tv U.S.- Iranian Relations in the Cold War CSPAN January 18, 2016 2:00pm-3:07pm EST
confrontation that could only end in blood shed. the troops and deputies stand by as the prayers are said and marchers go back to selma. this alabama town will go down in the history books as a turning point in the civil rights drive from the halls of congress to the smallest cross roads hamlet, people can understand the plea that no american can have freedom and justice unless there is freedom and justice for all. in selma, there is a lesson to be learned. up next on american history tv, historian discussing the book nixon, kissinger and the shah, the understand and iran in the cold war. the book looks at president nixon's relationship with the shah of iran and its impact on foreign policy in the cold war.
the richard nixon foundation hosted this of a hour event. thank you all for being here. thank you for coming all the way from london for this talk. i urge everyone to read this book if you really want to understand the u.s./iranian relationship today and iran's position in the world. let me first ask you, what inspired you to write this, undertake this project? >> well, first of all, can i just say thank you to the nixon foundation and to jonathan for the very kind invitation to come. they've taken such good care of me. i haven't been to california since i was a child. and i absolutely love it. i look out my office in london it's mostly raining, so to be here is a real pleasure. so, this book was a labor of love basically.
i come from an iranian family. i was born very shortly after the fall of the shah. the revolution and the shah was something that was always discussed in my family and always debated. so when it came time to write a president i naturally gravitated towards that. and it happened to be the time when many of the documents from the nixon administration were available, and my curiosity got the better of me and i started to read these documents. and i was -- i was really surprised, because the image that came out of those documents of nixon, of kissinger, of the shah, of the relationship between these men, was so different to what i had heard, were so different to the orthodox view in academia, that i got hooked. and i spent the next three or four years living with these three men and studying them and
trying to understand them. >> now, most of our audience, all of our audience is familiar with the backgrounds of henry kissinger and president nixon, but who is the shah? what's his background? >> it's a good question. well, he ascended the throne in iran in 1941 in the midst of the second world war. he was not born a prince. his father came to power in iran in 1921 in a military coup. he'd been a military officer. and he became the crown prince of iran after his father was crowned in 1925. so he ascended the throne in possibly the most, you know,
difficult circumstances that you can imagine. his country was under occupation by the allied powers. the soviet union had occupied the north of iran, britain the south, the united states, persian command had been established to supply the soviet union from the persian gulf. and so he barely managed to ascend the throne. the monarchy, you know, was touch and go whether the monarchy would survive. and he was only 21 years old at the time. the first american president that he met was franklin roosevelt, you know, so it's an incredible life story. and he becomes i think a major political figure of the 20th century, i mean, somebody who played a role in world affairs throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, until his death in 1981. >> you begin your book by talking about the second world
war and the dawn of the cold war and how the allied powers had been occupying russia in the north and great britain in the south. can you talk a little bit about the context, the world war ii and early cold war context of iran during that period of time, what was happening? >> sure. well, iran was the first battleground of the cold war, i mean, the first issue that was on the agenda of the united nations security council after it was established was iran. the soviet union under stalin had occupied the north of iran and despite its commitment to leave iran -- six months after the end of the war, the soviet union didn't withdraw and this created a cold war crisis. drawing in the united states, the truman administration, and this was a formative experience for the shah, for a whole generation of iranians who realized that a policy of neutrality was not enough to defend iran.
and that iran had to look to a third power to preserve its independence and its sovereignty against the imperial ambitions of britain and russia. in the 1930s iran had looked to germany to play that role. and after the second world war a whole generation of iranian statesmen including the shah looked to the united states as a country that had no imperial ambitions and no history of colonialism in the region. they hoped that an alliance with the far superpower, the superpower that was on the other side of the world, would help defend them and protect them from the near superpower soviet union with whom iran shared a 1,500 kilometer border. >> there's a debate in iran of this policy about balancing between powers who wanted to exploit iran's oil interest. can you touch a little bit on that? and where the shah and other
leaders come into the picture? >> well, i mean, the left in iran was very active. the communist party of iran was the first political party in the country. had a military network and was supported by the soviet union. at the same time, the iranian nationalist figures, whether they were republican or monarchists or liberal or conservative, they looked to the united states as a country that would be able to support the cause of liberty in iran. now, there were some who thought that allying with the united states unnecessarily antagonized the soviet union. there were -- there were others who thought that the strategy that you mentioned, the
balancing strategy, effectively surrendered iran's sovereignty to these great powers. because the substance of that policy was giving one concession to britain in order to balance a concession that they'd given to the russians, right? and so the position was that, well, this is like -- very famously he said, well, this is like a man one arm cut off cutting off the other arm in order to have balance. but even he looked to the united states. he placed great faith in president truman to help iran resist british influence and british imperialism really during the oil crisis of the 1950s. he hoped that the united states
would back iran's claims to sovereignty and control of its own oil. and that worked for a while, but unfortunately as iran became more and more unstable ultimately the united states backed its ally, britain, rather than iran. >> so, mosaddeq falls, how does the shah emerge in 1953 out of this crisis? >> well, 1953 is a huge trauma for iran. after a three-year battle between britain and iran for control over iranian oil, iran is able to nationalize its oil industry. iranian oil finally belongs to the iranians. but it comes at a price. britain and the united states work together covertly to overthrow mosaddeq's government.
