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

SUBJECT:

  • Iran

A number of policy decisions affecting U.S.-Iranian relations are now before our Government. Some involve military sales and assistance requests. Some are concerned with oil—both our import policy and the pressures we can bring to bear on the companies controlling the Iranian Consortium. An NSCIG paper on “Future U.S. Policy in the Persian Gulf” which raises the whole question of long-range U.S. policy toward Iran has gone to the Review Group on its way to the NSC.

It is the Shah’s contention that because of U.S. interest in the independence and prosperity of Iran, and in keeping both Iran and the Persian Gulf outside the zone of Soviet domination, we should accord an exceptional priority to meeting his requests for help and cooperation. Unless we accept the basic validity of his contention, it is easy for us to reject each of his proposals, one by one, on grounds of cost, lack of urgency, limited capability, undesirable precedent and other arguments. I believe, however, that it is in our own interest to support this concept of a special relationship with Iran; and as Director of Central Intelligence I have a particular responsibility to point out that continuing [Page 2]close U.S.-Iranian ties are essential in order to ensure the receipt of information which is most vital to our national security.

Almost all appropriately classified papers dealing with U.S. policy toward Iran mention the “intelligence facilities” situated there as an important factor affecting our decisions. In some ways it is unfortunate that even at rather high inter-agency levels we can not permit a reasonably complete statement of the accomplishments of these facilities, but this is a subject which honestly deserves maximum security protection. The USSR is aware of the existence and at least the general nature of our intelligence collection sensors in Iran, but we believe they have no accurate idea of the reliability and sophistication of the detailed information they provide us.

To you and a very few others I can say that the [less than 1 line not declassified] collection activities in Iran [text not declassified] Ruling out Afghanistan as politically infeasible, there is no place to which we could transfer these activities were Iran denied us. In time we hope that some of the important coverage now obtained from Iran can be picked up by overhead sensors, but for some years ahead the ground-based facilities will remain absolutely essential if we are to keep our knowledge of the Soviet programs up to date.

The [less than 1 line not declassified] installations in Iran [1 line not declassified] are entirely dependent upon the continuing willingness of the Shah to permit them to operate and to transmit promptly the information they collect. As you consider both our general policy toward Iran, and also the action to be taken on the Shah’s requests for assistance, I urge you to accord great importance to our need to continue utilizing Iran as a base for the collection of highest priority intelligence on the USSR.

Richard Helms
Director
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 601, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. I, 1/20/69–5/31/70. Top Secret; Sensitive. Kissinger wrote on the memo, “Hal—where do we stand on mil credit? HK.”
  2. Saunders sent Kissinger a memorandum from DCI Helms on intelligence facilities in Iran, which both Saunders and Helms felt justified an increase in credit assistance to Tehran even at the expense of other programs.