288. Memorandum of Discussion at the 440th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1 and 2.]

3. Significant World Developments Affecting US. Security

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters by Acting Director of Central Intelligence Charles P. Cabell.]

General Cabell then noted that Soviet-Iranian relations continued at an impasse. There were no indications that Iran had approached the USSR with respect to a meeting of Khrushchev and the Shah in Europe this summer. Communist elements in Iran may be stepping up their activities. At any rate, the Soviet Embassy is increasing its contact with Iranians, while Savak, the Iranian security organization, asserts that it has uncovered a communist network among non-commissioned officers in the Iranian Army. The East German radio is broadcasting instructions to Tudeh members to revive the Tudeh organization, possibly on the theory that the Tudeh can now make a show of strength in the present situation in Iran. The Shah, feeling that things are going well internally, expects to make the new parliament which will be elected this spring more pliable. The Shah also believes that his recent land reform measures have increased support for the regime. General Cabell did not agree with this feeling, tending to believe that the Shah’s reform measures have alienated new groups of people without causing any groups already opposed to the Shah to come over to his side.1 General Bakhtiar is continuing to formulate plans to deal with the contingency which would arise in the event the Shah disappears. Some observers allege that General Bakhtiar’s contingency plans are really designed to overthrow the Shah.

[Page 672]

[Here follow agenda items 4–6.]

7. U.S. Policy Toward Iran (NSC 5821 /l;2OCB Report on NSC 5821/1, dated December 11, 1959;3NSC Action No. 2170–b;4 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 16, 19605)

Mr. Gray briefed the Council on this item, which concerned the question of whether or not there is need to review NSC 5821/1. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s Briefing Note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum.)6 After reading his Briefing Note Mr. Gray said he would like to suggest that if the Planning Board does update the General Considerations in the Iranian policy paper, it submit its revision to the Council for a Memorandum Action rather than for consideration at a Council Meeting.

Mr. Dillon said he had a reservation on the problem presented by Mr. Gray. If the Planning Board undertook to rewrite the General Considerations in all the policy papers one year old or older, he feared that many of the State Department officials who should be devoting their time to the formulation and implementation of policy would be compelled to devote themselves to purely editorial work.

The President said he had previously discussed this problem with Mr. Gray.7 He had less than ten months remaining in his present office and he wished to look at the matter from the standpoint of the succeeding administration. We need not say to the next administration that we have looked at every paper in the Council to determine whether or not it is up-to-date. However, the Planning Board should examine each paper and be able to say to the Council that it has reviewed the paper and that the paper needs no revision, so it can be said that we had thought about the situation in a particular country up to such and such a date. He liked to keep things tidy for the next administration. He pointed out that he [Page 673] was not trying to create more work; indeed, as various officials became busy with the political campaign there might not be as much time for NSC meetings.

The National Security Council:8

Discussed the subject on the basis of an oral report by the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on the views of the NSC Planning Board regarding the need for review of U.S. Policy Toward Iran (NSC 5821/1), in the light of the enclosures to the reference memorandum of March 16, 1960.
Agreed that the NSC Planning Board should bring up-to-date the “General Considerations” section of NSC 5821/1, and circulate their recommended revisions to the Council for adoption by Memorandum Action.
Noted the President’s statement that he wished to leave NSC policy papers which remain in effect in a current condition for the next Administration. Accordingly, the President desired that the NSC Planning Board submit for Memorandum Action by the Council revisions in NSC policy papers (other than of a purely editorial nature) required for the purpose or bringing them up to date. Where the NSC policy papers did not require revision except of a purely editorial nature, the NSC Planning Board should make a written report to that effect to the Council as a matter of official record.

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs on April 7.
  2. On March 22, John Eisenhower prepared a synopsis of State and Intelligence material for the President containing the following extract on Iran’s land reform program:

    “At the insistence of the Shah, the Iranian Majlis on 15 March passed a controversial land-reform bill by an overwhelming majority. The attempt by landowners to use threats of opposition by the Shiite clergy to block passage of the law apparently backfired, although the law was revised to take care of religious objections. The Shah expects implementation of the law will be slow, and passage of the bill will add little if anything to the monarchy’s urban reformist support at this time. The opposition of the landlords, meanwhile, will continue and probably will defeat much of the intent of the law unless the government maintains continual pressure and supervision.” (Ibid., Eisenhower Diaries)

  3. Document 257.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 284.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 284.
  6. Under cover of this memorandum Lay transmitted Document 286 to the NSC.
  7. In this note, not printed, Gray wrote that in assessing Iran’s defense requirements the Department of Defense concluded that the Iranians had overstated the threats from Iraq and Afghanistan and their military requests were “not only excessive,” but “also beyond Iranian capacity to use effectively.” Gray also reported that the Planning Board believed that the Objectives and Policy Guidance sections of NSC 5821/1 were still valid, the General Considerations section was out of date, a general problem for many NSC papers that would plague the Board over the remaining months of the Eisenhower administration. The majority of the Planning Board favored updating the General Considerations section, but required the Council’s point of view.
  8. Gray’s memorandum of this March 29 conversation with the President, in which he told Eisenhower that the problem of revising policy towards Iran “would plague us increasingly in the months ahead,” is in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries.
  9. Paragraphs a–c constitute NSC Action No. 2215, approved by the President on April 9. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)