britain because they fear the consequences of allowing mosaddeq to stay in power not just for their interests in iran but throughout their whole empire. and the united states because they fear that a continuation of mosaddeq's government would lead to instability and a communist takeover in iran. and so the role of outside powers in the fall of mosaddeq and the installation of the shah as an absolute ruler rather than a constitutional monarch very much undermines the legitimacy of the monarchy in iran and creates -- not only that, it also undermines the well of goodwill that existed for the united states in iran prior to 1953. and it's something that the shah never really manages to escape, no matter how much the substance of the u.s./iran relationship
changes over the years, the popular perception of the shah as a dictator installed by the united states, that narrative is so powerful and so difficult for him to shake. and the figure of mosaddeq looms in the background constantly, you know, as the authentic iranian nationalist as opposed to the shah who is an instrument of american power in their view. the substance of the relationship was not like that at all and that the relationship between the united states and iran evolved over time. but we can get to that. >> was the -- in that vein, what was the gulf policy of the eisenhower, kennedy, and johnson administrations? you know, it's interesting that you brought up, you know, that he was thought of as a puppet. i think it was the shah who said that the kennedy and the johnson administrations treated him as a
concubine rather than a wife? >> that's right. >> can you characterize what was going on at that time? >> iran was a cold war liability for the united states. it was not a country that could really contribute to american strategies of containment. the issue was iran's place in the cold war was to act essentially as a bulwark against soviet penetration into the persian gulf. so, the objective of american policy was to keep the shah in power, maintain a pro-american government in iran. and the -- if you read the documents from the kennedy period or the johnson period, the debate is all about that, how do we ensure that, how can the united states preserve the shah's government, what's the most effective way of doing that. under eisenhower the policy's largely one of supplying iran with arms and economic aid to maintain stability.
during the kennedy administration it's a policy of pushing the shah to modernize and reform in the hope of preventing some kind of popular revolution. so, it -- the shah is not an asset, he's a liability in that view. and as far as his ambitions for iran are concerned, his ideas about iran being a great power, exercising influence throughout the region, none of that is taken seriously by any of these administrations. consistently his argument to various american presidents is, well, iran needs more money, iran needs more arms, iran faces a threat from the soviet union and from its allies in the arab world.
