106. Telegram 5335 From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1 2

Subject:

  • Shah’s Views on Middle East Situation as it Relates to Iran’s Security Requirements
1.
During hour and half meeting with Shah Dec 9 he spent much time going over reasons behind Iran’s military acquisition requirements, stressing these were bare minimum given potential dangers in a very perilous area.
2.
He opened by stating he remains convinced that Soviet’s basic objectives remain (a) expelling US and Western influence from Arabian Peninsula and Gulf area, and (b) gaining position of primary external influence in these areas and that Soviet tactics in attaining these objectives is to use radical Arab regimes to destroy moderate Arab states.
3.
Keeping basic Soviet objectives in mind, Shah went on, future will also be influenced much by (a) whether there is Arab-Israel settlement: (b) whether proposed Arab federation of UAR, Sudan and Libya becomes a reality: and (c) whether it is expanded to include first Syria and perhaps later Iraq. Shah does not believe Soviets want settlement because this would reduce dependency of radical Arab states on Soviet Union and hence Soviets capability to penetrate world and gain ever increasing influence in these states.
4.
Re Arab federation. If it becomes reality it should [Page 2]not represent potential danger for moderate regimes in Arabian Peninsula if it is confined to three “African members” (UAR, Libya and Sudan). If, however, it includes Syria and possibly later Iraq, it could represent grave danger not only for moderate Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and sheikhdoms, but also Iran for that matter. He explained that given radical and ideological nature of regimes in both Damascus and Baghdad, even taking into account recent changes there, there would obviously be strong material (oil) and ideological pressures on such a federation from Syria (and Iraq if it were a member) to act to replace moderate, traditionalist regimes in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Gulf sheikhdoms. If such a federation embracing Syria and perhaps Iraq should become solid reality and there should be Arab-Israel settlement, Shah is very pessimistic and does not consider Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or even Jordan’s survival potential as good.
5.
There is also danger that Southern Yemen (PRSY) and Yemen may merge at some juncture through PRSY force or otherwise. If this happens Saudi Arabia will be even more threatened. PRSY situation is particularly disturbing in light of intelligence reports that Soviets supplying PRSY with ground force equipment for six brigades and also landing craft. “Why”, he asked, “has Southern Yemen any need for landing craft unless has designs on Oman and Gulf sheikhdoms? And if some or all of these should fall and radical regimes like PRSY be installed there, will Soviets also supply them with landing craft for infiltration operations in and across Gulf toward Iran?”
6.
Another potential problem Iran must consider in judging its security requirements is Pakistan where recent elections results came as considerable shock to GOI. It is too soon, Shah said, to estimate what will come out of these elections, but Bhutto’s victory in West Pakistan is very disturbing because of his fanatical militancy against India and his leftist philosophy which may lead him into much closer [Page 3]relationships with both Communist China and Soviets. While victory in East Pakistan of Rahman and Awami League, which want modus vivendi with India, may tend to counteract Bhutto’s hostility toward India, who can tell whether East and West Pakistan will remain united over next few years? And if they go separate ways, Iran must take account of possibility of installation of extreme radical regime in West Pakistan with very close ties with Soviets and ChiComs. At present Iran has only one division covering its whole eastern border and has no naval strength outside Gulf even though Iran has coastline on Gulf of Oman of over 500 kilometers. This is another reason why it more essentiall than ever for Iran to purchase the two additional destroyers from US it has requested. Shah mentioned that Iran’s original strategic naval concept was confined to Gulf. However, it was essential to include a capability in Gulf of Oman to cover important sea approaches to “Iran’s lifeline, the Gulf,” and also because of possibility Arab side of Gulf of Oman might fall into hands of radical regime that might wish to infiltrate subversive teams through Iran’s long and totally exposed coast on Gulf of Oman. To add to problem, it possible that a radical [Page 4]govt could eventually emerge in West Pakistan, which if not actually hostile to Iran, might be at least unhelpful and uncooperative.
7.
