285. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 34–60


The Problem

To assess the situation in Iran and to estimate probable developments respecting Iran’s stability and international position.


We have in this estimate placed particular emphasis on the outlook for the Shah’s regime and the chances and possible implications of an upheaval during the next two years or so. Iran’s economic situation, military affairs, and external relations have been treated primarily in terms of how they might affect, or be affected by, the stability of the Shah’s regime.


Developments in Iran during the past year have not led to any overall improvement in stability. The external and tribal threats to the regime appear to have lessened, but growing inflation and financial difficulties pose new threats to the country’s stability. At the same time, the [Page 665] Shah has so far shown considerable skill in keeping the opposition fragmented and on the defensive (Paras. 6–7)
The military and security forces remain at once the main support and chief potential threat to the present order and the Shah’s own power. The Shah relies heavily upon them, yet the loyalty of some of their principal officers cannot be wholly assured. In addition, some junior officers are disillusioned with the regime. In these circumstances, a coup attempt might take place at any time. The odds on such a development are difficult to assess. On the whole, we consider that the chances are against such an attempt unless the Shah should die or unless key military leaders should come to feel that the Shah’s regime could not survive and that their privileged position was at stake. In addition, a coup attempt might be triggered by civil disturbances which threatened public order. (Paras. 10–13)
Iran’s economic difficulties—chiefly increasing inflation and a foreign exchange shortage—will almost certainly have a deleterious effect on stability in the next few years. On balance, however, we do not believe that economic difficulties, of themselves, are likely to precipitate an overthrow of the government during this period. (Paras. 21–27)
There will be difficult periods in Iranian relations with the US in the future, as there have been in the past. The Shah will seek more US support and stronger guarantees of his security. At the same time he will attempt to reduce Soviet pressures on Iran. However, as long as the Shah remains dominant, we believe that the odds are against any significant change in Iran’s basic Western orientation. (Paras. 28–32)
While a political upheaval which resulted in removal of the Shah might lead to an anti-Western foreign policy, most of the top military leaders, as well as many of the moderate opposition civilian elements, would almost certainly continue to look to the West, particularly to the US, as a major source of protection for Iran. However, it is unlikely that any successor regime would take such an out-spokenly pro-West stand as has the Shah. (Paras. 36–38)

[Here follows the “Discussion” portion of the estimate (paragraphs 6–38) with sections headed “Introduction,” “The Question of Internal Stability—The Security Forces and the Opposition,” “Stability and the Economy,” “International Position,” and “International Position of Iran Without the Shah.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. Submitted by the CIA, which along with INR, and the intelligence organizations of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Joint Staff participated in the preparation of this estimate. All members of the USIB concurred in this estimate except the representatives of the FBI and AEC who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.