184. Telegram 2604 From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]

NEA for Ambassador Farland


  • President’s Visit—Shah’s Views and Concerns on Specific Domestic and Foreign Matters Which May Arise in His Discussions With President


  • Tehran 2603

Summary: This is fourth in a series of messages regarding President’s visit to Tehran and covers Shah’s views on wide range of domestic and foreign subjects. Domestically, Shah has set ambitious development goals and is bullish about his country’s future. At same time he is troubled over trend of events in Middle East, some of which he considers threat to Iran’s security. He especially concerned about Soviet advancements in area and over what he calls grand design of USSR to acquire warm water port in Arabian Sea and to eradicate US and Western influence in Gulf. He feels US and West do not appreciate vital importance to their own basic self interests of Gulf and its oil on which so much of free world economy and security is dependent. End summary.

Requests for audiences with Shah are carefully screened, but once one is granted he is generous with visitor in time and substance of his remarks. He likes to start with tour d’horizon, length and orientation of which depends on visitor’s interests and Shah’s mood. He is also a good listener and is usually candid in his [Page 2]answers.
Our lines of communication with Shah are good on basis of periodic meetings over the last two years with Ambassador MacArthur, frequent meetings with Court Minister Alam who always carefully reflects Shah’s views, as well as special audiences. We believe we have good insight into Shah’s views on world around him and on specific issues of mutual interest. Previous message in this series (reftel) has dealt with US/Iranian relations and our estimate of Shah’s views on our bilateral relations as well as his hope for US role in this area against background of Soviet ambitions and threat to Iran and to free world interests in Middle East and Gulf. This message focuses on Shah’s current thoughts and aspirations for his country and views on developments in Middle East, many of which were most recently spelled out in session April 23 with NWC students. They represent Shah’s latest thinking on wide variety of subjects and insight to his views on some of topics that may come up during his meetings with President.
Future of Iran: The Shah usually stresses remarkable economic development of country, which increasingly compares favorably with growth rate of Japan. He attributes this success story to Iran’s resources—both human, for the Iranian people are energetic and anxious to learn from others, and natural resources with which Iran is happily well endowed. By end of next 5-year plan starting 1973, he hopes to double Iran’s per capita income and by 1985 bring Iran up to a per capita income of $1,000 which would make it the most prosperous country in Asia after Japan and put it on a par with several European countries. He also looks forward to 100 percent literacy by 1985. He recognizes that Iran’s population growth rate complicates matters. However, country is now launched on family planning program and he hopes to cut back population growth from current 3.2 percent to 1 percent. He does not believe zero population growth rate is advisable because population would grow old and lose its vitality. He would prefer to keep population to about 50 milliion level, but recognizes best Iran can now hope for is levelling off at 65 million in about 20 years. In this connection he notes that Tehran is reaching 4 million figure and decentralization [Page 3]must take place because available water supplies cannot take care of more than 51/2 million in Tehran area.
Political growth. As result his government’s emphasis on education and employment, Shah expects literate and prosperous middle class to expand rapidly. He does not agree however with those who assert this will lead to era of confrontation. Rather, his government’s policies are intended to see that country will take what he calls path of participation. He is working for “democratic economy” in which people have stake in their future as in case of those who profited from land reform, and he hopes various political institutions at different levels will provide outlets for political experience and expression. These units include cooperatives and societies at the village level, village council equity courts, city and provincial councils and finallly Parliament. Political parties are also important part of process and Shah has encouraged their establishment.
Security of Iran. While Iran values friends and allies, only safe policy is for Iran to stand on its own feet and be prepared to defend itself. It is building up its armed forces and as one deterrent is making clear to all its neighbors, with USSR as real target, that any who have ambitions in Iran will find a wasted country because Iran will pursue a scorched earth policy leaving nothing behind for the invader. Iran and US have a treaty relationship, but this is loosely worded and cannot be relied upon in a crisis. On other hand, Iran and what it represents in Gulf is so vital to Western [Page 4]interests that latter cannot afford to see Iran go under. This is fact of life which United States and West must take into account.
Pakistan-India: Shah does not think that recent conflict in subcontinent damaged his relations with India which remain satisfactory. Indians knew Shah disagreed 100 percent with Yahya Khan’s policies vis-a-vis East Pakistan. At same time Iran has not as yet accepted Bangla Desh, nor will Iran recognize it in very near future because it had been created by aggression from outside. Unity and integrety of West Pakistan is of vital importance because there could be disastrous consequences if Pakistan provinces, and especially northwestern frontier and Baluchistan provinces, broke away. He does not think India wants break-up of Pakistan nor does he think India could or would occupy it. Break-up of Pakistan could have very significant consequences to security of Iran because one way or another, Soviets would seek to exploit resulting confusion to their advantage and attempt to use situation to achieve land base to Arabian Sea. Soviets could work through Afghanistan, where their influence is [Page 5]vast, through India as a result of treaty which gave Soviets foothold in subcontinent or through local movements such as Baluchistan. Shah is concerned about recent literature and map appearing out of Baghdad calling for independent Baluchistan with a border on Soviet Union which in effect would give USSR access to warm water port in Indian Ocean.

King Hussein and the future of Jordan. Shah admires and respects Hussein highly for his skill and courage. Viablility of Jordan and survival of Hussein are crucial to stability of area. It is important that friends help Hussein, and he understands Hussein returned from US satisfied with USG decisions to assist Jordan further economically and militarily. Jordan needs help, including subsidies from friendly Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is continuing help Jordan and this is good. As for Kuwaitis—“impossible people”—every time fly goes by they use that as excuse to turn off their subsidies to Jordan. Hussein’s plan for West Bank makes sense. Unfortunately Arabs will not accept it because of its sponsorship. He understands there are Egyptians and others who welcome plan but have to oppose it publicly because it put forward by Hussein.

