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

10655. For the Secretary from the Ambassador. Subj: Congressional Testimony on Kurds. Ref: Tehran 10459.2

1. At audience for Senator Fulbright3 which was held late afternoon November 2 immediately after Shah’s arrival from Ankara, took occasion to mention that CBS News had carried story on November 1 which inter alia mentioned CIA operation to support Iraqi Kurds with “tens of millions of dollars worth of Soviet arms.”4 Shah reacted with a smile rather than a frown and commented, “Yes, that story was the first thing my government mentioned to me when I alighted at the airport a few minutes ago.” He did not pursue the matter and neither did I, but I have no doubt I will hear more about it when there is no third party present. Leaks such as this Schorr story right out of the Pike Committee only serve to persuade the Shah that the USG is incapable of keeping confidences or secrets.

2. Recognize how painfully aware you are of damage these leaks do,5 but felt I should mention foregoing for the record and whatever ammunition it may give you in supporting your own position to keep Department cables away from Congressional committees. Incidentally, Senator Fulbright threw up his hands when I asked what could be done [Page 811]to stop the hemorrhaging. He indicated that he knew of nothing and opined that it would simply have to run its course, much as he disapproved of what Congress was doing.

3. Set forth below is what [less than 1 line not declassified] what alerted me to the leak. It is certainly what Pike Committee believes or at least what members told me they believe when I appeared before them on October 23. Begin text. Daniel Schorr of CBS News on 6:30 broadcast 1 November stated that the Pike Committee had uncovered a CIA operation which delivered “tens of millions of dollars worth of Soviet and Chinese Communist arms” to the Iraqi Kurds. Schorr said that the operation was conceived during the Nixon visit to Tehran in June 1972. Apparently the Shah requested that the USG provide this material and John Connally was sent to Tehran later that year in July to inform the Shah of the President’s approval.6 Schorr said that CIA opposed the operation. Aid to the Kurds ceased after the Iran-Iraqi agreement of 6 March 1975. The Pike Committee stated that this action was illegal because the authorization came directly from the President and not via the National Security Council. On 1 November 75 Dr. Kissinger refused to make details of the operation public. CIA officially denied comment, according to Schorr, who said however unofficial CIA sources claim the President had the right to run such an operation directly. End of text.7

Helms
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840084–0158. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cherokee.
  2. In 1975, the House of Representatives established the House Select Committee on Intelligence, known as the Pike Committee, to investigate possible abuses by the Intelligence Community. The investigation covered CIA covert operations, including that in support of the Kurds, and high-level officials, notably Helms and Kissinger, testified before it. In telegram 10459 from Tehran, October 28, Helms urged Kissinger to review the record of his testimony before the Pike Committee to prepare for the Secretary’s own appearance. Helms also noted that the CIA documentation held by the Committee was voluminous and inquired as to which communications channels remained secure if backchannel communications had been revealed. (Ibid., P840084–0133)
  3. Former Senator J. William Fulbright visited Tehran as a representative of the Institute of International Education November 1–4.
  4. Telegram 260094 to Tehran, November 3, advised the Embassy that the story of U.S. assistance to the Kurds had also appeared on the front page of The Washington Post. In addition, the Christian Science Monitor had reported that Barzani was in the United States for medical treatment as a guest of the CIA and that Sisco had visited him in the hospital. The telegram stated that there would be no official comment on the allegations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D750381–0723)
  5. Telegram 1115 from Baghdad, November 4, noted that the Baghdad dailies had reported the story but blamed Nixon and downplayed the Iranian role, apparently indicating that the government did not wish the story to disturb U.S.-Iraqi relations or Iraqi-Iranian détente. (Ibid., D750382–0334)
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Documents 209 and 211.
  7. In New York Times columns, February 5 and 12, 1976, William Safire condemned the President for ending the Kurdish operation and betraying the Kurds, based on further leaks from the Pike Committee report.