- Youth in Iran: Assessment by Embassy Youth Committee
- CA–332, January 19, 1970; Tehran A–158, May 23, 1970
|II||DEFINITION OF YOUTH||3|
|III||PLACE OF YOUTH IN IRANIAN SOCIETY||4|
|IV||ATTITUDES OF YOUTH||6|
|Other Memeber of Royal Family||9|
|Parliament and Political Parties||12|
|Information and Media||12|
|Changes in System of Government||13|
|Indigenous Arabs and the Tribes||14|
|Social and Responsibility||18|
|Women and Society||18|
|Law and Disorder||19|
|V||IMPLICATIONS FOR UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AND RECOMMENDATIONS||21|
Iran is a nation of the young. As in other developing countries, a high birth rate and a decreasing infant mortality rate have combined to noticeably increase the percentage of the young among the population of the country. Yet, except for their age, the youth of Iran are a diverse, non-homogenous group. This study of youth in Iran and their attitudes does not attempt to cover the entire spectrum of young people throughout the country nor to describe the full range of their beliefs and attitudes. Instead, we here attempt the more manageable task of defining the attitudes of an important segment of the young people in Iran and discussing how these attitudes will affect the future of Iran, including the all-important questions of its relations with the United States.[Page 3]
This report was prepared by a group of 11 young officers from the Political, Economic and Consular sections of the Embassy, the Defense Attache’s office, USIS, our Military Advisory Mission, and CAS. It represents the group’s evaluation of the attitudes of young Iranians, and is not meant to either reflect or speak for official Mission policy. It is a completely independent undertaking; the group was encouraged by senior officers in the Embassy to prepare the study free from any strictures on its content.
The study naturally reflects the difficulties encountered in analyzing the attitudes of a broad section of any society. Our contacts are necessarily limited, and although we have attempted to stress the goal of objectivity, our findings reflect the attitudes of our contacts. In addition, we have described the attitudes of youth while making no claims as to the validity or objectivity of those attitudes. While some of their beliefs might, in our view, be unrealistic and logically unsound, they are nevertheless widely held and must be considered accordingly.
The study has been divided into a number of sections to make it both manageable for the drafters and readable for its recipients. The Study begins with a definition of youth in Iran and their place in Iranian society. This should enable the reader to better judge the importance and applicability of our findings. The major section of the paper defines the attitudes of Iranian youth in three areas—domestic, foreign and social. The study ends with a discussion of implications for American foreign policy and recommendations for changes in that policy.
It is important to emphasize that the study is the result of a combined effort and does not reflect the views of any one individual. A list of contributors to the study follows the index. Finally, we wish to re-emphasize the completely unofficial nature of the paper—it represents the views of the youth group alone and should not be read as an official Embassy statement.
II DEFINITION OF YOUTH
Iran is highly centralized, with decision-making, presently and for the foreseeable future, vested largely in Tehran and in the provincial urban areas to a much lesser degree. Also, despite important strides made in the emancipation of women, it is still a male-oriented and dominated society. The young who will have the greatest impact on the future course of Iranian life are the university students, recent graduates, and those who are employed in the important sectors of private business, government, the military, education, and communications. Consequently, the focus of this paper is on the urban male who is working or studying in one of the above mentioned areas. It is this group that will have the greatest influence on the future course of the Iranian nation, and it is their attitudes and beliefs which much be understood if the United States hopes to continue to play a central and meaningful role in Iran.[Page 4]
III PLACE OF YOUTH IN IRANIAN SOCIETY
The attitudes of any segment of Iranian youth depend upon their place in the framework of Iranian society. Thus, a proper assessment of both their present impact on the country and their future role in it requires an understanding of their relationship to Iranian society and their influence in that society.
54% of the people of Iran—approximately 14.5 million—are under 24 years of age. The literacy rate of the 7–24 year age group is 42.6% compared with a literacy rate of 30% countrywide. These 14.5 million Iranians do not represent the total number of those considered in this report. It would be inexact and foolhardy to establish a definite age limit, above which one is considered to have passed from the realm of youth to another category. The Youth Committee has consequently consciously avoided any rigid definition by age of youth in Iran and has rather concerned itself with the attitudes of those, mostly in the urban population, who are considered young by other Iranians.
An understanding of the role of youth in Iran would be incomplete without an awareness of the strength of tradition in Iranian society. Traditionally, decision-making in Iran has rested with the elders (or “sefid-rish”—white beards) of the society. The place of youth was to listen to their elders and learn from their wisdom. Any idea of participation in the decision-making was never entertained. The traditional society is breaking down in Iran, and this decay of the old system is most evident in the urban areas. With the disappearance of the traditional leadership system, a new one is emerging, one that reflects an Iran increasingly subject to and aware of the influence of the West and technology. With this change has come a new role for the young people especially in the urban areas; for the first time in Iranian history they find themselves in a position to influence, often only in a limited way, the process of decision making in the country.
The most noticeable change in the role of youth is in the business sector. Formerly reserved to the bazaari class, private business in Iran has been the leader in the nation’s extraordinary economic expansion. With this growth has come a need for well-educated young technocrats, many trained in the West, to administer the commerce of the nation. Any study of the attitudes of youth in Iran must pay particular attention to the young managers and experts who have been in the forefront of Iran’s growth toward, and transformation into, a modern western-oriented industrial nation.
The Government Sector
Under the traditional system, positions of power in the Government were reserved for the prestigious families, most of whom were connected to the [Page 5] Royal families. Although the bureaucracy has been less susceptible to change than the private business sector, it is nevertheless feeling the forces of modernization. These pressures have been met in part by employing young, well-educated Iranians, who combine an understanding of their nation’s needs with the learning necessary to effect changes in the administration of government. This has been especially evident in the realm of fiscal policy and planning, e.g. the Central Bank, the Plan Organization, the Industrial and Mining Development Bank of Iran (IMDBI) and the Bank Melli.
Although the growing radicalism of students throughout the world has not gone unnoticed in Iran, the capability of changing the educational system, on the part of the students and young faculty members, is still severely limited. The influence of the students is seen only in their ability to disrupt the tranquility of the system. A relatively small percentage of the teachers and administrators in the universities are attmpting to initiate reforms in the educational system, but, for a number of reasons, education has remained one of the sectors most impervious to change.
The communications revolution which has given a transistor radio to every village hut and a television to every middle class Tehrani home, has not been an opportunity for the youth of Iran to attempt independent action or decision-making. Tightly controlled by the Government, the communications sector does not offer youth a creative challenge. There are a few, concerned, well-educated young writers on some of the Tehran newspapers who command respect among the educated classes and to a small degree have influence in the communications sector. Their numbers are limited, however, and their role will continue to be exceedingly circumscribed under present government controls.
