For a White Revolution: John F. Kennedy and the Shah of Iran Author(s): April R. Summitt Source: Middle East Journal, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 560-575 Published by: Middle East Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4330063 . Accessed: 24/03/2011 15:58 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mei. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
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For a White Revolution: JohnF. Kennedyandthe Shahof fran AprilR. Summitt
Thestoryof AmericanrelationswithIranduringthe Kennedyadministrationis one of misunderstandingsand missed opportunities.Shah MuhammadReza Pahlavioftenmanipulatedand thwartedKennedy'spolicy towardIranand used Americanfears of Communismto gain increasedfinancial aid and military support. Disagreements among US policy-makers also contributed to an inconsistentpolicy towardIran. Thesefactors resultedin the bolsteringof a dictatorshipout of touch with the Iranianpeople, inevitablyleading to the revolutionthatoccurredin 1978-79.
(1961he storyof AmericanrelationswithIranduringthe KennedyAdministration 1963) is one of misunderstandingsand missed opportunities.President John F. Kennedy'spolicytowardthe MiddleEastillustratesthe agencyandunexpectedpower wielded by nationsperipheralto the main thrustof the Cold War.In spite of careful planningin Washington,Middle East leaderssometimesmanipulatedand thwarted Kennedy'spolicy towardthe region.The US-Iranianrelationshipduringthe Kennedy is one example.ShahMuhammadRezaPahlaviof IranusedAmerican Administration fears of Communismto gain increasedfinancialaid, militarysupport,and influence in the United Nations. The Shah, however,mostly sought to bolster his faltering regimeby exaggeratingthe externalthreatsto his power.Kennedyandhis StateDepartmentfell victim to the same fears of instabilityand Communismand ignored those who arguedfor a fresh approachin Americanrelationswith Iran. The KennedyAdministrationis an excellentcase studyfor the natureof power relationshipsduringthe Cold Warbecauseit came duringa periodin which policy T
April Summittis Associate Professorof Historyat AndrewsUniversityin BerrienSprings,Michigan. This articleis partlyderivedfrom the author'smanuscriptentitled"PerspectivesOn Power:John F. KennedyandUS-MiddleEast Relations,"currentlyunderconsiderationfor publication.The author would like to thankthe JohnF. KennedyPresidentialLibrarystafffor fundingandresearchassistance, and all those who read draftsof this article,particularlyProfessorsJames Goode, HowardJ. Dooley, Donald Fixico, Ron Davis, and Ross Gregory,who so willingly providedguidanceand support. MIDDLEEASTJOURNAL* VOLUME58, NO.4, AUTUMN2004
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 561 shiftedbecause of the actionsof local players.' In most cases, successfulpolicy toward the "ThirdWorld"occurredonly when the interestsof a superpowerand the stateconverged.In spite of Kennedy'sresolveto changethe Amerinon-superpower can approachto the MiddleEast,the Shahmanagedto pose as a reformer,thusassuring a steadyflow of dollars.Similarly,PrinceFaysalof SaudiArabiacreatedpaper reformsin orderto persuadeKennedyto providemilitaryaid. KingHusaynof Jordan promisedreformsandthreatenedto seekSoviethelpin orderobtainincreasingamounts of Americanaid. Eventually,Americansupportof traditionalArabregimesvis-'a-vis more progressiveones furtherbrandedthe United States as an enemy of pan-Arab nationalism. Kennedyintendedto workwith whomeverwas necessaryto furtherhis aim:to minimizeSoviet influencein the region and safeguardWesternaccess to oil. Even thoughKennedywould have liked to brokeran Arab-Israelipeace or at least make significantprogresstowardthat goal, he more realisticallyexpected to maintaina balancedapproachto bothArabstatesandIsraelwhile minimizingthe opportunities for Soviet infiltration.Althoughhe gave otherareasof the worldmuchmoretime and energy,Kennedysaw the Middle East as an importantarenain which to carryout ColdWaraims.2He calleduponthe StateDepartmentandstaffof the NationalSecurityCouncilto spendheavilyof theirenergieson the situationin Iran.Taskforcesand temporarycommitteesoftenmet on a weeklybasisto analyzeissues andshapepolicy on the MiddleEast,andKennedyfrequentlyparticipatedin the disrecommendations cussions. While overshadowedby Cubaand Vietnam,the Middle East receivedno smallmeasureof attention.
1. Few scholarshave writtenaboutUS-Iranianrelationsduringthe KennedyAdministration.The best studies are BarryRubin,Paved with Good Intentions:TheAmericanExperienceand Iran (New York:OxfordUniversityPress, 1980), JamesA. Bill, TheEagle and the Lion: The Tragedyof American-IranianRelations(New Haven:YaleUniversityPress, 1988), andMarkGasiorowski,US Foreign Policy and the Shah:Buildinga ClientState in Iran (Ithaca:CornellUniversityPress, 1991).All three authorsrecognizethe importanceof Americanpressureon the Shahto reform,andBill arguesthatthis pressureplayed a significantrole in bringingon the 1978 revolution.Douglas Little wrote a chapter entitled"FromEven-Handedto Empty-Handed:SeekingOrderin the MiddleEast,"in Diane B. Kunz, editor,The Diplomacy of the CrucialDecade: AmericanForeignRelations in the 1960s (New York: ColumbiaUniversityPress, 1994). Littleaddressespolicy towardIran,butdoes not go beyond any of the afore-mentionedstudies.None evaluatethe impactof bureaucraticdisagreementoverpolicy toward Iran.JamesGoodebeginsto addressthis issue in his article"ReformingIranduringthe KennedyYears," DiplomaticHistory,Vol. 15:No. 1 (1991). This articleparallelsGoode's emphasisand,with the use of additionalsources,furtherexaminesits impacton policy. 2. Some of the most recentworksthatincludeanexaminationof Kennedy'spolicy towardthe region as a whole includeH.W.Brands,Intothe Labyrinth:TheUnitedStatesand theMiddleEast, 1945-1993 (New York:McGrawHill, 1994), andBurtonKaufman,TheArabMiddleEast and the UnitedStates: Inter-ArabRivalryand SuperpowerDiplomacy(NewYork:TwaynePublishers,1996). Thereareeven morestudiesexaminingKennedy'srelationshipwithEgyptandIsrael.Forexample,see AbbasAmanat, TheUnitedStatesand the MiddleEast: CulturalEncounters(New Haven,YaleUniversityPress,2002) andmost recently,WarrenBass, Supportany Friend:Kennedy'sMiddleEast and theMakingof the USIsraeli Alliance (New York:OxfordUniversityPress, 2003).
