226. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • H.I.M. the Shahinshah
  • Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge1

In a private audience before lunch, the Shah began by commenting about the extent of United States assistance to Iran, which he felt could be construed to mean that the United States was taking Iran for granted, while at the same time making large amounts available to neutralist countries like India which are also getting aid from the Soviet Union.

[Page 536]

Mr. Lodge said that he knew President Eisenhower’s views and that he could assure the Shah with great emphasis that the United States did not take its allies for granted. In particular this is true of our alliance with Iran. He pointed out that it would be just as bad for Iran as for the United States if India were to go communist, and that, while a loyal ally merited our warmest feelings, the irritating neutral was better from both our points of view than the enemy who desired our destruction. His Majesty appeared to be impressed by these observations.

The Shah commented that Russia had historically striven for control of a warm-water port, and had historically been interested in the Persian Gulf for this reason, as well as for the oil in the area. His Majesty said that the Soviet Union could, from a military point of view, thus best achieve a breakthrough into the Middle East through the lowlands west of the Caspian Sea, i.e., through Iranian territory.

Mr. Lodge said that if this happened, it would be an issue of world wide concern, and would be met by the United States as such. His Majesty agreed, but said that his chief concern was what kind of reaction we would be prepared to make. Suppose, he said, we should decide it would not be in our overall interest to use strategic nuclear weapons, but rather to attempt to conduct limited warfare. What, His Majesty asked, would we be in a position to do? How could our power be made effective locally? It would take, His Majesty felt, a long time for United States power to come to bear effectively in this area. On the other hand, the Iranian Army would be immediately available, could be kept in readiness at a twentieth of the cost of equivalent United States divisions. For these reasons, His Majesty felt that the Iranian Army should be strengthened, and he hoped that his view and the reasons for it would be conveyed to President Eisenhower.

Discussing the problem of Iran’s need for economic development loans, His Majesty said that he was planning to apply soon for a loan for this purpose. He seemed to accept completely the proposition that direct grant aid from the United States for economic development in Iran was not in the cards.

Comment: After the private audience between Mr. Lodge and the Shah, Mrs. Lodge and Empress Soraya joined the group for lunch, which went on from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Shah appeared to relax and speak with great frankness on a wide range of subjects, both political and personal. He left no doubt of his strong dislike and distrust of Russia and the Russians, and displayed a similar attitude toward the neutralist countries. His Majesty appeared to be intellectually, as well as politically, anti-communist and to be highly reflective about Iran’s position in the world. He appeared to be, on the other hand, extremely proud as far as his own personal position was concerned, and capable in [Page 537] his pride of taking rash actions if his ideas about what is essential in Iran’s interests are not taken seriously by his allies.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 310.311/2–558. Confidential. Drafted on February 3 by Lodge and Franklin L. Mewshaw, a political officer at USUN, who accompanied Lodge on his trip. This memorandum of conversation was sent to the Department of State as an enclosure to Despatch No. 701, February 5.
  2. Lodge visited Iran January 31–February 4 as part of a tour of four nations—Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The Department of State was concerned that the Shah would use the visit by Lodge “to by pass” the Embassy whose relations with the Shah were strained because of the Embassy’s opposition to the Shah’s “extreme military and financial demands.” This fear was triggered when the Shah’s Minister of Court instructed that the Shah would meet with Lodge alone. (Telegram 1472 from Tehran, January 28, and unnumbered telegram Dulles to Lodge, January 31; ibid., 310.311/1–2858 and 110.11–DU/1–3158)
  3. Lodge’s interview with the Shah pleased the Embassy. Briefing the Country Team, Chapin reported that “Lodge went over the matters on which he had been briefed by the Embassy and it appears that no other subjects were raised. There was no hint of criticism of the Embassy in the Shah’s remarks.” (Minutes of Country Team Meeting, February 4; ibid., NEA/GTI Files: Lot 60 D 533, Country Team Meetings)