In the Iranian military establishment, as in any in the world, the young officer is restricted in his power and authority. The system itself, dependent on seniority and rank for the accumulation of power, tends to prevent the young from playing a meaningful role. However, the military is central to the stability and security of Iran and younger officers, as part of this vital organization, acquire a consequent importance. Furthermore, the upgrading of the Iranian military to meet the needs of the 20th Century will rest with the younger career officers who are the future commanders of the system. Many of them, especially in the Air Force, have been trained in the West and their role will become increasingly important as they are continually promoted. Since the attitudes the younger officers hold today affect their future actions, an understanding of these attitudes is important to an appreciation of the future role of those who now are young. [Page 6] A study of the five critical sectors of business, government, education, communications, and the military shows that youth is becoming increasingly important and influential in Iran. With the disintegration of the traditional social and political systems, young people are being given greater responsibilities and their ability to influence decision making in the country, even at relatively high levels, is being increasingly felt. There can be no question that an understanding of the attitudes of the youth of Iran is essential for not only an appreciation of how the country functions, but also in considering how their attitudes will affect American foreign policy for this strategically important nation.
IV ATTITUDES OF YOUTH
The Embassy Youth Committee, throughout this study, has been acutely aware that the youth of Iran, even according to the relatively narrow definition it has applied, is not an homogeneous group. In the sections which follow—domestic, foreign, and social affairs—although generalizations will be made when they are considered relevant, the study will attempt to point out the differences in attitudes among groups which do exist. Differences in the intensity of feeling on various subjects among the groups being studied will also be noted.
The Shah—For most Iranians, including Iranian youth, the Shah is accepted and taken for granted in the landscape of their lives. Many cannot imagine Iran without the ubiquitous presence of His Imperial Majesty. At the same time, this remarkable man is the subject of curiously mixed attitudes among his people. In general, and as a background, there is wide-spread respect and admiration for him among all groups, including the youth of these groups; these feelings become awe and veneration at the lower levels of Iranian society. However, there are also wide-spread negative beliefs about the Shah which most Iranians, again including youth, hold concurrently with their positive feelings. These beliefs are, of course, often mutually contradictory, but in some cases Iranians do not see these as contradictory in the same way that they would be conceived in the West and, in other cases, recognize these contradictions in themselves and find it normal that their leader should have them as well. There follow examples of both kinds of attitudes:
- The Shah works hard to see that Iranian government and administration attain modern standards of honesty and efficiency.
- The Shah receives payoffs from those participating in large transactions involving the Government of Iran and foreign firms. Most of this money, as well as revenues from his lands and the Privy Purse, is banked in Switzerland.
- The Shah is a clever and articulate person who has outsmarted both [Page 7] imperialistic foreigners and threatening neighbors such as Iraq and the Soviet Union;
- The Shah serves the interests of foreign powers in return for personal gain.
- The Shah has sacrificed his personal happiness and his private life to ensure that the Royal Family gives Iran good and continuing leadership.
- The Shah exercises insufficient control over his family and indeed permits, encourages, and sometimes participates in, their peculations and orgies.
- The Shah sincerely desires the social advancement and economic development of Iran, as shown by the success of land reform and other aspects of the White Revolution.
- The Shah has brought about land reform and other elements of the White Revolution for his personal enrichment.
- The Shah genuinely wants to improve Iran’s image in the eyes of world opinion and is justifiably proud of Iran’s good reputation in other countries as a responsible nation.
- The Shah’s international travels are used as opportunities for personal excesses.
- The Shah has an infallible intelligence system that keeps him informed of the smallest details of every event in the country.
- The Shah is detached and aloof from his people, ignorant of their needs and desires, and concerned only with pursuing his dreams for the country and his personal enrichment.
The perspective of youth alters the stress and emphasis of some of these points. For example, sophisticated upper-class young people, are less likely to accept the hackneyed traditional view of any Iranian leader as a puppet manipulated by Machivellian outside forces, than are their elders. On the other hand, youth is often much more outraged by stories of corruption in the Court than are older Iranians. In addition, it should be noted that among youth as a group, the prevalence of negative or positive attitudes toward the Shah varies according to professional and social level; for example, military officers, as noted below, are more clearly and uniformly pro-Shah than would be characteristic of other strata of youth.[Page 8]
The attitudes of educated youth in Iran toward the Shah almost invariably reflect Western standards, even if they realize that their society and government cannot be entirely evaluated by those standards. The liberal states of Western Europe and North America are measures by which young Iranians judge themselves and their society. Thus, as elsewhere in the world, most of the educated youth in Iran dislike living in what they see as a totalitarian society. They deeply desire the civil liberties which are standard in the United States and other Western nations; they are annoyed that their newspapers are censored and controlled, their activities subject to secret police scrutiny, their movements (particularly in and out of the country) under heavy control, and the free public expression of their personal opinions forbidden. They regard these aspects of Iranian society and government as a direct creation of the Shah. Accordingly, he is blamed by these sophisticated young Iranians for the lower quality of intellectual and personal life in Iran as compared to those Western societies which they have experienced or learned about.
In an attitude closely related to the one immediately preceding, a large number of modernized young Iranians feel strongly that the Shah is an archaic figure; monarchy which rules as well as reigns seems to them old fashioned and inconsistent with the standards of modern Western society which Iran is applying to her economic and social development. These Iranians sometimes see the Shah as an outmoded figure surrounded by meretricious pomp, pursuing conventions of royalty cast off by Western nations, even those which retain constitutional monarchy.
Educated Iranian youth are well aware of certain vices in the Iranian tradition and in the Persian character which have made their society weak. They strongly believe that the Shah’s system of government and the maintenance of his rule depends on his skillful use of these qualities. For example, Iranians are extremely manipulative in their relations with one another. Each Iranian feels himself the center of contending forces exerted by those around him and tries to play these off against each other. To many Iranians, and especially to aware youth, it seems clear that the Shah insures his control by seeing to it that the leaders of important government departments are kept in a permanent state of nervous competition for imperial favor, not only with their peers in other departments, but also in many cases with their own senior subordinates. Thus, educated Iranian youth regards the Shah’s governing technique as supporting the continuing validity of manipulativeness as a method of survival in Iranian society and hence, perpetuating a quality which they believe stands in the way of social and political modernization. Furthermore, the Shah’s system of government and his laxness toward his family are similarly seen by these young Iranians as prolonging other decadent Iranian social and political practices such as authoritarianism and nepotism.