EASTJOURNAL 562* MIDDLE Kennedyhad a uniqueopportunityduringhis Administration.He was the only presidentfrom FranklinRoosevelt to GeraldFord who did not have to cope with a majorwar in the Middle East. The fact that UnitedArabRepublicPresidentJamal 'Abdal-Nasir[Nasser]and most of his Arabneighborsknew they could not afford warwith Israelin the nearfuturecreateda favorableenvironmentfor internaldevelopmentandcooperation.If ever therewas a time thatthe UnitedStatescouldproveto be a supporterof Arab nations,it was the early 1960s. Similarly,this period was, perhaps,one duringwhichAmericanpresidentsmighthave the most influenceover Israeliactionsandpolicy. Unfortunately,Kennedymissedthis uniqueopportunity. It is important,however,to view this failurein the contextof Kennedy'sfearof Soviet aggression.Whenhe took office, the Soviets were leadingthe spacerace and Americansfearedthey also led the missile race.Fidel Castrohadtakenover in Cuba in 1959, and Nikita Khrushchevhad declaredSoviet supportfor wars of national liberationaroundthe world.As a result,perceptionsof Sovietaimstowardthe Middle East heavily influenced all of Kennedy'spolicy towardthe region.3Middle East actorswere thusable to use the ColdWarcontextto play each side off the other.Both intendedand unintendedconsequencesof this relationshipled to Americanpolicies thatservedMiddleEastplayersmorethanthe UnitedStates. While most of the focus of the KennedyAdministrationon the Middle East rested on the Arab-Israeliconflict, one of the main areas of stabilityand strategic importancewas Iran.4The UnitedStateshopedto keepIranas a strongandstableally anddid not anticipatemuchdirectinvolvementin thatpartof the region.However,a good portionof US attentiontowardthe MiddleEast in the first year of Kennedy's Administrationdid just that. Althoughperceivedby the Americansas havingone of the most stableregimes in the area,ShahMohammedReza Pahlaviwas a rulerout of touchwith his people andtheirneeds.He constantlyworriedabouta Sovietinvasionandinsisteduponlarge amountsof aid to resist pressurefrom the North. One Britishdiplomat,Desmond Harney,remarkedthatthe Shah"saw(the Russians)as eight feet tall."5Mostly,however,he fearedinternalthreatsto his power,particularlyfromthe leftist Tudehparty or perhapsthe remnantsof the old NationalFront.AbdhassanEbtehaj,head of the Shah's Plan Organization(coordinatedeconomic planningand budgetingfor Iran) recalleda meetingin 1959 withAmericanmilitaryadvisors.In his conversationwith AdmiralArthurW. Radford,Eisenhower'sChairmanof the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ebtehajassertedthat what Iranneeded was money for internalimprovements,not 3. At first,KennedyarguedthatEisenhowerhadmadethis very mistake,supportinganyregimethat was not Communist.See ArthurM. Schlesinger,Jr.,A ThousandDays: JohnF Kennedyin the White House (New York:HoughtonMifflin, 1965), pp. 587-91; andJohnF. Kennedy,TheStrategyof Peace, ed. Allan Nevins (New York:Harper& Brothers,1960), pp. 107-8. 4. In a list of foreign policy prioritiespresentedfor the first few meetings of Kennedy'sNational SecurityCouncil,Iranwas listed secondonly to securityin SouthVietnam.NationalSecurityFiles, Box 283, John F. KennedyLibrary. 5. Desmond Harney,in an interview recordedby Habib Ladjevardi,October 15, 1985, London, England,Tape2, IranianOralHistoryCollection, HarvardUniversity.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 563 guns. If the people are hungry,he argued,advancedmilitaryforces meantnothingto them. The Shah soon forced Ebtehaj'sresignation,along with other officials who resistedhis hungerfor weapons.6 To assisthim in policy planning,KennedyappointedNationalSecurityAdvisor McGeorgeBundyandWaltRostow,Bundy'sDeputySpecialAssistant,to overseea special task force on Iranunderthe NationalSecurityCouncilumbrella.One of the most vocal membersof the task force was RobertKomer,a top-levelaid to Bundy. These men would often conflict with such traditionalistsin the StateDepartmentas Secretaryof StateDean Rusk andAssistantSecretaryof State for Near Easternand South Asian Affairs Phillips Talbot.7Othermembersof the task force on Iranincludedrepresentativesfromthe CIA, US InformationAgency,the Treasury,William Bundy of the Defense Department,and KennethHansen,AssistantDirectorof the Bureauof the Budget.All askedseriousquestionsaboutthe stabilityof the Shahand possibleAmericanresponsesto his requestsfor aid. In its reportin the fall of 1961, the Task Force on Iran argued:"to prevent Soviet dominationof Iranmustbe our immediateandoverridingobjective.This requiresthe continuancein powerof a pro-Westernregime,for the ultimatealternative is a weak neutralistgovernmentwhich could not withstandSoviet pressures."8The reportsuggestedvariousmethodsthe US could use to preservethe stabilityof the Shah.One optionwas to take a very open andactiverole in pushingfor reforms,the othera moreprivate,discreetone. Whateverthe method,Iranmustbe stablein order to containthe Soviet Union. Otherreportsfromthe JointChiefsof Staffcautionedagainstplacingtoo much confidencein the personof the Shah.Since conditionsinsideIranwereuncertain,the US ought to "disassociateitself from the Shah shouldhe appearlikely to be overthrown."9Some reportspainteda pictureof Iranas an inevitabledisasterwaitingto happen:a dictatorialShah,an un-reformedeconomy,anda growingunrestwithinthe urbanmiddle class. Otheranalystsplaced Iranon the "less criticallist" for policy planning.Still, most policy-makersagreedthatthe US approachto Iranshouldshift
6. Abdhassan Ebtehaj, in an interview recorded by Habib Ladjevardi,Tape 12; Khodadad in an interviewrecordedby HabibLadjevardi,December7, 1982, Cambridge,MA, Farmanfarmaian, Tape4; andDesmondHarney,Tape 1, IranianOralHistoryCollection,HarvardUniversity. 7. Kennedyto Rusk,February2,1961, PresidentialOffice Files Box 87, JohnF. KennedyLibrary: DiplomaticHistory 15 (1991): pp. andsee JamesGoode, "ReformingIranDuringthe KennedyYears," 13-29 for an examinationof bureaucraticstrugglefor controlover Iranpolicy. 8. Reportby Chairmanof IranTaskForce, Oct. 14, 1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates, Vol. 17:p. 293; andMemo:JamesS. Lay,Jr.,to WaltRostow,Feb. 8, 1961,NationalSecurityFiles, Box 283, John F. Kennedy Library;and Task Force Report,October 18, 1961, ForeignRelations of the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 307. 9. MemorandumFrom the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretaryof Defense McNamara,Foreign Relationsof the UnitedStates, 17:7; Memo:Hallato Bundy,Feb. 8, 1961, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115,JohnF. KennedyLibrary;andPositionPaperon Iran,Summaryof Intelligence,no date,National SecurityFiles, Box 115, JohnF. KennedyLibrary.
