Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Stuart Rockwell



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Narrator: Ambassador Stuart Rockwell
Date: May 20, 1987
Place: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi

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Q. Mr. Ambassador, if I could begin this session by asking you to describe the extent and nature of your familiarity with and knowledge of Iran before you actually arrived there as Minister, I believe, in 1960.

A. Yes, I was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1956 until 1960 with particular responsibility for Greece, Turkey and Iran and Cypress, so I had a general knowledge of our relationship with Iran during that period although I had never been there. In late 1959, I was informed that I was to be made Minister at Tehran and I therefore took a brief course in the Persian language and departed for Iran in March of 1960, where I remained until the summer of 1965 as Minister in our Embassy. I considered it one of the most interesting and enjoyable tours of diplomatic duty that I had during my entire career for several reasons. First, the challenging and interesting nature of our relationship with Iran; secondly, the nature of the Iranian people whom we met during our stay in Tehran, some of whom remain our closest friends that we made among the representatives and citizens of the countries in which we served during my career; and thirdly because Iran itself is a fascinating country full of historical interest and natural beauty. Of course the main preoccupation during my assignment to Tehran was our relationship with that country and notably because of the political system in Iran, our relationship with the Shah himself. It was not an easy relationship. Not because our basic interest did not seem to be the same, but because of the personality and the policies of the Shah himself. Also a problem was the attitude of segments of the American people and to a certain extent of the administration of President Kennedy toward the Iranian problem as seen in this country notably what was perceived as an increasingly authoritarian regime denying to the Iranian people the possibility of a democratic participation in the political system of the country. This combination of currents and political pressures made it sometimes difficult for the U.S. Embassy to maintain the kind of relationship with the Iranian Government and with the Shah which would have resulted in a smooth and uncomplicated day to day relationship. On the whole however, it seemed to me that as far as that relationship was concerned that during those years from 1960 to 1965, that the outlook and the general characteristic of that relationship was positive. The Shah saw in the United States a powerful friend which shared his general outlook toward the region notably that there was a joint desire for stability, there was concern over the motives and methods of the Soviet Union, there was concern over the effects of radical Arab nationalism as headed up by Colonel Nasser in Cairo, and there was a belief, I think, shared by both parties increasingly as the end of that period approached that Iran was, under the Shah, was in a increasingly good position to exercise a moderating and stabilizing influence on the region. The U.S. regarded the Shah as a desirable political asset, there's no doubt about that. He shared, as I said, or seemed to share, some of the major purposes that formed the basis of our policy toward the area, and he regarded, the Shah regarded us as a distant yet usefully powerful friend who did not have, territorial or political designs upon this country contrary to the Soviet Union. At the same time the Shah was quick to resent any apparent effort by the United States to interfere in what he regarded as his personal domain of the Iranian political situation. And this was the major cause of problems for the Embassy during that period notably the pressure from the United States both through the media and private groups and particularly during the Kennedy Administration from the Government itself to convey to the Shah the message that the United States felt that his regime and the welfare of the country would be greatly strengthened if it were possible to gradually alter the autocratic and one man nature of Iranian rule in the direction of a greater participation by the Iranian people in the political process of governing notably through the development of what was called a bridgehead toward the middle class. Iranian society at that time was largely composed of a miniscule elite at the top and a large and apolitical majority of peasant farmers many of whom were illiterate and a small but growing middle class concentrated in the large cities and comprising a number of politically active and knowledgeable intellectuals. It was this latter segment that Washington felt could be used and should be used to develop the growth and democracy in Iran always under the leadership of the Shah. It was precisely this outlook on the part of private and public American interest that caused the Shah to be suspicious that the Embassy was not as thoroughly committed to his own way of seeing things in Iran as he would like it to be. And it caused trouble for the Embassy in its efforts although I must confess they were not extensive because they were under we were under certain amount of constraint with regard to dealing with the opposition. Such efforts as we did make to maintain contact with them rapidly became known to the Shah and caused him on more than one occasion to complain in Washington that the Embassy was undermining his authority.

