121. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

1185. “Turmoil Gap” in Iran. Shah’s speech to Majlis deputies (Embtel 1181)2 brings together number of significant elements of his thinking, and thus of Iranian policy, on which we have recently reported on basis of private conversations (Embtel s 789,3 1040,4 10415), but some of these ideas have been sharpened and fact that he is making them public shows extent to which his attitudes are hardening.


Pressure on West. It is clear that there is now concerted campaign to increase oil offtake and obtain wanted military equipment from West, coupled with threat to reorient trade patterns if traditional orientation does not yield desired results. That this is campaign is apparent from number of conversations Shah has had with American visitors recently, and from candid comment we received from one of his subordinates who cited recent reports of U.S. aid to UAR and Turkey to conclude that “apparently the only way to get one’s way with the Americans is to be difficult.”

(Comment: We are of course not rising to this bait and adopting studied attitude of business as usual.)

Pride of Accomplishment. Shah pointed to ten percent growth in Iranian year now drawing to close, stable prices, and two and one half percent population growth, contrasting this with lack of progress in neighboring countries. He sees Iran booming, investments picking up, reform program paying off, prices stable, labor satisfied, farmers working harder. All this ascribed to “the inborn Iranian genius” (for which one may read the genius of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi Arye Mehr).
Critics Have Been Proved Wrong. Both in his speech (“We take no orders”) and in recent conversations, Shah has lashed out against foreign and domestic critics and pessimists who have been proved wrong by events. Privately, he has zeroed in on “Harvard economists” (to which one may safely add Iranian economists trained in U.S. who are skeptical about growing Iranian commitments) and served blunt notice that determination of what is best for Iran will henceforth be made by Iranians alone.
Guns and Butter. Speech was an emphatic reaffirmation that tempo of economic and social developments will not be reduced and that neither will defense measures be slighted. Shah spoke pointedly of national duty to defend Khuzistan and south Iran “Even if there were no single oil well and no commercial ship passed through (Persian Gulf)” and referred to “various affronts to Iran’s position, status, dignity and interests” in Gulf area.
Non-dependence on Allies. Evidence that experience of Pakistan during last fall’s crisis still deeply troubles him was given when Shah said: “There have been developments in world recently which have been an exemplary lesson to U.S., that Iran cannot surrender its destiny to whims of foreigners even if they are very close friends…We cannot subject our destiny entirely to decisions of others who can one day help us and another day not help us. This is not only from national point of view. Internationally also it is not dependable.”

Comment: We interpret latter point as argument that Iran is really acting in interest of its allies and of world peace by becoming less dependent on West for its defense. He has often pointed out that if U.S. were required to intervene militarily to protect Iran, conflict would be wider and potentialities greater for Communists to create Vietnam type of situation. At same time Shah gave assurance that “Iran still retains the same importance in regard to preservation of regional security which could be interpreted as guarded reaffirmation of CENTO.”

While speech contains nothing new, tone is getting shriller and sense of self-satisfaction and grievance somewhat stronger. It is apparent that recent resumption of U.S. aid to Nasser despite his postponement of withdrawal from Yemen, and reports of additional U.S. military assistance to Greece and Turkey pursuant to McNaughton’s visit to those two countries (and not to Iran) have added to feeling of Shah and his ranking subordinates that Iran is once more being taken for granted by West, that “papa knows best” attitude of Americans toward Iran’s military requirements is an affront to national dignity, that Iran has the means to purchase what it needs for its defense, that present U.S. balance of payments policies threaten Iran’s remarkable economic progress, and that best way to deal with Uncle Sam is to make a public scene.

As Art Buchwald would phrase it, there has been a “turmoil gap” in Iran recently. The Shah is aware of this, and would like to fill it; but we still believe that despite certain threats, for instance that he would resort to Soviets for arms procurement, there are prudent limits to any “reorientation” which he is not likely to transgress under present circumstances. Point of concern is when and whether Shah and Iran become captive to “reorientation” speech-making.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 IRAN. Confidential. Repeated to London, Ankara, Karachi, Baghdad, Kuwait, Jidda, and CINCMEAFSA for POLAD.
  2. Dated March 2. (Ibid., FN 16 IRAN)
  3. Document 110.
  4. Dated January 20. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19–9 U.S.-IRAN)
  5. Dated January 20. (Ibid., PET 6 IRAN)