564 * MIDDLEEASTJOURNAL
"frommilitaryto politico-diplomaticformsof collaboration."1" Kennedyshouldpressurethe Shahto begin internalreformsbeforegiving him largesumsof money.Most agreedthatonly throughsuch reformcould the Shahavoidinternalinstability.Some portrayedthe monarchas an unrulyandselfish dependentwho shouldnot receivetop priorityin attentionor dollars. Ideasfrominsidethe StateDepartment,however,did not agreewiththis assessment.Ruskwas eagerfor Kennedyto pay directattentionto the Shahandassurehim thatUS supportfor Iranwas still strong.The Shahwas apparentlyso insecurethathe sent GeneralTeimurBakhtiar,chief of Iraniansecurityandintelligence,to meet with thePresident.1'Kennedygave reassurancesandRuskmadepersonalpromisesthatthe US would always come to the aid of Iranin case of any outside threat."2 Although Ruskdid not contradictNSC assessmentsof Iran,he favoredcloserties withthe Shah thandid the NSC. Most Americanofficials agreedthatif the Shahdid not initiatereforms,whatever the method,he eventuallywould be overthrown.Some suggesteda decreasein militaryaid to pressurethe Shahto reducehis standingarmyfrommorethan200,000 to around150,000. Iranalso receiveda significantamountof financialsupportfor internaloperations.Kennedywantedgraduallyto reducethis aid, makingIranmore self-sufficient.Overall,the directionof theAdministration appearedto be a departure froman earlierpreoccupationwith militarypowervis-a-vis the Soviet Union.13 In thisatmosphereof changeearlyin theKennedyAdministration, severalpeople involved in policy-makingsincerely tried to re-evaluateapproachestowardaid to such developing countriesas Iran.RobertKomer (aide to Bundy), among others, attendeda BrookingsSeminarin lateApril 1961thatexaminedthe use of Westernaid and its politicalimpact.The report,submittedto Bundyand Rostow on May 2, discussedseveralkey points.Oneidea was thattheWesthad"tendedto associatenationalism in the less developedareasrathersimplywith the overthrowof colonialism."14 A second point was the frequentmisunderstanding of the appealsof Communism. Attendeesconcludedthatits appeallay in its anti-Western,yet modernizingnature.
10. NationalIntelligenceEstimate,February28, 1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 37; Memo: Halla to Bundy, Feb. 8, 1961, National SecurityFiles, Box 115, John F. Kennedy Library;andPositionPaperon Iran:Summaryof Intelligence,no date,NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 11. Memo: Rusk to Kennedy,Feb. 16, 1961, National Security Files, Box 115, John F. Kennedy Library. 12. Memo of Conversation:Rusk and Bakhtiar,Feb. 21,1961, Foreign Relations of the United States,Vol. 17:pp. 32-33. 13. Letterby Gagaine,no date, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115; Ken Hansen,Note on Iran,April 1,1961, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115; Letter:T. CuylerYoungto Rostow,April 19, 1962, National SecurityFiles, Box 115;WilliamGaud,Interviewby Bill Jones,February16, 1966, p. 40, OralHistory Program;Ken HansenNotes, NationalSecurityFiles Box 115; andMemo: Morganto Bundy,March 27,196 1, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 14. RobertJohnsonto Bundy and Rostow,May 2, 1961, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 283, JohnF. KennedyLibrary.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 565 This conceptcontradictedtraditionalassumptionsthatCommunismappealedprimarily as a strategyfor development. This report,however,made little impacton policy towardIran.The State and Defense Departmentstendedto continuepolicy based on the older assumptionthat containmentof the Soviet Union was the primarygoal. Otherproblemareassuch as Cubaand BerlinrelegatedIrantoo far down the prioritylist in foreignpolicy planning. As far as Iranwas concerned,officials formedpolicy on an ad hoc basis in responseto crises as they emerged.In spite of the sometimes-grandiose intentionsof the New Frontiersmen,such becamethe norm. Then in May 1961 (shortlyafterthe Bay of Pigs fiasco), one of these crises occurredwhen teacherstrikesanddemonstrations in Tehraneruptedover a decrease in wages. About50,000 studentsjoined the teachersand clashedwith Iranianarmy and securityforces on May 4, causingthe collapseof the regimeof the Shah'sPrime Minister,JafarSharifEmami.The Shahreplacedhim with a Dr. 'AliAmini,a former colleagueof formerPrimeMinisterMohammadMossadeqin the 1950s, andquickly disbandedthe IranianMajlis (parliament).No one knew whetherAmini would be a good ally or not. Ambassadorsand diplomatsin the field recommendeda wait-andsee approachwhile the newly-createdTaskForceon Iranrecommendedcautioussupportof Amini to steerhim towardreform.They urgedthatthe US deal directlywith Amini andworkto divestthe Shahfrommoreintimateinvolvementin government.'5 The Shahpretendedto give his new PrimeMinistersupportfor dramaticreform of the government,as well as in redistributionof land. In reality,the Shah felt the UnitedStateshad forcedAmini on him.'6US diplomatWilliamMillerlaterrecalled thatthe Shah "nevertrustedAmini becausehe'd come withAmerica'sbacking"and associatedhim with the hated Mossadeq.'7He also argued,however,thatKennedy had not forcedAmini on the Shah,buthad only voiced approvalwhen his namewas mentioned.The US knew Amini throughhis work with the WorldBank, and most officials consideredhim very competent. It was duringthis criticalperiodof Amini's tenurethat disagreementsamong Americanpolicy-makersbeganto emerge.Mostdiplomatswere supportiveof Amini, but others,such as AmbassadorEdwardWailesandhis replacement,JuliusHolmes, vacillatedbetweenencouragingAmini towardreformand calmingthe nervesof the Shah. Komerand othermembersof the NSC TaskForce were much more eager to pushAminias hardas possible.Ruskwas primarilyinterestedin preservingthe status quo out of fear of more unrestor a possible coup. Both groupswantedreform,but disagreedon the risk they were willing to take to get it. Kennedyfaced a delicate choice of approachesor to find a blendof the two. 15.Wailesto Rusk,May 10, 1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17:p. 105;andMemo from Komer,IranTask Force Report,National Security Files, Box 115, John F. KennedyLibrary; EditorialNote, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17:pp. 98-100; SpecialNationalIntelligence Estimate,May 23, 1961,ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vo. 17:pp. 122-123;andMemo:Amory to Bundy,May 23, 1961, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 115, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 16. MohammadReza Pahlavi,Answerto History(NY:Stein andDay Publishers,1979):pp. 22, 146. Tape 13. 17. Miller,Tape4; andFarmanfarmaian,
