237. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McElroy0


  • Briefing Paper for Presidential Use in Discussions with the Shah of Iran (U)

1. Reference is made to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), dated 19 May 1958,1 subject as above.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider the following military positions appropriate for Presidential use in his discussions with the Shah of Iran:

a. Strategic Role of Iran in Middle East Defense

(1) Unilateral U.S. Military Objectives for the defense of the Middle East in general war are: to hold the Erzerum line in East Turkey, the approaches to the Cario–Suez–Aden area and the Persian Gulf, and to ensure to the maximum extent practicable the continued availability of Middle East bases, oil, and other resources; or, if this is not possible, to deny them to the enemy.

(2) Iran is of strategic importance by reason of its geographical location between the USSR and the Persian Gulf, the extensive natural defense barriers in Iran, its natural resources, and the fact that it is the keystone to the defense of the Baghdad Pact (BP) area against aggression from the north. The United States is committed under the American Doctrine to come to the assistance of Iran should that country be attacked overtly by a nation or nations under the control of international Communism and should Iran request such U.S. assistance.

(3) U.S. Military Objectives in Iran are in general:

To develop military forces which can maintain internal security and thereby insure the continuation in power of a government which is friendly to the West.
To develop military forces capable of resisting external aggression by defensive delaying actions, and contributing to the defense of the BP area.

b. US Relations with the BP

(1) Although not a member of the BP, the United States was largely responsible for its formation and has consistently given it moral and material support. In April 1956, the United States agreed to participate in the BP Economic and Counter-Subversion Committees. Following the [Page 555] passage of the Joint Congressional Resolution on the Middle East in March 1957, the United States accepted an invitation to participate in the work of the BP’s Military Committee and currently provides a Major General as the Deputy Director of the Combined Military Planning Staff. The United States has furthered the development of plans for the defense of the BP area through the provision of three staff officers of Colonel/Captain rank for duty with the Combined Military Planning Staff and through the provision of detailed U.S. comments and recommendations on BP plans and military studies.

(2) The U.S. concept for the defense of the area in a general war is generally the same as the BP concept. It envisages the reduction of Soviet overall capabilities by U.S. strategic air operations against the USSR, and the defense of the line of mountains in Eastern Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Elburz, and the northwestern frontier of Pakistan, with secondary positions in the mountain passes of the Zagros. Maximum use will be made of indigenous forces and resources to prevent Soviet penetration of this line. The defense will be supported by such U.S. atomic capable ground and tactical air forces as may be deployed in the area.

(3) Iran places considerable importance on the defense of the northeastern corner of Iran. The U.S. concept differs from Iran’s concept on the defense of east Iran. United States would defend Azerbaijan and the Elburz north of Tehran at the expense of eastern Iran. There are no major strategic objectives in eastern Iran and a Soviet offensive there would not have any major impact on the success of the defense of the BP area. The Soviets would have to traverse over 500 miles of difficult country to Tehran and approximately 1000 miles to the Persian Gulf. The great distances to strategically important areas, the long difficult lines of communications, and the vulnerability of these communications to air attack, make a strong defense of eastern Iran near the Soviet frontier militarily infeasible, as it is also logistically unsupportable.

(4) In the BP force requirements, which will be considered at the Military Deputies meeting in June and at the Military Committee meeting in July, the U.S. position calls for 1 token division in furthest east Iran. The Iranian position would require at least 5 additional divisions, and the Pakistanis are asking for at least 3 additional divisions, based on the Iranian concept. This Iranian position would also require a sizeable increase in ground support aircraft. The Shah can be expected to solicit Presidential support for the Iranian view.

