14. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Call by General Teimur Bakhtiar on The Secretary


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi, Iranian Embassy
  • Lt. General Teimur Bakhtiar, Chief, Iranian Security and Information Organization
  • Mr. G. Lewis Jones, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Mr. John W. Bowling, Officer in Charge, Iranian Affairs, GTI

General Bakhtiar said that his mission was to acquaint the new Administration with the situation in Iran and the very heavy burden which fell on Iran by virtue of its geographic position, its faithful efforts to enhance free world defense, and its limited resources. Iran must defend itself and the Middle East by ensuring both an adequate military defense establishment and a rising standard of living for its people. It cannot accomplish both these tasks at once without assistance from the United States.

The General said that the Iranian public could not understand why, if CENTO was a worthwhile organization, the United States did not join it. Iran was bound by its CENTO commitments to try to build a defense [Page 33]force, for regional purposes, which would be far larger than would be required for internal security purposes. Iran expends a third of its budget for military purposes, which does not leave enough, even with foreign assistance, to carry on economic development at an adequate pace. CENTO goals are set by a Military Committee which includes United States officers.

General Bakhtiar remarked that countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, which represent a threat to Iran, are receiving extensive economic assistance both from the United States and the U.S.S.R., and that they are being supplied with Soviet military equipment, particularly aircraft, far in advance of what the United States supplies to Iran. In order to be able to meet this threat, Iran should receive equivalent weapons.

The General said that one way for the United States to assist Iran would be to take steps to increase Iran’s oil income, at the expense, if necessary, of countries like Iraq and Kuwait which do not contribute to regional defense.

The Secretary, in reply, said that the United States, in the context of its historic and continuing interest in the freedom and integrity of Iran, believed that Iran should have an adequate and efficient Army. Military planners, including those in CENTO and in the United States military establishment, set up desirable goals which are then adjusted downward to the resources available for their implementation.

The United States, said the Secretary, believes that CENTO is an important and useful organization. Despite the Secretary’s feeling that, in general, Foreign Ministers do too much travelling, he attaches sufficient importance to CENTO that he intends to attend the April Council meetings in Ankara.

The Secretary said that the United States does not feel that Iran faces any threat of military force other than on her northern border. Should Iran ever be subject to hostile action by the Soviet Union, the United States, as well as other Free World nations, would view such action with the utmost gravity. Iran can be certain that she would never have to face such a threat alone.

The Secretary said that in his opinion, free nations must never lose sight of the fact that an effective defense against communism must rest not only on military strength but on the positive loyalty and confidence which depend on social and economic progress. The United States hoped to help Iran as necessary over the difficult phases of this advance.

The Secretary said that he could not, unfortunately, make any definite statements at this time as to the nature or levels of United States aid to any nation during the coming fiscal year. He explained that the administration was only one month old and that its foreign aid program was still being put together. As the General knew, the President had [Page 34]been ccupied with measures to deal with problems of the American economy, which were of course of importance to all the Free World. It should be possible before long to make a more precise statement with regard to United States foreign aid levels, but it could not be done at the present moment. The Secretary expressed his embarrassment over the unfortunate timing whereby these factors induced uncertainty and inconvenience in Iranian budgetary actions.

The Secretary told the General that if he had come to “take the temperature” of the new Administration with regard to its attitude toward Iran, he could rest assured that the United States would take a lively and positive interest in Iran’s progress, and that it would continue to cooperate with Iran and to help as it could within the tradition of cooperation between the two countries.

Ambassador Zahedi then expressed his appreciation for the help which Iran had been given in the past, and expressed his convictions that United States aid in the future would continue to be fruitful and positive.1

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.8811/2–2161. Secret. Drafted by Bowling and approved in S on February 25. The time of the meeting is taken from Secretary Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library) Jones sent a briefing memorandum to Secretary Rusk on February 21 to prepare for this meeting. (Department of State, Central Files, 788.5/2–2161)
  2. Bakhtiar also discussed increased military aid for Iran and CENTO with McGhee on February 21. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., 378/2–2161) Following that meeting, Bakhtiar complained strongly to Bowling that Iran was not being given equal treatment with Turkey and that the Shah would leave CENTO unless he was led to believe that increased United States aid would make it worthwhile for him to remain. He termed his discussion with McGhee on these matters as “not satisfactory.” (Memorandum from Jones to McGhee, February 23; ibid., 788.5/2–2361)