EASTJOURNAL 566* MIDDLE Throughoutthe rest of 1961, variousmembersof the NationalSecurityCouncil, especially Komerand Bundy,conflictedwith officials in the State Department andAmbassadorHolmes over policy."8Komerreferredto a conferenceat Princeton thatexaminedUS-Iranianrelationsandarguedthat"thereis just no definablecorrelation betweeneconomicdevelopmentandpoliticalchange...."Most attendeesagreed thatthe US shoulddecreaseaid to Iranbecausethe New Frontierhadfallen victimto the "fallacy of seeking answers in economic determinism.We have no theory of political and social change to complementour theory of economic development," Komerwrote.19 Even the Britishdid not forma clear set of objectivesin spite of theircontinuing presencein Iranandthe CENTOalliance.Theycurriedthe Shah'sfavor,sold him weapons,andsoughtto keep his regimestable.They agreedwiththe US thatthe Shah was the only option for Iranat the time and sought, above all, to pacify him. The policy was, in the wordsof BritishdiplomatDesmondHarney,"day-to-dayfire prevention."As long as the Shah was happyand did not cancel any defense contracts withBritain,all was well. Therewas no long-termplanor even studyon the impactof Westernsupporton the royalregime.20 Eitherthe Shah'sWesternallies did not know how to act differently,or they foundthe risksinvolvedtoo uncomfortable.In the case of the UnitedStates,it did not help thatmajorplayerswithinthe NSC disagreedso vehementlywith the StateDepartment.While KomerthoughtUS policy was "going to hell in a hack in Iran," Holmesarguedthatthey hadto keep the Shahsatisfiedor he wouldturnto the Soviet Union.21 Both ignored the possibility that either appeasementor discipline would have damagingeffects on Iranianidentity,therebyfueling the fires of nationalism. The Shah meanwhilewas busy trying to cajole the Presidentinto providing additionalmilitaryaid.22Kennedyinvitedhim for an official statevisit in the spring of 1962 and presenteda five-year militaryaid package (MAP). There were some disagreements,andthe Shahaskedfor more,as usual.Komerwantedto keep strictly to the planandurgedBundyto "tellBill [WilliamBundy,DeputyAssistantSecretary of Defense andMcGeorgeBundy'sbrother]andPhil [Talbot]thatthe Presidentpersonally says 'hell no."'23In the end, however,Kennedygave in on severalissues and 18. Komerto Bundy,Oct. 28, 1961, National SecurityFiles, Box 116b, JohnF. KennedyLibrary; Rusk to Holmes, Oct. 31,1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17:p. 319; BromleySmith to Kennedy,July 26, 1961, National SecurityFiles, Box 115, John F. KennedyLibrary;Task Force Report,August2, 1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17:p. 200; Komerto Kennedy,Aug. 4, 1961, National SecurityFiles, Box 115, John F. KennedyLibrary;and Battle to Bundy,Aug. 11, 1961, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 226. 19. Komerto Bundy and Saundersto Komer,Dec. 20, 1961, National SecurityFiles, Box 116b, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 20. Haney, Tape 1 and2. 21. Komerto Kaysen,Jan. 19, 1962, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF KennedyLibrary; and Holmes to Rusk, Jan.22, 1962, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 433. 22. Holmes to Rusk, March7, 1962, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 51 1; Battle to Bundy,March8, 1962, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 17: p. 516. 23. Komerto Bundy,Sept. 15, 1962, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. KennedyLibrary.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 567 grantedtwo frigates and monetarysupportfor an additional10,000 troops. Rusk instructedthe embassyto makesurethe Shahrealizedthatthey wouldmakeno more additions.24 Some policy-makers,especiallythoseinsidethe StateDepartment,began to relaxandbelieve theirNew Frontieraims in Iranwere on the roadto fulfillment. Inside Iran,however,conditionswere not going as PrimeMinisterAmini had planned.Aminiwas dedicatedto reformas Kennedyhopedhe was, butat everyturn, the Shah frustratedhis efforts.At the very beginning,Amini wantedto cleanse the cabinetof corruptofficials, but the Shahwantedto protecthis friends.25The Prime Ministerresistedat first and often struggledwith the Shahover budgetaryissues. In one particularargument,Aminilaterrecalled,he pleadedwith the Shahto spendless on the militaryandmoreon agricultureandeducation."Whomare we going to fight with?"he asked."If you have the Soviets in mind,this is no matchfor that.She can wipe us out with a single blow."The ShaharguedwithAminiandtold him it was his prerogative."Imusteitherruleor leave,"he laterquotedthe Shahas saying."Whenever you rule, you will leave,"Amini responded.26 He was also frustratedbecausehe believedthatIrannot only did not need such a large military,but also could not even spendwhat it alreadyhad. People from the PlanOrganizationregularlywitnessedthe militaryrushingatthe endof a fiscal yearto spendleftovermoneyto avoidreducedbudgetsthe next year.Once,Farmanfarmaian told the Shah that the money for just one militaryaircraftcould build a numberof hospitalsandclinics. The Shahlaughedat this suggestion,arguingthatno one really understoodIran'soutsidethreatsbut him.27 While Amini soughtto de-centralizegovernmentand cleanse it of corruption, Pahlaviheld ontocontroleventighter.If anythingwentwrongin the Iranianeconomy, the Shah would blame some subordinateand dismiss him. Amini later spoke of the atmospherethatpervadedthe royal government: The biggest problem was this centralization-centralizedauthority...and the inabilityto delegate authority.It all rests upon what I think is fundamentalto democracy anywhere, and certainly in Iran.You've got to be able to make mistakes.Democracyis postulatedon the fact that you're humanbeings...(but when) you cannot make mistakes-ifyou made a mistake,you lose your position-nobody's going to take any risks. So nobody would do anything.28
Not only did this fearproduceinertiain government,but curingit of corruption also provedvirtuallyimpossible.For example,Amini triedto persuadethe Shah to raisethe pay of certaingroupssuch as policemen.Thesemen, underpaidto the point
24. Memorandumof Conversation(Shah,Holmes,et al), ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 18: p. 100; andRusk to Holmes, Sept. 18,1962, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 18: p. 99. 25. See 'AliAmini,in an interviewrecordedby HabibLadjevardi,December3, 1981, Paris,France, Tape4, IranianOralHistoryCollection,HarvardUniversity. 26. Amini, Tape4. 27. Farmanfarmaian, Tape 11. 28. Farmanfarmaian, Tape3; andFrye,Tape2.
