12. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

2166. Subject: Audience with Shah.

Summary: After presenting credentials to Shah April 52 we had private conversation on developments in area lasting about hour. Topics raised by Shah included recent Kosygin visit to Iran, Iraq–Iran relations, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and its recent troubles with Iraq, oil negotiations, family planning. Shah concluded there were no problems between our countries to raise. Action requested: Any information Department or Jidda can provide on Saudi intentions and extent of support for Kuwait in its current difficulties with Iraq (see para five below). End summary.

1. After presentation of credentials on 5 April, I had private conversation with Shah, Foreign Minister Khalatbari being only other person present.

2. After brief amenities, Shah said his Foreign Minister would brief me on Kosygin’s visit to Iran in mid-March.3 Shah then said he wanted to make a couple of points about visit: “I told Kosygin that I would not stand for any subversion in Persian Gulf and that I would not stand for disintegration of what is left of Pakistan. On this latter Kosygin agreed [Page 39] that Pakistan as presently constituted should remain a political entity.” As for Gulf area, Shah noted that Kosygin suggested he talk with the people “down there.” Shah said his reaction to this was “Who do I talk to? I cannot talk to the PFLOAG.” Shah then stated that he and Kosygin discussed Iraq. Kosygin asked him why he was building up his military forces. According to Shah, his rejoinder was “You are doing the same thing in Iraq.” Shah said he pointed out to Kosygin that he could “crush” Iraq any time he wanted to but that a strong Iran would be a responsible power not an adventurous one. During course of talks with Kosygin, Shah had feeling that Soviet Union was most anxious for good relations to be developed between Iraq and Iran. Shah believes that Soviet interest in this development is due to their recognition that this would bring about a stronger Iraq since Iran would be stopped from playing its Kurdish card. Shah took attitude he would be glad to talk with Iraq and will be ready to work things out with Iraq if that country were prepared to meet his terms. It is clear that Shah has no rpt no intention of making deal with any government like present Ba’athist one in Baghdad. He said he is prepared to put up with nuisance which Iraq causes him (i.e., border raids, killing of border guards, etc.) since these things affect him little. At this juncture Shah repeated that Khalatbari would fill me in on other aspects of Kosygin visit.4

3. This suddenly seemed to remind Shah of that part of Soviet/Iranian communiqué which referred to Asian collective security system. He said that this matter had first come up in passing during his trip to Moscow last fall and that it had not been mentioned by Kosygin during recent visit but had been put forward by Russian side during drafting of communiqué. He stated that he did not see how he could object to the language since his only interest was to insure that Communist China participated in any such Asian security system. At this juncture Khalatbari pointed out that language of communiqué did not specifically mention Communist China. Shah bridled and stated “If communiqué said all nations of Asia, it obviously includes Communist China.” It seems clear that Shah has become a bit touchy and defensive about inclusion of this item in communiqué.

4. Shah then mentioned his concern about stability of Saudi Arabia, concern which I understand he has voiced many times in past. [Page 40] He clearly feels that King Faisal is inflexible and that cooperative relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not possible under these circumstances. He insists that King Faisal is supporting Sheikh of Ras al-Khaimir in making difficulties over Abu Musa.5 Shah reiterated his oft-repeated contention that Abu Musa was stolen from Iran by British. (“Even on Russian charts Iran was written in next to that island.”) Shah then mentioned King Faisal’s unwillingness to permit designation of strong successor or to bring about social reforms which are required in his country. Shah indicated he thought at one time that Prince Fahd might emerge as strong figure but he doubts now that this is coming to pass. He mused that Saudi Arabia is “really not a country but only a couple of cities” and that its lack of social progress makes it ripe for some type of radical takeover.

5. Shah then touched on difficulties between Kuwait and Iraq. In response to a query, he admitted that he had encouraged King Hussein to volunteer troops to Kuwait in case of hostility but indicated his doubt that Jordanian troops could fight effectively that far from Amman. He also indicated he had encouraged King Faisal to support Kuwait but had begun to wonder in recent days whether there were not signs that Saudi Arabia was cooling in its support for Kuwaiti position. He said he would appreciate any information we could provide indicating whether or not this [garble—was the?] case.

