251. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0


  • NSC Discussion of our Policy Towards Iran

The National Security Council has scheduled for September 11 a discussion of our policy towards Iran in light of Special National Intelligence Estimate,1 which reports that the present political regime in [Page 589] that country is not likely to last very long. Based on a discussion paper (Tab A)2 tabled at the NSC Planning Board meeting on September 9, 1958, by Mr. Gordon Gray, we understand that three main questions will be raised:

Did the revolution in Iraq result in any changes in the military missions to be assigned to Iranian armed forces in the Baghdad Pact?


It is the view of the Department of Defense, as concurred in by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of State, that the mission of Iranian armed forces in terms of the objectives of the Baghdad Pact has not changed as a result of the recent Iraqi coup. This is to defend the Pact area from any thrust from the north. However, while acceding to this, it should be remembered that an ad hoc group of Pact military planners, meeting in London under the supervision of the Director of the Combined. Military Planning Staff of the Pact, are now evaluating all CMPS studies, presumably including the question of individual country force goals. It is the unilateral view of Iran, and one in which that country may elicit some sympathy from its fellow Pact members, that its armed forces now have two missions. One, to defend the Pact area from the north, and secondly, to defend the three major passes, lying athwart the Iranian-Iraqi frontier and heretofore assumed to be a defense responsibility of Iraq. Consideration of this pass defense problem should be matter of continued U.S. study.

Should we continue to support the Shah and his regime in spite of the Special National Intelligence Estimate that he cannot maintain his present position? If we do so, should paragraph 19 of the NSC policy statement,3 which calls for economic aid on a declining scale, be revised?


We believe that we should continue to support the Shah, but at the same time exert every effort to encourage him to undertake necessary reforms. We should support him in any constructive steps he may take to achieve these reforms. Although intelligence sources insist that the Shah can be saved only by large scale and dramatic improvements, actual achievements are likely to be modest. Nevertheless, the Shah’s position can be strengthened, if steady, albeit slow, progress is made in the right direction. Our Ambassador has been in consultation with the Shah on a number of important measures that may be taken. The Shah professes to be resolved to curtail corruption in government, though the process may be a long one. Administrative procedures in government are being slowly improved with the help of American experts. Land reform and tax reform are being pushed. The Ambassador has suggested to the Shah that he might increase his popularity by public relations efforts, including occasional radio chats with the whole [Page 590] country. He has invited further suggestions from us which we hope to give.

Continued support of the Shah will undoubtedly involve further extension of united States aid. This will require a revision of paragraph 19 of the NSC Policy Towards Iran. Mr. Gray has already raised at the NSC Planning Board the question of whether commitments made to the Shah on July 19, 1958, after the Iraqi revolution, are in conflict with paragraph 19 of NSC 5703/1.


What should the United States do if the Shah is assassinated or is otherwise the victim of a revolutionary movement?


Our policy in such an emergency will naturally be subject to elements then involved. In general, we should do what we can to promote a friendly stable government with the capability and determination to resist Soviet pressures and to cooperate with the Free World. Specifically, we should encourage whatever civilian or military elements are at hand at the time which can form such a government. We do not envisage direct intervention by American military forces.

In anticipation of such an emergency, it would be desirable for us to use any opportunities to encourage the Shah to establish a regency council as a permanent institution, which could operate in event of his disappearance, and provide continuity in government.

A progress report on our policy towards Iran is now being prepared through OCB channels.


That you comment on the three main questions raised in Mr. Gray’s discussion paper along the lines noted above.
That, pending completion of the current review of our policy towards Iran now in OCB channels, there be no further revision of our NSC policy paper on Iran.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D1, Iran, US Policy Toward—NSC 5703/1. Secret. Drafted by Williams and Ashford.
  2. Document 249.
  3. Dated September 9. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Iran, U.S. Policy Toward, NSC 5821 and NSC 6010)
  4. NSC 5703/1, February 8, 1957, printed in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957 vol. XII, pp. 900910.
  5. There is no indication on this memorandum of approval or disapproval. However, Herter did comment at the NSC meeting of September 18 as recommended in this memorandum, see Document 252.