The Empress—Young Iranians regarded Farah Diba with considerable coldness and cynicism when she became the Shah’s third Empress in 1959. Her predecessor, [Page 9] Soraya, had been a tragic and sympathetic figure with whom many Iranian youth identified. Since then, however, Queen Farah’s gentleness, warmth, and genuine concern for the suffering and the poor have won her considerable respect and growing admiration among Iranian youth. There is a human warmth, simplicity, and unpretentiousness about her which comes across to them even through the rather artificial and self-conscious pomp and circumstance of the Court.
Recently, we have noticed a tendency on the part of some sophisticated younger members of the upper classes in Tehran who either themselves have access to the Court, or are close to people who do, to regard the Empress as the patient victim of court intrigues which exclude her from closer contact with the Iranian people, thereby thwarting many of her artistic and social projects.
The Crown Prince—The regime’s campaign to promote the Crown Prince as the inevitable and worthy successor to his father is still too new to make any judgments as to its eventual success. The attitude of most Iranians (including the nation’s youth) toward the Crown Prince ranges from indifference to mild interest. However, there are beginning to be indications that the Crown Prince, as a symbol though not as a person, is becoming the focus of the concern of those in the younger generation who do not wish the rule of the House of Pahlavi to be continued in its present form. They see in the Crown Prince the potential for the continuation of a monarchy which rules as well as reigns and which, therefore, stands in the way of the evolution of truly democratic, constitutional government in Iran.
Princess Ashraf —The Shah’s twin sister enjoys a special status in the attitudes of young Iranians toward the Royal Family. Because of her vivid personality, special closeness to the Shah, and the large number of young men in her intimate circle, rumors, and speculation about her, almost always unfavorable and in spicy detail, are constantly in circulation among young Iranians. Although sophisticated young Iranians discount a large proportion of the rumors they, nonetheless, express concern at the weakness in the regime which she represents, and disgust at the Shah’s leniency with her. They also share with members of their generation somewhat further down the social scale a considerable and growing annoyance at the poor image which the Princess has or may create for Iran abroad. Accordingly, if the Princess’ aspirations for high offices in international organizations such as the U.N. should bring her unfavorable publicity abroad, an interesting division in view is likely to develop between older and younger Iranians, with the former likely to be angry at the newspapers and other media concerned, while the latter will almost certainly direct their anger at the Princess and the Shah.
Other Members of the Royal Family—In general, young people in Iran, like other Iranians, find the numerous members of the Royal Family, other than [Page 10] the immediate family of the Shah, a shadowy and vaguely distasteful group. Innumerable rumors and occasional substantiated accounts, which are constantly in circulation in Iran, produce, particularly among Iranian youth, a general image of parasitism, constant corruption, and personal laxness. The effect is rather as if in America the Jet Set or Beautiful People were supported by the taxpayer. More specifically, young businessmen and technocrats resent the parasitic omnipresence of the Royal Family in many new major business undertakings, and the interference by members of the Royal Family in new technical projects in order to derive personal benefit from them.
Of the many other members of the Royal Family, only Prince Gholam Reza and Prince Abdol Reza stand out. Gholam Reza has a personal following among sports-minded youth and junior army officers who appreciate his concern for, and support of, the interests they share with him. Furthermore, as the oldest of the Shah’s brothers, he enjoys a personal standing and autonomy not available to the others. Abdol Reza is particularly respected among young Iranians for his high personal ethics and honesty which they consider to be particularly marked in contrast to other members of his family. He is also respected for making a life of his own and insisting on keeping it separate from the politics and intrigues of the Court. This firmness is particularly admired by those young Iranians who are themselves trying to make lives which they hope will reflect their own values and not the decadent ones which they believe prevail in their society.
The Prime Minister—Mr. Hoveyda is seen as the best example of what it takes to survive and achieve success in contemporary Iranian politics. He is a manipulator of the system, finely attuned to the political realities of Iran, and, most importantly, knows his position in relation to the Shah—a low-profile administrator with no overt pretensions of aggrandizing his power. Of equal importance in the attitude of youth toward Hoveyda is their belief that the Prime Ministry is a position without any real power and one totally dependent on the good will of the Monarch. The youth of Iran can feel real antagonism only toward an element in the system which exercises real power, whether an individual or an institution. The Prime Minister does not fall in those categories.
Hoveyda has proven useful to the government as the lightening rod for criticism. He is continually lampooned in the Persian humor magazines,”Towfieq” and “Karikatur”, and has consequently been made the butt of caustic joking by many university students. As seen from the biting humor directed at the Prime Minister, the attitude of youth toward him, both as an individual and toward the office itself, is one of studied indifference built on their belief that he does not represent a real potential force for change in the system. As a student said, “Everyone knows he just takes orders.”
As with the Shah, youth’s attitude toward the Prime Minister is focused on his personal qualities, and consequently his policies and achievements are [Page 11] often judged as reflections of his character, not independently. This attitude is a direct result of the Iranian propensity to personalize politics and attitudes; that is, to judge a man’s achievements on the basis of his character, method of achievement, and influence rather than on the merits of his policies alone.
The Role of the Military
The officer corps is made up of an older group of high ranking officers and an increasingly growing, younger, better educated group, many of whom are from the middle class. Both groups profess complete loyalty to the Shah, realizing their self interests are best served by the stability and permanence of the Throne.
Many of the younger officers who have been trained and/or lived abroad, chafe under the restraints of the Iranian military structure which is still controlled by the older, high ranking officers. Possibilities or rapid advancement do exist, however. Last year nine senior naval admirals were retired and replaced with nine young naval commanders who were subsequently promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
There is a general feeling of elitism and comraderie found among younger military officers which is lacking among other young groups in Iranian society. They see themselves as guardians of Iran’s sovereignty, acting under the Shah’s orders to ensure the strength and survival of the nation. Consequently, although the younger officers are aware of the general public feeling of indifference toward their positions, they are confident that they fulfill an essential function in Iranian life.
Strategically, the preoccupation of the younger officers, reflecting a similar concern in their leaders, has turned from the Soviet borders to the South and the West. With the departure of British forces from the Persian Gulf, more emphasis is being placed on the defense of Iranian interests in that area. The younger officers in the military are keenly aware of the threat to Iranian security from Iraq, and Iran’s growing interests in the Gulf, and have altered their thinking accordingly.
The civilian college or university graduate does not find the possibility of a military career particularly attractive. He prefers to enter the expanding civilian economy rather than subject himself to the uncertainties of the life of a junior officer in the armed forces, subject to the whims of his superior and at a far lower pay scale.
