86. Memorandum From the National Intelligence Officer for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Horelick) to Director of Central Intelligence Turner and the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (Carlucci)1


  • Vance-Dobrynin Conversation

1. Dobrynin has been recalled to Moscow for 10 days for consultations and is leaving today. Because of his imminent departure, Secretary Vance called Dobrynin in this morning to protest this morning’s Pravda article by A. Petrov on Iran.2 [portion marking not declassified]

[Page 229]

2. Two days ago the Soviets advised us in an oral note that they had made a démarche to the Iranians urging the release of the hostages and expressed the hope that the US would continue to act with restraint in this matter.3 [portion marking not declassified]

3. Secretary Vance said that the US appreciated the cooperation of the Soviet Union in some matters pertaining to Iran and took note of the Soviet démarche to Iran several days ago. But the Secretary went on to say that the Soviets were now undercutting this kind of useful behavior with the Petrov article.4 [portion marking not declassified]

4. Dobrynin replied that he had not seen the article but from what he had been told it probably reflected anxiety in Moscow about reports of American preparations to take other measures. He said that military action by the US would create a situation in which the question would be raised about possible Soviet involvement. The Soviet side would want very much for that question not even to be raised. [portion marking not declassified]

5. Secretary Vance said that the President would exhaust all diplomatic means to resolve the issue, but that if any harm were done to the hostages that would create an intolerable situation. Dobrynin said that he understood that harm to the hostages would represent a kind of threshold for us (Although Vance was not unconditional or explicit on this point, it would not be unreasonable for the Soviets to infer from what he said that if the hostages were not harmed, the US would not resort to military force—ALH). [portion marking not declassified]

6. Dobrynin asked Vance if the US agreed that Khomeini may be looking for a face saving way out. Vance said that if that were the case, we had indicated that we would be prepared to work out something with the Iranian authorities (The context in which Dobrynin asked this question did not seem to suggest that the Soviets had their own source of information on Khomeini’s desires for a face-saving solution, but seemed rather to suggest a speculative line of inquiry intended to probe US willingness to compromise rather than employ force—ALH). [portion marking not declassified]

7. SALTDobrynin said that Vasev had reported to Moscow that the Administration would not push for SALT ratification. Vance said he was conveying to Dobrynin a decision by the President that the Administration would indeed push for SALT ratification and would [Page 230] convey the treaty to the Senate in January (The implication intended may have been that the Soviets indeed did still have something to lose by exploiting Iran against us as in the Petrov article—ALH). [portion marking not declassified]

Arnold L. Horelick>5
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81M00919R: Executive Registry Subject Files (1976–1979), Box 14, Folder 12: C–372. Secret; Sensitive. Sent through Clarke. A copy was sent to the NIO for warning.
  2. The Pravda article by A. Petrov states that, while contrary to the Vienna Convention, the hostage situation had to be understood in the historical context of U.S. actions toward Iran; that the United States was preparing to use force; that Israel had offered its services for this and that the Pentagon would use bases in Egypt; and that Kennedy and Young supported the extradition of the Shah. The article included a warning from Brezhnev against any outside interference in Iran’s internal affairs. According to an INR analysis, the article’s byline implied high-level Foreign Ministry approval but was essentially “an exercise in waffling” since it omitted an earlier statement by Brezhnev that U.S. military intervention was an infringement of Soviet national security. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR and East/West File, Box 56, West Europe Country File, Iran 11/79–7/80)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 83.
  4. In the reply to the Soviet message, the United States included a formal complaint about the article. The U.S. message was transmitted in telegram 315754 to Moscow, December 8. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 30, Iran 12/5/79–12/9/79) It is printed in Foreign Relations, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 237.
  5. Horelick signed “Arnold” above this typed signature.