249. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 34–58


The Problem

To assess the prospects for stability of the present regime in Iran.


The swift and brutal overthrow of the monarchy in Iraq shocked and frightened the Shah of Iran and almost certainly caused him to reappraise the future of his personal position and his program in Iran. There is basic and widespread dissatisfaction with his regime, both in the army and in the urban population generally. If he were to take dramatic and effective steps to reform the corrupt social, political, and economic system, he might be able to maintain his position for some time to come. We believe, however, that his character and situation are such that he is unlikely to take such drastic actions.
We believe that the present political situation in Iran is unlikely to last very long. The most probable development is an attempt by certain military elements, possibly in collaboration with civilian elements desiring liberal reforms, to force the Shah back into the role of a constitutional monarch. In its initial stages at least, such a movement would almost certainly not aim at the overthrow of the monarchy, nor would it be ultra-nationalist in character. Although this movement would probably effect significant political reforms, it is doubtful whether it would be much more effective than the Shah in satisfying the expectations of the people for broader economic and social reforms. Its leaders would probably contemplate no basic changes in Iranian foreign policy. It might cause the Shah to flee the country, even though it was not intended to have that effect.
The possibility of a coup to overthrow the monarchy cannot be disregarded. On the whole, we think such a coup unlikely in the immediate future, because we believe that the army does not now desire it. But if in the reasonably near future there are no substantial reforms of the Iranian political, economic, and social structure, we think that the overthrow of the monarchy is likely.
[Page 587]

[Here follow the “Discussion” and “Outlook” portions of the estimate (paragraphs 4–15).]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. A note on the cover sheet indicates that it was prepared by the CIA, the intelligence organizations of the Department of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff. All members of the LAC concurred in this estimate on August 26 except representatives of the FBI and AEC, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.