26. Letter From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Jernegan) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Regional Affairs (Sloan)1

Dear Frank:

In the course of the Shah’s unofficial visit to the United States, he will talk with the President for an hour on June 5. This talk will be followed by a White House luncheon for the Shah.

Briefing papers for the President are being prepared in this bureau of the Department of State, and several of these will be forwarded to ISA shortly for clearance. All of the subjects except one which we expect to come up are non-operational, and we expect no difficulties in obtaining [Page 56] clearances on those portions of the briefing materials dealing with general political and economic affairs or with Persian Gulf problems.

The enclosed drafts,2 which are to be incorporated in the Talking Paper and Background Paper, respectively, deal with military assistance, which, as you know from recent messages from Tehran and from CINCMEAFSA, constitutes the critical item which will largely determine the long-term results of the Shah’s meeting with the President.

We feel that it is vital for the President to be able to indicate clearly to the Shah that his problems of military equipment are being sympathetically considered at the highest levels of the United States Government. As a minimum, we feel that the President must be able to make a concrete offer to the Shah responsive to the Shah’s current primary concern—the replacement during the next few years of aging M–47 tanks.

We are aware that there is some division of opinion in the Department of Defense as to the relative value of the M–48A3 and the M–60 tanks for supply to Iran. We feel quite certain, however, that the Shah greatly prefers the M–60, and that the President’s offer should emphasize the availability of the M–60.

We are further aware that there is some difference of opinion as to whether or not the still-experimental Sheridan might be made a part of any commitment to supply tanks to Iran in the future. We are assuming that the stage of development of this tank is such that no such commitment may be made, despite the Shah’s known interest in that vehicle.3

We would hope that ISA might be able to provide technical tab papers on these tanks and a summary table outlining the current Five-Year MAP Plan for Iran.

Members of your staff have indicated informally to members of my staff that the possibility of a substantial proportion of M–60’s being supplied under grant MAP is completely out of the question. We have therefore confined the offer in our draft to one of sale only. However, the Shah, at the time of agreement on the current Five-Year Plan, specifically made reservations in respect to the adequacy of the proposed tank component, and we informed him that we would review this element of the Plan later. Furthermore, we note that thirty grant M–60’s for Iran have been included in CINCSTRIKE’s MAP submission for FY 66 as a non-commitment item, and that the submission is within the current EUCOM MAP ceiling for FY 64–69. I would therefore appreciate your reviewing the problem to make certain that it will not be possible for the President to [Page 57] combine his sale offer with a commitment to supply thirty M–60’s under grant MAP before the end of 1967. Should this be possible, the beneficial effect on our military and political objectives of the President’s talk with the Shah would be greatly increased.4

I am aware that the problem of tank production and supply is at present a delicate one, and that it will not be easy for DOD to make firm and quick decisions. Nevertheless, we feel it is imperative that the President be able to talk to the Shah in specific terms. In addition to the obvious broad political effects of this talk, we are convinced that it may prove to be a major fork in the road determining whether or not we are to continue to maintain our position as the primary source of equipment and military influence in Iran. The Shah’s political and financial position is such that he is now capable of shopping in world markets for military equipment. We believe he will do so unless we continue to retain his confidence in us as his primary source of supply.

I would appreciate your clearance and/or comments on the enclosed draft segments of the President’s briefing papers.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 306, 333 Iran—28 May 1964. Confidential.
  2. Not printed.
  3. On June 3 Sloan responded to Jernegan noting that there were so many variables regarding the Sheridan that it was premature to discuss its being furnished under either sale or grant. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 306, 333 Iran—28 May 1964)
  4. In his response Sloan pointed out that since no other country had received M–60 tanks as grant aid, the Department of Defense did not want to establish a precedent; therefore, it recommended that they be sold as planned.