281. Memorandum of Conversation0



December 1959


  • United States
    • The President
  • Iran
    • The Shah of Iran


  • Shah’s Military Planning; Helmand River Issue; Iraq; Land Reform

On December 18th the President reviewed the principal points that had come up in his talk with the Shah of Iran.

The Shah is very deeply concerned about the danger to Iran through Iraq and from the northeast.

He said he had studied his military problem very carefully and had come to the conclusion that he should have five fighter fields and one medium bomber field, the latter in the central part of the country. He feels he needs something better than F–84s, which cannot match the aircraft that could be used against him. He also has need for an effective air-to-air missile (such as the Sidewinder). He wants at least a few medium bombers. He said he would like to have some Nike missiles for air defense.

This raises the question as to how he can proceed with the building of the air fields, which he estimates to cost about $15 million each. The [Page 659] President said he pointed out that a large part of this is local currency to cover the costs of labor and cement. The Shah said he thought he could take care of this part of the expense. Special equipment will be needed, however, and he thought he would need this on a grant basis.

He has shifted away from emphasis on numbers of divisions. He now considers that large numbers are not so important. For those that he maintains, he thinks it very important to have them at top quality.

The President said he and the Shah also talked about the Helmand River issue with the Afghans. The Shah said he would arrange for his Foreign Minister to meet with the Afghan Foreign Minister, talk about this, and see if the matter could not be resolved.

One matter on which he laid great stress is the desirability of obtaining funds through the World Bank with which to build a system of dams, to provide water for power, irrigation, and consumption.

With regard to Iraq, he feels that the situation continues to deteriorate there. The Iraqi have established six airfields that could support strikes into Iran—their location in fact is such that this is all they are useful for. The Shah said that he wants to have three of the airfields he is proposing in the area facing Iraq, and two to the northeast. The President told the Shah he would have our people study the map and plans given to him by the Shah, meet with the Shah for further discussion if such seems desirable, and determine what the Iranians can do, and what we might do toward carrying it into effect.

Subsequently the President said he had had a good discussion with the Shah on the subject of land reform, and the Shah had told him that he is planning to take measures of major importance very shortly which should have a great impact on this problem.

The President said he was much impressed with the extent to which the Shah’s thinking has matured over the past two or three years. His military ideas are, in the President’s estimation, becoming sound and well grounded.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1539. Drafted by Goodpaster on December 18 and approved by Murphy on December 20. The meeting was held in the Marble Palace.
  2. President Eisenhower was on what the White House described as a “Mission of Peace and Good Will” to Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Greece, Tunisia, France, Spain, and Morocco, December 3–22. The President arrived in Tehran at 8:40 a.m. on December 14 and left for Athens at 2:30 p.m. that same day.
  3. On December 17, the Shah recounted to Linquist his version of the meeting with Eisenhower. According to the Shah, Iran did not fear an attack from the Soviet Union, but rather from Afghanistan and Iraq acting as proxies for Soviet aggression. To counter this threat, the Shah told Eisenhower Iran needed a “crash program” to obtain highly mobile forces with atomic weapons, long-range missiles, effective anti-aircraft missiles, additional air bases, and improved aircraft. The Shah stated that they also discussed types of missiles and aircraft for Iran, and the President asked for his views on what he needed including cost estimates. The Shah requested help from Linquist and ARMISH-MAAG in preparing a list of equipment to implement the “crash program.” (ARAA 86398 from Tehran; December 19, 1959; Department of State, Central Files, 788.5–MSP/12–2959)

    In telegram 1864 to Tehran, December 24, the Departments of State and Defense instructed Linquist to allow the Iranians to prepare their views regarding military requirements and keep his participation at “the barest minimum.” The Departments reminded Linquist that during the conversation in Tehran President Eisenhower asked “merely for a statement of the Shah’s views as to what the Shah feels he really needs.” (Ibid., 788.5–MSP/12–2459)