57. Memorandum From Secretary of State Kissinger to President Nixon1

SUBJECT

  • Letter to the Shah of Iran

You will recall that the Shah stated, in a CBS interview televised February 24, that the U.S. was still importing as much or more oil as it was before the imposition of the Arab embargo last September. On the following day, Bill Simon asserted publicly that U.S. figures showed the embargo to be effective and that the Shah’s statements were “irresponsible and reckless.” In your press conference that evening you stated that you do not regard the Shah as irresponsible and reckless, although we were, in fact, getting substantially less Mid-East oil than before the embargo.2

Simon’s rhetoric aside, part of the problem was that the Shah and Simon apparently were talking about different time periods. The Iranian Prime Minister, in a statement February 26 defending the Shah’s statement, presented a comparison of import figures from the final quarters of 1972 and 1973. Since the effects of the embargo did not begin to be felt here until late in the final quarter of 1973, the figures showed that U.S. oil imports were higher in that quarter than in the final quarter of 1972. Simon, however, was referring in his statement on February 25 to the situation as of that date; by then, the effects of the embargo were being felt and our oil imports were indeed down.

In any event, your remarks of February 25 appear to have helped mitigate the Shah’s natural reaction to Mr. Simon’s remarks. The Shah [Page 178]and his government have not made any further statements on the matter. Our basic relationship with Iran remains intact, although it is increasingly apparent that the Shah’s interest in maintaining high oil prices runs counter to our interest in seeing them lowered.3

A personal letter from you to the Shah would further mollify an important, proud and sensitive ally and clear away any lingering pique he may feel toward the U.S. because of this episode. The proposed letter (attached)4 reaffirms the thrust of your press conference remarks. It reiterates that you do not associate yourself with the particular language used by Mr. Simon but that our figures show our oil imports to have declined during the course of the embargo. The letter also reaffirms the importance you attach to relations with Iran and with the Shah personally.

Recommendation:

That you sign the attached letter to the Shah (Tab A). (Text approved by Dave Gergen’s office.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence, Iran, M.R. Pahlavi, 1974–1977. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. The New York Times previewed the Shah’s comments in its February 24 issue and on February 26 reported Simon’s statement, which was made before the House Ways and Means Committee on February 25. Nixon’s comments regarding the Shah at his February 25 press conference are in Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, p. 204.
  3. In a briefing memorandum to Kissinger, March 20, Saunders recommended avoiding mentioning in the letter to the Shah the topic of the OPEC announcement in Vienna of the decision to lift the embargo, since Iran never participated in the Arab embargo and since, given divergent U.S.-Iranian interests on oil prices, there was nothing “nice” to say on the subject. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence, Iran, M.R. Pahlavi, 1974–1977)
  4. In the attached letter, dated March 23, Nixon assured the Shah that “there was no excuse for Mr. Simon’s rhetoric, and you have our apology. As I indicated in my press conference, I dissociate myself and my government from his remark.” Nixon also noted that he attached importance to the bilateral discussions intended to deepen U.S.-Iranian ties. The Shah replied on March 27 in a letter expressing gratitude for the President’s understanding in the Simon matter and commitment to the “unshakeable” U.S.-Iranian ties. Both letters are ibid. According to a memorandum from Saunders to Scowcroft, April 3, the President’s letter was not sent to the Department of State for fear that “circulating it would be unnecessarily embarrassing to Simon.” (Ibid.)