568* MIDDLEEASTJOURNAL they could not supporttheirfamilies,took bribesfor survival.Aminiblamed,not the policemen,but the Shah.An Iraniangeneral,FaholahMinbashian,also blamedgovernmentcorruptionon low pay for the army.He arguedthatthe povertyof soldiers and othergovernmentofficials madecorruptionnecessaryfor survival.29 As Amini andhis advisorssoughtto institutelandreform,agriculturalprojects andan anti-corruption campaign,Kennedycontinuedto view Iranin termsof a military ally to containCommunism.Even thoughthe KennedyAdministrationtalked about reformingIran and other "ThirdWorld"countries, Kennedy'sactions suggested otherwise.Farmanfarmaian, head of the Plan OrganizationduringAmini's tenure,laterrecalleda trip he took to the US to plead for money.But all Rusk and otherswantedto talk aboutwas the NationalFront,whetheror not it was growing strongerand posed a seriousthreatto the Shah.He did finally receive some money, but found the Americanpreoccupationwith the Shah's stabilitya hindranceto the reformthe US claimedto support.30 As the yearwore on, Aminibecamemorefrustratedas the Iranianeconomyslid into a deeprecession.Landreformpolicieshadcost the countryandAmini'sattempts financiallyto supportreformwere beginningto take theirtoll.3"The Shahcontinually refusedto cut militaryexpendituresandbecamesuspiciousandjealousof Amini's growingpopularity.32 In frustration,Amini turnedto the US for financialsupportfor his reform programsand beleagueredeconomy. Even the WorldBank refused to supporthis reformwith debt-extensionloans, and, in frustration,Amini resigned, creatinganotherroundof panic and reassessmentswithin the KennedyAdministration. The US watchedin apprehensionas the Shahtook morecontrolof the governmentandbegantalkswiththe SovietUnion.33Althoughthe Shahwas afraidof Soviet domination,he was willing to use a closer relationshipwith the Soviets if it would bringmorefinancialsupportfromthe UnitedStates. It seemedto some analyststhat the Shahwas jeopardizingthe embryonicreformmovementbegunthe previousyear. Komercontinued"beatingState up regularlyon Iran,"as he put it, and urged the White House to re-evaluate policy.34
No such examinationoccurred.Throughoutthe rest of 1962, policy-makers wouldrelaxon the Iranianissue, assumingthatthe Shah,by reassertingdirectcontrol in the wake of Amini's resignation,would continuethe reformprocess and work towardfiscal stability,now thathe was securein his militaryassistance.Somepolicymakers,however,continuedto worry,includingthe ever-criticalKomer.In October, 29. See FaholahMinbashian,in an interview recordedby Habib Ladjevardi,December 1, 1981, Cagne-Sur-Mer,France,Tape 1, IranianOralHistoryCollection,HarvardUniversity. 30. Farmanfarmaian, Tape7. 31. IranTaskForceReport,ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates, 17:417; Komerto Bundy,June 1, 1962, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 32. Amini, Tape3. 33. Miller,Tape5; andNationalIntelligenceReport,Sept. 7, 1962, ForeignRelationsof the United States, Vol. 18: p. 85; Holmes to Rusk, Sept. 13, 1962, National Security Files, Box 116, John F. KennedyLibrary. 34. Komerto Bundy,June 20, 1962, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. KennedyLibrary.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 569 he drafteda paperanalyzingUS policy thatsaid Iranwas experiencing"justanother lull beforethe storm."He worriedthatthe StateDepartmenthadnot beenpushingthe Shahhardenoughtowardreformand complainedthatHolmeswas too conservative and shouldbe replaced.He arguedthatit was ridiculousto worryaboutassociating the UnitedStateswiththe Shah'sregime.EveryonealreadyknewtheAmericanswere "pullingthe strings"in Iran,he asserted.It mightas well pull themthe rightdirection and take a stancein favorof seriousreformto save Iranfromrevolution.35 Komer,it seemed,was talkinginto thin air.The StateDepartmentwas satisfied thatit had takenall the necessarysteps to secureand encouragereformin Iran.At a Special Groupmeetingon November5, 1962,AmbassadorHolmesreportedthathe was satisfiedwith the Shah'slandreformprogram,calling it "trulyrevolutionary."36 Angry at what he called a "snowjob" by Holmes, Komerwrote Kennedythat he believed "thetrendline is still toward(the) upsetof yet anotheroutwornmonarchy" in Iran.He also assertedthatthe Shahhadabandonedmost of Amini'sreforms,only land reformcontinued,that elections were rigged, and developmenthad stagnated. "We'rejust in a hiatusperiodbetweenIrancrises,"he wrote.37 As usual,however,no one heededKomer'salarms. In early 1963, it seemed that the Shah at last understoodwhat he must do to strengthenhis politicalbase, avoid unrest,and securecontinuedAmericansupport. The Shah announcedhis so-called "WhiteRevolution,"the majorportionof which involvedthe continuationof land redistributionfrom wealthy landlordsto landless peasants.Otherelementsincludedthe on-goinganti-corruption campaign,decentralization of governmentfunctions,some privatizationof government-ownedfactories, and profit sharingplans for workers. Redistributionof landin Iranwas necessaryfor modernizationandmostpeople fully supportedit (exceptfor the wealthylandlordsthemselves).In his hasteto prove himself a reformer,the Shahneglectedto considerproblemssuch as the start-upcost of independentfarmingor access to waterfor irrigation.Insteadof concentratingon essentialssuchas seed developmentor storagehouses,the Shahputmostof his buildAs hadoccurred ing effortsinto largefactoriesthatdid nothingfor the little farmer.38 in the AmericanSouthafterthe Civil War,manypeasantslost theirlandto creditors becausethey could not produceenoughon theirsmallplots to pay theirdebts.Soon, the people who neededeconomicliberationwere worse off thanbefore.39 More immediately,some of the Shi'i clergy, or Mullahs (theologians) who
35. Komerto NSC Staff, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. KennedyLibrary. 36. Memo for the Record,Special GroupMinutes,Iran,ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 18: P. 201. 37. Komerto Kennedy,Nov. 5 and 13, 1962, National SecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. Kennedy Library. Tape14. 38. Farmanfarmaian, 39. Amini, Tape5; andMiller,Tape2. See also RichardCottam,Iranand the UnitedStates:A Cold WarCase Study(Pittsburgh:Universityof PittsburghPress, 1988), and Eric Hoogland,TheEffectsof LandReformand Revolutionin RuralIran (AnnArbor:UniversityMicrofilmsInternational,1975).
