7. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State 1

783. Re Deptel 617.2 In audience today I told Shah that delay in President’s reply to his letter of January 7 no doubt caused by numerous topics raised by Shah, all requiring study, and pointed out preoccupation of President with domestic program and critical international problems, adding that there was nothing in Shah’s communication requiring urgent action. I said that I anticipated a reply within about a week. In circumstances, suggest that reply be sent by telegram which would contain statement that signed letter is to follow.

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In calm, unemotional tone, Shah went over again his preoccupations about Nasser and his concern for the security of Persian Gulf. I gave him the obvious counter-arguments. He has focused his attention particularly on the prepositioning of military equipment, pointing out the advantages of the area in the mountains behind Bandar Abbas as an ideal location. He stated that with the development of the port, Bandar Abbas could become both a naval and military base, representing a secure position in terms of its distance from the Russian and Iraqi borders and pointing out the relative ease of preventing naval penetration of the Persian Gulf from this strategic point. His attention continues to be focused on the Persian Gulf and a potential Arab threat to Khuzistan. His fears of overt threat from Soviet Union are very much less than in the past.

The Shah was critical of some of our policies, especially pursuing the same theme he has followed in the past that we do not treat our friends as well as we treat those who are either our enemies or are not committed to us. At the end of about 10 minutes of this, he turned and smiled and said, “but after all, if it weren’t for America, none of us would be here”, and then restated that he had taken his position with the US and the West and there was no question of abandoning it. He spoke in highest terms of the President, saying that during the latter’s visit3 here he felt that he had developed cordial communication with Mr. Johnson, coupled with admiration and respect for him. He expressed the wish of having further discussions with me after the receipt of the President’s reply, preliminary to his conversation with the President in June.

As previously reported, there have been rumors current in Tehran that the Shah’s health has deteriorated. He told me that basically his condition had not changed but that the doctor in Vienna had counselled more frequent and longer periods of rest away from his heavy responsibilities. He does bear a heavy burden, works long hours, and is by nature a worrier. He appears to me to be unchanged from when I last saw him prior to his visit to Europe.

Holmes
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 IRAN. Confidential.
  2. Telegram 617 to Tehran, March 9, informed Holmes that the Department intended to pouch the President’s reply to the Shah’s letter of January 7 within 1 week. (Ibid.) In telegram 754 from Tehran, March 5, the Ambassador reported the Foreign Minister’s statement that the Shah had exhibited some concern at having not yet received a reply to his letter. (Ibid.)
  3. For information on Vice President Johnson’s visit to Tehran August 24–26, 1962, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XVIII, p. 72.