Q. Do you recall the incident?

A. This was particularly notable in the case of our connections with Dr. Ali Amini who was an Iranian politician in my view with a broader view than most of them had and a more courageous attitude toward solving the problems especially in the political field of his country. We did not have with him any contacts that would be considered in any normal situation as subversive or as seeking to undermine the authority of the Shah. We had paid no secret to the fact however that we regarded him as one of the more positive elements on the Iranian political scene. And he was cordially received at the Embassy, and we were, I guess, pleased when the Shah chose him to be Prime Minister. However, there is no doubt we had problems with Dr. Amini when he became Prime Minister. He felt at one time that we were not living up to the commitments we made with respect to financial assistance. But in any event that kind of a situation was typical of the difficulty of dealing with the Shah, particularly as he grew more and more certain of himself and unwilling to listen to anything which could be considered to be criticism of his conduct of the political situation in Iran. At the same time there grew, there was a growing cooperation between the United States and Iran in the military field. This was coincident with the enormous growth in the Iranian income from the exploitation of Iranian oil. The Shah welcomed this growth in revenue which he proceeded to use not only in connection with the purposes of the "Enghelab-e Sefid" or "white revolution" but also to strengthen the military establishment to the point where by the end of 1965 he was by far Iran was by far the most powerful military force in the Gulf. And Iranian military force had been used not only to take over the Islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb but also to send a force to support the Sultan of Oman in suppressing the revolution in Dhofar. This increase and use of, this strengthening of Iran in the Military field was seen as a positive development by the United States; however, concomitantly there was a real concern that the Shah was going too fast, that he was devoting too much of Iranian revenue to the purchase of sophisticated equipment which could not be absorbed or might not be likely to be absorbed by the relatively unsophisticated Iranian military establishment, and also that the use of so much revenue for military purposes was depriving the Iranian nation of much needed injection of funds for other needed social and economic developments such as health services, irrigation, the building of roads, whatever. This is not to say that the Shah was not spending a good deal of money on those purposes and during the time that I was there, there were tremendous advances in the economic infrastructure of the country. The indirect results of the white revolution brought prosperity on an unheard of scale to many many Iranians who never had any money to speak of. And so you found the streets of Tehran becoming choked with private automobiles, enormous traffic jams, people were not happy unless they had a refrigerator, a clothes dryer, a large numbers of new apartment buildings went up in Tehran and so the increased prosperity of Iran was being spread about to the point where it created a number of rising expectations among the citizens which rose to the point where they could not be satisfied. However, that's another story and the results of that dissatisfaction only became apparent much later. And during the time that I was there of which I am speaking, Iran seemed to be surging forward. The political complaints which had been quite vociferous when I first arrived became muted as people, especially people who had exiled themselves for political reasons began to see that there was opportunity for them at home and many of the most vociferous critics of the Shah turned up back in Tehran and were given well paying and meaningful jobs in the Administration. Naturally their political complaints ceased immediately and they became apparently at least on the surface some of the Shah's strongest supporters. All of this was rather ironic we felt. But it is typical of the times which were good or seemed to be good to those of us who were there and who were dedicated to our friendship with Iran and had full hope that although the Shah was an autocrat and was increasingly difficult to deal with as he became more and more powerful and things seemed to be going better and better. But nonetheless, the outcome at the end would be good for the average Iranian and for the United States, whose interest in the prosperity and stability of Iran was great, particularly in view of the negative developments that were occurring at the same time in the area. I speak of the Arab-Israel problem, the invasion of Cypress, the difficulties in Pakistan with India. Iran seemed to be emerging as an island of stability a thing which the Shah of course was quick to point out to everybody as reason for our continuing support in fact or