138. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Ellsworth) to Secretary of Defense Schlesinger 1


  • Iran

Under the impact of the 1972 so-called “Kissinger Policy” with regard to Iran—i.e., a policy calling for a relatively wide-open attitude to [Page 414] Iranian requests for US weapons systems, US training, US defense support of Iranian infrastructure systems planning and construction2—the overall US–Iran relationship seems to me to have gotten out of balance. This overall imbalance has been exacerbated by Iran’s leadership role in OPEC’s unilateral imposition of the extortionate oil price increases in 1973–74.

A comprehensive look at DOD activities in Iran reveals that DOD is doing much more for Iran than Iran is doing for us, even when the long run is taken into account, and even when Iranian payments are weighed in the assessment. When the national and international security impact of current oil prices is taken into account, it is even more disadvantageous to the US and the DOD.

As shown in the enclosed working paper3 in some detail, we are providing Iran with some of the most modern aircraft and air munitions in the world, in sufficient numbers to provide overwhelming area superiority; with large numbers of modern helicopters for unequaled strategic mobility; with the most effective air defense missile systems; with open ocean naval capability in the form of destroyers, patrol boats, submarines, torpedoes, and modern anti-ship missiles; with a comprehensive advanced air defense system; with a telecommunications system second to none in the world; with a comprehensive air force logistics system; with artillery; with ammunition; and with over 1,000 military personnel providing technical training and support for the Iranian armed forces.

The Iranians, on the other hand, permit some DOD activities in Iran which support unilateral US objectives and interests: a solar observation facility, an atomic energy detection system, some intelligence installations, temporary P–3C surveillance operations, an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service operation, Embassy guards, and a Defense Attaché’s Office. There are also some DOD activities in Iran which support combined DOD–Iran objectives, such as the HITVAL program, an Army communications signal facility, US overflight rights, a small US Military Group working with the Iranian J–2, a Defense Mapping Agency Liaison Office, and support for USAF tactical fighters during CENTO exercises.

My assessment that this relationship is unbalanced, while strongly felt, is largely intuitive. I put it forward as a conjecture, and recommend [Page 415] that you ask, or authorize me to ask, Andy Marshall to submit my conjecture to rigorous analysis for the purpose of refuting or confirming it. It could have substantial implications for US policy in the near term as well as further down the line.4

Robert Ellsworth
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Schlesinger Papers, Box 22, James R. Schlesinger—Action Memos, August, 1975. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Documents 205 and 214.
  3. The attached working paper, not printed, consists of three tabs examining Department of Defense activities: those that supported Iranian interests; those that supported combined Defense and Iranian objectives; and those that supported unilateral U.S. objectives.
  4. Schlesinger checked his approval on August 6.