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preachedandtaughtShi'i Islam,opposedlandreformbecauselargelandownershad Mullahs(Ayatollahs)preached largelyfinancedtheirseminaries.TheHighest-ranking againstthe "WhiteRevolution,"accusing the Shah of sacrificingthe true, Islamic identityof Iranto Westernideas of progress.The Shah'senfranchisementof women also pittedsome in the religiouscommunityagainsthim. The very popularAyatollah RuhollahKhomeinisaw this move as one moreexampleof Western,culturalimperialism and the destructionof an authentic,Iranianidentity.He and a core groupof Shi'i theologianshadrecentlydevelopedthe theorythatIslammustbecomethe basis for the Iraniangovernmentin orderto preserveculturalauthenticity.40 butwhatthe middle Economicreformwas the focus of the Shah's"revolution," class wantedwas democraticreform.Even thoughmullahswould latercriticizedemocracyas anotherexampleof culturalimperialism,the Iranianpeople soughtit as was one thing, the solutionto theirproblems.Economicreformandindustrialization but what they really wanted was freedom of the press and fuller participationin government.Electionswererigged,andthe Majliswas nothingmorethana puppetof the Shah.Disappointedgovernmentofficials,who hadbeen educatedin the Westand believedin democraticreform,left in frustrationor concentratedon makingmoney.41 The State Department,however, and most of the Iran Task Force was very pleasedwith the "WhiteRevolution."All on his own, the Shahwas finally doing the very things Kennedyhad pushedfor. This was even better,observedUS diplomat WilliamMiller,becausethe Shahhad alwaysbeen the preferredagentin Iran: Most of the people in the embassy and in Washington believed that they should work throughthe Shah at every stage. That was the right way to do it...was legitimate,the easiest way. It was the one that had the least risks.42
neverseriouslyconsideredreformingIranwithout The KennedyAdministration the Shah. They hoped his "White"revolutionwould preventa Communistone as attentionsturnedelsewherein the MiddleEast.43 In the springof 1963, however,anothercrisis eruptedthat drove the Shah to assumeincreasinglydirectcontrolof the government.It also illustratedthe failuresof his "WhiteRevolution."Variousmullahs,led by Khomeini,beganpreachingprotest sermonsabout the land reformand Iran'srelationshipto the West.44In the city of
40. See SandraMackey,TheIranians:Persia,Islam,and the Soul of a Nation (London:Cambridge UniversityPress, 1993): pp. 220-222. 41. Miller, Tape land 2; and Ahmed Ghoreishi,in an interviewrecordedby Habib Ladjevardi, January31, 1982, Moraga,California,IranianOralHistoryCollections,HarvardUniversity. 42. Miller,Tape5. 43. Holmes to Rusk, Jan. 23, 1963, National Security Files, Box 116; W. Bundy to David Bell, March4, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 297; Alexis Johnsonto Kennedy,March7, 1963, National SecurityFiles, Box 116; andRuskto Kennedy,April 20, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 340, John F. KennedyLibrary. 44. Holmes to Rusk,Jan.23, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116;andRuskto Holmes, Jan.28, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 340, JohnF. KennedyLibrary.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 571 Qom,whereKhomeinilivedandpreached,therewas anIslamicseminary(theFaiziyih TheologicalSchool)to traintheShi'iclergy.As theShahreceivedreportsof Khomeini's sermons,accusingthe Shah of selling out the countryto the West and rejectingthe principlesof Islam,he becamefrightened.On March23, 1963, governmentmilitary officials stormedthe school and attackedthe students.They killed one studentand woundedseveralothers.45 In protest,Khomeinideliveredan emotionalsermoncondemningthe Shahon June3, the eve of Ashura,the most importantShi'a holy day. Khomeiniaccusedthe Shahof being an enemyof Iran.The police arrestedtheAyatollahthe next day,along with several other mullahs, sparkingriots throughoutthe country.In Tehran,the rioting became particularlydestructiveand went on for five days before the Shah orderedthe armyto shoot to kill. Later,the Shah admittedthatthe armyhad killed around125 people,but othersestimatethe numberto be in the thousands.It was not lost on the riotersthatthe tanksandbulletsusedagainstthemwereAmerican-made.46 To quellthe unrest,the Shahplacedseveralof theAyatollahsunderhouse arrest and exiled Khomeiniin 1964. He then madeplans to createa governmentministry thatwouldbe in chargeof overseeingall religiousactivitieswithinIran.47The Shah came out of the June riots strongerand more dictatorialthan ever - unwittingly laying the foundationsfor the 1978 Revolution. Kennedy'sopinion,nonetheless,continuedto be positive.He andthe StateDepartmentsaw the 1963 uprisingas an isolatedevent, causedby a few radicals.The embassyin Iran,however,saw muchmore meaningin it and warnedRusk aboutits possible significance.Miller,who hadwitnessedthe uprising,laterrecalledthe aftermath: The US embassy analyzedit, recognizedit as important.But...whenKhomeini was exiled, and the religiousuprisingswere crushed,and the situationbecame stabilized,people forgot about it...as thoughit had never happened.They just forgot.48
By the fall of 1963, reportsfrom the embassyin Tehranemphasizedpositive aspectsof the "WhiteRevolution"andignoredany problems.BundyandRuskcon-
45. ErvandAbrahamian,Iran Between TwoRevolutions(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1983): p. 426. 46. Miller,Tape2; Talbotto Rusk, June 6, 1963, ForeignRelations of the UnitedStates, 18:570; Rockwellto Rusk,June24, 1963, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates, 18:601-603; andAbrahamian, Iran Between TwoRevolutions,pp. 460-61 47. Footnote,ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates, 18:602 and Special Groupon Iran,June28, 1963, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 18:pp. 607-609. For moreresourceson the rootsof the Islamicrevolutioninside Iran,see the bibliographicarticleby ShaulBakhash,"Iran,"TheAmerican Historical Review (December, 1991), pp. 1479-1496. One of the most valuableis Nikki R. Keddie, Editor,Religionand Politicsin Iran:Shi'ismfrom Quietismto Revolution(New Haven:YaleUniversity Press, 1983). 48. Miller,Tape2.
