274. Memorandum From Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower0


  • Letter from the Shah of Iran dated August 16, 19591

The Shah of Iran has again expressed worry over his country’s security position and reiterated his desire for more assistance, particularly military. He has linked his present concern to Soviet Premier Khrushchev’s coming visit to the United States,2 and referring to the Soviet campaign against him, sought to invoke the U.S.-Iranian bilateral. This latter point is particularly significant in view of his prolonged and unsuccessful pressure to persuade us to transmute the Baghdad Pact (now [Page 650] CENTO) into an organization parallel to NATO with comparable commitments.

As you know, the Shah is constantly pressing us for more aid. Since, partially as a consequence of your letter of January 30,3 he broke off negotiations with the USSR for a non-aggression pact, he and his government have been subjected to an abusive and hostile Soviet propaganda campaign designed to lead to the subversion and overthrow of his government. This he has resisted with admirable fortitude. By again adverting to the aid we are giving him, explaining the reasons behind the Khrushchev visit, and commending the Shah for his country’s courageous stand in the face of Soviet pressures, I believe that you can do much to reassure him.

The Shah has referred to your letter of July 19, 1958,4 which, in light of developments in Iraq, informed him that we would assist him in bringing MAP-supported units of his armed forces to agreed operational strength and high efficiency through accelerated deliveries of equipment and training. This program has been in full swing since that commitment. Our training missions have been strengthened, a wide range of equipment is being delivered and the overall MAP for Iran has been increased substantially. The Shah, however, continues to insist that we should do even more in the military field despite the serious limitations on his and our resources. Our Embassy in Tehran believes that while a military program is necessary, the increased emphasis which the Shah would like to place on his country’s military endeavors would endanger both Iran’s economy and his own internal position. Ambassador Wailes suggests that by proceeding promptly with such programs as the construction of a military jet airfield near Hamadan, for which we have already promised $6.5 million, we could go far in coping with the overall problem.5 Construction has not begun because of the need for funds over and above the $6.5 million we have already committed. I have undertaken to resolve this problem in one way or another.6

I understand your reasons for deferring definite plans following your visit to the USSR. I would, however, like to suggest that when the moment comes to fix your program that you consider a brief stopover in [Page 651] Tehran. Such a visit, though only “for lunch”, would go a long way to reduce the Shah’s anxieties and current Iranian pressures on us.

A suggested reply to the Shah’s letter is enclosed for your consideration. If you approve, we will telegraph your reply to Tehran.7 I recommend no publicity on this exchange.

Christian A. Herter8
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.88/8–2659. Secret; Presidential Handling. Drafted by Marcy and Mouser.
  2. In this letter the Shah reviewed for Eisenhower the events that transpired since their meeting in Washington in June 1958, and added that “with due respect” and gratitude for past U.S. assistance, he was “constrained to express the opinion that if help is to be effective, it should be dispensed in time and in adequate measure. And what more opportune time for the manifestation of greater support and cooperation could be found than immediately before your meeting with Mr. Khrushchev?” (Telegram 344 from Tehran, August 17; ibid., 788.5–MSP/8–1759)
  3. Soviet Premier Khrushchev made an official State visit to the United States September 15–27.
  4. See Document 263.
  5. See Document 243.
  6. The Embassy stated this belief in telegram 359 from Tehran, August 19. (Department of State, Central Files, 788.5–MSP/8–1959)
  7. In telegram 584 to Tehran, the Department of State suggested that a military airbase at Hamadan would cost $10 to $12 million. The result would be that the Shah would have a half-finished military airbase. The Department of Defense suggested what it considered a more rational and less costly alternative of using the $6.5 million to improve the Hamadan civil airport, which was at a lower elevation and would thus require shorter runways. The civilian airport could be also used as a military airbase. (Ibid., 788.5–MSP/8–2459)
  8. The draft was attached but is not printed. The approved letter was transmitted in Cahto 1 from Bonn to Tehran, August 26. Eisenhower’s letter reassured the Shah that “Iran does not stand alone” in face of Soviet pressures, and although Eisenhower did not plan to conduct “substantive negotiations” with Khrushchev regarding the affairs of third countries he would “seize any opportunity” to remind Khrushchev that his vicious campaign against Iran did not conform to Soviet protestations of non-interference in other countries’ affairs and lessening of world tensions. Eisenhower also assured the Shah that should Iran be attacked by “local indirect aggression …by countries motivated by or under the direction of international communism,” the Eisenhower Doctrine would apply. Without mentioning Iraq or Afghanistan by name, Eisenhower’s letter made it clear that if either country were subverted by international communism, direct attacks from their soil would be covered by the Eisenhower Doctrine. (Ibid., 611.88/8–2659)
  9. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.