37. Editorial Note

On September 24, 1973, the Department of State notified the Embassy in Iran of a U.S. Air Force proposal to build a joint aeronautical station in Tehran which would provide ground-to-air communications between military aircraft and military installations, military aircraft traffic control, secure communications for aircraft carrying senior government officials, and, if desired, special air-ground communications for the Shah of Iran. An additional function of the station would be the Mystic Star mission for Presidential communications support, which was being relocated from Kagnew Station in Ethiopia. (Telegram 190374 to Tehran; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 425, Backchannel Files, 1973, Middle East/Africa)

In backchannel message 96 from Tehran, September 27, Ambassador Helms inquired if Scowcroft and Haig believed that the “pro[Page 145]posed facility is really essential to Presidential support?” If it were, he noted, the Embassy would of course seek Iranian approval. “Nevertheless, there are many reasons why we would prefer not rpt not to have yet another American installation here.” (Ibid.) Scowcroft gave a preliminary reply, pledging to look into the matter, in backchannel message WH32426, October 1. (Ibid.) Scowcroft’s more extended reply has not been found.

On October 24, in telegram 7450 from Tehran, the Embassy presented the Department with a list of comments and questions about the proposed station. Voicing reluctance to expand the American presence in Tehran with 80 to 100 military personnel and more sites, the Embassy observed: “Mission staffing total is now approaching 1600 personnel plus dependents; large majority of these men and women are in military programs. Added to that figure are private Americans engaged in Iranian defense buildup; that number will probably exceed 2000 principals within one year.” The Embassy acknowledged that U.S.-Iranian relations were excellent and that Iranians were generally not hostile to Americans, but also recognized “latent tensions in some quarters of population.” Tendencies that were not yet solidified as popular discontent or anti-Americanism, but deserved watching, included “strains resulting from inflationary pressures, intellectual criticism of military expenditures, absence of political freedom, and recently, strong sympathy for Moslem cause in Mid-East fighting.” As a preventive measure, the Embassy was reluctant to add to the U.S. presence unless it was absolutely necessary. Further, since the Shah was likely to agree to the station, but was sensitive to Congressional attitudes toward U.S. military programs in Iran, the Embassy wanted to wait until after Congressional approval had been obtained. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])

Following further representations on both sides and consultations with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of State notified the Embassy in telegram 48516, March 11, 1974, that the most important part of the Air Force proposal, with the imminent shutdown of Kagnew, was the Mystic Star system. Associating the project with the proposed aeronautical station was a mere convenience, it noted, and Mystic Star could operate with 15 personnel in connection with an existing communications station. (Ibid.) The Embassy expressed no objection to this proposal in telegram 2039 from Tehran, March 13, 1974. (Ibid.)