572* MIDDLEEASTJOURNAL tinuedto approachIranianpolicy with cautiousoptimism,but Komerkept insisting on tougherpolicies.49He arguedthatwhile giving money to the Shahwas probably important,he urgedtightercontrolsand oversight."I can't help but feel that we're payingtoo muchattentionto the tail andnot enoughto the dog,"he wrote.50His voice was insistent,butnot heard.AfterKennedy'sassassination,briefingson Irangiven to PresidentLyndonJohnsoncame mostly from the optimisticHolmes, who asserted that unrestfrom oppositiongroupsinside Iran"is no longer a threat."'51He gave a glowing reporton improvementsin the economy and praisedthe slow, but steady processof land reform. Americanpolicy-makersbelievedthatthe systemwas workingin Iranandeven the resignationof Amini did not significantlyalterthis perception.If the Shahcould reformIran,then all the better,but what Amini was trying to do was involve the people in their own government.The Shah did not allow him to do this, and the United States allowedAmini to fall withoutany pressure.Millerlaterobservedthat this period had presenteda "missed opportunityof rathersizable proportions."52 Farmanfarmaian agreedwiththis assessment.He arguedthatAminihadbeenthe only one who could have reallychangedthe Shah'sthinking.After he resigned,the Shah stoppedlisteningto his primeministers.53 AminilatercriticizedKennedy'sAdministration for failingto pressurethe Shah to institutedemocraticreforms."They are particularlyguilty because they should have put the Shahon the rightroadbeforeit was too late,"he argued.54If the United States had forced him to delegatepower to his primeministerswhile they still had leverageover him (in the 1950s andearly 1960s),the Revolutionof 1978 mighthave been averted.Instead,Kennedywas satisfiedwith the "WhiteRevolution,"allowing Shah MohammadReza Pahlavito gatherconfidenceand eventually,financialindependencethroughincreasingoil revenuesin the late 1960s andearly 1970s. By then, it was too late. Althoughhe laid blameat the feet of US policy-makers,Amini was also quick to point out thatthe primaryresponsibilitystayedwith the Shah.He arguedthatno one ever taughtthe Iranianpeopleto be trulysovereign,whichmadethemvulnerable in the end to Islamicradicals.Farmanfarmaian agreedandaddedthatthosewho were educatedlearnedhow to be Western,not Persian."IrememberthatI didn'teven stop to ask the question,"he later stated."Becauseafterall, Iranhad to become another United States or anotherEuropeancountry,anotherEngland."55He concededthat 49. Minutesof SpecialGroupon Iran,October17, 1963, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol 18: pp. 741-2; Komerto Dave Bell, Nov. 5, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. Kennedy Library. 50. Komerto Dave Bell, Nov. 5, 1963, NationalSecurityFiles, Box 116, JohnF. KennedyLibrary 51. Memo: StateDept.-JCSMeeting,Dec. 6,1963, ForeignRelationsof the UnitedStates,Vol. 18 pp. 831-2. 52. Miller,Tape5. 53. Farmanfarmaian, Tape8. 54. Amini, Tape6. 55. Farmanfarmaian, Tape6.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 573 since the ideas he andothersbroughtto Iranianpolitics were completelyalien, some kind of a reactionwas inevitable. AlthoughKennedysoughtto stabilizetraditionalregimessuch as Iran,Jordan, and Saudi Arabiaby encouraginginternalreforms,the Shah managedto procure largerandlargeramountsof dollarsandmilitaryequipmentby arguingthathis proximity to the Soviet Union made him a criticalbufferto Khrushchev'saims for the region. Iran'sgeographiclocation and its oil resourceswere probablythe strongest factors the Shah was able to parlayinto increasingamountsof Americanaid. Althoughthe strongestchallengesto his regimewere internal,non-Communistones, he was able to convince the West that his majoropponentswere tools of the Soviets. Wheneverhis leadershipwas challenged,either by a political partyor an activist Prime Minister,like MuhammadMossadeqor 'Ali Amini, the Shah persuadedthe StateDepartmentthathis countrywouldbe saferfromCommunismunderhis direct control. Even thoughhe approachedthe Westfrom a strongposition,the Shahdid find it necessaryto pose as a reformerin orderto keep the flow of Americanaid coming. Whenhe launchedhis "WhiteRevolution"in late 1962,Americanpolicy-makerstook the Shah'srhetoricas proofthatreformwas occurring.Not everyoneboughtinto the Shah'sprogram,but most people in the StateDepartmentdid, so both Kennedyand Johnsonacceptedthe Shahas a reformerandkept sendinghim largeamountsof aid. The US wantedto believe thatthe Shahwas sincere,andchose to ignoreevidenceto the contrary,such as ongoing unrestamong the Muslim clergy, and dissatisfaction amonggovernmentofficialsandthe middleclass in general.He blamedanyvocalization of dissatisfactionon Communists.The Shahthusincreasedhis controlover Iran with constantAmericansupport.After Kennedy,no one in the US questionedthe Shah's rule. Althoughconflictinggoals of regionalleaders(both with each otherand with the United States) provedthe largestbarrierto Americanpolicy success, conflicts inside the KennedyAdministrationalso created difficulties. The result was that Kennedy'spolicy was a confusingmixtureof conflictingapproaches.Of the various players,the most importantones were the State Department,the NationalSecurity Council,the Congress,and the Presidencyitself. While most in Kennedy'sAdministrationsharedhis fundamentalgoal of balancingtheAmericanrelationshipbetween IsraelandArabstates,therewas muchdisagreementon methodsandapproaches. On a day-to-daybasis,the StateDepartmentprobablydid mostof the formation and execution of policy towardthe region as a whole. However,State's approach often conflictedwith the NSC or at least certainmembers.DeanRuskandhis ambassadorsanddiplomatsfrequentlyconflictedwith Kennedy'saims.Whilethe President sought a new approachto the region, the State Departmentsought to maintainthe statusquo. Rusk, Talbot,and otherssupportednew approachesto Egypt and advocatedthatthe US avoidselling weaponsto Israel.They did not wish, however,to see Americanaid to Iran,Egypt,or anyoneelse used to push or force regionalleadersto reform.State'sattitudewas to aid wherefeasibleandhopethatsuchaid wouldleadto a closer relationshipto the West and less dependenceon the East. Beyond this aim, however,it was reluctantto go.
