112. Memorandum From David Elliott of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • U.S.–Iran Agreement on Cooperation in Civil Uses of Atomic Energy

Ingersoll has written to you asking to have an NSC sponsored interagency group reexamine the U.S. position on a U.S.–Iran Agreement on Cooperation in Civil Uses of Atomic Energy (Tab B).2 The situation is:

—Following the Indian nuclear explosion, we resolved to tighten up on the terms of our future Agreements to preclude the use in explosives of plutonium produced from our enriched uranium or in our reactors.

—Egypt, Israel, and Iran just happened to be the next in line for Agreements.

—Egypt and Israel have rejected our Agreements: Israel because it did not want to safeguard Dimona, and Egypt because of Israel’s attitude.

—Iran is an NPT party and hence has already accepted most of the restrictions we want. The one additional restriction we are seeking (and which HAK approved in December)3 is a right to veto where the plutonium produced in the reactor is processed and stored. (This would not become an actual question before the mid 80s.) Such a provision would allow us to require the plutonium to be kept out of the country if we were concerned about Iran’s stability or intentions.

—Iran has objected to this provision, mainly because the restriction has not been applied before. State sought to reassure them with a draft note indicating that the U.S. is sympathetic to Iran’s industrialization plans and needs, and would not take actions which would inhibit the implementation of these plans. (I.e., we would not be arbitrary in imposing our plutonium veto.) Iran did not immediately buy it; but we might push harder along this line.

[Page 331]

—The nuclear deal is an important part of the U.S.–Iran economic cooperation package. HAK would like this issue resolved before the Shah’s visit. Our problem is that even if we can convince ourselves that a greater good would be served by falling off our plutonium veto, Congress may not approve the Agreement if (1) they think it weak, or (2) find out that we have caved. Also, our protestations to other nuclear suppliers about the importance of imposing stricter controls may be considerably less convincing if our actions don’t match our words. Further, if we wish to pursue a nuclear agreement with Egypt or Israel at a later date, we would have more difficulty imposing special restrictions if we had not done so in the case of Iran.

It seems appropriate for us to convene a group from State, ACDA, and ERDA to look at our options and the pros and cons. Ingersoll—who would like an interagency paper by March 20—indicates that HAK wants to deal with this very soon after his return.

One bureaucratic problem also needs your decision. Ingersoll asks you to report to him on our study, which can certainly be done informally. But, it seems to me that the study would have to be officially carried out for the President and I have written up the NSSM accordingly.

Arthur Houghton concurs.


That you sign the NSSM at Tab A.4

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 34, NSSM 219. Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum was sent under a covering note from Elliott to Scowcroft that reads: “We have only a few days to carry out the proposed study. I hope you can sign out this package today.”
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 91.
  4. Printed as Document 113.