More generally, the non-military youth of Iran view the armed services with indifference and often a trace of condescension, in interesting contrast to the feelings of elitism within the military itself. Rather than having strong feelings about the military’s role in Iran, the younger people tend to not think about the military establishment, unless it affects them personally—e.g. when the military is used to control student demonstrations or when a [Page 12] young man becomes eligible for the draft. The latter is a frequent issue, because the low pay—50 Dials ($.64) per month—and poor treatment by American standards lead educated Iranians to go to almost any lengths to avoid service as an enlisted man. There are many cases of young men using influence and/or money to avoid military conscription.
Parliament and Political Parties
The youth of Iran view political parties as arbitrary groupings of myriad interest groups which are imposed from the top and not as a natural outgrowth of Iran’s social patterns and history. These artificial entities will remain cohesive only so long as they have the support of the Shah; they cannot be considered political parties in the true sense of the word—groupings of individuals with common interests and the willingness and ability to express those interests on the national stage through a flexible political system. The Majles, which is the sum of the present political parties, has no prestige among the youth of Iran, and its members have power and influence only so far as their family and personal connections provide it.
The Iranian educational and social system is not conducive to producing young people who are disciplined enough to accept political responsibility. In early childhood, Iranians receive little or no discipline in the home. They enter a primary and secondary school system in which grades are negotiable and standards flexible. Their teachers, severely underpaid, are from a low social class and command little or no respect. In the universities they are catered to in order to avoid any possibilities of their disrupting the stability of the educational system. Once an Iranian youth reaches adulthood he is most responsive to one kind of authority—absolute. All other authority is circumvented and undermined. This type of individual is a poor building block for a democratic state. Although Iranian youth view the political parties and the Majles with cynicism and uninterest, and profess preferences for a more open system, they are themselves presently capable of giving Iran only very limited and circumscribed alternatives to the existing political system.
The media in Iran are viewed critically by the young people of the country. Passive censorship is evident, especially in sensitive issues such as the Royal Family or the Persian Gulf. There is frequent editorializing on the front pages of even the larges dailies. Criticism of local officials is undoubtedly welcome, but the media is suspected of making such criticism merely to exhibit a pseudo-independence. International coverage, generally taken from the major wire services which give an air of authenticity to a report, is also suspected of being edited or biased. TV and radio programming are considered entertaining, but certainly not politically or socially relevant.[Page 13]
Although young people view BBC and the VOA as more credible sources of news, they too are suspect, partly because of their respective governmental affiliations and partly because of the pervasive Persian cynicism. The ARMISH–MAAG radio and television station has a certain credibility as an outside source, but still retains its biased nature in most eyes due in part to its existence as an arm of the American military. Sophisticated viewers regard its normal programming as neither representative of America nor edifying.
An exception to this list is the humor magazine “Towfiq” which carries on the “Punch” tradition in Iran. By the rules of the game, it avoids the Royal family and for the most part the military, but has become widely read and accepted for its satirical treatment of other personalities and institutions in Iranian government and society. It has served a very valid purpose—an outlet for public indignation—and has allowed the young people to see their leaders as real people with real problems. It allows the youth of Iran to say and see through laughter what it cannot criticize through indignation.
SAVAK—The Security Organization
The attitudes of Iranian youth toward SAVAK are characterized more by fear than by respect or admiration. It is seldom discussed in the presence of non-acquaintances, and on the rare occasion when it is, comments are seldom critical. There are exceptions, however, and SAVAK was the target of many jokes among youth for its mishandling of last year’s abortive coup in Iraq. Generally, however, in its operations within Iran, SAVAK is seen as ubiquitous, and is feared by most Iranians, not only youth. It is recognized as one of the instruments used by the Shah to maintain stability in Iran, allowing him to implement his programs unimpeded; youth knows that SAVAK has the power and the will to carry out its mandate.
The attitudes of the young people of Iran toward the United States have been adversely affected by the widely held assumption that SAVAK was aided by the CIA when it was first organized by the Shah, and that the invisible hand of the CIA still wields considerable influence on, if not outright control of, SAVAK. Given the origins of this belief, and the conviction with which it is held by the youth of Iran, a considerable amount of evidence to the contrary would be necessary to measurably change it.
Changes in the System of Government
Although Iranian youth are generally dissatisfied with the present system of Government, and desire a change, their hopes for the future are nebulous and not [do?] not reflect any particular political philosophy. The thread of an anarchistic “change for change’s sake,” noticeable among Western European and American students, is not found in Iran, but the wistful longing for an open politcal system more receptive to the needs of the nation’s youth, is nevertheless present.[Page 14]
Although concerned Iranian youth are not generally able to articulate with any degree of exactness their wishes for changes in the system of government, a number of themes pervade their comments. Their desire for change is often motivated by the knowledge that a more open and freer system would be advantageous to their own personal advancement rather than a belief that such a system is inherently beneficial. Consequently they desire reforms such as the loosening of central authority with the concomitant greater degree of decentralization. Their hope, perhaps a naive one, is that the venality so prevalent in the presently highly centralized system will be less evident in a more diffuse form of administration.
The aware young urban dweller favors a system of government where promotions to the top are more dependent upon individual ability than is evident in the present system. He views the administration of government especially, and business to a lesser extent, as requiring familial or personal connections in order to succeed. He believes a more “western” type of government would afford him greater access to the top, granted on the basis of his own individual abilities.
A constant theme in the desires of involved youth is for a more “democratic” state. However, they are not able to specify what this implies for Iran, other than generalized statements about greater “freedom” and openness. Democracy is an alien concept in Iranian history; it is a western invention that, without considerable change and adaption, is not really relevant to the needs of Iran. However, the young people of the country see the affluence and freedom of their western peers and believe that the adoption of a similar political system will result in the same perquisites in Iran.
Indigenous Arabs and the Tribes
Iranians are surrounded by a comfortable aura of cultural and ethical superiority when they consider their neighbors, be they Turk, Afghan or Arab. This attitude is reflected in the feelings of distrust and suspicion directed by most Iranians at the indigenous Arab population. Though youth’s views are somewhat moderated in comparison with their elders’, attitudes of condescension and cultural superiority toward the Arabs are nevertheless prevalent. This arrogance toward, and fear of, the Arabs has resulted in their being relagated to second class status in Iran.
There are some indications that the youth of Iran is becoming more sympathetic to the plight of Iranian Arabs, but any real change resulting from this increased sympathy will certainly be slow in coming and will probably depend more on external factors, such as improved relations between Iran and its Arab neighbors.