Were Hussein to lose power results could be disastrous. Palestinians who seek to take over have no real government and their proposal for the joint Arab/Jewish state is ridiculous. If Jordan went, Kuwait could go in a matter of days, and how long would it be before Saudi Arabia suffered same fate? Gulf could then be in chaos with Western interests seriously threatened.

Value of Suez Canal to Iran. Shah feels Suez Canal is no longer of commercial importance to Iran. Its commerce with Europe now goes overland through Turkey or Soviet Union and this is a faster route than through Suez. The closure of Suez is of course of some military value by complicating Soviet deployment of forces in Indian Ocean.
Israel. In past Shah has looked upon Israel as balancing factor in Iran’s relations with Arab world [Page 6]and as useful counter to radical Arab designs on Gulf. While this element still remains in his thinking and Iran continues have quiet and close relations with Israel, he is also concerned that “no peace-no war” situation between Israel and Arabs is providing opportunity for Soviets to gain permanent foothold in Eastern Mediterranean and could be used for similar purposes in countries closer to Iran. Hence he stresses Iran’s support for Security Council Res 242 and especially for Israeli withdrawal from seized Arab territories.
Soviet-Iraq treaty. Language of treaty is ambiguous and could be interpreted various ways. According to one interpretation of Article 8 in particular, treaty could be regarded as hostile to Iran. Soviet Union is careful in its relations with Iran, and GOI does not feel it should react to treaty unless specific developments arise out of the treaty which give cause for concern. However, should Soviets be successful in bringing Kurds, Iraqi communists and Ba’athist Party together in national front this would be a very serious development for Iran.
The Gulf. Shah stresses dependence of Japan and West on Gulf, which has largest proven petroleum reserves in world. Some 17 million barrels of oil daily go through Straits of Hormoz to Japan and to West. Some 10 years from now there will be energy crisis in US. In past Venezuela and US have met some oil shortages of West. This will no longer be possible. Gulf is therefore absolutely vital to security of free world and if the flow of oil was interrupted or if oil came under control of unfriendly governments prepared to use oil as political instrument, free world would be in serious situation and economies of countries like Japan could be forced to complete halt. It therefore important that US and free world took careful look at what is going on in Gulf and about threats to its stability.
United Arab Emirates: Shah traces GOI’s relations with UAE to long negotiations with British over islands and reasons why he felt Iran should occupy them. He stresses that he has set aside the question of sovereignty over [Page 7]Abu Musa waters. Sheikh Zayid of Abu Dhabi is problem. He went off to Libya and other countries and committed himself to ridiculous statements about Iran. He is surrounded by advisers, especially Suweidi, who are of questionable ability and sympathies. This is a situation which has to be watched closely. Iran has established relations with UAE, but Shah is disturbed over trend of developments there and does not believe even stable UAE (which far from certain) will add any strength in Gulf area.
Indian Ocean. Security of Iran and its oil lifeline to West through Straits of Hormuz require that Navy be strengthened. In first instance to secure Iranian interests in Gulf and then from Gulf into Arabian Sea, and on into Indian Ocean. Shah seems uncertain still how far Iran’s responsiblilities in Indian Ocean would go but is convinced Iran has responsibilities in Indian Ocean as well as Gulf from now on.
Chinese communist activities in area. It is difficult to assess importance of China in Middle East. It is undoubtedly factor in strategic balance, but what role it may play not yet clear. It is true that China is supporting the PDRY insurgency against Oman but so were Russians and there seemed to be some competition among them. Iran’s principal interest in establishing relations with Peking is to provide diplomatic and political counterweight to potential/likely pressures on Iran from Soviet Union in future.
United Nations. UN is becoming increasingly [Page 8]impotent as demonstrated by its performance during Indo-Pak conflict and more recently lack of any interest other than that generated by Iran in expulsion of some 60,000 Iranians from Iraq. No one expressed concern or took interest in the matter. Appearance of Chinese at UN change things, but Shah feels in future more natural development will be grouping of countries with similar interests and objectives working together in their common interests.
F–4’s and F–5’s. F–5 is useful aircraft which has more or less outlived its purpose. F–4, and especially F–4E is excellent plane but it is not a match for MIG–23. The latter can climb to 80,000 feet and fire a missile at any plane below that with no need for combat at lower altitudes where F–4 might have advantages. Because of presence of MIG–23 in area as well as development of SU–11, Iran must shortly move to next generation of aircraft. Shah would prefer to buy from United States, but if there is any problem he will turn to French aircraft or consider new plane being developed by British-German combination.
Nuclear policy. Shah is strongly opposed to development of nuclear weapons in Iran. He sees no purpose to diversion of funds for this purpose because at best Iran would be a small nuclear power facing one of biggest, and to what purpose. Rather, he believes that Iran’s best deterrents are an effective modern military force, a sound economy and a declared policy of scorched earth.
In summary, what emerges from such discussions is picture of Shah who:
Domestically, is proud of his country’s achievements in recent years, confident that Iran’s remarkable growth will continue but perhaps at reduced rate, and satisfied that political institutions will take deeper root and grow to accommodate growing aspirations of more literate and prosperous population wanting to participate in political processes: and who
In foreign matters, is troubled by disarray among his neighbors and opportunities this provides for Soviet [Page 9]penetration and manipulation in order achieve historical Soviet objectives in area and especially Gulf, who welcomes friends and allies working with Iran to promote peace and stability in area but who is determined to strengthen country and its armed forces so that Iran can stand alone if necessary.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/NIXON. Secret; Exdis.
  2. The Embassy outlined the Shah’s views on specific domestic and foreign issues which might arise during his meetings with the President.