70. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

5386. Embtel 4118.2 CENTO—Shah’s London Visit.

US continues regard CENTO alliance as integral part security structure of Middle East area. We would look upon any change not carefully tailored to meet requirements all parties as greatly weakening position of all.
We somewhat more sanguine than British appear to be that Shah will continue regard CENTO as vital part of alliance security shield. He has important domestic political investment in CENTO and we believe he is well aware that security of area vis-a-vis Soviets is in large part dependent on atmospherics. No element—whether CENTO or US bilateral guarantee—can be removed from structure constituting posture of determination defend Iran without weakening credibility of entire structure.

U.S.-Iranian agreement of 1959 (TIAS 4189; 9 UST 1077) states that “in case of aggression against Iran” USG will, in accordance constitution, “take such appropriate action, including use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon and as is envisaged in Joint Resolution to Promote Peace and Stability in Middle East, in order to assist Govt. of Iran at its request.” Shah is aware of falsity of longstanding rumor in Iran that secret codicil to 1959 agreement includes more explicit guarantees to Iran.

We are looking into question of whether Bilateral Agreement would continue to be fully operative in event of dissolution of CENTO or change in Iran’s relationship thereto.

Under these circumstances, British in talks with Shah should not discuss question bilateral U.S.-Iranian arrangements. Aside from inappropriateness such discussion in our absence, to reopen question of U.S. position on defense of Iran might create new problem in our relations with Iran and might exacerbate rather than minimize Iranian tendency to reappraise security relationship with West. Fact these issues again moot would almost certainly become known to Russians, with resultant diminution credibility of our security arrangements even if no structural change in these arrangements had occurred.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 IRAN. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Howison; cleared by Meeker, Lee, Frazier Meade in EUR/BNA, and Officer in Charge of Pakistan-Afghanistan Affairs L. Bruce Laingen; and approved by Jernegan. Repeated to Ankara, Kabul, Karachi, and Tehran.
  2. In telegram 4118 from London, February 25, Ambassador Bruce reported that the British Foreign Office suspected that if the Shah felt absolutely sure of a U.S. bilateral security guarantee, he might be tempted to jettison CENTO. (Ibid.)