6. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • “Blue-suiters” for Iran

You will recall the President’s promise to the Shah last May2 to provide uniformed US military personnel (“blue-suiters”) to work in training capacities with the Iranian military forces, principally the air force to help shorten the time needed to make new US-made aircraft operational.

Since then, our respective military have held extensive exchanges to identify the specific tasks the Iranian military felt had to be performed. They ended up with a list of about 900. This is over and above uniformed training teams already in Iran.

Secretary Laird, attempting to meet the Iranian need while coping with Congressional insistence that we reduce military personnel abroad, approved the following program: 500 uniformed personnel; 100 Defense Department civilian personnel; meeting the needs of the large helicopter program at Isfahan with civilian contract personnel (about 300) under the supervision of uniformed personnel. This last would suggest patterning the new Iranian helicopter training facility after ours, using civilian teachers under military supervision. The Defense Department people say that this package would cover all the positions they have discussed with the Iranian military.

There are two possible factors which will figure in the Shah’s reaction:

—He does prefer uniformed to civilian contract personnel. He may question the inclusion of Defense and contract civilians. The question is whether Farland can have a straightforward conversation explaining our determination to be responsive and our problems and exploring with the Shah whether civilian contract people would not be acceptable in the one large helicopter training school if under uniformed supervision the way we do it here.

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—The other factor is a more general one. You may recall that the Shah originally mentioned a figure of around 3000, including operational personnel like pilots to fly in Iranian squadrons. After the implications of this were discussed with him, he agreed that it would not be a good idea, either for Iran or for the US, to have US uniformed personnel in Iranian units. Since then, their military and ours have examined in detail the jobs to be done and have come up with the list which Secretary Laird approved. We do not know how close the Shah himself has been to the figures developed, so it is possible that our offer will initially seem to him on the low side even though it meets the requirements his military have identified.

The basic point is that we have a package which has been worked out with the Iranian military to cover the Shah’s present military needs; the only innovation is introducing some civilians under military supervision. This is not to say he won’t suggest some modifications or won’t want more later. For the moment, this seems fully responsive, and a telegram has been sent to Farland asking him to present it to the Shah.3 He should be able to do this in a way that would be positive, responsive and in the spirit of the President’s general desire to be helpful.

Farland feels he can do this but has asked exactly how he should answer if the Shah asks whether this has the President’s approval.4 The attached State Department cable as revised by us, is intended to answer this question.


1. That you approve the telegram at Tab A.6 Farland must see the Shah tomorrow before he leaves on vacation Sunday, so we should clear today if at all possible.

2. That you approve the back-channel message from you to Farland at Tab B.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 602, Country Files—Middle East, Iran, Vol. IV, September 1971–April 1973. Secret. Sent for action. Concurred in by Richard Kennedy.
  2. For a list of Nixon’s commitments to the Shah based on their May talks, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Document 205.
  3. Telegram 11840 to Tehran, January 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19–9 US–IRAN)
  4. Farland conveyed his query in telegram 447 from Tehran, January 24. (Ibid.)
  5. Kissinger initialed approval of both recommendations.
  6. Attached but not printed. It was sent as telegram 16072 to Tehran, January 27, which informed the Embassy that the package for military technicians had the “approval of all appropriate elements of the USG including the White House” and met the Shah’s personal requirements. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1295, Harold H. Saunders Files, Iran Military)
  7. Attached but not printed. Sent as backchannel message WH30201 to Tehran, January 26, in which Kissinger told Farland: “As we understand it from Defense, most of the jobs Iranians want done would be covered by proposed package.” (Ibid., Box 425, Backchannel Files, 1973, Middle East and Africa) The Embassy reported in telegram 614 from Tehran, January 31, that the Shah approved the program and expressed understanding of U.S. difficulties and appreciation for its efforts. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19–9 US–IRAN)