574* MIDDLEEASTJOURNAL Rusk andhis ambassadorsbelieved thatpushingthe Shah,for example,would only encouragehim to drawcloser to the Soviets, who would certainlynot push for democraticreforms.The National SecurityCouncil, on the other hand, wantedto changethe statusquo.Like Kennedy,McGeorgeBundyandcompanywantedto push the Shahinto alignmentwith US aims for the region.Both Bundyandhis most vocal NSC member,RobertKomer,wantedto use aid to force the Shahto institutedemocraticreforms,to encourageotherregionalleadersto do the same, andfor all recipients to make importanteconomic changesto ensure stabilityand develop eventual financialindependence.Whilethe StateDepartmentdid notbelieve the Shahcouldor shouldbe forcedto change,the NSC believedit should"getsomethingfor its money" as RobertKomerwouldput it. For the most part,the Defense Department -supported the NSC approachto the region andencouragedthe sale of militaryweaponsto Iran and otherfriendlyregimes. Kennedy,faced with conflictingadvice from the NSC and State Department, attemptedto walk a middleroad.He often took Rusk'sadvice not to push the Shah and otherregionalleaderstoo hardfor reform.He also chose to provideaid to the Shahwithoutstringsattached.He hopedthatthis approachwould quietlyencourage reformwhileavoidingaccusationsof imperialism.KomerandBundywouldlatervoice frustrationthat while Kennedymight have succeededin this aim, he also failed to achieve anythingconcretefor all the money spent. Kennedyhada uniqueopportunityto changeAmericanpolicytowardtheMiddle East.Unlikethe two presidentsbeforeandthe two afterhim, Kennedydid not haveto deal with an Arab-Israeliwar duringhis tenure.This factormadeit easierfor him to take a fresh approachto the region.The problemwas, however,thatthereremained the age-old conflict: the clash between what might appearto be a fair and "evenhanded"approachto bothIsraelandthe Arabstates,andwhatmighthaveto be done to suit the immediatewishes andinterestsof the UnitedStates.Kennedy,no less than the presidentsbefore and afterhim, struggledwith this dilemma. What goals then, did Kennedyaccomplish?A majorpart of his plan for the Middle East called for maintainingthe stabilityof traditionalregimes in the region while encouragingthemtowardmoderateandgradualreforms.This goal was aimed at Iran,Jordan,SaudiArabia,Kuwait,and Israel.These "pillarsof stability"were to lead the regionin democraticreformsand economic self-sufficiencywhile avoiding revolutionaryunrest.It was not an anti-nationalist policy,but certainlyopposedradical changeand of course,Communism.It was also importantto keep a strongfoothold in the regionvia Israeland access to oil via SaudiArabia,Kuwait,andIran. In some ways, Kennedywas most successful in this area. The royal regimes were preservedandoften strengthened,at least in the short-term.The failureto make internalreforms,however,would lead to the Shah'sdownfallandto the rise of militant Islam in the region. It is not at all clear that Kennedyor any otherAmerican presidentcould have preventedthese events.Historianscan only guess if democratic reformswould trulyhave changedthe courseof laterevents in the region.Whatcan be said is thatthe UnitedStatescontinued,muchas it hadbefore,to spendmoneyon regimesthatdid not makeany concessionsin return.In this sense, Kennedy'sefforts to changepolicy directionfailed.
KENNEDYANDTHESHAHOFIRAN* 575 Did Kennedylearnanythingfromhis experiences?Unfortunately, his assassination makes this questionimpossibleto answer.There is no evidence that Kennedy conductedany seriousevaluationof his MiddleEast policy beforehis death.Nevertheless,perhapstherearelessons to be learneddecadeslater.Certainly,one can argue thata governmentmustnot conductpolicy withouta thoroughunderstanding of regionalpolitics. If Americandiplomatshad studiedandunderstoodboththe Shahand the needsof the Iranianpeople,perhapsthe 1978revolutioncouldhavebeenavoided. One of the most importantlessons to learnfromthe KennedyAdministration is thatthe best-laidplans often fail becausethey lack a thoroughunderstandingof regional interestsand needs. While some diplomatsin the field naturallyunderstood MiddleEastissues betterthanCongressdid,theseideaswerenot adequatelycommunicatedto those at home makingthe decisionsandvice versa. The conflictsbetween the State Departmentand the NSC made this importanttask difficult,if not impossible. The story of US-MiddleEast relationsduringthe Cold Waryears illustrates muchaboutthe natureof powerrelationsandoffersa new view of the meaningof the superpowerstruggle.The Kennedyyears were particularlysignificantbecausethey illustratethe difficultythe UnitedStateshadin reconcilingits competingaimsfor the region. The period also confirmsthe fact that peripheralpowers were much more than mere pawns in the East-Weststruggle.They contributedto the conflict and perhapsenhancedit by using the Cold Warto furthertheirown regionalaims. In the final analysis,historianscannotlay sole blamefor the absenceof peacein the Middle East at the feet of any of the Americanpresidents.While Kennedycertainly did view the region in terms of the East-Westconflict, the Shah, and other regionalleaders,usedAmericanfearsof Sovietpenetrationto meetlocal needs.When they did not receive whatthey neededfromthe UnitedStates,they playedthe same game with the Soviet Union. Both super-powersfunneledmoney and supportto the regionto gainthe upperhandin the ColdWarcontest,while regionalleadersusedthis aid and supportto achievelocal aims. In the case of Iran,the Shahused superpower rivalriesto bolsterhis regime.In the long term,however,he becameentangledin his attemptsto keep this supportflowing andfailed to addressa growingIslamicmovement inside Iran.Inevitably,this failurewould lead directlyto the 1978 revolution.