96. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1

2683. Subject: Message from Secretary for Shah on Business Week interview.

1. Please pass to Shah of Iran the following message from the Secretary.

2. Begin text:

Your Imperial Majesty:

There has been considerable public speculation regarding the remarks I made about oil in the interview I gave recently to Business Week. 2 I would like you to have these further comments from me directly so that you will understand the context and intent of my remarks.

As you will have noted from the text of the interview, the question of the possible use of force came up with specific relation to oil prices. I sought to make it clear that we did not consider military action to be an appropriate response to the problem of oil prices. I also specifically rejected the thought which some have suggested that massive political warfare might be used against Iran or other of our friends in order to bring prices down immediately.

Since the interviewer had raised the possibility of some sort of military action as an answer to the oil problem, I had to respond to that point. You will have seen, from examining the text, that I did so in the context of a hypothetical situation in which there was some deliberate attempt to strangle the industrial world.3 Although I did not say so explicitly in the interview, I think such a situation could arise if there were a prolonged embargo by oil exporting countries, constituting a [Page 290] grave act of economic warfare. In the interview itself, I sought to deal frankly and realistically with this question and therefore could not rule out military action under any and all future circumstances. At the same time I made it very clear that the use of force would be considered only in the gravest national emergency. In commenting to the press here last week, I said I did not foresee such a situation arising.4

It is my hope, Your Majesty, that my remarks will serve to put this issue in some perspective because there has been a lot of loose talk around the world about possible military action as the way to resolve the oil problem.5

In any event, while we indeed would have to take a very serious view of an effort to bring down the industrialized world by shutting off oil supplies, the reference was of course to last year’s oil embargo and current speculation about a future embargo, in which Iran has had no part. My remarks were in no sense directed at Iran. Beyond that, you are well aware of the very high esteem in which Your Majesty is held by President Ford—a feeling which you know I share fully—and the extreme importance which we attach to the continuance of the warm, cooperative relations between our two countries.

I wish to take this occasion, finally, to wish Your Majesty a successful visit to Jordan and Egypt.

With warm regards, Sincerely,

Henry A. Kissinger

End text.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL–152, Iran, Chronological File, 4 January–23 March 1975. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Sober, cleared by Atherton and Sisco, and approved by Kissinger. Repeated Immediate to Tehran.
  2. On January 3, The New York Times reported that Kissinger, in an interview with Business Week magazine shortly before Christmas, said that he could not rule out the use of force against oil-producing nations. The article, entitled “Kissinger on Oil, Food, and Trade,” appeared in the January 13 edition of Business Week, pp. 66–76. The transcript of the interview is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, January 27, 1975, pp. 97–106.
  3. In response to the question of whether he had considered military action on oil prices, Kissinger said that it would be a very dangerous course: “I am not saying that there’s no circumstance where we would not use force. But it is one thing to use it in the case of a dispute over price, it’s another where there’s some actual strangulation of the industrialized world.” He added that force would be considered “only in the gravest emergency.”
  4. Kissinger’s January 3 comments to the press were reported in The New York Times, January 4, 1975.
  5. Telegram 363 from Tehran, January 14, reported on the articles circulating in the Iranian press alleging that the Secretary had threatened oil producers with the use of force. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D750013–1197)