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

8321. NEA pass Ambassador Helms. Subject: USS Hancock Task Force. Ref: State 231141.2

1. We wish to suggest modifications in approach to GOI re Iran’s continuing support for Hancock task force (reftel). As we see it, we have two alternatives. We can make barebones request for this open-ended favor as outlined reftel. We believe GOI would acquiesce, but that tactic would contribute little to our overall relationship with Iran except add an obligation on our side for services rendered by GOI.

2. We believe it would be far preferable to enhance Iranian comprehension of, and thereby develop mutuality of interests in, Hancock operations. Invitations to Iranians for P–3 familiarization flights, visits to carrier and joint ship exercises, however cosmetic they might seem, were steps in this direction. More importantly, we think we should take Shah into our confidence to extent possible concerning our planning for Hancock operations. All we have given GOI so far is the rather thin explanation in State 2174853 for Hancock’s presence in Indian Ocean. As far as Iranians know from us, Hancock is to be stationed at holding area point 180 miles SE of Muscat in northern Arabian Sea. We note from JCS 200219Z4 that task force has moved at least temporarily to area of Gulf of Aden. We owe it to GOI, it seems to us, to inform them on Hancock activities which might attract public attention. Perhaps we are seeing ghosts, but there is little reassurance in the skeletal information we have so far seen or passed to GOI.

3. We would like to be able, in making approach to GOI for indefinite extension of Hancock support, to tell Shah:

A. How long we anticipate Hancock will require support. If we do not know, then we should mention factors which will affect duration of Hancock’s stay.

B. What movements and operations are planned for Hancock.

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C. Any changes in requirements for Iranian fuel or use of Bandar Abbas airfield from schedules we originally put to GOI. We note there have been no C–141/130 flights and infrequent COD flights.

D. Whether it is likely we will be making other requests of GOI re task force operations, e.g. port visit.5

4. While issue of sale of Iranian POL to USG for Pacific operations is separate subject (Tehran 8064)6 we believe if feasible it would be preferable to take up both that issue and Hancock support extension at same time. Unless Washington decision on approach to GOI for Pacific supply will be delayed for more than ten days, we would like to hold Hancock support question in suspense until we have both requests in hand. This should not affect ongoing Hancock support operations.7

Heck
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 603, Country Files—Middle East, Iran, Vol. V, May–December 1973. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to JCS, SecDef, USCINCEUR, and CINCPAC.
  2. In telegram 231141 to Tehran, November 23, the Department informed the Embassy that task force operations might extend beyond the original 30-day period and asked it to explore continuation on an indefinite basis or in incremental periods of 60 days or more with renewable options. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  3. Document 42.
  4. Not found.
  5. The Department replied that the Hancock group would be relieved by the U.S.S. Oriskany and escorts around December 8; that the duration of the operations was under study; that the Oriskany group would operate in the Arabian Sea; that the original schedules were unchanged for use of the Bandar Abbas airfield and the contingency for C–141/C–130 flights would remain for the duration of the task group; and that no other requests were foreseen for Iranian support of the task group operations. The task group, the Department concluded, would require 500,000 barrels POL for its operations. (Telegram 236006 to Tehran, December 1; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750029–1663)
  6. Dated November 15. (Ibid., [no film number])
  7. In telegram 8507 from Tehran, December 3, the Embassy reported Iran’s willingness to support task group operations on the condition that the United States buy fuel for the ships at the market rate. (Ibid., P750033–2433) The Department agreed in telegram 239733 to Tehran, December 7. (Ibid., P750029–1266) At the Embassy’s request, the Department provided a rationale for the Hancock deployment in telegram 15716 to Tehran and other posts, January 24, 1974. (Ibid., P750004–0746) Documentation on U.S. policy in the Indian Ocean area is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–9, Documents on Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula; North Africa, 1973–1976.