328. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Turner to the Deputy Director for the National Foreign Assessment Center, Central Intelligence Agency (Clarke), and the Deputy Director for Operations, Central Intelligence Agency (McMahon)1


  • Possible Policy Options: Iran

1. I have your respective submissions on possible policy options in Iran [document numbers not declassified] as requested by Dr. Brzezinski on 17 July.2 First, we have to put this into context. We submitted a paper outlining possible policy options in Iran that we would be willing to develop for Brzezinski if he wanted.3 He responded by ignoring that general request but asking for papers on two specific areas. I’m afraid I don’t think that either of the papers we have developed is fully responsive to his request for a survey of the options that are available to us. Such a survey really should include (as he asked for) both the costs and the benefits of these actions. [portion marking not declassified]

2. With respect to the DDO paper [less than 1 line not declassified] we really are primarily giving him an inventory of what we have done or will do. Much of this is fine, but what he wants to know is what we could do against either of these and what the costs and benefits would be. I think he really wants to help us. If we give him three or four covert actions that we could do [less than 1 line not declassified] and what they might produce at what risk, he might help sell those. In short, I think we should have a rather short paper on each which says that we can continue with the present kind of propaganda operations (and a list of those we have done and are planning to do as appended), but that we also could undertake more forceful actions against Khomeini. [4 lines not declassified]

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3. On the NFAC paper,4 it seems to me we have real trouble writing a pro and con paper—I think our analysts all belong in the policy end of the business! Perhaps the situation is absolutely as bleak as [name not declassified] paper makes out—that is, there simply is no benefit whatsoever to be had from any of the non-lethal military options. I frankly doubt that. I really would like to see us lay out both sides of the story, or otherwise we surely will be accused of being subtle advocates. For instance, mining of exports as well as imports will surely have some substantial financial impact. In the past, we have judged this to be insignificant because of all the money the Iranians have banked outside of the country. I think that analysis is a little overdone in view of the fact that it would certainly cause some short-term dislocations if their income was cut off. Beyond that, I sense from intelligence reports of late that the Iranians may be having greater financial problems than we thought they would. Another benefit, it seems to me, would be a demonstration of U.S. resolve. In fact, rather than being a sign of political maneuvering if such a move were executed on 5 November, it could be a clear sign of U.S. determination to solve this problem when there was no political gain to be had (all assuming that the President is re-elected, of course). Still another benefit, it would seem to me, would be a clear demonstration to the anti-Khomeini elements that the United States was basically behind them. Isn’t there still a residue of suspicion in Iran that the United States has been behind Khomeini all along? Beyond this, I think we have stretched a little bit in some of the “anti” points just to be sure we make them. Let’s pare the “con” down to those that are most important and realistic. Finally, I don’t think we need our encyclopedia to review what everybody in the world is going to think about this. We’ve got to put our response in as succinct a form as possible if it is going to be useful. I’d appreciate your turning people loose on this quickly as I’d like to take a revised response down to Brzezinski on Wednesday, 30 July. [portion marking not declassified]

Stansfield Turner5
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files, Box 13, Folder 1: C–372 Iran 01 Aug 80–31 Aug 80. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].
  2. Brzezinski had asked Turner to provide him with two assessments. The first request was for a fresh look at the options and potential costs and benefits for an analysis of “covert and other pressures” [text not declassified] against Khomeini. The second request was for an evaluation of the “mining, blockade and other possible non-lethal options for intensifying pressure against Iran,” including costs, benefits, and domestic and international reactions. (Memorandum from Brzezinski to Turner, July 17; ibid.)
  3. The undated paper, “Possible Policy Options: Iran,” is an itemized outline of possible U.S. relations options with the Khomeini regime and possible U.S. policy at the Shah’s death. (Ibid.)
  4. This July 25 paper, “Iran: US Non-Lethal Military Options,” concluded that none of these options would lead to the release of the hostages. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files, Box 13, Folder 1: C–372 Iran)
  5. [name not declassified] signed above Turner’s typed signature.