increasing it. The Shah of course saw himself as the benefactor of his country. He often said that he intended to bring Iran to the level of a Western European country before he turned his reign over to his son. Insofar as his dealings with the political situation in Iran were concerned, he felt that Iranians were an undisciplined, unsophisticated and uneducated people as far as politics were concerned and the only way to bring them to a degree of mature political activity was by a general and gradual process of education under the beneficial and beneficent tutelage of an intelligent and dedicated sovereign. In furtherance of this idea, he interfered quite regularly in the political process notably by seeking to control the elections to the Majles and by dissolving the Majles if it did not behave as he thought it should. He said that one of the problems he had with the Majles was that despite his efforts to make sure that enlightened and positive thinking people were elected that it always seemed to happen that the Majles had too many fanatic right wing landowners who resisted reforms, the reforms that he had in mind bringing about under the egis of the white revolution, notably land reform, or that it was represented, it had too large a representation of dedicated left wing irrational and almost fanatic people who wished Iran to move much faster toward a fully participatory democracy that he the Shah felt it was possible for it to do given the lack of political education and the lack of discipline which he felt the Iranian people showed. This obviously, this situation presented a constant possibility of clash between the throne and the domestic political elements and ... that during the time that I was there anyway there was really no meaningful progress toward a truly democratic development in the country. Although a casual observer I think particularly looking at the situation in the surrounding Arab states and the Soviet Union would have been rather impressed by the degree of political opposition that was expressed by the Iranians without fear of reprisal of any kind, and in the press. However, there is no doubt that anybody who was considered as being seriously involved in opposition to the regime, particularly if it was clandestine was apt to get in serious and very painful trouble. And this was one of the real reasons that so much trouble occurred later because of the security forces which became increasingly violent and outrageous in their treatment of people who often, in at least a Westerners view could be considered to be nothing more dangerous than a dedicated liberal. At the time that I was there, these incidents though they did occur, were not so numerous as to provoke widespread discontent and people knew that if they minded their own business and did not seek to undermine the authority of the Shah that they could prosper and lead useful and untroubled lives. So on the whole and speaking only from the point of view of a foreign observer and an American official who was interested in the maintenance of good relations between Iran and the United States. The period 1960-1965 was very good from our point of view, and we thought from the point of view of Iran as a whole. Never being unaware of the fact that there were Iranians who did not agree and that the Shah had many weaknesses as a ruler. Nonetheless, I think we felt that his positive characteristics outweighed the negative ones, and that if he were to be permitted to continue his policies as he set them forth, that the end result would be a strengthened Iran and probably one where the Shah would have set into motion the forces that he could not control in the sense of the development of democracy. And one has to admit I think that the Shah took a number of courageous steps that were most unusual in a Middle Eastern country. One was land reform. He made, deliberately made enemies of some of the most powerful political figures in the country by depriving them of the basis of their wealth i.e. their villages which in some cases were thirty miles square in territory, and by the establishment of the literacy core where he deliberately began a process where the illiterate majority of Iran became educated and could read and could express opinions and read more about politics by reading the papers than they ever had, all of which could lead to a greater participation of the people in the political process not necessarily always in favor of the throne. So I think it is one of the most poignant aspects of the Iranian tragedy that the Shah who, whatever may have been his weaknesses, was considered by us to have the best interest of Iran in mind and to be rather far-sighted and courageous in undertaking what he considered to be reforms although reforms under the control of the throne that the things that he was trying to do were not at the time appreciated by many Iranian intellectuals who resented his control as appreciated as they might have been especially in retrospect now that one sees the current situation in that country.

