297. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Saunders) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Newsom)1


  • Contacts with General Oveissi

General Oveissi left Iran shortly before the Shah—exhausted and in flight as one of the most hated figures in the Shah’s government. During his career as a military officer he was unpopular with his subordinates and owed his success primarily to his close relationship with the Shah. After a period of retreat in the U.S., he became active again among opposition figures and is now becoming—even more than former Prime Minister Bakhtiar—the most prominent oppositionist.

The CIA began [less than 1 line not declassified] contact with Oveissi following the hostage crisis. DOD officers have been in touch with him since his arrival here. CIA disclaims that any tangible support is being provided to him and insists that we “need to stay in touch.” The impression in the Iranian exile community, however, is increasingly that the U.S. is supporting Oveissi. This impression has caused previously timid Iranian money to come forth for his cause and may have contributed to the decision of the Iraqis to give him facilities for a radio station.

There are rumors that Oveissi was recently in Washington and that a group in DIA is seeking to arrange a meeting with Secretary [Page 820] Brown and General Jones. Beginning with the appearance of the recent New York Times article2 on Oveissi we can expect more and more attention to him and an increased perception that we are backing him.

Oveissi has, particularly with the appearance of U.S. backing, the capacity to cause serious trouble in Iran. No analyst we know of believes he has a future as a political leader in Iran. He is still in Iranian eyes probably the most hated of former Shah supporters. Before we go further in our contacts with Oveissi, or, rather, whether we continue them at the present level, we owe it to ourselves to examine the probable consequences of his activities.

—What are the consequences for hostage release? Will the increased turmoil produced by Oveissi’s agents (with our perceived backing) work for or against release?

—What are the likely effects on the creation of new institutions and a return to stability to Iran?

—How will the perception of our backing for Oveissi affect current or potential opposition groups (e.g., Madani)?

—How do his activities relate to the growth in strength of the Iranian left?

—How will his activities affect regional peace, i.e., Iran-Iraq, and what are the implications for oil supply and Turkey?

Those agencies who believe in contact with, or support for, Oveissi should be asked to respond to these questions. You may wish to discuss them with the intelligence community. In our view, there is a good case for closely restricting our contacts with Oveissi.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Records, Iran 80. Secret. Drafted by Precht. Cleared in draft by Miles Greene.
  2. Richard Burt, New York Times, June 12, p. A12, called Oveissi the leader of the Iranian opposition and quoted him as saying there would soon be a counter revolution in Iran.