240. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0


  • His Majesty, The Shah of Iran
  • Captain Aurand

The President commenced the conversation by asking if the Iranian Army did not consist of ten divisions. The Shah replied: “Yes, ten divisions, plus some brigades.”

The Shah then proceeded to outline his concept of the Middle East situation and Iran’s strategic importance to the West in the light of USSR moves. He stressed the following points:

Four years ago Iran put aside a 150-year old policy of neutrality and threw its lot with the West.
He emphasized the importance of the strategic location of Iran as a gateway through which any invasion of the Middle East or moves towards southern Asia must come. “If you control Iran, you control the Middle East.”
He stressed the unlikelihood of all-out war in view of the mutual deterrence imposed by the H-bomb.
He stated that, two years ago, Russia had no plans for the Middle East, but, since Suez, they definitely have a plan to penetrate and control it. Their objectives are the West’s lines of communications to the Far East, Middle East oil, and after Lebanon, Iraq, or Jordan.
Through broadcasts from Radio Cairo, the Communists are now stirring up the Kurds to fight for a free Kurdistan. Such an arrangement would involve territory now held by Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and the USSR. He pointed out that immediately after seizing Azerbaijan, the Russians had divided it into Turkish and Kurdish Provinces. They had established a Kurdish Government, complete with all trappings, including a national anthem. Radio Cairo is now playing this same anthem in their propaganda campaign.
The hesitation of the free world to become involved in limited wars benefits the USSR who can engage and disengage at will without any inhibitions as to what their own people think. The three countries in this area that stand solid with the free world are Turkey, Iran and [Page 567] Pakistan. If these countries are strengthened to cope with any new development in the region, U.S. problems are reduced regardless of the slowness of UN action and U.S. reservations about intervention. If the armies of these three countries are strengthened, the USSR will change their plans to take over the Middle East.
In response to a query by the President about the inclusion of Iraq, the Shah indicated that although they would be delighted to have Iraq participate, he wondered if Iraq can be trusted as a firm ally since Nasser is more popular with the Iraqi people than the Iraqi government.
The Shah stated that in Baghdad Pact meetings all parties were agreed on the concept that the center of defense of the area was Iran, and that all agreed on the forces required.
He expressed worry as to whether, if World War III were started, the U.S. could destroy Russia before Russia was well into Iran. He asked whether the U.S. would bomb Iran to get at Russian forces in this case.

The President replied that destruction of Russia will defeat any such invasion, and that if any major Russian forces ever invaded Iran that it would be considered a major attack on the free world. The President also pointed out that maintenance of too much force for limited war could be self-defeating economically. The President further stated that it was essential that nations such as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan had to have a clear concept of what to do, to be ready to make sacrifices, and to have a national will to resist in a combined fashion. He said that it was important that they should have an Allied Commander who would command forces in the interest of the coalition and not of any individual nation.

The Shah then set forth in some detail his estimate that in the next ten years he expected great economic progress and prosperity for Iran. He pointed out that he was having some success with selling to his own people what he called “Positive Nationalism” which envisioned the elimination of colonialism and imperialism, but emphasized cooperation as friends for the mutual benefit of the free world and his own country. He pointed out that Nasser had achieved nothing of the material benefit of his people by his ultranationalistic policy. He pointed out the very favorable oil agreements that his country had concluded with the Italians and with the Standard Oil Company of Indiana.

The President stated that he agreed with this policy of positive nationalism and stated that the problem was to explain to the people of the various countries the benefits that they could achieve with cooperation with the West and, if successful, that this would be as good as tanks, planes, etc. He further stated that we had not succeeded very well in the Middle East in getting this message to the people. The Shah said that he [Page 568] felt that in Iran they had been able to convince the little man, at least to the degree that his government was able to adopt their Western-oriented policy with the support of the people.

The President asked him about radio stations. The Shah indicated that they were starting on them, that they were trying to educate the people with them, and that they had ordered two more 100 KW stations that would cover all of Arabia and the Moslem area of Russia. He further stated that they broadcast in Turkish and Kurdish as well as Persian. The President stated that he would like to see a station covering the same area as Radio Cairo point out the crimes of aggression that were being committed in the Middle East, and particularly reach the people of Saudi Arabia so as to induce King Saud to show a little more concern for his people. He stated, and the Shah concurred, that King Saud had a great propaganda advantage in the Moslem world as the keeper of the holy places.

The President told the Shah that he hoped that he would really brief the Defense people on the same subjects that they had been talking about and that he would show them on the map his concepts.

The Shah stated that he felt of all of the nations in the area, Iran was the one country that had the economic resources to keep a large army. The Turks, although good soldiers, are having economic troubles, but the Iranians are their brothers, and Iran can serve her own interests and those of the free world by supporting an army of appreciable size.

The President and the Shah discussed affairs in Pakistan. The Shah stated his admiration for the Pakistani people and added that they had proposed to him a federation of his country and theirs with perhaps including Afghanistan. The Shah felt that this would be to their mutual advantage and that perhaps in the process, East Pakistan could be traded to India for Kashmir. The boundaries of this federation were pointed out to the President on the globe.

The President emphasized the importance of mechanical and technical education if any nation were to be able to maintain complex equipment required by modern military forces. The Shah listed in some detail all of the various efforts that they were making in this direction. He stated that he would like very much to see an American university in Tehran such as now exists in Cairo and Beirut. The Shah further stated that he felt the trained U.S. teams in his country were impressed with Iranian mechanics.

The Shah stated that he was concerned about the beefing up of Syrian-Egyptian forces with Russian military equipment. He said that it was far above what they could use and felt that this was possibly a prepositioned arsenal for Syrian “Kurdish volunteers”. He stated that Iran and the other Western-oriented countries needed arms to be able to [Page 569] immediately cope with such a threat. The President stated that another problem was to have the political agreements ready so that immediate action could be taken and, further, that this had to be backed with the morale and will to resist. The President said that one of the problems all nations in the West share was to balance their growing economies and their armed strength. Armed strength produces nothing except an assurance of the continued existence of the country.

The President then explained, at some length, some of his problems in getting the mutual aid program through.

The Shah asked to come back to the point of military command in the Baghdad Pact area. He suggested an American be the Commander, and that they would welcome an American Commander for the area and be willing to accept him. The President pointed out that such a Commander must have full authority. The President mentioned General Van Fleet. The Shah agreed that he would be a good man. The Shah then took his leave.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File, Iran. Top Secret. Prepared by Aurand. The meeting was held at the White House. The concluding time of the meeting is from Eisenhower’s Appointment Book. (Ibid., President’s Daily Appointments)