157. Telegram 77 From the Embassy in Iran to Secretary of State Rogers and the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1 2

Subject:

  • Presidential Visit to Iran

Ref:

  • (A) State 1238 (B) Tehran 7218

I have just received reftel A containing message for Shah. Before delivering it, I think you should know about the following very recent developments that have a direct bearing on the probable reaction here to this message.

Several days ago Hoveyda spoke to me with considerable feeling tinged with bitterness about tendency of United States to take Iran completely for granted. He said this in context of referring to fact that President is seeing great many world leaders before his visit to Peking and Moscow but is ignoring Shah, “who is one of best friends United States has,” and this despite fact President had given Shah firm commitment inOctober 1969 to visit Iran and had re-affirmed it in April 1971. Hoveyda also mentioned an article he said was in New York Times that US was building bridges to new friends (China) and tearing down bridges to old friends and remarked sardonically that there had been no word about his own visit to Washington in January (this was before Hoveyda cancelled visit allegedly because of Iraq crisis).

Yesterday when Senator Symington and I were received by Shah, Symington commented at end of meeting that he hoped to see Shah in US in not distant future. Shah replied stonily that he had visited US great many times and he thought it was “perhaps time for someone from over there to visit Iran.”

In light of this background, text of message to Shah gives me deep concern, particularly statement President regrets he not able to indicate “whether” a visit might be possible. The word “whether” raises for first time doubt that President will fulfill commitment he gave Shah more than two years [Page 2]ago which was reaffirmed last April. I think proposed message in reftel will be interpreted as walking away from this commitment and will not only be resented but will deepen suspicions that are developing in mind of Shah, who is proud and sensitive man, that we really do not regard him or Iran as very important. If the President does not come, I fear that the basic structure of the relationship of confidence and cooperation which we have built up so painstakingly with Iran and which serves our national interest so well, could begin to erode away. And iran, as we all know, is the one really stable, dependable and at same time friendly building block we have to work with between Japan and NATO Europe. It is a keystone for us in an area where not only we and our allies have most vital interest, but in which Soviets, Iran’s great neighbor to north, have been making serious inroads about which Shah is much concerned and wishes to discuss with President.

I will soon be leaving Iran and will not have to try to pick up the pieces, but as President’s personal representative I feel he should know before I deliver proposed message my views as to (a) damage to Iran-US relations which could result if Presidential visit is not made and (b) reasons why message in its present form could be very counter-productive. If message could be revised so as to re-affirm to Shah, as I did last April at President’s specific instruction, that President will visit Iran during 1972 but is not yet in position to fix specific date, it would be tremendously helpful in allaying growing suspicions of Shah, Prime Minister, etc., and maintaining our position and influence in this key country, an area where our interests are enormous and yet where our position and influence have in general been deteriorating over the past several years.

MacArthur
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL US/NIXON, Box 2697. Secret; Nodis. In Telegram 1238 to Tehran, January 4, the Department had sent a message from Nixon requesting the Shah’s input on the President’s upcoming trip to China but expressed uncertainty about one to Iran. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Middle East—Iran, Box 602, Volume IV 9/1/71–4/73) In Telegram 3152 to Tehran, January 6, Sisco agreed that the message should not be delivered yet. (Ibid.)
  2. Ambassador MacArthur advised against a recently-drafted presidential message since it cast doubt that the long-awaited presidential visit to Tehran would take place.