The Shah Is Unhappy Again (1966)

Says US-Iran “Special Relationship” in Jeopardy

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | November 10, 2017                    

The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson

In a May 1966 cable, the U.S. Ambassador to Iran told President Lyndon Johnson that he recommended a retooled approach to Iran: “treating the Shah like an adult” rather than the old “‘Papa knows best’ attitude”.

In July, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. had a lengthy meeting with the monarch—highly frustrated with recent U.S. ‘maltreatment’—which he promptly summarized to George Carroll, who was Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s special assistant on national security. “The Shah is tired of being treated like a schoolboy”, reported Carroll.

As former CIA, both Roosevelt and Carroll had been heavily involved in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in favor of the autocratic Shah. Mossadegh died under house arrest early the following year.

U.S. State Department Documents on Iran | 1951-1954

163. Letter From Vice Presidential Aide George Carroll
to Vice President Humphrey

Washington, July 27, 1966.


Conversation with Kermit Roosevelt

You know Kermit Roosevelt. He is Vice President, Gulf Oil Company. He is also President, Middle East Institute. No American knows the Shah of Iran as well as does Kim. While he was still abroad he communicated with his secretary here in Washington and asked her to arrange a meeting with me upon his arrival. Therefore, the meeting which I now report was held with some sense of urgency.

I learned its urgency as soon as we sat down to talk. The Shah saw Roosevelt for over three hours. Roosevelt’s main conclusion is that the Shah feels that his special relationship with his closest friend, America, is coming to an end. The Shah feels that it is coming to an end because of the indifference of his American friends. American indifference hardly balances the scales because the Shah’s input includes Iran’s contribution to South Vietnam, Iran’s recognition and assistance to Israel, Iran’s standup fight against the incursions of Nasser, etc. [Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser] The Shah feels that it has been a one-way street and that the United States does not really care any more what happens to Iran. He concludes that America does not care because what concerns the Shah does not concern the United States. The Shah is tired of being treated like a schoolboy, particularly by officials of the Agency for International Development. He believes that AID has no legitimate claim upon his right to his own views and to his own policies. The Shah cites, also, Secretary McNamara’s handling of his arms package. [Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara] This is a story in itself.

The story is that the Shah feels that the United States is charging him more money in interest for a Hawk Battalion than anybody else. [surface-to-air missile] He feels that the money Secretary McNamara wants to charge him for other military items is usurious and discriminatory.

Because of this maltreatment the Shah concludes that America does better by its enemies than it does by its friends. The Shah is certain that Nasser is given quicker and fairer treatment than is Iran. He spells out chapter and verse to show that the United States has shown no gratitude for his support in South Vietnam.

Concerning the current withdrawal of British power from the Middle East, the Shah has led the way in realizing that this power vacuum must be filled and that Iran can relieve the United States of an appreciable part of the cost. Roosevelt says the Shah believes that Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and perhaps Iraq can hold the line against Nasser and the U.S.S.R., but they must have the support and understanding of the United States.

The Shah realizes that the reason why the Soviets have not yet responded to his overtures for arms is because the Shah wants SAM-2’s [surface-to-air missiles] and the Soviets do not want these missiles placed in a country which has an American military mission. The Shah knows that the Russians would like to respond positively but must hesitate over the question of missiles for Iran. The Shah wondered aloud to Roosevelt over how the United States and Iran could have arrived at a parting of the ways. Heretofore, the United States had realized the importance of Iran and its geographic location. The Shah’s relations with the United States have been confidential, cooperative, and rewarding for both sides. The Shah could not understand how the United States could charge him more interest than it charged others. This seemed to be the last straw.

Roosevelt said he had reported this conversation to Ambassador Meyer. [Armin H. Meyer, U.S. Ambassador to Iran] He had also seen Walt Rostow early this morning. [LBJ’s National Security Advisor] Rostow did not seem convinced of the seriousness of the situation, Roosevelt thought, and told Roosevelt that he thought the acceptance by Iran of Soviet arms represented an inevitable step in the “normalization” of U.S.-Irananian relations. Roosevelt said he planned to see Assistant Secretary Ray Hare this afternoon or tomorrow.

• Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XXII, Iran (1999)

• “Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, EX FO–5, 6/30/66–8/31/66. No classification marking” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian


Related links:

Shah “Quite Unhappy” About Mossadegh Win, Oil Nationalization (May 1951)

Shah Of Iran Spells Good News For U.S. | Holmes Alexander (1967)

Security During Iran Crisis (November 26, 1979)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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