292. Memorandum From Gary Sick of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • “Black Chamber” Meeting

The most important issue to be resolved today is an agreed strategy on [less than 1 line not declassified] the objective of our political action strategy for Iran.

You will recall that CIA did an initial paper which proposed U.S. advice and support for the Bakhtiar/Oveissi efforts. They were asked to reformulate their proposal [1 line not declassified]. We reviewed their revised proposal last week, and ZB sent Turner a memo asking him to put the proposal in the form of a memo to the President (Tab C).

The proposed memo to the President is at Tab B.2 All of the participants at the meeting will be familiar with the general thrust of this [Page 801] proposal, although they will not have seen the final draft. Frank Carlucci would very much like to get authoritative guidance on this proposal before he leaves on Sunday [less than 1 line not declassified].

—Can we reach consensus on forwarding this to the President?

—Do we need to have a further meeting of principals?

Guidance for Use With Contacts

In my memo to you and ZB last week, I proposed an action strategy which would give CIA specific guidance on the “message” they can use with their various contacts. I was authorized to contact the various participants of this meeting in advance to try out this idea. I have talked with Frank Carlucci, Bob Komer, and John Pustay. I am scheduled to see Newsom this afternoon prior to the meeting.

Komer and Pustay agreed wholeheartedly with the general approach of focusing our efforts on countering Soviet penetration and the growth of radical leftist forces in Iran. Carlucci thought my original formulation was too negative—stressing what we did not want rather than what we hoped to achieve. I have tried to incorporate their comments in the draft guidance at Tab A.3 I hope to get a preliminary reaction from Newsom prior to the meeting.

The proposed guidance would serve three purposes:

—It lays out a general overview of the situation from the U.S. point of view. In the past, our “message” to the various Iranian groups has tended to be imprecise and confusing, and this has hampered our credibility. Hopefully, this guidance would help us speak with one voice.

—It makes clear our opposition to premature and ill-guided military operations launched from Iraq (the “White Russian” syndrome). Oveissi and his supporters are presently very active in this country and elsewhere (they saw Sadat last month)4 drumming up enthusiasm for a military coup.

—It focuses the objective of our efforts on the internal situation in Iran, by encouraging the development of a coalition of forces to actively [Page 802] resist Soviet penetration and the growth of radical leftist forces. This will not be popular with Oveissi and others who have convinced themselves that they have the capability to go for Khomeini’s jugular. However, it provides a practical and realistic objective which is shared by virtually all the dissident groups—and a large part of the Iranian population.

An Azerbaijan Strategy

The greatest immediate danger of Soviet penetration is in Azerbaijan. We have recently had reports that the Soviets are offering attractive commercial credits to the powerful guilds in the bazaar in Tabriz. We know that a Soviet intelligence infrastructure remains from the days when a puppet Soviet regime ruled the region. We suspect that the efforts of the Moslem Peoples Republican Party (MPRP—representing a moderate Shariatmadari alternative to mullah rule) to build support in the military in Azerbaijan was thwarted because of Soviet penetration.

[1 paragraph (9 lines) not declassified]

[1½ lines not declassified] Azerbaijan is not only vulnerable to the Soviets, but it is the historical center of political movements for change. The Azeris are the largest minority group in Iran. They are not only a regional force, since they dominate the Tehran bazaar and hold key positions in government, military and commerce throughout Iran. They have a potential alternative religious leader to KhomeiniShariatmadari—who will be of supreme importance in maintaining order if and when Khomeini’s regime collapses.

[1 paragraph (4 lines) not declassified]

Propaganda and Disinformation

Bob Komer feels strongly that we should be more active and imaginative in discrediting the Soviet role in Iran and cynical Soviet support for the Khomeini forces. You may want to ask him to speak to this and suggest some ideas of how we could be more aggressive.

Turkey and Pakistan

In the long run, our best opportunity for developing ties to a hostile Iranian regime lies through its two neighbors. This meeting is not the place for a full-scale discussion of this issue. However, I recommend that State, CIA and perhaps JCS be asked to develop some thoughts on how we can begin to encourage closer ties between these three neighbors and how we might best exploit such ties to promote some degree of political stability.

Obviously, if a serious Azerbaijan strategy begins to develop, Turkey will be key. We have some indications that Turkey [less than 1 line not declassified] may be willing to play this game.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 87, For President or Brzezinski Only File, Iran Sensitive 5/80–10/80. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Tab B, not attached, is printed as Document 293.
  3. Tab A is attached but not printed. The final version is attached to Document 293.
  4. At their May 24 meeting, Sadat expressed his confidence in Oveissi’s ability to change events in Iran. He also acknowledged Oveissi’s monetary reliance on the Iraqis, but warned him to “be wary of Iraqi intentions.” Sadat advised him to line up the support of all the friendly Persian Gulf countries, to obtain U.S. acquiescence in this, to build his strength inside Iran (particularly through his ongoing broadcasts), and to avoid undue contact with the Shah. Sadat told Oveissi that, unlike the Soviet Union, the United States did not fully understand the seriousness of the Iranian situation and had to be “force fed like a baby.” (Memorandum of conversation, May 30; Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files, Box 14, Folder 1)