(5) For President’s information only—and not to be disclosed to the Shah—the Joint Chiefs of Staff have not allocated specific D-day forces for the defense of the Middle East in general war. For U.S. unilateral planning purposes, however, it has been assumed that U.S. forces would be available in the Middle East prior to D-day as follows: [Page 556]

Army Forces
6 Nuclear Demolition Teams
18 Teams for firing nuclear munitions in the artillery of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan
8 Special Forces Teams (FA)
Naval Forces
1 Command Ship
4 Destroyers
Air Force Forces. One Air Division to include:
3 Fighter Bomber Squadrons
1 Fighter Refueling Squadron
2 Fighter Interceptor Squadrons
1 Reconnaissance Squadron
1 Troop Carrier Squadron
1 Aircraft Control and Warning Group

(6) Since the character and duration of operations in the Middle East after D-day cannot be predicated with any assurance of accuracy, forces required for these subsequent operations must be determined and deployed in the light of the then existing situation.

(7) Limited War Operations. The foregoing discussion pertains essentially to U.S. military efforts with respect to Iran concerning general war in the Middle East. It should be noted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have developed detailed contingency plans for the employment of U.S. forces, readily available in CONUS, the European-Mediterranean Sea area and in the Western Pacific, in the event of an emergency situation in the Middle East. These plans are adaptable to the movement of U.S. forces to Iran.

c. Additional Measures Required. The initial planning studies of the BP are virtually completed. The next logical steps would be to perfect plans for making the best use of forces currently available, to continue the qualitative improvement of forces, and to train for the implementation of agreed defense concepts. The United States will continue its current efforts to assist in the improvement and training of the Iranian Armed Forces. In this regard, the United States currently provides an Army major general and the following U.S. MAAG–Mission personnel in Iran who could be utilized for employment in close coordination with the Iranian Armed Forces: Army 375, Naval 4, Air Force 13, and civilian 11.

d. Military Aid Program (MAP) for Iran

(1) In consideration of the foregoing military objectives the United States has evolved the following MAP force objectives for Iran:

[Page 557]

Infantry Divisions (12,700) 6
Infantry Divisions (reduced strength 3,700) 6
Infantry Brigades (3,600) 5
Patrol Vessels/Craft (PF/SC/PGM) 2
Patrol Craft (CGPB) 4
Minesweepers (MSO/MSC) 4
Air Force
Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (UE 12 a/c) 1
Fighter Squadron (IDF and/or FB) (UE 12 a/c) 4
Transport Squadron (UE 12 a/c) 1

(2) From a U.S. military point of view there has been little need for Iran to have military forces beyond those provided by the present MAP program for Iran. This view is based in part on U.S. global strategy, and also on U.S. recognition that it is not feasible to build up Iranian forces so that they can resist successfully large scale Soviet aggression. While incursions from nations other than the USSR are either improbable or possible only on a small scale, the United States should, on the other hand, seek to improve the quality of Iranian forces so that these forces can continue to maintain internal security even against Communist supported and sponsored internal disturbances. The development of additional Iranian forces is limited by a lack of technical ability to absorb equipment and by Iran’s limited economic capacity to support additional forces. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the MAP force objectives for Iran are adequate for the present.

(3) The MAP program for Iran must be considered in the light of world-wide deterrence of the Sino-Soviet Bloc, world-wide aid requirements, and the amount of money made available by Congress. In this respect, the following facts concerning the amount of assistance Iran has received under the Mutual Security Program are pertinent:

Currently, authority and funds for the FY 1959 Mutual Security Program (MSP) are being requested from Congress. The following figures represent the value of the Iranian program for FY 1957–FY 1959:

Military Assistance Economic Assistance Total Mutual Security Program
FY 1957 $42,870,000 51,556,000 94,426,000
FY 1958 57,530,000 26,590,000 84,120,000
FY 1959 56,965,000 29,000,000 85,965,000

[Page 558]

Since the request was transmitted, additional FY 1958 Military Assistance Programs in the amount of $47,578,000, including a $15,000,000 transfer from Economic Assistance, have been approved, bringing the total FY 1958 MAP to $105,108,000 and the total FY 1950–58 MAP to $340,479,000. When combined with Economic Assistance of $329,859,000, total U.S. assistance to Iran under the MSP through FY 1958 is valued at $670,338,000. (This latter figure excludes $33,116,000, which represents the acquisition cost of excess military stocks programmed for Iran for which no charge to the appropriation is made, except for repair and delivery charges.)

