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

3878. Subject: Murder of MAAG Officer.2 Ref: A) Tehran 3719; B) Tehran 3794; C) Tehran 3855; D) State 106960.3

Summary: Although known facts in case are very few, murder of Lt. Col. Hawkins seems not motivated by personal considerations, but rather a political act by unidentified terrorists. We have no reason to be[Page 55]lieve situation affecting security of Americans in Iran has been drastically altered. GOI is providing increased coverage for all Americans through roving patrols and Ambassador has written to all members of American community offering security guidance. End summary

1. Although there were two witnesses to murder of Lt. Col. Hawkins, assassins were wearing motorcycle helmets and could not be identified. To our knowledge Iranian police have no repeat no important leads on this crime. Therefore addressees should bear in mind that any analysis or suggested background for murder is based only on reasonable assumption or speculation.

2. We have looked carefully into character and background of Lt. Col. Hawkins and find absolutely no reason to believe murder may have been motivated for personal reasons. Hawkins enjoyed excellent reputation in American community. Active in his church, he was serious, hardworking, kind and conscientious officer. His work in financial management at MAAG Headquarters included no controversial or sensitive material. He led a very regular, well ordered life. Iranian authorities agree that Hawkins was not targeted for any personal or professional reasons.

3. Our best opinion is that Hawkins was picked as victim because he wore US Army uniform and early each workday waited for MAAG transportation on corner of fairly well-travelled street where he was easily noticed. To reach that corner he had to walk two blocks past vacant lot where murderers attacked him.

4. It seems reasonable to conclude that Hawkins was picked as a target symbolic of US-Iranian ties, [garble] US military support for Iranian Armed Forces, considered one of main bulwarks of Shah’s government. By assassination, terrorists hoped to embarrass regime, demonstrate its inability to suppress opposition, frighten Americans in Iran and create problems in USGGOI relations.

5. Iranian security officers have linked murder to three events:

(A) First anniversary (plus two non-work days) of bomb attack on General Price and other bomb blasts at time of President’s visit.4 Some Iranian officers believe same group conducted attacks on Price and Hawkins.

(B) Three recent, unreported shootings of terrorists by police in streets of Tehran.

(C) Execution of eight saboteurs in Ahwaz and announced public trial of seven guerillas (Tehran 3719). FBIS reported that clandestine [Page 56]broadcast of Voice of the United Front of Nationalities in Iran on May 30 threatened to “revenge the blood of these martyrs” and in same text castigated support for “fascist regime” by “US and British imperialists.” Press June 5 reported two more saboteurs executed at Ahwaz on preceding day. Same trial gave life and lesser sentences to five other men. Clearly, GOI has been cracking down hard on anti-regime groups in recent weeks.

6. As to affiliation of assassins, some GOI officials believe group is left-wing, Iraq-supported, while others, including PriMin’s staff, suspect Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a right wing religious organization, also with ties to Iraq, which has recently distributed anti-regime leaflets.5 We note from FBIS that clandestine radio Iran Courier on June 4 disavowed on behalf Tudeh Party Hawkins murder as “individual terrorism” and advocated mass action in violently attacking Shah’s military buildup. We naturally have no way of knowing at this point which group, or possibly isolated individuals, should be held responsible for murder.

7. Thus, though GOI will continue to press relentlessly on groups and individuals suspected of terrorism, experience demonstrates that there is little hope that this danger can be entirely eliminated. One determined individual can threaten American security in Iran through series of incidents. However, although there may be other incidents, we do [garble—not] believe there is any cause for undue alarm as to future security of official and private Americans in Tehran. While we have had periodic, unevaluated threats to Embassy and other US installations, there have been no other attacks on Americans since President’s visit. There is, of course, possibility that CENTO meetings will, like Presidential visit, provide occasion for guerillas to embarrass GOI by terrorist attacks.6 On other hand, security will be so heavy during that period as possibly to discourage guerillas from risking confrontation.

8. As noted Tehran 3855, GOI is doing everything possible to strengthen local security for Americans. Even before Security Committee formed by PriMin, General Toufanian had been directed by Shah to organize committee to assure security for official and private Americans arriving to assist in Iranian military buildup. Despite [Page 57]problem of protecting almost 7000 private and 2856 official Americans in Tehran, GOI is producing map showing residences of all Americans and organizing roving patrols in those areas. Homes of senior official Americans have had police protection for some time. MAAG is reinforcing security at Evin Hotel where, under arrangement with Iranian armed forces, new military personnel are lodged.

9. Security Watch Committee met day of assassination to review measures in effect and consider additional precautions. Recently tightened security procedures for installations and individuals were judged adequate for the present circumstances. Ambassador has dispatched letter to all members of American community counseling reasonable reaction to murder and caution and alertness for future. Letter transmits common sense security guidelines and list of police stations. (Copy of letter pouched NEA/IRN)

10. We shall continue to watch situation closely and are, of course, maintaining close contact with Iranian security forces through several channels. We will communicate immediately, should it seem appropriate to request additional security support from Washington agencies.

Helms
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 9 US. Confidential; Priority. Repeated Priority to the Secretary of Defense and USCINCEUR.
  2. Lieutenant Colonel Lewis L. Hawkins was shot and killed as he walked from his home to work at the Directorate of Financial Management, ARMISH/MAAG Headquarters. According to telegram 4249 from Tehran, June 16, a militant named Reza Reza’i was the alleged mastermind of the plot. Killed in a gun battle with police, Reza’i was the brother of a “religious fanatic” executed the previous year for killing a policeman, supporting a “widely held theory in Tehran that Hawkins was killed by a right-wing group.” (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  3. In telegram 3719 from Tehran, May 30, the Embassy described the resumption of terrorism coverage in the Iranian press, which highlighted the government’s anti-terrorist campaign. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 IRAN) Telegram 3794 from Tehran, June 2, contains the initial report of Hawkins’s murder. (Ibid., DEF 9 US) Telegram 3855 from Tehran, June 5, outlined the steps taken by the Embassy and by the Iranian Government to improve security in the wake of Hawkins’s murder. (Ibid.) Telegram 106960 to Tehran, June 4, requested an assessment of the murder and the security situation for the consideration of the Committee to Combat Terrorism. (Ibid.)
  4. Militants set off three bombs on May 31, 1972, during President Nixon’s trip to Iran, one of which detonated under the car of an American adviser to the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Brigadier General Harold L. Price. (“Nixon’s Departure from Iran Marred by Terrorist Explosions,”The Washington Post, June 1, 1972)
  5. In telegram 3922 from Tehran, June 7, the Embassy forwarded Iraqi news reports linking Baathists to Hawkins’s murder. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 9 US) Telegram 4393 from Tehran, June 21, reported that Iranian police had broken up another terrorist group, describing them as followers of an Islamic-Marxist philosophy. The telegram noted: “GOI has in past categorized many of its more violent opponents as leftists of one stripe or other and has been reluctant to admit that base of opposition exists among religious bazaari class. While government description of group’s philosophy could be correct, it may well signal campaign on part of authorities designed to de-emphasize undoubted religious orientation of some terrorist groups.” (Ibid., POL 13–10 IRAN)
  6. The CENTO Ministerial meeting was scheduled to be held in Tehran June 8–11.