127. Report by the Chairman of the Iran Task Force (Talbot)0
REPORT BY CHAIRMAN OF IRAN TASK FORCE
Mr. Bundy’s memorandum of August 7, 1961,1 reflected the President’s concern as to whether the United States was doing all that it could or should in pursuit of the policies laid down in the original Task Force report on Iran. Since receipt of this memorandum, the Task Force has met a number of times. Ambassador Holmes has returned for consultation to participate actively in the Task Force’s work. There has been a full and free exchange of opinions and analyses, not only of the present situation but of possible courses of action.
It has emerged from the Task Force’s deliberations that there is no significant divergence of opinion as regards United States objectives vis-à-vis Iran. To prevent Soviet domination of Iran must be our immediate and overriding objective. This requires the continuance in power of a pro-Western regime, for the ultimate alternative is a weak neutralist government which could not withstand Soviet pressures and maintain Iran’s independence. Maintenance of the pro-Western regime has been achieved and is not immediately endangered. Prime Minister Amini has succeeded in overcoming a near-crisis situation and thus continuing Iran’s pro-Western policy. He has, however, been unable fully to pursue his program of vigorous reform measures designed to lead to a more permanent resolution of the political weaknesses of Iran.
He has had to take into account the necessity of retaining the confidence and support of his somewhat reluctant monarch. He has been faced with political pressures from the fanatical Mosadeqist opposition, [Page 294]and the sniping of ambitious and discontented conservative leaders. The implementation of the economic stabilization program has intensified these difficulties by infringing the interests of various special groups. The basic inadequacy of the administrative tools available to him, which can be improved only slowly, have further limited his freedom to action.
The first Task Force report stressed that the United States must actively and vigorously, albeit discreetly, press for political, economic, social and institutional reforms in Iran which will provide the indispensable foundation for true and lasting political-economic development. It is generally agreed that the Third Development Plan scheduled to begin in September 1962 must be the primary vehicle to initiate the fundamental political and economic progress needed in Iran. It is equally agreed that the intervening period will be one of critical importance in laying the necessary foundation for the implementation of this third Five-Year Plan.
I have found a consensus within the Task Force that additional United States resources will be required to enable the Amini Government, or a like-minded successor, to surmount the political and economic difficulties which it will face between now and the initiation of the Third Development Plan.
We have agreed with the Agency for International Development on the general levels of United States financial resources required for this purpose, and action is going forward to make them available through appropriate means and at the necessary times. The Ambassador, with the advice and assistance of the Country Team, has worked out a Military Assistance Plan for FY 1962–67 which he believes to be militarily and economically consonant with basic United States interests and through which we can hope to maintain our influence with the Shah and hence be in a position to attain our objectives. The plan is currently being studied by State and Defense in the context of a review of our over-all MAP policies.
A great deal of the Task Force’s efforts have been devoted to discussing alternative means to ensure that the introduction of these resources best accomplishes United States objectives, not only our immediate aim of maintaining a pro-Western government but our longer-term goal of laying the political and economic groundwork for the successful implementation of the Third Plan. Basically, two schools of thought emerge: One advocates an openly activist role for the United States; this would involve the tying of United States aid to formal and perhaps public commitments on the part of Iran to perform certain actions designed to correct specific deficiencies and weaknesses in the political and economic fabric of Iranian society. The countervailing view holds that the same objectives, given the complexities and fragility of [Page 295]Iranian society, would be better accomplished by the private and discreet exercise of United States influence and pressure.
As Chairman of the Task Force, I have carefully considered all of the arguments presented by the members of the Task Force, and have carefully weighed the potential implications of each against the realities of the Iranian scene as presented by our Ambassador, the other members of the Country Team, and our own Iranian experts. I have consulted closely with the Secretary and my other colleagues in the Department. I have concluded that the risks to the maintenance of a pro-Western regime in Iran posed by insisting upon formal and overt United States conditions for the giving of aid are greater than we could prudently accept. Either approach is fully consistent, in my opinion, with the philosophy of the new aid program. However, the first, by seeking the long-term objective through too direct an approach, runs too great a risk of upsetting the delicate balance which Prime Minister Amini has succeeded in creating and maintaining. Given the framework within which the Iranian Government must operate, counter-pressures would be produced which could easily result in the loss of Iran to the West.
In my opinion, the correct course for the United States to follow under the present circumstance is to move towards its goals by combining vigorous but discreet political and economic advice with the minimum economic assistance essential to enable the Amini Government, or a like-minded successor, to survive and to move forward. The judicious and vigorous application of encouragement, support and pressure through multiple channels can be effectively directed to influencing those areas where progress is realizable at any given moment rather than relying on formal assurances or promises which may prove to be empty. In this context, United States or international assistance will be utilized to stimulate self-help moves on the part of the Iranian regime. Influence exerted in this way can be far more effective than open threats that we will cut off aid to Iran.
As Iran moves towards the implementation of the Third Plan, we will wish to draw in multilateral influences which can be brought to bear through an international consortium of lenders. We hope by then there will have been enough progress to permit the more overt exercise of outside influence, perhaps to the point of establishing some public contract arrangement with the Iranian Government in return for the major international assistance which will then become necessary. In the interim, our influence in the direction of helping Iran move from the present delicate stage to a position of readiness to enter upon the Third Plan can best be brought to bear quietly. Now we must act unilaterally and discreetly.
Ambassador Holmes fully concurs in this course of action, and believes that the additional instruments of pressure and influence which [Page 296]we have worked out with the AID, and which he has requested in the field of Military Assistance, will be the best means to make further progress toward our objectives.
Set forth as Annex “A” are the basic elements of the action program which the Ambassador has pursued in consequence of the Iran Task Force recommendations of May, and which he proposes to intensify during the period between now and the end of the Second Development Plan. In doing so he proposes specifically to address himself to the goals set forth in Annex “B”.
This memorandum is in response to Mr. Bundy’s memorandum of August 7, 1961.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.88/10–1461. Secret. Drafted by Bowling and Marcy on October 14. Attached to a transmittal memorandum to President Kennedy that bears Secretary Rusk’s signature. Neither of these documents was forwarded to the White House. An earlier draft of the report, dated October 9, and comments on the draft by Talbot are in Department of State,NEA/GTI Files: Lot 66 D 173, Task Force on Iran. Rusk’s October 16 transmittal memorandum to President Kennedy indicates that Rusk had discussed the substance of the report with Talbot and had approved the courses of action proposed. Rusk also recommended that the Task Force had served its purpose and “might now be adjourned sine die, subject to being reconvened in the event that some future development made such a source desirable.” A memorandum from Meyer to Rusk, October 21, indicates that after Secretary Rusk had signed the transmittal memorandum, it was decided to delay sending the report, because of news that Ambassador Holmes was sending an important report in the pouch (see Document 129). (Department of State,NSAM Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 67)↩
- Document 94.↩
- For the Recommendations section of the Task Force report, see Document 51. The draft of the complete Task Force report, dated May 15, is in the Supplement, the compilation on Iran.↩