17. Memorandum From the Directors of the Office of Iranian Affairs (Miklos), the Office of Regional Affairs (Schiff), and the Office of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and Aden Affairs (Dickman) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1


  • Redeye Missile for Iran

The attached draft memorandum from PM to the Secretary which recommends release of the Redeye missile to Iran,2 has been sent to NEA for concurrence. Rationale for the sale is based primarily on two factors: 1) Iran’s strong interest in the missile and 2) the July 1972 Kissinger memorandum stating the President’s decision that we should generally be as responsive as possible to Iranian arms requests.3 The memo finds no good reason to decline. ACDA has concurred in it.

IRN strongly favors release. ARP and RA oppose it (as does Chris Chapman in PM).4 This memo outlines the two positions and requests your decision.

The Case for Release

The Shah believes the President has agreed to sell Iran virtually any non-nuclear weapon in our arsenal. Our policy may not go quite that far, but a refusal of a specific request will have to have persuasive policy justification or be badly misunderstood. Iran has expressed a strong and persistent interest in the Redeye missile. We have deflected repeated Iranian requests for over six months to complete:

a) an approach to the Soviets for joint restraint in the Middle East. This failed.

b) a review of Iranian security practices. They passed with flying colors.

[Page 53]

c) a policy review of the implications by PM. This produced the attached memo recommending release.

We are now asked to turn the Shah down because release to Iran would reawaken requests for the Redeye from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. But there is no clear [evidence?] showing that release to Iran will spark other requests or that denial will deny the capability to the other applicants. Release to Iran would be classified and actual deliveries some time off. Israel may well have developed the simple technology itself. Other sources—the British Blowpipe and Soviet Strella missiles—are available. The Strella is already in Egypt and Syria and may be in Iraq. The Redeye has been released to Australia, Sweden, NATO countries. How can we persuasively justify refusal to the Shah in this permissive and uncertain context? He will certainly not be persuaded and almost certainly raise the issue with the President in July. It is recommended that we brief the Shah fully on the missile including its drawbacks and leave the decision on acquisition to him. This approach is consistent with the arms policy for Iran laid down by the President. We followed this policy when we had doubts about the Shrike missile which the Shah wanted, and the Shah changed his mind.

The Case Against

Saudi Arabia and Israel have previously expressed interest in this weapon. The Saudis had communicated their interest prior to Prince Sultan’s June 1972 visit to Washington. Briefing papers prepared at that time recommended that Secretary Laird discourage the Saudis on grounds that 1) the weapon could be used indiscriminately and 2) we were not selling it elsewhere in the Middle East. So far as we know, the Saudis did not pursue the matter further.

Israel has a request pending with DOD, but it has not pressed it. (There is also a request pending since 1972 from Lebanon.)

The sale to Iran may very well rekindle Saudi (and Israeli) interest. And the salient point is that the Saudis are not Iranians. This is technically not a reliable weapon. Moreover it requires strict command and control and tight security measures. Such a weapon in potentially unreliable or uncontrolled hands could be dangerous. Saudi command and control measures are less effective than Iran’s. To be prepared to consent to a sale to the Saudis would entail serious risks. To deny it to the Saudis could produce political problems with the Saudis, who, as we know, are showing sensitivity to receiving equal treatment in arms sales matters with Iran and Israel.

The President’s decision on military supply policy requires us not to cavil with Iranian requests. But it does not mean that we abandon all discretion. In this particular instance, given the nature of the weapon [Page 54] and its possible repercussions in the area, we should politely turn the Iranians down—or at least so recommend to the Secretary.

Action Requested:

That you indicate whether NEA should:

A) Concur in the recommendation to release the weapon, providing that we give the GOI a full briefing on its capabilities/drawbacks including our reservations about its potential misuse.5

B) Non-concur in the PM memo and recommend to the Secretary that we not authorize release of the weapon to Iran.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, NEA/IRN Files: Lot 76D169, Box 8, DEF 12. Secret. Drafted by Rouse and approved by Schiff and Padelford. Sent through Davies.
  2. The memorandum is not attached. A copy is in the Washington National Records Center, OASD Files: FRC 330–78–0011, Box 69, Iran 1973. The Redeye was a man-portable, heat-seeking, anti-aircraft missile.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Document 214.
  4. In a January 29 memorandum to Padelford, Rouse wrote that Laird had declined to allow Iran to obtain Redeye missile data at present, fearing the missile’s proliferation in the Middle East. Rouse noted, however, that the Soviet version was already in Egypt and perhaps Syria. (National Archives, RG 59, NEA/IRN Files: Lot 76D169, Box 8, 1973, DEF 12)
  5. Sisco indicated his concurrence in recommendation A. Confirmation that the sale of the Redeye missile to Iran had been approved was transmitted in telegram 140399 to Tehran, July 17. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])