24. Letter From the Ambassador to Iran (Holmes) to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Dean:

Next week I shall be sending a telegram2 assessing the local situation and the Shah’s attitudes, which I hope will be useful to the President and you in discussions with him. There is one important subject which cannot be included because of the circulation such messages receive.

A seldom discussed but vital element in our relationship with Iran is the agreement of the Shah which permits us to continue a series of U.S. technical intelligence operations in various parts of Iran. For the most part, the nature of many of these activities is such that they cannot be concealed from the public, and it is only through the Shah’s approval, and in certain instances through direct Iranian participation, that we are able to continue these activities.

More specifically, the activities include:

The establishment and maintenance of [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. These activities require the presence of upwards of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] civilian and service personnel, plus dependents.
The establishment and maintenance of [1 line of source text not declassified] facilities.
The Customs-free importation of technical and other logistic support required for the above activities.
The Shah has also given personal approval for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] intelligence [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] operations [3 lines of source text not declassified].

I should rather not specify the precise objectives or results obtained from these activities which, I am told, are of critical value to us. However, John McCone could inform you of how important they are to our national security.

My point in raising this sensitive matter with you at this time is to make certain that at the top level of our Government, on the eve of the Shah’s visit to Washington, there is realization of this particular benefit which we derive from our relationship with the Shah, and of the fact that he, having personally assumed full responsibility for supporting and protecting these activities, has never sought a quid pro quo for them or tried to blackmail us because of them. We should not allow a situation to develop where the Shah would be tempted to resort to such practice. The importance of these facilities in Iran would become even greater if by any unhappy chance, owing to policy changes in Pakistan, we should be deprived of similar facilities in that country.

For these and other reasons our relationship with the Shah and with Iran is an important one and I very much hope it will be possible for us to show a flexible attitude during the Shah’s visit to Washington, particularly in relation to his desires for continuing U.S. assistance in the modernization of his military establishment. I should be grateful if you would show this letter to the President.3

With warm regards,

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 IRAN. Top Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. See Document 27.
  3. On June 12 Secretary Rusk thanked Holmes for his timely letter and noted that it seemed to him that the U.S. Government has been sufficiently flexible regarding the Shah’s military modernization and security problems and sufficiently understanding of his economic concerns to obviate the likelihood that he would be tempted to use the intelligence facilities as a basis for undue pressure in the near future. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 IRAN)