11. Letter From President Kennedy to the Shah of Iran 0

Your Imperial Majesty: Your letter of July 9,1 with its expression of friendly sentiments toward me and toward the American people, was [Page 22] most welcome. Mrs. Kennedy and I are also delighted with the good news that you are expecting an addition to your family.

I was sorry to hear of the resignation of your able Prime Minister, who had been laboring so diligently to advance Your Majesty’s program of progress and reform. I recall from our conversations that you had a high regard for his energy and ability. I feel certain, however, that with Your Majesty’s support the new Cabinet will be able to make similar progress, utilizing the accomplishments of its predecessors.

I realize fully the difficult problems faced by your Government in arriving at a State budget for the current year which will be fiscally sound and consistent with economic and social goals recently enunciated by your Government. As you yourself say, the taking of bold decisions and the assumption of great responsibilities will be required if Iran’s operating budget is to be successfully drawn up without dependence on foreign subsidies. I have full confidence, however, in Iran’s ability to make such decisions and assume such responsibilities, no matter how difficult they may be.

The United States greatly appreciates the highly important strategic location of Iran and your steadfastness in remaining vigilant against the pressures of international communism. In deciding what we both can do to strengthen Iran’s national security, however, it is also necessary that your urgent social and economic programs and the resources available to carry them out be taken into account.

Secretary McNamara, with my approval, presented to you in April a program which we believe goes very far toward meeting Iran’s most pressing military requirements.2 The Joint Chiefs of Staff planning team which subsequently visited Iran has developed in consultation with your military advisors a more precise study of the strategic role of the Iranian Armed Forces and the organization, training, and equipment they would require to fulfill this role. I understand that General Twitchell had an opportunity to review this matter with you. You may be certain that the views you expressed to him and those contained in your letter have been studied most carefully. General Twitchell’s report, which has taken all the relevant factors into account, is presently under study here. Within a short time Ambassador Holmes and the Chief of our Military Assistance Advisory Group will convey to you further details of our multi-year Military Assistance Plan for Iran and our recommendations for the improvement of your armed forces.

I can assure you that this Military Assistance Plan will represent the utmost effort we can make within the constraints imposed by our own [Page 23] world-wide responsibilities and our desire to assist generously in financing Iran’s equally important economic development plans.

I am sure you understand in this connection that we here, like you in Iran, have acute problems in deciding how to spread our limited resources over a large number of requirements. Indeed I personally am often forced to defer or disapprove on these grounds US defense outlays which my own professional military advisors regard as important. It is perhaps some comfort that the totalitarian governments which threaten the peace of the world must often find themselves in much the same kind of quandary.

Let me compliment you personally on the effort you are making to mediate the Pakistan-Afghanistan dispute. I recall expressing to you my concern over the present impasse, following our own abortive attempt to mediate last fall. If you can bring the two sides together, you will have succeeded where we have failed. I wish you every success in this effort.

I also welcome your views on the Kashmir dispute, and intend to give them further thought. As long as the Kashmir dispute continues, neither India nor Pakistan will be able to concentrate their energies and resources to the fullest extent on the basic tasks of internal development and of meeting the threat from the North. The Security Council has again debated the issue, with the results you know. I was encouraged, however, by the statements during the debate of the representatives of both governments of their firm desire to settle their problems peacefully.

As during your visit here, I find your thoughts original and stimulating. I often think of you and your charming Empress, and look forward to seeing you again. Meanwhile, rest assured of our continuing great interest in the security and modernization of Iran.


John Kennedy 3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Countries Series, Iran. No classification marking. The Department of State sent this text to the White House on July 27 under cover of a memorandum from Brubeck to Bundy that noted, among other points, that President Kennedy should prepare the Shah for his disappointment at not receiving the military assistance he had requested. The memorandum also reaffirmed the Department of State’s belief that the Iranian Government could survive its budget difficulties without U.S. budgetary assistance through a variety of “unpleasant measures.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.88/7–2762) On August 2, the Department of State transmitted the revised text of the letter, as printed here, to the Embassy in Tehran in telegram 97. (Ibid., 788.11/8-262)
  2. In this letter, among other points, the Shah requested military matel additional to the previously-offered U.S. military assistance package for Iran. (Ibid., 788.5–MSP/7–1762) In a July 18 memorandum to Kennedy, Komer characterized the request as follows: “Not satisfied with the five-year $300 million MAP package and force cut we proposed to him when here, he’d like to shake us down for about $100-$135 million worth more.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda, Robert Komer)
  3. For documentation, see vol. XVII, pp. 590625.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates President Kennedy signed the original. A typewritten notation on the source text indicates that Kennedy added the handwritten inscription: “I send you my very warmest regards and best wishes.”