Q. One of the things that I was wondering about is when someone of your stature or even someone less senior gets assigned to Iran in a political post, how much of an opportunity does he have to really go over the correspondence or reports of previous officials in Iran. How far back would he normally go, for instance when you went over in 1960 were you familiar with the reports that had been written in the late 40's by George Allen and by Ambassador Henderson about especially about the way they viewed the Shah's mode of government and behavior and assets and liabilities and so on? How much of what had happened before did the person going to Iran take with them? How much did he have to discover on his own, re-invent the wheel if I may?

A. Well of course I had been in the State Department for four years before I went there so I was aware of the reporting from Tehran during that period and anybody who is going to a country like that would obviously want to read up, both in the official files and data and private writers concerning the country so I think that the general outline of the Shah's attitude and of our problems with him and of the developments in the country were quite well known. The history of our relationship with the Shah depended a great deal on the Shah's personality and it went back from the change that occurred when he first ascended the throne as an inexperienced, and moody and insecure young man to his gradual development, particularly as his country became wealthier and more influential into a chief of state of supreme self-confidence and arrogant disregard for the views of other people. So the Shah's general policy and our general problems with him were quite well known to those of us who before one would have gone out there. And they did not change really basically. It was a one man situation and one had to deal with the one man, because there was nothing else really. He had managed to make certain that there were no rivals to authority. Prime Minister's were coming and going as he saw fit to have them do. They did not have an independent power with the exception of course of Mohammad Mossadegh, a tumultuous period and one of extreme difficulty for the Shah but that was long before I got there.

Q. You were talking about the stress that the Shah put on Military power, Military force as opposed to other aspects of life such as education and so on. And I was struck by a quotation by President Eisenhower. This is dated 14 December 1959. I believe this is the statement he made while he was visiting Iran for a half a day. The press report said Eisenhower said freedom could be lost if "basic aspirations of humanity were not served." And then he also said that military strength alone couldn't insure security. This is sort of a surprizing thing for a President, General Eisenhower to say to the Shah of Iran because one sort of expected that these kind of statements would have been made during the Kennedy administration and not the last days of Eisenhower. Do you happen to remember the circumstances for Eisenhower making such a dramatic statement?

A. No, I do not remember the specific circumstances but there was a continuing concern in Washington that Iran that the Iranian regime was too autocratic and did not provide the basis for a wider participation by the political elements in the process of governing. And I would think that such a statement by the President could of course also be considered to refer to the Soviet Union. But also might have been thought to be useful in prodding the Shah to make some move in the direction of building a more democratic political structure.

Q. But looking back did this surprise you that even the time of Eisenhower administration this concern was at a level that the President himself would have made such a statement?

A. I don't think that it is surprising that the concern existed because the situation in Iran was well known. I would say however that not much more was done than to make a statement at that time. It wasn't until the arrival of the Kennedy Administration that more specific efforts were made to persuade the Shah to do something about broadening the base of his regime.

Q. Where did that idea, when you said Washington was prodding us to do this or that with the Shah, what individuals in fact were really in Washington concerned with these questions that were formulating in the ....

A. Well, I think probably one of the more active one's was Philip Talbot who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at that time. And who became anathema to the Shah who considered him to be one of the irritants in our relationship. I remember once hearing the Shah say that somebody had been made Ambassador to Greece, and the Shah said, "Oh the poor Greeks, what have they done."

Q. Had they actually come in contact?

A. Oh yes, yes.

Q. Mr. Talbot and the Shah?

A. Mr. Talbot made several visits to Iran.

Q. It is also been written that the Shah was very unhappy with the Kennedy Administration and that he even said that when the President was assassinated a sigh of relief was given to Tehran. Is that, does that fit with your recollections of the Shah's view of Kennedy or is that and exaggeration?

A. No I think the Shah considered Kennedy to be an uninformed meddler in Iranian affairs and I'm sure that there was no visible or noticeable favorable reaction to his assassination. Nothing was so unseemly would have been done. But I'm sure that the Shah was not unhappy that he to think that he might any longer be the object of the Administration's concern about the way he handled the affairs of State. The Kennedy Administration came into office on its one of its basis, political basis, for foreign affairs was its version of human rights and favoring democracy ... not just in Iran. But Iran was one of the, you know for years people said the Shah was sitting on a volcano and that if something were not done he would be overthrown and there would be and explosion. They kept saying that year after year but meanwhile in Iran itself and especially after the white revolution, things seemed to be going in just the opposite direction. And I remember thinking that of course if you say there is going to be a revolution and you say it every year for fifty years maybe at the end of fifty years there will be one. But in the case of Iran, the constant complaints from liberal circles in the United States seemed to lose their force as nothing really alarming occurred in Iran with the exception of the Khomeini inspired disturbances in 1963.