Youth’s attitudes toward the indigenous tribes are somewhat ambivalent. The old arrogance of the Iranian toward the tribesmen remains, but there is also [Page 15] admiration for the simplicity of life and maintenance of traditions among the tribes, untouched by progress and its attendant problems. There is also a degree of sympathy for the tribal minorities, and a greater willingness to help them and accept their cultural differences, than there is for the Arabs. There is a general feeling that the tribes have always been part of the Iranian homeland and will eventually be assimilated into Iran. The reverse is true of the indigenous Arabs, however, and the suspicion remains that their loyalties lie elsewhere.
Classicial communist doctrine appeals to a very small portion of Iranian youth, and its followers are almost all found in the academic world. During the early 1950s, communism had a much wider appeal, and many of its doctrines were incorporated into the National Front programs of that era. However, since then, its following has continued to decrease and today the Communist Party of Iran (Tudeh), has a miniscule membership, the majority of whom are probably Government intelligence officers who have infiltrated the party.
During the past five years, there have been defections from the Tudeh Party to the more radical, Chinese Communist-influenced wing of the party. This has been especially true of Iranian students in Western Europe who share the young radicals’ disdain for the “conservatism” of classical communism and are attracted by the activism of a more radical doctrine. However, the number of students who are dedicated to the principles of communism, either the Soviet or Chinese brand, is minimal. Students contend that the often vociferous anti-Shah pronouncements and actions by many Iranian students in Europe is basically anti-Shah in nature and not based upon any dedication to the principles of communism.
The last Iranian bastion of the study of societies according to classical communist doctrine is found in the literature faculties in Iranian universities. Some of the professors analyze and criticize the literature being studied in Marxist terms rather than according to the more objective studies used in Western universities. This may be partly due to the mass of Soviet printed literature, including works by Western authors, supplied to Iranian bookshops by the extensive and low-cost Soviet book publishing program.
The attitude of Iranian youth toward the United States is marked by a number of contradictions. There has been among modern young Iranians generally an awareness of, and respect for, the civil liberties and freedoms found in American society, and a deep appreciation for the technological expertise Iran has gained from the United States. There is general admiration for the [Page 16] “democratic way of life” as exemplified by America, and also an appreciation for American innovativeness, spontaneity and pragmatism.
There are, however, a number of disturbing trends in the attitudes of young technocrats, academicians and university students toward America which may damage US-Iranian relations in the long-term. The feeling of national pride and xenophobia, which has increased concurrently with Iran’s economic and political growth, is especially prevalent among the urban youth of the country. This distrust of foreign influences in Iran, combined with a historical susceptibility to a belief in a net of foreign intrigue and machinations controlling Iran, together with specific criticisms of America, has diminished respect and admiration for the United States among some university students and young academicians. The attitudes vary considerably, of course, depending upon the youth group being considered. Among young businessmen, the feelings of admiration for America are still considerable. Young military officers are appreciative of American assistance, training and the role we have held as protector of the “Free World”, whereas university students tend to be more critical of our place as a world power.
However, while respect for America is remaining fairly constant, dislike of America is growing among youth, especially among students. A number of isolated instances support this thesis. In one faculty of the University of Tehran, the administration removed USIS handout material from a public place at student insistence. Students have become more vocal and open in their criticism of the United States in discussions with Embassy officers.
The attitudes of Iranian youth toward America are closely tied to our involvement in Southeast Asia. Dr. Mahmoud Ziai, Chairman of the Majles Foreign Relations Committee, who is pro-American and highly respected as an astute observer of Iranian politics, has said to an Embassy officer that the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia has done great, perhaps irreparable harm to the image and reputation of the U.S. among the younger generation in Iran. This damage was done gradually over the years after 1965, as the U.S. involvement in Asia deepend.
This distrust has been nutured by two factors. First, the younger generation, especially university students, has tended to accept the simplistic Marcusean-Marxian view of the American economy: i.e. it is fed on immense defense expenditures and depends on a substantial degree of economic exploitation of under-developed countries. In this view, Viet Nam offered us the opportunity to continue our massive defense expenditures and at the same time engage in the classical exploitation of a poor country. A second factor is the cynicism the younger generation feels toward the American contention that it is fighting in Viet Nam for a world in which freedom, and respect for others should be standards of international conduct.
Growing student dissatisfaction with America, and both its domestic and international policies, has been muted by a conscious GOI policy to control [Page 17] internal dissent. However, criticism and dissatisfaction with the United States is growing, especially among students, and there are no indications this trend will be reversed in the near future.
The attitudes of Iranian youth toward the USSR cover a wide range from apprehension to admiration, vary among the different youth groups, and are constantly in flux. Although younger Iranians do not share their parents’ vivid recollections of Soviet troops occupying northern Iran and establishing puppet states in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, they are very aware of the Soviet Union’s power and proximity to Iran.
Young military officers, western oriented by their training, equipment and U.S. advisors, see the Soviet Union as a power foreign to their culture and to their military methods. At the same time, they are fully aware of the military might of the Soviets and hope to exist in peaceful coexistence rather than in a situation of tension. They realize their incapability to withstand a major Soviet offensive and look to other nations for assistance, particularly the United States, if such an event were to take place.
Like their Government, Iranian youth normally view the Arab States as divided into two groups—radical leftist and traditional monarchial. Unlike their government, however, there is little admiration or respect among youth for Arab States in either of the two camps. The radical leftist states are viewed as uncultured and uncivilized, bordering on the barbaric, with little to offer Iran in economic, social or political terms. The traditional states are dismissed as anachronistic, though youth equivocates somewhat in this judgment. They realize that the traditional states are Iran’s best friends in the Arab World, and that it is clearly in Iran’s interest to maintain cordial relations with them.
Considered together, the Arab States are viewed somewhat more malevolently. The potential threat of a united Arab World is not lost on Iranian youth. This, combined with the historic enmities resulting from cultural, social, ethnic, linguistic, and even religious differences between Iran and the Arab World, leaves the GOI room to exploit these to its own ends should it so choose.
A survey of the social values of Iranian youth reveals that despite the facade of modernization, the differences separating young Iranians from their sires are no greater than, and perhaps even less than, in the West. A confrontation of the type found in Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons” is considerably more socially enlightened than could be found in most of the Iranian families with which this report is primarily concerned.[Page 18]
One of the most consistent and, to the Western eye, dismaying characteristics of Iranian young people is their proclivity to accept the virtue of “opportunism”. This holds true throughout all strata of society. With Iran’s phenomenal record of economic growth over the past several years, young, trained Iranians have returned from abroad and have tried to fit themselves into the existing social and economic structure. In the business world, for example, they are not content to make reasonable profits, but are anxious and almost proud to exploit opportunities to the maximum in the short-run, striving for profit margins ranging from two or three-fold a year to outright “gouging”.
