270. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 34–59


The Problem

To estimate the outlook for stability in Iran over the next year or two, and probable trends in Iran’s relations with the West, the Bloc, and other Middle East countries.


Although an internal move against the Shah could take place at any time, there are important factors militating against such an eventuality. On balance, we believe that the chances of the Shah’s remaining in power during the period of this estimate are somewhat better than even. (Para. 27)
Civilian reformist elements opposed to the Shah are weak and disorganized. This is true also of the Tudeh (Communist) Party. These groups are unlikely of themselves to pose a serious challenge to the present regime in the near future. The military has the power to oust the Shah or to force him into a subordinate position, and it seems likely that there are a number of officers who would be disposed to move against the regime should the opportunity arise. However, we have no evidence that such a move is likely in the immediate future. (Paras. 19–22)
We remain pessimistic as to the longer term outlook for the Shah’s regime. We believe it unlikely that he will effect such a fundamental reform program as would satisfy rising popular demand and broaden the base of his support sufficiently to insure the stability of his regime; nor is he likely to relinquish personal power to the point where he would be able to divert from himself criticism of the government. In the absence of such developments, a move to restrict his power or oust him entirely will be increasingly likely. (Para. 28)
The Shah’s abrupt termination of negotiations with the USSR for a non-aggression pact and his decision to sign the bilateral agreement with the US have resulted in intensified Soviet pressure against Iran. While we do not believe that the Soviet Union will invade Iran, it will probably bring economic pressures to bear and will try to subvert the [Page 644] Shah’s regime by clandestine means. It may even promote his assassination by domestic dissidents. It could, if it chooses to bring greater pressure, take such steps as staging border incidents and troop maneuvers coupled with threats to send troops into Iran under the 1921 Soviet-Iranian Treaty. Any attempt by the Iranian Government to denounce this treaty, in whole or in part, would further exacerbate Soviet-Iranian relations. (Para. 35)
We believe it unlikely that Soviet efforts will have a major effect on the internal stability of the Shah’s regime in the near future.2 If the USSR employs a combination of the pressures mentioned above, however, the Shah may become convinced that these Soviet pressures are becoming intolerable. In this event, he might again consider modifying Iran’s outspoken pro-Western foreign policy. Such a development could pose a serious threat to US and Free World defense interests in Iran and would raise new problems for the general US position in the area. (Paras. 36–37)
On balance, we believe the odds are against the Shah’s modifying Iran’s present policy and that it is highly unlikely that he will sever his basic ties with the US. Indeed, in the face of intensified Soviet pressure, he will probably seek expanded US support more importunately than ever. (Para. 38)
If a regime dominated by top level military officers (which might include moderate civilian reformist elements) were to take power from the Shah, it would probably continue a generally pro-Western foreign policy and avoid serious interference with present oil arrangements. If more radical military officers and civilian reformists came to power, they would probably adopt a neutralist, though not necessarily anti-Western, policy. Under such a regime, heavy pressure would be brought to bear for increased Iranian control over oil operations and a larger share of profits, although action to take them over completely would probably be unlikely at least for some time. (Paras. 41–42)

[Here follow the “Discussion” portion of the estimate (paragraphs 8–42) with sections headed “Iran’s Present Position,” “The Problem of Instability,” “Political Situation and Outlook,” “Economic Situation and Outlook,” “Iran’s Relations With the US and the USSR,” “Iran and the Arab States,” and “In the Event of the Overthrow of the Shah” and a map.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. This estimate was prepared by CIA, INR, and the intelligence organizations of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff. All members of the USIB concurred in this estimate except the representatives of the FBI and the AEC who abstained on the grounds that the topic was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Supersedes SNIE 34–58, “Stability of the Present Regime in Iran,” dated 26 August 1958. [Footnote in the source text. SNIE 34–58 is printed as Document 249.]
  3. At the 400th Meeting of the NSC, March 26, during his intelligence briefing on “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” Allen Dulles informed the Council of continuing Soviet pressures on Iran. According to a March 26 memorandum of the discussion, drafted by Boggs, “Dulles predicted that the Soviets would cut down or indeed cut off all trade with Iran. He also pointed out that Soviet arms deliveries to Iraq were continuing at a high rate.” Dulles went on to refer to seven shiploads of armaments amounting to 16,300 tons. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)