Q. .... was the U.S. influence into the content of the white revolution. Someone I once interviewed told me that the whole White Revolution, especially the land reform part of it, was cooked up in the basement of the White House by Robert Komer, but I was never able to substantiate this.

A. I don't think there's any truth whatsoever to that. Obviously the U.S. had been aware that the land tenure situation in Iran was a medieval anachronism but didn't take it much .... to see that. The United States did not have any program for Iran other than the general and gradual bringing of a greater segment of the population into the day to day political operations of the government and we certainly did not have any blueprint for the White Revolution. But the problems addressed by the revolution were ones that were crying for solution; the lack of education, the need for greater medical services, the need for the distribution of land. I don't know where the idea of profit sharing in the factories came from. It was certainly not something that we thought sounded very logical. However, I can assure you to the best of my knowledge we had nothing to do with the proposing of the six points of the White Revolution. The national ownerships of forests ....

Q. What were the opportunities actually and the nature of influencing the Shah toward particular policies: ... spending less on military or what form did that influence take and where did it take place? Was it mainly on his visits to Washington and discussions with the President? Or was it through the Ambassador in Tehran? If you could just give a few examples. What words would be used and what was the general tenor of the suggestions?

A. Well, our relations with Iran were in three general fields: in political field, the economic field and the military field. And in the economic field and military fields we had joint committees established, Iranian and American committees, for the discussion of Iran's needs and desires in these fields. And the idea particularly in the military field was that there would be a limit to what Iran would acquire or would be permitted to acquire in the United States, depending on the judgement of the committee as to whether the material could be absorbed and whether it was suitable for use in Iran. There was also a cooperative committee for the evaluation of the use of Iranian resources derived from the oil. And it was through these committees that an input of American influence was injected into the fields of Iranian endeavor, because obviously the U.S. did not have to permit the sale or the granting of military equipment to Iran in particular fields. And it was notable that we resisted the Shah's desire for rapid and dramatic expansion of the Air Force, particularly in the acquisition of some of these tremendously expensive and very complicated fighter airplanes. At the end long after I had left, Iran did end up getting some of them, and they're the ones that fell into the hands of the Khomeini regime. On the political side the major opportunities for influence were in the regular meetings between the Ambassador and the Shah.

Q. How regular were they?

A. Well, depending on the Ambassador and the Shah, the feelings of the Shah at the time, they might occur once a month, or as often as once every two weeks, or as infrequently as once every three months. During the time when the Shah was riding so high, he did not offer much of an opportunity for Ambassadorial influence because he didn't feel that he had problems which needed any input from foreign officials, and because he became increasingly resentful of what he considered to be U.S. interference in Iran's domestic political affairs. During the period that I was there, the Shah did not welcome advice from an American Ambassador. In the early days when he was insecure he seemed practically to regard the American and British Ambassadors as paternal advisors.

Q. This is in the 50's?

A. Yes. And in the later days when he was so ill and losing control, he turned almost pathetically toward them for suggestions as to what should be done. But during the intervening period when he was riding high he thought he knew best and certainly did not encourage or act favorably upon foreign advice. So my answer to you is that the opportunity for influencing the Shah were not all that numerous during the time that I was there. And a lot depended on the Ambassadors I have to say that one or two of our Ambassadors were afraid of the Shah, who was very impressive let nobody mistake that. He knew the oil business backwards and forward. He had a commanding personality when he was full of self-confidence, he was arrogant, he was very much the king of kings, and he was very difficult to deal with, and one of our Ambassadors Edward Wales was particularly, unvigorous in dealing with the Shah, I think partly because the Shah intimidated him.

