235. Memorandum From Vice President Humphrey to President Johnson1

I met privately with the Shah of Iran on Thursday, August 24, 1967, at 1:00 p.m. The conversation lasted 45 minutes, with no staff present.

The Shah told me he was extremely impressed by the President’s sincerity and firm grasp. He believed the President when he said, “When a man gives his pledge, that pledge must be kept.” He was very pleased with his two private meetings with you. He was deeply touched when you personally escorted him into a meeting that was going on with legislators, and was delighted when Mrs. Johnson came over to sit beside him. The meetings with the President were exactly what he had been looking for.

The Shah said his prime purpose was to explain to the President what he has been trying to accomplish in his own country and in the Middle East, and was pleased that the President understood so clearly.

He assured me of his support of your position in the Near East.

The strategic position of Iran as he understands it is that the USSR is attacking Iran and the Middle East by using Nasser to throw the United Kingdom out of the Red Sea, the South Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Nasser has seized the Yemen and has the strongest clandestine apparatus present within Aden and the South Arabian Federation. If Nasser and the USSR succeed in controlling the entrances of both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, Iran could be cut off.

“It is for these reasons that Nasser must be defeated. This is the primary strategic threat to Iran.” The Shah does not believe the United States fully appreciates this threat.

He strongly urged that the United States continue to work with the moderates in the Arab world. He considers himself in Iran as the major counterweight in the Far East to Syria, Algeria, and the UAR, and a reliable associate of the United States.

He was anxious that the United States understand his need to maintain his defensive position. Therefore, he went into detail about his defensive forces. He is proud that Iran is now paying for its own defense. He explained that his reliance upon the USSR for military equipment is on a very low level and that Iran is getting much more from the USSR than it is giving.

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He is fully aware of the danger of Soviet infiltration as a result of this influx of military equipment, and he has therefore very greatly strengthened his intelligence and security system.

On the current situation in the Middle East, the Shah said he had been impressed by Israel’s Great Victory. He now worried about the appearance of arrogance he detected in Israel’s behavior.

As for the Israelis, he stressed their need to be magnanimous and not arrogant. He was especially anxious that the Israelis move on the refugee problem. If they do not follow such a general line, he feels that Nasser will be able to unify the Arabs once again. He feels that he has a good relationship with the Israelis and wants to continue to be of help on their problem with the Arab states. He specifically indicated that Iran and Tunisia could work together for this purpose.

The Shah spoke quite frankly about Ayub Khan. He said he had spoken “very firmly” to Ayub about Ayub’s overdependence on Communist China.

He has told Ayub that the best friend of the Paks is the United States and he warned against a Pakistani relationship with Russia, as well as Communist China.

Concerning the Persian Gulf, the Shah said that as the United Kingdom gradually leaves the Persian Gulf area, the only Free World partners able to fill that vacuum are Iran and Saudi Arabia. He hopes that he can come ever closer to the President in meeting this extremely dangerous situation.

In all these matters I was careful to listen sympathetically, but to confine my remarks to generalities.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Files of Harold Saunders, Visit, Shah of Iran, Aug. 22–24, 1967. No classification marking. Drafted on August 30 at 11 a.m. A handwritten “L” on the source text indicates it was seen by the President.