75. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1 2
- Your Query on Iran’s Role in the Persian Gulf
During your meeting with the CENTO foreign ministers, you asked Assistant Secretary Sisco just how far the U.S. could go in leaving it to Iran to guarantee stability in the Persian Gull. His response is attached but these are its main conclusions:
What Iran Can Do
- Iran has a formidable military capability which—short of direct Soviet aggression—can defend itself from any foreseeable attack. It has the assistance of U.S. military sales credits to help it enhance this capacity over the next few years with the objective of becoming a deterrent of such credibility that it will not be seriously challenged.
- Iran is making diplomatic efforts to secure trans-Gulf friendship and cooperation. [They have successfully resolved the Bahrain issue; they are talking to the Saudis about military cooperation; and they are offering aid and support to the Gulf states.]
- —The traditional Arab/Persian antagonism cannot be overcome overnight.
- —The Arab-Israeli dispute complicates Iran’s efforts to move closer to the Arab states. Its relations with Israel and its CENTO role are visible.
What Iran Cannot Do
- It cannot prevent—despite its military capacity—incipient subversion or revolution among its neighbors, nor arbitrate always successfully disputes among the Gulf states rooted in traditional rivalries and conflicting territorial claims.
- Arab radicalism—despite Iran’s money and support to the moderates—will have to be dealt with in the end by indigenous [Page 2]forces. Its ability to stem Soviet influence—working through Arab radicalism—will also be limited.
- balance, it would appear that Iran should continue to seek the active cooperation of its Islamic neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
A fuller study of the Gulf and discussion of U.S. strategy—including this question of how heavily we can depend on Iran—will be on its way to you through the NSC process.[Page 3]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 601, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. II, 6/1/70–12/70. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped note on the memorandum indicated that President Nixon read it. The report was in response to an attached, undated, handwritten instruction from Nixon, which read, “Give me a report (no priority) on the Shah’s idea of Iran (& Cento) playing a greater role in the Persian Gulf—Is it just too naive—”↩
- Kissinger summarized the conclusions of Assistant Secretary Sisco’s report on the extent to which Iran could guarantee stability in the Persian Gulf.↩
- Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Qaiwain, Fujairah. Total population 453,000 of which 200,000 is on Bahrain.↩