6. In discussing change in arrangements with oil consortium to a sales-purchase agreement, Shah stated that US would obviously benefit from additional revenues which Iran would acquire. He said “Most of this money will obviously go back to the United States.” [garble] with recent dollar devaluation American heavy equipment “which is best in world” would again become competitive and Iran would undoubtedly buy it from United States rather than Japan. He then branched off into a disquisition on merits of sales-purchase arrangement as against joint ownership, i.e., participation arrangements with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries. One of his points, which did not come through too clearly, was that joint ownership would be hazard to United States if any of these countries, e.g., Saudi Arabia, were to get a radical Arab-type government. He emphasized again his view that Iran was far-sighted in taking over total control of her natural resources since her people could never again say that foreigners owned any part of them. He reminisced about offer he had made to United States ten years ago to buy oil from Iran and store it in salt caves or [Page 41] wherever else we wanted to. United States turned him down, he pointed out, and since he was head of a weak country, he saw no point in pursuing matter. He commented with a smile, “I will never make you that offer again.”

7. The Shah then turned to economic development of Iran and his concern to see to it that its population does not outstrip its growth possibilities. He stated “I intend to hold eventual population growth to 50 million. We should then be able to have 50 million happy and prosperous people.” He indicated his birth control program was working and interestingly enough he had had “not one whisper of complaint from Mullahs about it.” He then veered off to discussion of agriculture and benefits being derived from new systems of irrigation. He indicated his determination to stop grazing of nomadic tribes across countryside, pointing out that it is destructive and actually counterproductive. He obviously wants to force nomads into stabling their cattle and goats so that individual animals can be fattened to a degree which has never before been possible in this country. He quoted figures to illustrate that nomadic cattle and goats remain skinny and far below their potential as food animals.

8. The Shah indicated that he would be discussing his Air Force with General Ryan next week and situation in Middle East with Secretary Rush and Assistant Secretary Sisco during their visit here later this month.6 At end of audience he looked up quite seriously and said “I really can think of no problems between our countries that I need to raise with you.”

9. As an addendum would like to point out that John McCone’s testimony before Congress on ITT–Chile affair obviously jarred Shah.7 He is clearly becoming convinced that United States Government seems incapable of guarding its secrets. There no need for me to develop this theme as he did, but it behooves us to be scrupulously careful about information and views which Shah shares with United States Government.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1294, Harold H. Saunders Files, Iran, 1/1/73–5/15/73. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Moscow and Jidda.
  2. Nixon introduced Helms with a March 7 letter, assuring the Shah that Helms knew of the importance the President attached to U.S. relations with Iran, to the Shah’s leadership, and to the Iranian role in regional and world affairs. (Ibid., Box 755, Presidential Correspondence, Iran, M.R. Pahlavi, 1969–1974)
  3. In backchannel message 62 to Kissinger, April 6, Helms transmitted the Shah’s report that Kosygin had offered him MIG–25s and T–65s, which he had declined. In the Shah’s judgment, “the significance of the offer is that if he [Kosygin] could sell MIG–23’s to Iran, then he would have no difficulty introducing them into the Arab states of the region. I can only assume that this is what the Soviets want to do.” (Ibid., Box 425, Backchannel Files, 1973, Middle East/Africa)
  4. The Embassy conveyed the substance of the April 11 KhalatbariHelms conversation in telegram 2367 from Tehran, April 12. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) In an April 13 memorandum to Miklos and Rouse, Michaud speculated that “the Shah was not as tough with Kosygin as he would have us believe,” adding: “I suggest that we take the Shah’s statements on Iran’s attitude toward the Soviet Union with a considerable grain of salt. He continues to make anti-Soviet noises to us to reassure us at the same time that he continues to improve relations with the USSR.” (Ibid., NEA/IRN Files: Lot 76D169, Box 8, 1973, POL)
  5. Iran’s occupation of the Gulf island of Abu Musa was contested by the Sheikh of Ras al-Khaimah and other Arab leaders. For information on the Gulf islands dispute, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Documents 68 and 153.
  6. Rush and Sisco visited Tehran for the NEA Chiefs of Mission Conference April 23–24. See Document 14. The report of the conference is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 3–2 IRAN.
  7. Both Houses of Congress were investigating charges against the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, including the allegation that it had attempted to block the 1970 election of Chilean President Salvador Allende in cooperation with the U.S. Government.