289. Memorandum From Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower0


  • The Shah’s Most Recent Letter to You Regarding His Military Aspirations

The Shah of Iran’s letter to you of March 30, 19601 reiterates his continuing concern with the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, expresses disappointment that we cannot supply immediately all the military equipment which he believes necessary and reminds us that the military improvement program growing out of your letter to him of July 19, 19582 (Plan Counterbalance) has not been completed. Despite the tone of grievance, I believe that in general he has reacted constructively to your letter of March 12, 1960.3

Ambassador Wailes in Tehran has suggested that there is no urgent need for a reply, though he thinks it would be desirable at some future date to give the Shah an insight into our modernization plans for his armed forces. I believe that this is sound advice, but difficulties immediately arise because of the conflict between the Shah’s desire for immediate and massive modernization regardless of cost and our belief that modernization should only take place over an extended period and on an evolutionary basis.

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We do not know how seriously the Shah views the failure of Plan Counterbalance to achieve its goals. We made a conscious decision to hold the strength of Iran’s armed forces at their present strength, at least during the coming year, because of a deteriorating economic situation in Iran marked chiefly by inflationary pressures and a worsening balance of payments position. He might well be satisfied with this decision if we were to meet, at least in part, his wishes for modernization.

We have discussed this matter with the Department of Defense and there is agreement to recommend to you that no reply be made pending Defense study of a five-year cyclical plan for military assistance to Iran, final Congressional action on the fiscal year 1961 military assistance program and an evaluation of the results of the forthcoming Summit Conference. I hope that you will agree that no early reply is necessary in the circumstances.

Christian A. Herter4
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Project Clean Up, Iran. Secret. Eisenhower’s initials appear on the source text. On the Department of State copy of this memorandum, Mouser is the drafter and Baxter of U/MSC and Admiral Grantham of Defense concurred. (Department of State, Central Files, 788.5–MSP/4–460)
  2. In this letter the Shah stated that increased oil revenues would probably allow Iran to increase its total land forces by the end of 1960 from 200,000 to 240,000 as anticipated in July 1958. Nevertheless, the Shah stated that Iran still needed U.S. assistance in obtaining modern and up-to-date equipment and weapons. (Telegram 2299 from Tehran, April 4; ibid.)
  3. See Document 243.
  4. In this letter, in which Eisenhower made stylistic revisions, the President gently and tactfully deflected the Shah’s specific requests for additional military assistance and complex modern weapons; see footnote 1, Document 286. As Eisenhower told the Shah, his request “included a number of complicated and advanced weapons which would involve a high initial cost, which would be costly to maintain, and which would require an advanced level of technical training which could only be achieved over a considerable period of time.” (Draft Presidential message to the Shah and telegram 2793 to Tehran, March 12; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File, Iran)

    According to telegram 2106 from Tehran, March 14, the Shah received the President’s letter of March 12 “with obvious disappointment that his specific requests had been answered in a general manner.” Wailes commented that “the Shah received turn-down of his highly exaggerated requests in calm and sensible manner” with none of the “petulance displayed approximately a year ago which involved threats of neutrality and serious overtures toward Soviets.” (Ibid.)

  5. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.