232. Telegram 6611 From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]

Subject:

  • Operation Enhance Plus

Ref:

  • (A) State 199893 (B) Tehran 6520
1.
We welcome opportunity to examine further, as suggested in ref (A), how we can constructively respond to Shah’s magnanimous action in supporting our efforts in Vietnam for peace settlement. Our views will be submitted shortly in septel.
2.
However, we have more immediate problem which is to restore atmosphere and spirit of good will and cooperation generated by Shah’s forthcoming response to our request, all of which have been badly shattered by what from here appears to be astonishing violation of Shah’s confidence and understanding we had urged on the Shah regarding security aspects of this exercise.
3.
Messages from Washington on this subject have stressed highly classified nature of this operation and have instructed us to impress upon Shah and Iranian authorities that matter be closely held. Shah and General Khatami of IIAF read and concurred [garble] appropriate cover story for use with Iranian personnel involved in operation.
4.
In addition, we conveyed to appropriate Iranian authorities press guidance set forth in State 195418 which in view of tight security of this exercise we said would hold until we were notified otherwise. On basis of experience here in thdle matters we were reasonably satisfied that operation enhance pluse would not surface in press here, but we remained conerned in this aspect of operation because, as shah has mentioned on more than one occasion in recent years, “we can maintain your security, but can you?”
5.
Question on security of Operation Enhance Plus arose late evening Friday, November 3, when on instructions from [Page 2]Shah Court Minister Alam called Ambassador regarding report Shah had just received to effect news report about this operation breaking in Washington. Alam wanted Ambassador to know Shah was greatly disturbed over this development which he assumed was based on leak. Ambassador informed Alam that as far as we knew, press guidance as outlined State 195418 remained in effect and, further, we had no reports from Washington to suggest any change. Alam called back shortly thereafter to report that shah had decided not pursue matter at that time with any announcement by GOI because he did not wish to react to what was still unconfirmed and possibly tendacious press reports.
6.
We are spelling this out as background to explain our shock and consternation in finding in morning November 4 traffic routine unclassified messages indicating that Iran’s role in Operation Enhance Plus and that of several other countries was announced by official DOD spokesman without any prior consultation with Iran or warning to us. At a time when we are seeking strengthen sense of collaboration in our military and other relations with Iran and success has been achieved by Shah’s forthcoming response to our request for help on F–5 matter, and further when we are currently seeking ways to respond to Shah’s helpful action, we are now placed in extremely awkward position of having in effect violated unilaterally confidence we urged upon Shah and with which he readily agreed. Shah, who is sensitive about these matters, can be expected take this as personal affront. As but one indication of storm we face on this matter, DCM, in absence of Ambassador who out of Tehran today with Shah for inaugural ceremonies, was called urgently to MFA and asked about what was described as “very unfortunate comments by DOD spokesmen with extremely serious implications for Iran.”
7.
In short, after benifitting from Iran’s sense of cooperation we have turned around and put this country on spot. As matter of utmost importance and urgency we request clarification of what factors prompted DOD to depart from accepted press guidance [Page 3]and unilaterally and publicly mention Iran’s role in F–5 transfer to Vietnam. We also request having all other pertinent factors bearing on matter so that we can give Shah as credible explanation as possible for what appears to have been incredible goof.
8.
In meantime, in answer to press inquiries we are taking line that we know nothing more than was released in Washington and that local correspondents should address GOI for any further information.
9.
New subject. Now that Operation Enhance Plus is basically in public realm, can messages regarding this subject be taken out of Top Secret and Nodis classifications?
Farland
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19–8 US-IRAN. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis. In Telegram 201483 to Tehran, November 5, the Department explained with regret that since the story had been leaked to the New York Times, the Defense spokesman had been forced to address it. (Ibid.)
  2. The Ambassador expressed the chagrin of both the Iranian Government and the Embassy that Iran’s role in the mission to send F–5As to Vietnam had been divulged in a Department of Defense briefing.