- Acceleration of F–4Es for Iran
- Tehran 1091: Tehran 263: Moscow 1603
Country Team Message
General Azimi, Minister of War, on instruction of Shah asks that we take another hard look at F–4E production line in order accelerate delivery of one squadron of F–4Es to Iran in 1972. Request reflects Shah’s increasing concern over Soviet ambitions in area and especially threat Shah sees to Iran of friendship treaty under consideration by Iraq and USSR. Shah recognizes problems this poses for US but is turning to USG with this request to give Iran higher priority on F-4E production schedule because he regards US as most dependable friend. End summary
Action requested: Country Team recommends US review F–4E production line and respond favorably to Shah’s request for 16 F–4Es in 1972 from whatever source may be available.
- On Feb 24 Charge was convoked by Minster of War, Gen. Rezanuzimi, on instructions from Shah. Azimi said Shah most [Page 2]deeply concerned at trends in security situation in Middle East and expecially on his western borders. US officals already aware of Shah’s concern through discussions with Foreign Minister and other GOI officials (see reftels), but recent developments in Iraq Soviet relations including agreement to deliver more MIGs and other military equipment plus indication that recent Iraqi-Soviet talks in Moscow included consideration of friendship treaty as well as increased military cooperation inject new sense of urgency in Shah’s timetable for moderninzing and strenthening his armed forces. Most specifically, situation required Iran accelerate its military procurement and host particularly delivery of F–4E aircraft.
- Azimi recalled that GOI had requested delivery of 16 of F–4E aircraft now on order by Iran (first of which was not scheduled for delivery until August 1973) be advanced to CY 1972. However, GOI had recently been informed by USG and McDonnell-Douglas that production line for Iran could not rpt not be advanced to meet 1972 delivery dates desired. Shah was most disturbed, as addition of F–4Es in 1972 was vital to Iran’s security at this time. Shah had directed that USG be asked, if production for Iran could not in fact be advanced, to make requested F–4Es available from other sources. Shah’s desire is for delivery of F–4es in lots of four during June to December time-frame.
- Charge reviewed recent developments in US-Iran military cooperation, including equipment and credit, and stressed that record indicated we understood and appreciated Shah’s concerns and desires and had been exceptionally responsive to Shah’s wishes. Currently, Azimi’s deputy Gen. Toufanian was in US discussing very question of acclerated equipment acquisition including F–4E. Acceleration of F–4E delivery raised difficult technical and cost problems as well as questions of other commitments and priorities. Undoubtedly these issues were being discussed in full with Gen. Toufanian to ensure that he was completely informed of possibilities and problems and reasons for any limitations on meeting GOI request that might exist. Gen. Toufanian probably would have fuller picture of situation than [Page 3]we now had in Iran.
- Azimi responded that GOI was being kept informed of Toufanian discussions, but decision on F–4E could not be delayed. Azimi made clear Shah felt aquisition of 16 F–4E aircraft in 1972 was most important immediate military problem outstanding. He stressed Shah believed that number required was small in relation to US inventory, and that unsettled situation confronting Iran warranted accelerated delivery to Iran as against other possible dispositions (as to Europe or even USAF) in same time frame.
- Charge noted we would transmit Shahs request to Washington and that USG in spirit of friendship which marked our relations would make every effort to be responsive. Charge said this same friendship required him to say, however, that although we would do everything possible to meet Shah’s needs as Shah saw them, our military advisers, as GOI knew, were concerned that acceleration of aircraft acquisition would strain support and operational manpower of IIAF and could lead to decrease rather than increase in IIAF effectiveness. Azimi replied that number of aircraft to be delivered had been closely studied by IIAF with MAAG assistance, and IIAF was satisfied that sixteen aircraft requested could be effectively integrated into present force structure. Azimi closed meeting by asking that USG answer Shah’s request as rapidly as possible.
- Comment. Shah is deeply concerned at developments over past years strengthening Soviet influence and presence in Mideast and Indian Ocean and appearing to indicate substantially enlarged Soviet commitment, economic and military, to Iraq. He has concluded that increased present danger reqires Iran’s first line air defense to be beefed-up now rather than in previously programmed schedule starting in eighteen months. The number, frequency and tone of demarches on subject we have received is virtually unparallelled, and can leave no doubt that HIM considers issue of vital importance.
- Whether we fully agree with Shah’s concern, we must take into account that request—like USG decision in 1970 on sale to Iran of seventh and eighth squadrons of F–4E—has become another gut issue in Shah’s mind. Shah is again turning to [Page 4] USG because in periods of anxiety Shah feels he can look to us for cooperation and he hopes that US as reliable friend will find chance be responsive on matter he considers important and vital to Iran’s security. Thus USG consideration of request must recognize that decision involves unusual degree of political importance related to fabric of USG–GOI relations. Decision should also not overlook or underestimate importance of Iran for vital US national interests.
- Action requested. Country Team urges that USG give prompt and sympathetic attention to Shah’s request for 1972 delivery of F–4E aircraft, from whatever sources may be available to be tapped (including deliveries to USAF). We recognize that request may raise difficult problems, but urge that every avenue be explored to reach positive response. It is also most important that Country Team be kept fully informed of progress and prospects to enable us continue to meet and temper sense of urgency on subject which prevails within GOI. If delays or barriers to fully favorable response materialize, we trust that every effort will be made to be as forthcoming as possible (e.g. partial delivery in 1972) and that persuasive rationale can be developed to fully explain to Shah reasons for any shortcoming. In order to diminish as much as possible negative impact.