212. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

[Page 1]

SUBJECT:

  • Message from Ambassador Farland

Ambassador Farland has sent you the message at Tab B. In it he notes that British, French and Italian arms salesmen are putting the hard sell on the Iranian armed forces and are encountering increasing receptivity. He says that his MAAG Chief has hesitated to push US weapons—which the Iranians would prefer—since there is a point of view “in certain echelons of the USG to the effect that we should do what is possible to prevent Iran, in our studied wisdom, from overbuying.” Farland says his view is that “as long as Iran can financially afford both guns and butter there is no reason for us to lose the market, particularly when viewed over the red ink on our balance of payments ledger.” He asks for your guidance and says that his MAAG chief will be instructed accordingly.

The message I propose in reply [Tab A] quite simply states that we should leave decisions on what to buy to the Government of Iran and confine ourselves to assuring that the Iranian Government has good technical advice from our military people on the capabilities of the equipment involved.

You are separately receiving a decision memorandum on the items which the President promised to the Shah when he was in Tehran. I have included the above guidance in the decision memorandum in that package as well. Therefore, you can reply to Farland both by telling him what our position is and by saying that this position will be confirmed by a Presidential directive here in the next few days.

RECOMMENDATION: That you approve sending the message at Tab A to Farland by the back channel.

Approve [HAK]
Other ___________

Tab A
Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Iran (Farland)

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With regard to the question of U.S. arms sales in Iran, the President’s policy is to encourage purchase of U.S. equipment. Decisions as to desirability of equipment acquisition should be left in the hands of the Iranian Government and the U.S. should not undertake to discourage on economic grounds. The U.S. should offer technical advice on the capabilities of the equipment in question. If the Government of Iran has decided to buy certain equipment, no restrictions other than the normal licensing and legal requirements should be placed on U.S. firms which are prepared to supply it, and normal Embassy facilitative services should. be made available.

This general principle will be confirmed here in a Presidential directive in the next few days when instructions are issued in connection with the specific items that the President promised the Shah when he was in Tehran. You will receive instructions on those through normal channels as soon as the directive is issued. Warm regards.

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Tab B
Message from the Ambassador to Iran (Farland) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)

General Williamson, Chief, ARMISH/MAAG, has informed me England, France and Italy are putting hard sell on Iranian armed forces and are encountering increasing receptivity. Williamson further advised that Iranian armed forces would prefer US equipment, i.e. 200 M60 tanks, Maverick and Hawk missiles, light vehicles, etc. sum involved in excess of $250 million. Williamson has hesitated to push US armament sales since there is definitely a point of view in certain echelons USG to effect that we should do that which is possible to prevent Iran, in our studied wisdom, from overbuying. I heard this position voiced extensively by James H. Noyes, Deputy Asst. Secretary DOD, on May 11 last. Further, it was this stance which activated the recent sale of 800 Chieftain tanks by England to Iran since Iran believed US posture on tank purchase would be negative. My view is that as long as Iran can financially afford both guns and butter there is no reason for us to lose the market, particularly when viewed over the red ink on our balance of payments ledger. Would greatly appreciate your guidance and Williamson will be counseled accordingly. Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 602, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. IV, 9/1/71–4/73. Top Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten note on the memorandum reads “Haig and HAK sent with addition of sentence pencilled on draft at Tab A. 7/17/72. No further action required.” The additional pencilled sentence at the end of the first paragraph of Tab A reads, “In short, it is not repeat not our policy to discourage Iranian arms purchases.” Next to the addition was a handwritten note, “Change added by HAK.” Tab A is the backchannel message as submitted by the White House for transmission.
  2. Saunders conveyed the recommendation from Ambassador Farland that the United States cease discouraging Iran from overspending on military items, to the detriment of U.S. arms suppliers.