Neither in government nor the professions are they satisfied with low-grade positions, but demand and many times receive at least middle-grade positions far beyond their years or level of competence. Should Iran’s economy falter, it is doubtful that many of them would be willing to see it through, but rather, would more likely think seriously of leaving in droves to greener pastures in their second homes abroad.
There is little receptivity to the idea of the “common good”. Despite the Shah’s already-instituted, but limited programs of social welfare (e.g. social insurance and medical insurance) there is little faith among young people that these systems will work. Rather, they are seen as more programs through which bureaucrats and those in positions of power can line their own pockets with little or nothing left for the intended beneficiary. Many modern young Iranians have only marginal sympathy for the poor or homeless who are not members of their extended family. Although the tradition of charity has always been a part of their religion and culture, they salve what pangs of conscience they might experience through sudden, emotionally-triggered acts of individual charity, and thus ignore the efficacy of broad programs of social progress.
Women and Society
Few young Iranian men have any sympathy with the slightest manifestation of the “liberation of women”. Even in modern Tehran, there is little mixing of the sexes until university years. Girls are viewed as objects of beauty and pleasure, not unlike a fine Persian carpet. Dating in Tehran may lead to sexual relations, but almost invariably the young conqueror will cast aside his prey, and demand virginity of the woman that is later chosen for him to marry. Young men still support the traditional view that a wife’s place is in bed, at home, and bearing and rearing their children.
This ageless philosophy produces an extremely strong family system, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Family ties can still be found as the underlying rationale for many economic and social decisions, and [Page 19] there is very little desire among Iranian youth (male or female) to change this solid foundation rock of Persian society.
Attitudes Toward Work
Manual labor of itself has never been accorded any intrinsic worth in this part of the world, and though there are inchings toward improving the lot of the laborer, Iran’s present younger generation is not prepared to accept the fundamental changes in this attitude which some Western observers feel are essential to Iran’s long-range economic and political stability. While some Iranians educated abroad return with a fervor of pride for an honest day’s work (albeit not manual), many are in due course co-opted into the system and become satisfied to put prestige ahead of productivity.
The Place of Law
Even for young Iranians, although they profess an admiration for western democratic institutions, laws seem to be made to be obfuscated and circumvented. While there are some hopeful signs (village Houses of Justice) that the rule of law will someday have meaning in Iran, this will not be achieved unless stability can be maintained for at least several more generations.
Higher education is greatly valued in Iran both for the respect affored diploma holders and the employment possibilities it makes available. Higher education overseas is valued even more, for a degree from a foreign university is even more prestigious than one from an Iranian university. Respect for foreign education is wide-spread throughout Iranian society, and graduates from foreign schools have more employment opportunities than their counterparts who are products of the Iranian educational system. There consequently exists among the Iranian-educated, resentment against those who have studied abroad and against what is seen as the special perquisites offered them.
It has been claimed that Iranian students want the best possible education for the least possible work. Although this is an over-simplification, Iranian students are accustomed to working in an educational environment that caters to them as long as they do not threaten the stability of the system. Consequently, dedication to academic discipline and an appreciation for education as a benefit by itself is very limited among the youth of Iran.
The more astute Iranian students want sweeping administrative changes in the educational system. They would prefer a greater decentralization of the educational bureaucracy which would give local schools and universities a greater say in their own administration and enable them to more effectively meet local needs and conditions. They also realize that the system of [Page 20] secondary education must be reformed, since the present method of teaching and learning by rote gives students a woefully inadequate preparation for university studies where, to a greater degree, they must learn to apply the facts they have learned.
There has been a noticeable and unexpected growth of interest in religion among a small segment of the youth of Iran, especially those studying and teaching in the Universities. The Islamic students union is strong on all university campuses and attendance at the Tehran University Mosque is continually increasing.
The increased interest in religion is basically conservative in nature and a reaction against Westernization, rather than a positive renaissance of religion on the campuses. A small number of students have also embraced religious orthodoxy as a means of criticizing the Shah and his method of rule in Iran. Criticisms of the Shah which might be unacceptable in a secular context, can often be voiced under cover of an interest in strengthening the role of religion in Iranian life.
The vicissitudes of Western technology and the inroads made by Western culture have led many students to turn to religious conservatism and orthodoxy as a reaction against the trials of modernization and urbanization. Consequently, the growth of religious consciousness is not expected to lead to renewed interest in a Pan-Islamic movement among Iranian students or faculty. Not only does the usual Sunni-Shi’ite split militate against the growth of Pan-Islamism in Iran, but the basically conservative, inward-looking, anti-foreign basis for the revival of interest in religion in Iran among the young educated classes precludes the new interest from becoming a positive force for modernization or change in the country.
It is necessary to re-emphasize that this growth of interest is on a small scale and affects an extremely limited percentage of the student body. It is interesting, however, as an indication of one of the possible paths reaction against Westernization and modernization can take in the Iranian society.
Population and Birth Control
A few Westernized youths regard birth control and family planning as necessary parts of social planning and are therefore concerned about the issue. For the rest apathy on the issue is general, except that it is considered a “modern” practice to follow. Personally, most Westernized young Iranians do not want large families and know how to avoid them.[Page 21]
V IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
The attitudes of Iranian youth are important to our policy toward Iran because there is every indication that these attitudes will persist even as youth grows older. Even those who join the system and appear to be co-opted often have in fact, submerged rather than abandoned their earlier feelings. The attitudes which this report has discussed at length may be summarized for the present purpose as follows:
- Acceptance of or resignation to the present situation, for the time being.
- A strong yearning for democratization, civil liberties, and a general opening and freeing of Iranian life.
- A desire among a substantial portion of Iranian youth not to see the Pahlavi dynasty—with its present power—continue after the present Shah, even though the concept of a Monarch who reigns but does not rule, has broader acceptance.
- A powerful urge for greater national self-respect, independence, and realization of identity.
If, as is our premise here, we must have a greater sensitivity to these feelings, whether open or covert, in Iran’s future leaders, our assets in so doing are the admiration of young Iran for American ideals and democracy and for the openess, vitality, and dynamism of our society and our national life. Our hindrances are the very close identification of the United States with the Shah and with both the structure and the methods of his rule. There is no noticeable feeling among young, urban Iranians that the United States encourages, or even approves in principle of, democratization in Iran. Instead there is a general feeling, that the United States prizes democracy for itself, but regards Iranians as a people unable to implement democracy, and in any case finds a totalitarian regime in Iran easier to work with or to manipulate. A number of possible events in Iran including the actual achievement of gradual democratization, could bring to positions of real power persons who had acquired these attitudes toward the United States in their youth. It is therefore imperative that we attack the bases of these attitudes wherever possible.
