75. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1
Secto 30. Secretary’s conversation with Shah—Iranian-Arab relations. Major part of audience which Secretary had with Shah April 7 was concerned with Iranian-Arab relations and developments in Arab world. Shah outlined his well-known concern with subversive and aggressive policies of the UAR, with particular reference to Arab claims on Khuzestan and the danger of Nasser’s taking over the Persian Gulf States. Secretary said that US had been very patient with Nasser but that this patience now running out and US relations with UAR now hanging by a very slender thread. Secretary thought it was encouraging, however, that other Arab States had clearly shown unwillingness to submit to Egyptian hegemony. He thought these states would be supported in that attitude. Shah said he entirely agreed and remarked he had been surprised by the determination not to be pushed around by the UAR which President Bourguiba had exhibited during his recent state visit to Iran.
Shah said attitude of Saudi Arabia was also very constructive. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia had grown extremely close. He hoped, however, that Saudis would not press Iran too hard about Israel. Iran desired good relations with Saudi Arabia, but would not abandon Israel to achieve them. Israel was in existence as a sovereign state and its relations with Iran were good. Besides, there was the saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Shah asked what US would do if Nasser attacked Saudi Arabia. Secretary replied that Saudi assistance to Yemeni Royalists created difficult [Page 137] problem for US, which had been made clear to Saudis. In Viet-nam US was resisting the infiltration of men and war material across the border, and was itself attempting to stop this by military action in the guilty country. If UAR should attack Saudi Arabia in area other than Yemeni border region where staging of Saudi aid to Royalists taking place, US would support Saudi Arabia.
But if border staging area attacked by Egyptians, this would be another matter. Secretary added that US would like to see the Yemenis get their own country back.
Secretary asked Shah about Iran’s relations with Iraq. Shah reiterated his well-known concern over desires of Iraqi leaders to make Iraq subservient to Nasser. Iran’s only policy was that Iraq should be truly independent. There was the problem of the Shatt al Arab between the two countries and also that of subversive activity in Khuzestan originating in Iraq. With regard to the Kurdish problem, the Shah said that, while it was helping them, Iran was not encouraging the Kurds to resume hostilities. At the same time, Iran considered that in its relations with Iraq it held a trump card in the Kurds, which it would not relinquish as long as a “truly national” government was not established in Iraq. The Shah said: “We are not going to let the Iraqi Kurds down until a national government is established in Baghdad”.
In a discussion of Arab-Israeli relations, Secretary said that Israel seems only matter on which Arabs can achieve any degree of unity. The Palestine issue was valuable to the Arabs for this political purpose, but Secretary did not believe it likely that Arabs would engage in military action against Israel. At the same time, US had made very clear to Israelis that they would receive no US support should they undertake military action against Arab States because of latter’s operations to divert Jordan waters. There was, however, danger of Arab or Israeli military action if either side became prey of fear that it was about to be attacked by the other. Therefore, it was important that there not be created an armaments imbalance in the Near East and that was reason why US found itself in the distasteful position of participating in an arms race in the area as result of its efforts to prevent such imbalance.
Shah mentioned his forthcoming trip to Morocco and said that while there he would endeavor to persuade King to embark on a reform program.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL ARAB–IRAN. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Damascus, Rabat, Tunis, Tripoli, Baghdad, Jidda, Beirut, Amman, London, Tel Aviv, Taiz, Dhahran, Cairo, and Algiers and passed to the White House at 4:20 p.m.↩