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42. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Iran and Saudi Arabia1

217485. Subject: USS Hancock Task Force. For the Ambassador from the Secretary.

1. I would very much like to have you get word to the Shah and solicit his reaction to our plans to have the USS Hancock and accompanying destroyers stationed in the northern Arabian Sea (holding area 180 miles S.E. of Muscat) on November 6 and for a period of time following that date. You should tell him that presence of this task force is part and parcel of US Indian Ocean policy of periodic and temporary augmentation of US naval forces in the area.2 It exists to threaten no state in the area and we have no intention at present of having it make port calls or visits.

2. We would be grateful for the Shah’s personal, frank, and considered reaction to our intention and also, should we decide to proceed in this course, whether he would permit us to use the base at Bandar Abbas for long-range surveillance (P–3) and logistic and short-range aircraft flights to the Hancock while the task force is in the immediate area. We would expect the flights to conduct training and exercise operations for a period of approximately thirty days. Frequency of flights is not yet known but you may assure the Shah that we will provide him with this information as soon as possible.

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3. We would be grateful for the very earliest reply you can manage, having in mind the Secretary will be departing on his trip shortly and the task force will be present in the area while he is traveling.3

4. For Jidda: We would be grateful for Ambassador’s personal reaction to proposal and any comments he may have to offer.

5. For London: Should we decide to go ahead in light of Shah’s and other reactions, we would want to operate two or three patrol aircraft from Diego Garcia for approximately one week in support of the Hancock task force. DOD has discussed informally with Vice Admiral Easton at UK Embassy who in turn has discussed it with UK Ambassador and Admiralty. We told they foresee no difficulty but formal diplomatic clearance required. You will be instructed separately to seek such clearance depending upon the actions above. Meanwhile, pending receipt of further instructions, if you are queried further by Arthur on basis of London’s 12819 request you tell him you are awaiting guidance.4

6. For Tehran: We have just been notified by DOD that Iranian support required to provide oil to refuel task force. If Shah indicates he is positive toward our deployment, please ask if he would agree to sell US fuel which would be picked up and transported by US Navy for at-sea refueling of the task force.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P810097–2375. Secret; Niact; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Thomas R. Pickering; cleared by Jonathan D. Stoddart (PM), Sisco, Walter J. Stoessel (EUR), and Scowcroft; and approved by Kissinger. Repeated Niact Immediate to London.
  2. During a meeting on November 3, Schlesinger told Kissinger: “We need a public line on the Hancock when it arrives.” Kissinger responded: “Routine. An exercise that we have been planning a long time. I will discuss with the Shah. If he wants it in [the Gulf], I will let you know.” Kissinger went on to ask: “Can it go into the Red Sea past the blockade?” Moorer replied: “I don’t know if there is a blockade.” (Memorandum of conversation, November 3; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 2)
  3. According to telegram 7752 from Tehran, November 5, the Shah agreed to the stationing of the Hancock and destroyers 180 miles southeast of Muscat and the use of Bandar Abbas by P–3 aircraft. The Shah insisted “that we strictly adhere to cover story that aircraft were in Iran to assist in training Iranians with P–3’s, in preparation for their later acquisition of that type of aircraft.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1295, Harold H. Saunders Files, Iran, May 16, 1973–December 31, 1973) Telegram 7826 from Tehran, November 7, passed along the Iranian Government’s approval of the use of Bandar Abbas for carrier on board delivery (COD) aircraft and C–141/C–130 logistics support flights as well. (Ibid., Box 603, Country Files—Middle East, Iran, Vol. V, May–December 1973)
  4. Telegram 12819 from London, November 2, reported that Sir Geoffrey Arthur of the British Foreign Office requested information about the task force and a possible U.S. request for use of U.K. facilities in the Gulf area. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  5. Telegram 7935 from Tehran, November 12, advised that the Iranian Government had authorized U.S. Navy tankers or U.S.-chartered vessels to take delivery of fuel at Iranian ports to avoid the need to transfer oil at sea. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 603, Country Files—Middle East—Iran, Vol. V, May–December 1973)