84. Editorial Note

A series of articles critical of Iran appeared in major news magazines in October 1974. An article entitled “The Master Builder of Iran,” in the October 14 international edition of Newsweek reads: “So far, Washington has willingly sold the Shah everything he has sought in the hope that he will play the role of the loyal satrap and protect U.S. interests in the gulf. But some Washington observers are worried that the open-ended arms sales may backfire on the U.S. ‘The Shah’s power is growing enormously,’ said one. ‘We may be creating a Frankenstein monster.’” The October edition of Fortune featured an article by Louis Kraar, “The Shah Drives to Build a New Persian Empire,” which viewed the Shah’s ambitions for his country with great skepticism. “The Shah frequently speaks as though his goals were accomplished facts,” Kraar observed. Yet, he added, “some of his subjects believe the Shah has what a high-ranking American official calls ‘a reality problem,’” in overlooking continuing Iranian poverty, corruption, and industrial inefficiency.

The Iranian Government-dominated press expressed outrage. According to telegram 8769 from Tehran, October 16, the semi-official Kayhan International reprinted the Newsweek article, denouncing it and the Fortune piece for suggesting that the United States had played a major role in building Iranian strength and that Iran would misuse its power. The Embassy was surprised that the Iranian Government would call attention to the offensive articles: “the Shah may have concluded obvious exaggerations in article (for example, figure of 50,000 political prisoners in Iran, and contention that only 58 business management students graduated this year) will cast doubt on veracity of other unfavorable points in article.” The Embassy speculated that the Shah also hoped, perhaps, to defuse charges that his regime suppressed [Page 254]criticism. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D740295–0355)

In telegram 8909 from Tehran, October 22, the Embassy noted: “Shah and other Iranian leaders appear to feel Newsweek article cast small shadow on Iran/US relations. They may suspect it was inspired by USG. Parliamentarians have criticized article as example of imperialist attitude toward Iran.” Finance and Economics Minister Ansary remarked to the Ambassador that the articles could hinder efforts to establish the Cooperation Commission during Kissinger’s upcoming visit, although he later indicated that this feeling was dissipating. In the Embassy’s estimation, “prone to conspiratorial thinking, some Iranian officials may believe USG officials encouraged negative stories on Shah and Iran in Newsweek and Fortune as way of pressuring Iran on oil price issue.” However, while it may have suited the Shah’s purpose to have his officials express concern over the state of U.S.-Iranian relations on the eve of the Secretary’s visit, the Embassy believed he had put the matter behind him. (Ibid., D740300–1176)

In telegram 8972 from Tehran, October 23, the Embassy observed that the U.S. edition of Newsweek had toned down the allegations against the Shah, providing an estimate, based on a SAVAK source, of 20,000 political prisoners, instead of the larger figure supplied by exiled opposition groups. The international edition’s contention that SAVAK trials in military courts had led to at least 200 executions since 1970 appeared in the U.S. version as “Amnesty International maintains that large numbers of Iranians have been secretly executed for political opposition.” (Ibid., D740302–0710)

Negative press followed Kissinger to Iran by way of a column by Jack Anderson in The New York Times. Backchannel message WH43037 to Kissinger, November 1, transmitted Anderson’s article which asserted: “The Shah has become one of the world’s most recklessly greedy, unbelievably wealthy rulers. He spearheaded the move to quadruple oil prices, and he still isn’t satisfied.” According to Anderson, Kissinger had gone to Tehran “prepared to treat the Shah as a military ally and protector of U.S. interests in the Gulf. Kissinger is counting heavily upon the Shah’s goodwill to lower oil prices,” contrary to Simon’s advice to quadruple the price Iran paid for U.S. arms and wheat. It was a mystery, Anderson maintained, how the Shah always managed to get what he wanted from the United States, despite the sense, articulated by an unidentified Cabinet officer, that “it has been a one-way street.” Anderson concluded by repeating the unconfirmed charges of a former Justice Department official to the Watergate Committee that the Shah had delivered huge sums to former President Nixon’s re-election campaign via Mexico. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, Box 4, [Page 255]Kissinger Trip File, October 20–November 9, 1974—Europe, South Asia, and Middle East, TOHAK (3))