A number of steps could be taken immediately which would enhance our ability to deal effectively with the younger generation of Iranians without detracting from our close ties with the Government of Iran. We believe the following recommendations should receive careful consideration as possible ways of building a more dynamic foreign policy in Iran, complementing our present activities, and making us more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the future leaders of the country.
- We strongly support the USIS plan to move the Abraham Lincoln Library from USIS premises to the Iran-America Society Cultural Center. The move [Page 22] will strengthen the IAS by broadening its services to the young people of Tehran and will increase the library’s credibility by placing it under the bi-national IAS rubric. Also, IAS plans to use a section of the library building for a collection of books which will include English language works on Iran by non-American authors. This will increase its usefulness and help to reaffirm our interest in Iranian studies.
One of the most important elements of our USIS program in Iran is the publication of “Marzhaye-Now” (New Frontiers), a monthly, Persian language magazine which receives wide distribution in country. It is distributed to a selective mailing list of 24,000 people, and contains articles on events and programs in both the United States and Iran, with a preponderance of the former. The total cost of producing Marzhaye-Now is about $.20 per copy, or approximately $4,800 per month for a production run of 24,000 copies. Considering the generally high-level audience the magazine reaches, the yearly production cost of approximately $57,000, and the fact that the magazine is the only US Government publication read by many Iranian youth, we believe certain steps could be taken to ensure the increased effectiveness of the program.
The magazine should give greater emphasis to Iranian programs with American input which directly benefit the Iranian people. There are a number of possibilities ranging from university education through city planning to agricultural development programs built upon the foundation of earlier US Government assistance. More articles could be carried stressing concepts of development rather than specific programs in the United States.
The current news content of the magazine should have a different emphasis. One must question the image, in the eyes of Iranian youth, of a US Government publication which carries stories on Princess Ashraf, but does not include articles about successful participatory democracy in Iran (e.g. rural houses of justice, arbitration councils, etc.).
Finally, USIS should recommend that their Publications Officer position be classified as language essential. Since this officer is responsible for Marzhaye-Now, greater control of the magazines editorial content could be realized by having a Persian speaking American officer as editor. As an alternative, USIS might consider establishing a full-time position for a locally hired Iranian to edit the magazine.
The US Government presently gives administrative and financial support, through the IAS, to a student center at Tehran University. This assistance is approximately $38,400 per year. In this time of budget stringencies and scarce resources, we believe serious consideration should be given either to greatly increasing the usefulness of the Center to the US Government or to terminating our support.[Page 23]
There are advantages to continuing our support for the Center. It is one of our few points of contact with university students from the lower and middle classes. Most of the students who visit the Center are aware of its American support and appreciate our assistance. However, events may provide equally strong arguments for terminating our aid. The responsibility for establishing and administering student centers should rest with the local universities, not an affiliate of the United States government. Tehran University is presently planning to establish a student center on campus. If the plans are realized, we recommend that our support for the IAS sponsored student center be phased out over a one year period.
If the university does not open a student center, we believe the role the mission plays in the IAS student center’s administration should be carefully studied with the aim of either upgrading its effectiveness or, if this is not feasible, withdrawing our aid. The Student Center is not similar to the IAS Cultural Center in that we have complete administrative and programming control in the latter whereas our programming input in the Student Center is negligible. It should be noted that the minimal amount of programming is due to USIS’ limited resources. The problems of allocating limited USIS resources transcends the Student Center; however, if USIS does not receive increased budgetary allocations and personnel positions in order to overcome the problems of resource allocation, we question the advisability of continued support for the Student Center. Quality programming must be made available to the center if we are to continue allocating scarce fiscal resources which might be better employed elsewhere.
Our cultural exchange program is a cornerstone of our relations with Iran. Both visits to Iran by American artists, lecturers and scholars, and sending Iranians to the States—from District Governors to University administrators—give us immeasurable benefits by increasing Iranian understanding of the United States and bringing to Iran what is best in American art, culture and scholarship. Our entire cultural exchange program, however, is woefully underbudgeted. It has suffered much more from budgetary cutbacks than many other programs. Consequently, one of our most effective means of increasing contact and communication with the young people of Iran has been severely restricted.
We believe increased high level interest and pressure to raise our CU allotment for the coming fiscal years could help in ameliorating this problem. It is obvious that the CU program is merely one of many that have suffered, and we cannot press for budgetary increases across the board without decreasing our credibility. However, we feel the CU program is of such importance that with increased support, both in the field and in Washington, the program could be more adequately funded, thereby greatly increasing its effectiveness.
The Iran-America Society Academic Center—where about 10,000 Iranians studied English last year—is the point of greatest direct contact between Iranian youth and the official American presence in Iran. One of the main purposes of the Center is to generate funds to support other IAS activities [Page 24] (i.e.—The Cultural and Student Centers). The first six months of this fiscal year, the Academic Center received approximately $200,000 in income from tuitions while spending about $150,000 in administrative costs.
By de-emphasizing the money-raising nature of the Academic Center, it is probable that its English teaching program could be improved. Although the Center is still considered the best location in Tehran to learn English, and its staff is conscientious and hard-working, there are certain deficiencies which could be remedied by increased funding. The Center teachers are very underpaid compared to other English teaching institutions in Tehran, and programs to improve teaching material also suffer.
Although there are many demands on funds for the entire IAS establishment, and any change in allocations must be judged in light of the overall IAS need, consideration should be given to alloting a greater portion of IAS income to the Academic Center and using the increased budget to raise teachers’ salaries and generally improve the teaching system. A more effective and meaningful English teaching program would be favorably received by the numerous young Iranians who attend classes at the Center.
The attitudes toward foreigners generally which are shared by youth, and especially the Iranian readiness to suspect that foreign companies are exploiting them, all of which have been previously described in this report, lead foreign firms, including American ones, to make their activities as unobtrusive as possible. This means that the generally excellent record of American companies here as good, socially responsible citizens of Iran who contribute to Iran’s economic development goes largely unappreciated, especially by youth.
However, there are certain steps which our companies can take now without running headlong into persisting attitudes or the sensitivities of the GOI. Scholarships for education or training in the U.S. are now given mostly by the oil companies. Other U.S. companies hould do much more of this. It is an excellent way of satisfying both their need for qualified employees and the GOI’s intense drive for maximum Iranization. For us, it is another partial answer to the dream of foreign education which is cherished by so many Iranian youth.
