126. Letter From the Shah of Iran to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President,

I thank you for your letter of March 16, 1966.2

It is a source of satisfaction to see that both of us hold identical views on the best defense against disruptive elements—which, to the detriment of our peace and security, are not wanting in this part of the world.

This region needs nothing more than peace, tranquillity, and a healthy political climate. A favorable atmosphere must prevail in order to bring lasting and fundamental solution to centuries-old problems. This truth has been well recognized in Iran, as it is reflected in the pattern of our comprehensive economic and social reforms.

Back in 1963 it was decided that the great reservoir of talents and energies of young men who had finished their secondary school or university education and become eligible for military service should, instead of serving in barracks, be mobilized and effectively employed for economic and social purposes. These young men, upon completion of the first four months of their military training, and initiation in their respective fields, are organized into various corps such as literacy, health and rural development, and sent to the various parts of the country to serve in distant villages and townships. They carry out their allotted duties with great [Page 225] devotion and play a constructive role in the improvement of social and economic conditions of the rural areas. They have proved to be a transmission vehicle for bringing leadership, guidance, and badly needed services and skills to the remotest areas of our land.

I take pride in saying that in my estimation no other country in the world, with conditions similar to our own, has been able to achieve this remarkable progress in combating illiteracy and helping provide a better life for its rural citizens. In fact Iran with a population of 25 million has been generally recognized as a pilot country in this field.

In the year past, members of the Literacy Corps have built 4649 schools and taught over 320,000 illiterate adults and children. Our ultimate goal is to stamp out illiteracy from our land within the next ten years.

Similarly, the Health Corps has had a distinguished record of accomplishment in the course of the past year. The medical units of this corps have risen from 117 to 471. These units are scattered in villages all over the country and their services have reached at least 5 million people of our rural areas.

Our country has extraordinary potential for industrialization and for genuine economic and social development. In one of our provinces alone, namely Khouzestan, we are able to bring under cultivation no less than one million hectares of land by utilization and application of modern agricultural methods. The vast land of this province will be irrigated by dams already constructed or in the process of construction. In the same province, plans are under way to produce more than seven million kilowatt-hours of energy.

Plans are also under way for the vast development of petrochemical and chemical fertilizer industries whose products are estimated to meet the growing needs of our own economy as well as the needs of great neighbouring markets like the sub-continent of India, and even the continent of Africa.

I need hardly refer to the immensity of our oil production potential. In the Consortium zone alone the potential proven reserves would permit us to produce some four million barrels of oil per day over the next 50 years.

The increase in oil exports together with the development of our gas and petrochemical industries, no doubt, are bound to expand our foreign exchange earnings by 1970. But evidently the importance we attach to the economic development of the country and the necessity of making utmost use of our foreign exchange resources for this purpose would make it difficult for us to meet all of our security needs from our foreign exchange earnings for the period 1966–70.

It is our confident hope that by 1970 our total revenues from the oil consortium agreement, and income accrued from petrochemical and gas [Page 226] industries and other sources would exceed the annual sum of $1,500 million. In the meantime, that is between now and 1970, however, we might experience some difficulty in making our limited foreign exchange meet the growing deffense requirements.

We are allocating, at present, 70% of our oil revenues for development purposes. In the course of the past year our economic growth has risen by 10%, while general price stability has been maintained and in some cases the prices have shown a downward trend. In order to keep up this pace of growth and to assure the continuation of our revolutionary programs, we are making every effort to accelerate the economic development of the country.

We are strongly determined to stand on our own feet and to undertake the responsibilities of an independent and peace-loving nation with vital interests in the security and stability of this area—a policy which should be welcome to our friends. Thus in the present uncertain conditions and in the face of real dangers in this part of the world we cannot ignore the defense needs of the country. We should be well prepared to cope with any eventuality. If we are strong enough to face these dangers, they may even fail to materialize.

It was in consideration of these facts that our Parliament, in addition to the $200 million agreement with you, authorized a further amount of $200 million, and if necessary authorization for additional amounts would be forthcoming.

Since we have to decide on the utilization of the amounts authorized by our Parliament, I shall be pleased to receive the findings of the military survey team and to be kindly informed of your readiness in securing the necessary requirements with interesting prices. It is our desire to make our purchases in the United States of America and would like to know the extent to which we can be accommodated. I would also be pleased to have your military experts evaluation report.

Upon receipt of the above reports we shall study them and decide on our needs, informing Washington accordingly. We will then await Mr. McNamara to inform us of the quantity of materiel we can purchase with these additional amounts.

We are most grateful to you for the generous material and moral assistance you have so far extended to us.

Let me say in conclusion that I am in complete agreement with you in that wherever our discussions lead, we can be certain that our mutual respect and common goals will enable us to move ahead in honorable cooperation.


M.R. Pahlavi
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 IRAN. Secret; Limdis. Attached to a March 28 memorandum from Read to Bromley Smith stating that it had been delivered to the Department under cover of a note from the Iranian Ambassador on March 28.
  2. Document 124.