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

1. Eyes Only for Assistant Secretary Atherton. Subj: SAVAK Activities. Ref: (A) State 313328, (B) State 314119.2

1. Conveyed exact language of para 5 reftel (A) as amended by para 1(B) reftel (B) to Minister of Court Alam evening December 31. Alam expressed appreciation for clarification of what transpired between you and Zahedi, particularly noting with relief that PNG action had not been raised or considered by US which was contrary to what Zahedi had reported. Also filled Alam in on general background as described reftel (A) leading up to your meeting with Zahedi. Alam was not at all pleased to hear that CBS “60 Minutes” planned a program on SAVAK’s actions in the US. He said this was “very bad” but then commented that “I suppose there is nothing you (USG) can do about it.” He said that he had been opposed to the last Mike Wallace interview with the Shah but that Zahedi had persuaded the Shah that it was a good idea after having talked with Wallace for several hours before making his recommendation.3

2. Evening of January 2 Alam summoned me to his residence to tell me that he had related our December 31 conversation to the Shah. He said that the Shah was satisfied with our explanation but that the Shah had then gone on to say that if this matter became an issue he would not be able to overlook the presence of “70 of your people who are carrying out activities contrary to Iranian law.” As a matter of fact, Alam added, “We would not be able to overlook the presence of others whom we do not know about officially.” He asked that I make clear the seriousness with which the Shah regards this matter in my report to Washington.

3. Leave to your judgment the question of the accuracy of Zahedi’s reporting (Alam said he must have misunderstood) but suggest you [Page 595] may wish to consider dual approach in Washington and here on subjects of such sensitivity in the future. Zahedi seems to have gotten this one wrong as he has other matters in the past and perhaps unnecessarily exercised our friends here.

4. Since this matter could conceivably be raised by the GOI with the Station Chief here, I felt it wise to fill him in on the exchanges I have had with Alam, asking that he keep it to himself for the time being. You may wish to consider letting his people know in Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Roger Channel, TS, Tehran I, 1963–1978. Secret; Immediate; Roger Channel; Special Handling.
  2. Telegram 313328 is Document 199. In telegram 314119 to Tehran, December 31, 1976, the Department altered the wording of telegram 313328. The first sentence of paragraph 2 was changed to read: “Although these FBI reports are ambiguous, the Secretary believed that Ambassador Zahedi should again be alerted to USG’s genuine concern over operations of foreign security/intelligence organizations in the United States.” The third sentence of paragraph 5 was amended: “In view of the particularly close and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries we want to avoid problems on such matters and believe that a continuing dialogue will be helpful.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Roger Channel, TS, Tehran I, 1963–1978)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 196.