Next in importance to this is the way U.S. firms here conduct their business with the GOI and with other companies. We have already noted that deviousness and dissimulation are two traditional Iranian characteristics which modernizing youth in Iran would like to discard. At the same time, some U.S. companies have found that a straightforward American-style approach to their dealings here has been successful. For example, Reading & Bates, a drilling company, [Page 25] put aside the traditional methods proposed to it for settling a tax dispute in favor of insisting that the appeals procedure provided for in Iranian law be followed to the letter. With the help of the Embassy, this approach was successful. Other companies have found like success in having important representations made by a company officer, either American or Iranian, rather than by the traditional “go-between”. Still other firms have shown considerable foresight and courage by tactfully avoiding having to take in members of the Royal Family and the Court as “silent partners.” Actions such as these rapidly become known among wide circles of the more sophisticated Iranian youth. Obviously, sensitive business judgment is necessary as to which technique to use when. However, when Americans are able to follow their own standards in matters like these, the response by aware youth is deeply favorable. The Embassy and the Departments of State and Commerce should coordinate their encouragement of American companies to follow good American business practice in Iran wherever possible, and to grant more scholarships to young Iranians.
Our military advisory effort, the heart of our relationship with Iran, has, like other programs here, suffered from budgetary and personnel cutbacks. MAAG has gone through a number of painful exercises designed to reallocate its reduced resources to best meet the goals of our bilateral relationship with Iran. We believe that the MAAG Armed Forces Radio and Television Service should be closely studied to determine ways to improve its programming and to lower its profile in order to meet the fiscal and personnel pressures on our advisory effort. Many of Tehran’s urban youth watch the station and their image of the United States is directly affected by the level of its programming and the station’s close identification with the United States Government.
The Armed Forces Radio Service in Tehran serves a useful function and, aside from its entertainment and informational activities, could be justified on the basis of its potential usefulness in an emergency situation. The television service is more questionable, however. It cannot be justified on the quality of its programming, which is extremely low for a number of reasons. One of these is that Iranian television stations have first choice on contracting for American television shows and the Armed Forces station must choose from what is left. Consequently, the television programming gives a false impression of American life, is extremely unedifying, and reflects very low standards of communications skills. Studies should be made of the availability of educational television programs for use by the television station and a greater number of major documentaries could also be screened.
In addition to improving programming, United States Government identification with the station should be reduced to a minimum. Many Iranian youth see [Page 26] the station as a proof of omnipresent American “imperialism” and indication of our cultural and communal isolation. In keeping with the Nixon doctrine, we believe it would be advantageous to have the station advertise itself as an English language television station with minimal reference to its affiliation with the United States. Although this would be merely a cosmetic change not affecting the real ownership of the station, it would greatly help in reducing our image as an arrogant independent television owner in Iran while still providing the benefits an English language television service offers to all the English speaking people in Tehran, especially the young.
Officers in the Consular section often feel that they are the “poor cousins” of their Embassy colleagues; they experience both a physical and informational isolation from the Embassy. Consular affairs play an extremely important role in our relations with Iran. Often the only American officers a young Iranian ever meets are consular officers who, by the very nature of their work, have extensive contacts with young people. It is essential that our consular officers have the widest possible understanding of our role in Iran if they are to make a favorable impression on the young Iranians they meet.
A program should be adopted of regularly scheduled briefings for Consular officers on political and economic matters. This would assist in obviating the sense of isolation in the Consulate and would also ensure that consular officers have a better understanding of the totality of American interests in Iran. A conscious effort should be made to ensure that consular officers are kept appraised of important developments in American-Iranian relations.
- Finally, the four officer positions in the section should be classified language essential. The officers’ direct contact with Iranian youth is severely hampered by working through an interpretor. Also meeting with Persian-speaking consular officers would significantly increase the respect of young Iranians for our Embassy in general.
1. Our impact on younger Iranians is directly related to the style of our diplomatic activity in Iran. Too often, we give the impression that our special relationship is not with Iran as a country, but rather exclusively with the Shah. In our statements and diplomatic behavior there must be much more about the Iranian people and nation. when praise is given and appreciation expressed, it should be to Iran as a nation and to its people. Our informational activities should give greater emphasis to America’s role as a partner in Iran’s development and highlight the growth of democratic institutions in Iran and give less emphasis to reporting our close involvements with the Royal Family—especially the more disliked members of the dynasty.[Page 27]
Senior officers of the Embassy should spend more time visiting economic enterprises and political institutions outside of Tehran. The Economic Counselor or Commercial Attache could visit provincial industries and establish relations with the young well-trained engineers who administer them. The Political Counselor could visit Provincial and District Councils and Arbitration Courts and confer with their members. Similar trips could be made by the Public Affairs Counselor, and such activities would greatly add to our image of a nation interested in the people of Iran and the progress they are making.
Our representational efforts must increasingly involve younger Iranians whom we have noted as the “comers” in the Government and private sector. We must de-emphasize entertaining the same small select circle of Iranians who, although influential and powerful, do not reflect the pressures for change presently being felt in Iran. The younger officers must make greater efforts to visit universities and colleges and discuss with the students America’s role as a partner in Iran’s development.
These suggested steps, both in style and substance, are not the whole answer in themselves. We believe, however, that they will assist in convincing Iranian youth as it grows toward leadership, that America, like themselves, may pragmatically accept the existing nature of the governments with which it must deal, but that it is also aware of, and has an appreciation for, the forces for change which will transform the Iranian state and government as it emerges into the last third of the twentieth century.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 13–2 IRAN. Secret; Noforn. Drafted by Embassy Youth Committee. Cleared by Arnold L. Raphel. Approved by Donald R. Toussaint. Repeated to Khorramshahr and Tabriz. In a comment to Jack Miklos, May 4, Timothy Childs agreed that the attitudes of the activist youth were widespread, but that their beliefs would be tempered by time. Of the suggestion that the U.S. government attempt to draw nearer to the activists, Childs wrote “the only way to do that would be for the United States to urge, and be seen to be urging, further steps towards liberalization upon the Shah. For a variety of reasons I am sure we would be most hesitant to do this. Therefore I conclude that we should not worry too much about the ill-informed views of activist youths. By the time they reach positions of influence it should be apparent to them that the United States has a lot to offer Iran.” (NEA/IRN, Office of Iran Affairs, Lot File 75D351, Box 6, POL 13–2, Students, Youth Groups, Iran 1971.) ↩
- The report examined the attitudes of Iranian youth and the implications of these attitudes for US foreign policy.↩