67. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Iran (Helms) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

936. 1. Please pass the following message to Secretary Kissinger at convenience. Begin text:

Dear Henry,

I know that since you have assumed the office of Secretary of State, you have had to bear exceedingly heavy responsibilities and that you have been fully occupied with matters of urgent national interest. As you are well aware, you have my respect and profound admiration for the manner in which you have conducted your office and the almost unbelievable foreign policy successes you have achieved. I have become increasingly concerned, however, that much which has been ac[Page 213]complished may become undermined or tarnished if the State Department does not get a firmer grip on the direction and implementation of foreign policy in every field. My brief visit to Washington reenforced this concern and deepened my conviction that it is more than ever essential for you, Bob Ingersoll and Joe Sisco to get back into the Department of State control of foreign policy and the activities associated with it. You and I know that your predecessor was hesitant to exercise the full authority of his office. This is not a quality you lack.

If it strikes you, as it well may, that it is gratuitous and banal even to raise this subject, I must reply that it is inspired by the rather noticeable fact that almost any Cabinet officer in Washington who chooses can give speeches, press conferences, magazine interviews, or write letters with foreign affairs content without any apparent thought of consulting the State Department or any particularly profound consideration of what effect their actions might have on the workings of our foreign policy. It is after all the State Department which was established to preside over these very things on behalf of the President.

There are, I suspect, various examples of this lack of discipline and coordination. I would like to cite several of those with which I am most familiar. I realize that my examples are taken from this vantage point and therefore may seem parochial, but I have no doubt other posts could come up with similar items. The most recent episode is of course the Simon statement about the Shah being a “nut.”2 In this Oriental country, the resentment over this crack coming on top of the “reckless and irresponsible” statement earlier in the year,3 has an abiding effect regardless of how we attempt to explain away the aspersion. Interior Minister Jamshid Amouzegar, who never forgets that the U.S. educated him, pointed this out sharply to the DCM last evening. Put another way, the loose lip of a young Cabinet officer tends to undo in one comment most of the work the President and you have been performing to keep this country solidly with us. Coming on top of Treasury Under Secretary Bennett’s thinly veiled threat in Congress,4 these two statements have succeeded in ensuring that reasoning with the Shah about [Page 214]crude oil prices has now even less chance than it had before. (cf. State 152797)5

Secretary Butz on his own recently wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture here.6 It had not been cleared with the Department of State and will have the effect, unintentionally I am sure, of causing irritation. Butz is undoubtedly a fine Secretary of Agriculture, but might be inclined to get out of his depth in the foreign area. (cf. Fasto 103 of July 17, 1974)7

I shall not mention statements emanating from the Department of Defense in the foreign policy field since this would be to hit below the belt. Even the AEC, Sisco tells me, was about to release, while you were in Moscow, a damaging statement on uranium enrichment policy. Fortunately, he got word and moved in, but AEC had not even thought of consulting State.

Since the foregoing makes unpleasant reading and may seem somewhat shrill, I nevertheless leave it as it is because I want to be sure you realize that I am dead serious. You have every right, in fact duty, to assert the Department’s prerogatives in the foreign policy field. The sooner Secretary Simon and other Cabinet officers clearly understand that they are the tail, not the dog, the better off our country will be.

If I am irritating you, please forget it. You have a good team at State now. Go out and recapture State’s rightful role. Only an assertion of these rights in no uncertain terms will do it, if my observation of Washington over thirty years is valid.

Warm regards, and I am your friend, Dick.

2. Warm regards and thank you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 426, Backchannel Files, Middle East/Africa, 1974, Vol. II. Secret; Immediate.
  2. In backchannel message WH42453 to the Chargé in Tehran, July 13, Simon alerted the Embassy that an article was to appear in the American Banker attributing to Simon the quote that “the Shah is a nut.” (Ibid.) Telegram 152053 to Tehran, July 14, informed the Embassy that “Simon used common colloquialism intended solely and merely to indicate his belief that the Shah has very firm ideas on subject of oil policy and specifically on oil prices. Thus the expected quotation in the American Banker is out of context and entirely misleading.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D740188–0551)
  3. See Document 57 and footnote 2 thereto.
  4. See Document 65.
  5. Document 66.
  6. Butz’s letter has not been found. According to telegram 154948 to Tehran, July 17, the letter was sent on July 11 directly from Butz’s office to Iranian Minister of Agriculture Rouhani. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D740192–0439)
  7. Not found.