Insofar as Air Force (IIAF) concerned Iran must have some capability of defending its vast west and southern air frontier stretching from Turkey to Pakistan frontier, a distance of thousands of kilometers as well as some capability on on northern frontier with Soviet Union to give credibility to Iran’s warning that if Soviets ever invade Iran they will have to shoot their way in. Iran realizes it cannot cover all of this vast area as force needed would be totally beyond Iran’s financial and human resources. Therefore it must take calculated risks and assume that it will not have trouble on all its frontiers at same time. This was why IIAF requirements he has given us for eight sqdns of F–4s are in reality austere in light of vast area to be covered and are absolute and indispensable minimum. He observed Iran’s situation is quite different from ours in that we have Atlantic and Pacific Ocean cushions and also have highly trained air reserve units with combat- experienced pilots which, in event of need, can be activated in short time, thus expanding our air capability. Iran has no such cushions and no such reserve. It had to count on active units alone with no back-up whatsoever. This is why IIAF requirements he had discussed with President in October 1969 were [Page 5]absolute minimum.
8.
He concluded by saying he is not trying to create “some kind of great imperial armed force like Kaiser Wilhelm or like Hitler.” On contrary, what he wants is relatively small but highly efficient and well-trained force which at same time would be able to successfully counter anything but major Soviet attack. Given vast area involved, nature of basic Soviet objectives and tactics, and other potential threats, six divisions plus several brigades was absolute minimum ground force although he would have to have some additional equipment on hand for reserve divisions. Similarly, the naval and air requirements he had indicated to us were essential minimum. While in principle he would like to acquire all his equipment from us, he knew this was not possible but he did wish to equip his air force entirely from us and other selected items from credit that remained. He mentioned Toufanian-Twitchell study (TTS) which he said would soon be ready and would indicate Iran’s requirements. When TTS completed, he would wish to discuss requirements with us with view to extending 1968 understanding as former Under Secretary Richardson had indicated we were willing to consider.
9.
I said as I understood it, TTS would provide him with basic information relating to equipment the three services desired and also the related problems of cost, trained manpower, infrastructure, etc. This, I observed, should be good basis for development of five, year plan he had mentioned to Richardson. Shah countered saying TTS would in effect constitute Iran’s five-year requirements. I commented that obviously what emerged from study had to be related to Iran’s financial, human and other resources as well as to some schedule of equipment payments over a five year period. This seemed essential as Iran would obviously have to time-phase its acquisitions in keeping with its resources and financial and manpower capabilities. Shah conceded that this was of course true but said he wanted to emphasize that insofar as aircraft are [Page 6]concerned, decision as to what is needed has already been taken.
10.
He then asked me point blank whether it it we had objections to 7th and 8th sqdns of F–4 aircraft. Replied by saying we trying to help in all possible ways, listing, as I had to Alam, what we had done to try to help Iran meet its military needs: e.g., shifting from FMS to EX-IM. Picking up missing eighth tranche, our willingness to expand pilot training, etc. obviously, there were problems for GOI including financing. However, I could assure him his desire to acquire these aircraft was fully understood in Washington which I also knew was examining problem. I felt sure he knew we would do our level best to help Iran as much as possible to meet its security requirements. He said he was sure he could count on us.
11.
Comment: At beginning of our discussion of F–4s and Iran’s military requirements, Shah was in somber and rather suspicious mood, obviously in part caused by reports (Tehran 5193) that elements within USG opposing his acquisition of 7th and 8th F–104 sqdns as well as opposition to flame throwers. Re latter, he said rather acidly he could obtain all he wanted from Israel. However, by end of our conversation he seemed in more relaxed mood, particularly as result of assurances in very helpful State 199179 and SecDef 7580 that I was able to give him. However, there is no question whatsoever that Shah has made final decision on acquisition of 7th and 8th F–4 sqdns and, expects our approval and cooperation. I need not add that if we fail him on this, it will change his entire outlook.
12.
Dept pass other posts as appropriate, informing us which ones.
MacArthur
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33 PERSIAN GULF. Secret; Exdis. In Telegram 5193 from Tehran, December 2, the Embassy conveyed the Shah’s concern over information, allegedly from a Department source, that some State officials viewed selling the two extra squadrons of F–4s to the Iranians as “provocative.” MacArthur denied the rumors, but in a private comment blamed the Shah’s suspicions on the lack of a positive response on the squadrons. (Ibid., POL 15–1 IRAN). In Telegram 197768 to Tehran, December 4, the Department responded that the Shah’s suspicions were disappointing after all the U.S. efforts to ensure Iranian security, adding that the Department was trying to come up with an inter-agency response on the F–4s. (Ibid.)
  2. Citing the many regional threats, the Shah vehemently defended his air force requirements.