282. Memorandum From Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower0


  • Your Recent Visit to Tehran: Suggested Letter to the Shah

The results of your recent visit to Iran were so gratifying in terms of our relations with that country that I think you might usefully capitalize on this development through a personal letter to the Shah. I believe that in any event he may be expecting another letter from you.

I am enclosing a suggested draft for your consideration.1 I believe that, in addition to thanking the Shah again for his hospitality, you might review what you told him about military planning. I understand that you expressed a willingness to look at any ideas he has regarding revisions in military planning for his country’s defense. This has caused the Shah to ask the chief of our military missions in Tehran, General Lindquist, to help in drawing up a plan. You will recall that General Lindquist wears in effect two hats; he not only administers our military assistance and training programs, but he also acts as military adviser to the Iranian Government. The Shah’s request was presumably addressed to him in this latter capacity. The Shah in his most recent letter to you has now promised to forward his views around the middle of January.

The Shah apparently regards your conversation with him as an endorsement of Iranian planning against possible Soviet-inspired hostile action from Iraq and Afghanistan (which the Department considers unlikely at this time) and as a willingness on the part of the United States to consider supporting a large and costly military buildup.

On the first point we have always tried to make clear to the Iranians and its regional CENTO partners—Turkey and Pakistan—that in terms of United States policy and legislative authority we can only assist them against aggression from the Soviet bloc or from a country dominated by international communism. We have considered it wise to avoid involvement in purely local quarrels (e.g., Shatt-el-Arab, Pushtoonistan). This is one of the strong reasons against our joining CENTO.

On the question of a larger military buildup in Iran, we have been concerned for some time over a deterioration of the Iranian economy, [Page 661] marked presently by inflationary pressures and a worsening balance of payments position. Iran’s difficulties have arisen primarily from steady increases in public spending, particularly on military projects, together with a sharp expansion of private credit. We had contemplated reductions in our military and economic assistance to Iran as the only means at our disposal to influence the Iranian Government to reduce spending. We had also planned to ask our missions in Tehran to take another look at our current military planning for Iran with the hope that feasible revisions might lead both to better Iranian defenses and a lesser military burden on Iranian and our own resources.

We have tried to incorporate in the enclosed draft letter to the Shah the thought that while you would be pleased to review his latest plans for the improved defense of his country, any new plans would have to be considered from the viewpoint of available resources.

If you approve, we will send the letter by telegram to our Ambassador in Tehran for delivery to the Shah.

Christian A. Herter
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File, Iran. Secret. Drafted by Mouser, cleared by Lewis Jones, cleared in draft with Wilson of U/MSC and Knight of DOD/ISA, and cleared in substance with Murphy.
  2. See Document 283.