Q. During your time who were the Ambassadors under whom you served?

A. Edward Wales, Julius Holms and Armin Meyer.

Q. Could it also be that because he had established relationships with U.S. Presidents that he sort of felt that the U.S. Ambassador was not at a level which he could deal somebody who's a subordinate rather than...

A. Yes, that was true to an extent and particularly he did not hesitate to complain if the subordinates of the Ambassador were infringing his implicit sensitivity about dealing with so called opposition elements. But he would have his embassy in Washington complain to the State Department about people, individuals. He also had a very close relationship with the CIA agent in Tehran. And often I think he thought that he could use that channel to countermand the a situation prevailing in the relationship with the State Department.

Q. How close was the exchange of information between the Embassy and the CIA at the time? How much did the left hand know what the right hand was doing?

A. Well, in the early days of my period there, I had the feeling that the CIA Station Chief did not was not fully frank in his dealings with the Ambassador, but he maintained a relationship with the Shah so-called in the intelligence field which could well have been broader than just pure intelligence. That is just a feeling. I can't answer your question.

Q. If I remember correctly, during the Kennedy Administration, some sort of directive was given that the CIA was to be subordinate to the Ambassador. Is that true?

A. Well, I think it was, the Ambassador is the President's representative and the instructions have always been that the Ambassador is the paramount U.S. official in a country and that he has the need and the right to be informed of whatever representatives of other agencies are doing. As I recall this directive which always existed, was strengthened under the Kennedy Administration. But since the CIA had its own communication, one could never be sure.

Q. Was this effective? Did this directive have any tangible effect in Tehran as far as you could see?

A. Well, as far as I could see, everything was fine, but I'm not certain that it was.

Q. Did you know how often he had an audience with the Shah? Was that known to you people?

A. Well, no we did know that but exactly what happened we never were certain of.

Q. Was he required to come and give you a report?

A. Yes that was the idea. He was supposed to come and he did come. Of course I wasn't the Ambassador then, at any of those times, so I don't really know what went on between the two of them.

Q. I see, so he would give it directly to the Ambassador.

A. If the Ambassador chose to tell me he would, but only when I was charge would he come directly to me. But that's a situation that prevails always all over the world when you have another agency that has its own communications. So much depends on the relationship between the representatives.

Q. How important was the military channel? Could that be used in the same way by the Shah?

A. No, not really.

Q. Military assistance ....

A. In Washington the situation was that of control and cooperation between the State Department and the Pentagon was much more effective at making sure there was a unanimity of views. No, there was no real problem with the Military.

Q. How knowledgeable was the Embassy about the assistance in training that the CIA was giving to SAVAK?

A. Well, all we knew was that they were being sent to the States for training. Just exactly what kind of training they got we didn't know. I'm not sure that we inquired either.

Q. If I could go through the various Prime Ministers that were in charge just prior to your going to Iran and during the time you were there. I'm not sure if Eghbal was still Prime Minister or if had just been replaced.

A. No, he was still there.

Q. Do you remember anything in particular about Dr. Eghbal and the change of Sharif-Emami? Was there anything memorable about it.

A. No, I don't recall anything. I have to say that I don't recall very much about any of the Iranian Prime Ministers except Amini, Hoveida and Mansur.

Q. I know I asked you this last night, but I didn't have a tape recorder then. Could you describe what you remember about the appointment of Amini and give a response to this question of U.S. influence in the selection of Amini. It was said that while Amini was in Washington he'd made many friends and he'd even become a friend of Senator Kennedy and so on and therefore the Shah said in his interviews and in his books that the Americans forced him to appoint Amini.

