5. I told Ala Shah should not feel disturbed at US delay in replying his enquiries re future Iranian army. Much study and detailed consultation required before such important questions could be answered. Delay not due lack US interest in defense Iran. I position know this matter had been active interest US Government. Decisions re nature US reply however could be taken only after consideration numerous international and domestic political, military and economic factors.

6. During my audience Shah expressed concern re Iran’s security position and future of Iranian armed forces in language similar that used by Ala and I responded as I had to Ala. Shah said he failed understand how defense arrangements between Turkey and Pakistan not including Iran could be useful unless it was already assumed that Iran would be lost and that therefore Iran’s neighbors racked [backed?] by West were merely to work together to keep aggressors contained within borders Iran. More than 2000 kilometers separated Turkey from Pakistan by land and several times that number by sea. Iran which lay between these two countries must be keystone arch of defense unless another arch was to be created south of Iran. I told Shah he not acquainted with kind defense [Page 946] arrangements Turkey and Pakistan might be contemplating. Nevertheless I convinced these two countries just as interested as US in maintenance in defense at Iran. Loss any portion of Iran to international communism would certainly be blow to security of whole area including Turkey and Pakistan.

7. Shah spent considerable time urging US give consideration his suggestions re future Iranian armed forces. He not asking for elaborate, expensive army. He thought that armed forces no larger than 150,000 required. He had already discussed plans in some detail with General McClure. He confident Iranian terrain of character which could permit army he envisaged to hold back invading Soviet forces for considerable period. Iranian armed forces should be of kind which would cause Soviet Union to understand it could not take over country by force without severe fighting and cause Iranian people to feel Iran not entirely defenseless. If Iranian armed forces were to be able contribute to defense area they should be reorganized and re-equipped and certain military establishments including arsenals should be removed from Tehran to points less vulnerable to air attack. I told Shah it my understanding appropriate officials US Government had been giving careful study to his suggestions. I imagined these officials must give consideration number factors, including amount additional equipment and training Iranian armed forces able absorb at given time; extent to which Iranian budget might be able support army this kind; and availability in US of required equipment. Shah said he could not understand why US inclined treat Iran as stepchild. When US made decision in 1947 support free world against aggressive international communism it gave generous military assistance to Greece, Turkey and countries of Western Europe; it lost no time in responding to Pakistan’s request for aid. It always however slow give consideration to Iran’s requests. I reminded Shah that during last three years US had given Iran considerable military aid. Little question that certain amount such aid would be continued. It not so easy however decide on type, amount, and purpose such equipment.

8. Shah said he wondered if US policy makers fully appreciated present difficult position Iran. Without additional US financial assistance and in absence oil revenue Iranian budget would soon be completely out of balance. Even with exercise strict economy income not likely represent more than 60% expenditures. Government unable make plans for government operations for more than month or two in advance. Even if oil settlement achieved no certainty immediate revenues from oil for budgetary purposes. No country could maintain economic stability or plan its economic development in such situation. What in opinion US Government should Iran do in such circumstances? Could Iran have any assurance [Page 947] US would come to its rescue if it should find itself on eve bankruptcy?

9. I told Shah I not in position give him any advice on behalf US Government. I did not believe however in view temper present Congress that US Government would ask that funds be appropriated for continued budgetary assistance to Iran. Congress and US public had never looked with favor upon US granting budgetary support to any country except in times of exceptional emergency. It was considered unhealthy from point view US and any other country for latter to become budgetarily dependent on US. Shah said it possible there would be financial emergency in Iran within several months as serious as that of last August. I said that in my opinion Government of Iran should begin preparing itself now to prevent development such emergency. Certain rather drastic measures might be necessary. Shah replied present government would have to establish itself more strongly and obtain wider degree of popular support of population before it could undertake drastic measures of kind which might create more unemployment and entail greater economic hardships.

  1. Transmitted in three sections; repeated to London and pouched to Ankara, New Delhi, and Karachi.
  2. For text of Jernegan’s speech of Mar. 7, see Department of State Bulletin, Mar. 22, 1954, p. 444.
  3. For text of Byroade’s speech of Mar. 5, see Department of State Bulletin, Mar. 22, 1954, p. 438.