(4) The MAP for Iran has provided the major portion of equipment for 12 infantry divisions (6 full strength of 12,700 each and 6 reduced strength of 3,700 each) and 5 independent brigades, 4 air squadrons, and 6 naval vessels. The program includes an ammunition war reserve for approximately 30 days for Army units, and maintenance support in the form of spare parts, miscellaneous equipment, and services, including training ammunition. Funds have been provided to complete the construction of one air base at Dizful and the improvement of another at Mehrabad near Tehran to make both capable of accommodating jet aircraft. In addition, funds have been provided for the first two increments of an army construction program, mostly barracks, to support the reorganization and redeployment of the Iranian Army, to its main battle positions, along the line of the Elburz mountains.

(5) It is estimated that the following major categories of equipment will be delivered to Iran in accordance with the following schedule:

[Page 559]
Major Items Cumulative 30 June 58 FY’59 and later
F 84 G Aircraft 60 -
C 47 Aircraft 8 -
T 33A Aircraft 11 -
Trainer and Liaison Aircraft (T13, T6, LT6G, L4) 68 -
Coast Guard Patrol Boats 2 1
Coastal Minesweepers - 2
Landing Ship, Infantry, Large 2 -
Tanks (M4, M26, M46, M47 & M48) 115 17
Carriage, Motor 90 mm Gun 99 -
Carriage, Motor 76 mm Gun, M18 55 -
Trucks (1/4T, 3/4T, 21/2T, 4–5–6T) 7,047 972
Howitzer, 8 in. - 16
Tractor, Full Tracked, High Speed 18T, M–4 - 16
Howitzer, 155 mm 74 6
Howitzer, 105 mm 72 8
Rifle, 106 mm 85 29
Rifle, 57 mm 682 -
Carbine Cal. 30 10,000
Rifles Cal. 30 Ml 133,000
Radios SCR 508, SCR 608 635 -

3. Although equipment planned for Iran within the framework of existing MAP Force Objectives has been scheduled for delivery based on comprehensive appraisal of the ability of Iran to absorb and utilize the equipment, it may be politically desirable to offer the Shah certain military equipment for morale effect. With this contingency in view, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that selected items of military equipment, as listed in the attached Appendix, which are within the framework of existing MAP Force Objectives, could be offered at this time. Any or all of these items can be offered, provided it is made clear to the Shah that delivery will be made only after the Chief, ARMISH–MAAG has verified the capability of Iran to receive them.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
N. F. Twining




[Page 560]
Cost in Millions of Dollars
272 M47 Tanks $11.8
These tanks have recently been approved by DOD within the FY 1958 MAP. Delivery of these 272 tanks, together with an additional 17 M47 tanks offered to Iran during the visit of the Secretary of State in January 1958, will completely equip the Iranian armored units. Iran has not yet been notified of the programming action concerning the 272 tanks, and deliveries would be in accordance with an ARMISH–MAAG recommended time-phased delivery schedule.
4 Coastal Minesweepers $10.0
A mines weeping capability for the Iranian Navy could be established by providing four coastal minesweepers. Two of these are included in current programs. The U.S. can furnish two more coastal minesweepers in future programs, completing deliveries by mid-1963. Iran has not yet been notified of the U.S. plan to furnish the two vessels in addition to those in the current programs.
Air Force
14 RT–33 aircraft $3.1
These aircraft have been included in the FY 1959 MAP. It is planned to furnish the aircraft to Iran during CY 1959–1960 to replace LT–6G’s presently on hand in the Iranian Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
52 F–86F aircraft $18.5
These aircraft can be delivered by FY 1961 to replace the LT–6G’s and F–84G’s presently on hand in the four Iranian fighter bomber squadrons. These aircraft have not been included in the FY 1959 MAP.

Iran has not yet been informed of these plans.


272 M47 Tanks $11.8 million
4 Coastal Minesweepers 10.0
14 RT–33 Aircraft 3.1
52 F–86F Aircraft 18.5
Total $43.4 million
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File, Iran. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.