A. Well, Amini is still alive as far as I know. I regarded him as one of the most interesting and admirable Iranian politicians in the sense that he seemed to be dedicated Iranian in the sense that he had the interest in his country at heart. And yet he was courageous enough to understand the weaknesses of the situation and to try to correct them. He was an intelligent, dedicated, patriotic politician. He had many good American friends which he made when he was Ambassador here. And he was more forward looking. He was what we would call here a liberal in the Iranian sense there. Although he was of the elite and was wealthy and one of the first families of Iran. He was not limited in his views and so conservative as to be impervious to change. His problem was that just because of all that he was suspected of not being sufficiently loyal to the throne and his connections with farmers and particularly Americans caused the Shah to be suspicious of him. He was appointed Prime Minister because at the time the Shah apparently concluded that it would please the United States.

Q. Why was that particular time important for the Shah to please the United States?

A. Well, there were some serious economic problems facing the country at that time, this is before the revenue started to come in and Amini was an economist and had various views as to how these should be solved. And it is possible also that the Shah felt that the appointment of Amini as Prime Minister might cause the United States to be more generous in providing economic assistance. In any event he appointed him but I can assure you to the best of my knowledge we had no overt influence. We didn't suggest to the Shah that he do so. It could be that the Shah thought that we would like it, and I guess we did like it, because we thought Amini was a good man but we did not take it upon ourselves to tell the Shah that we thought he should appoint him.

Q. Now it seems in retrospect that Amini didn't really, that Amini could have received more support from the United States.

A. Well, that's true and I think and Amini made a bitter statement as I recall and accusing us of not living up to our commitments as far as aid is concerned. A statement which I think he later retracted as I recall but or at least apologized for. The fact remains that almost every Iranian political thought that the solution to Iran's problems was more American assistance. As time went on, the willingness of Washington to provide that assistance and in Congress began to become less and less and we did not agree with the idea that the panacea for Iran was more American dollars. We felt that there were other things that should be done -- reforms of the economic systems -- all the various things that economists have in mind for this sound economy. Some of which were very difficult to take or couldn't be taken because the infrastructure for carrying them out didn't exist in Iran. But it's perfectly true that Amini didn't, his appointment didn't result in substantially increased American aid. Although it could well have prevented a further decrease because it was felt that his appointment was a constructive thing and that he himself was a constructive element.

Q. One of the first events of his ... the Premiership was that several of the top military officers including General Kia who was head of Military Intelligence and I believe General Bakhtiar who was head of SAVAK were dismissed. Do you have any recollections about that event or the circumstances or reactions were at the time?

A. No. I do not.

Q. Among the many political rulers that still seem to persist among Iranians is that a reason why Bakhtiar was dismissed was because during a trip that he had made to the United States apparently a year or a few months before his dismissal, he had made some overtures to some officials, possibly the CIA, about his own future and his own possibilities, perhaps taking on a stronger position in Iran, possible becoming ruler or something like that and the word had sort of been leaked to the Shah and that's why he dismissed him. Can you shed any light on this?

A. Well, I never heard about anything Bakhtiar did in the U.S., but it seems to me, my recollection is that there was evidence that he was plotting against the Shah. In fact didn't he flee to Iraq?

Q. Yes, this is afterwards.

A. I don't recall anything about anything he is said to have said in the United States. Certainly it would not have been our policy to support Bakhtiar against the Shah. I never really did know what he was supposed to have been doing and whom he was dealing with. It was after I left I guess that all this happened.

Q. A few years before that, when you were still in Washington, there was a sort of an attempted by General Gharani.

A. Yes, I remember that.

Q. That had something to do with Dr. Amini. Do you recall anything about that?

A. No, I do remember hearing about it but nothing occurred while I was there about that, but that was in the background. Bakhtiar was assassinated by SAVAK wasn't he?

Q. Yes, late 60's early 70's.

A. They caught him...


Copyright 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University)
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi
Iranian Oral History Project
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Harvard University
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