and more often than not the response from the eisenhower administration or kennedy or even johnson was that, well, you should worry less about the soviet union and worry more about the internal problems in your country. get your house in order rather than worrying about a soviet invasion of iran. because after all if there's a soviet invasion of iran, with all the arms in the world you're not going to be able to stop them. that will be up to the united states to do that. >> how did the u.s. at the time view saudi arabia, iran's large rival to the south in the persian gulf? >> well, in the 1960s, especially after what the shah called his white revolution of reforms, an image emerges of iran as a modernizing country and the shah as a kind of modernizing monarch. it was something of a sort of contradiction. you can't really be -- you can't at the same time claim to be wearing the mantle of cyrus the great and 2,500 years of
monarchy and claim to be a radical reformer who is thoroughly modern. these two things don't sit well with each other. but in any case in the 19 skills the shah was, you know, perceived especially in washington as being on the right side of history. and the saudis and the house of saud, even during the reign of king feisal, were seen as a very conservative monarchy, unwilling to reform, very religious, and sort of destined for the dustbin of history. well, of course, they couldn't have got that more wrong. the shah falls in 1979 and the house of saud is still ruling saudi arabia. but at the time there was a perception that, you know, the shah's reforms would allow iran to weather the storms and that the saudi reluctance to reform
made their monarchy very brittle and sort of a bad bet. and this is a narrative that the shah constantly reiterated to washington, you know, to convince them to back iran as the dominant power in the region. >> president nixon becomes president in january 1969, but he first meets the shah as vice president in 1953 on his first -- >> that's right. >> -- foreign trip. can you describe their first meeting? >> yeah. it's a very memorable trip. it was in december of 1953. it was just about five or six months after the coup against mosaddeq when vice president nixon goes to tehran. and from his minutes, from his notes of those meetings and the reports that he gave to president eisenhower when he returned to washington, he -- the impression you get of the shah is of a very timid and shy character and that the real power in tehran is in the hands of general zahadi, the prime
minister who had essentially led the coup effort in tehran, military officer had led the coup effort. but nixon does say that, well, i did sense something in him. i did sense that we would be hearing more about this man. and they seemed to get along very well on a personal level. they seemed to be a good rapport between them and the interesting thing they would maintain the relationship throughout the 1950s, throughout the 1960s, even when nixon was out of office. >> they meet again in his wilderness years. >> yes. >> how did the two men change? was there a change in policy between the two men? were they more politically mature? >> i don't know that they had
changed so much. certainly the shah was a much more confident figure by the time we got to the late 1960s. he was older. he was more experienced. iran itself had developed quite a lot, so he was much more safe on his throne. what had really changed was the cold war, was the context in which they were meeting. the united states was involved in the vietnam war. the shah was quite frustrated and disillusioned at what he perceived as a sort of abdication of american leadership in the cold war. he worried about the decline of american power and what this would mean for iran. and he was quite hopeful that a man like nixon could resurrect u.s. leadership. and their meeting in tehran is really extraordinary. first of all, the shah's advisers told him not to meet with nixon, of course, because they worried that he would be
seen as sort of taking sides in american domestic politics. what if hubert humphrey or any other democratic candidate were to win that election, what would be the consequences for the u.s./iran relationship. but nonetheless, the shah dismissed these concerns and he would meet nixon who was his friend. and they have a really wide-ranging discussion for two hours, discussing everything from the situation in the horn of africa to vietnam. you can just imagine these grand geopolitical thinkers, very well versed, very well informed, really good on the substance. discussing these issues. there's a very revealing moment when the shah says to nixon, you know, i'm really tired of these harvard boys telling me how to run my country. and, of course, he's talking about the kennedy administration, the johnson administration and the people who were still in the white
house and, of course, this must have been music to richard nixon's ears. and he's very effusive in his praise for the shah. he comes back to the united states and makes a very complementary speech about the shah. and i think that really plays the groundwork for the kind of relationship that's going to exist once richard nixon assumes the presidency. >> seven months or six months after he assumes the presidency, president nixon -- he watches the "apollo 11" astronauts splash down in the south pacific, right after that july 25th, 1969, he goes to the island of guam and pronounces his first -- or his foreign policy doctrine, articulates it. there was no news -- there were only news reporters that day. there was only television coverage, but he rearticulates that vision again on november 3rd, 1969, when he rallies support for his policy in vietnam. it's called the -- properly known as the silent majority
speech. can we queue that up? >> a leader of another asian country expressed this opinion to me, when i was traveling in asia, as a private citizen, he said, when you are trying to assist another nation defend its freedom, u.s. policy should be to help them fight the war but not to fight the war for them. well, in accordance with this wise counsel, i laid down in guam three principles as guidelines for future american policy toward asia. first, the united states will keep all of its treaty commitments. second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.
third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments, but we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense. after i announce this policy, i found that the leaders of the philippines, thailand, vietnam, south korea, other nations which might be threatened with communist direction welcomed this new direction in american foreign policy. the defense of freedom is everybody's business. not just america's business. and it is particularly the responsibility of the people whose freedom is threatened. in the previous administration, we americanized the war in vietnam. in this administration, we are vietnamizing the search for peace. >> now, he's talking about vietnam and southeast asia there, but what does this mean broadly in the context of american cold war policy during the nixon administration?
>> i mean, i can almost hear the shah saying exactly those words. he would frequently tell nixon that unlike many other countries, you know, we don't want to fight until the last american, you know. look, the nixon doctrine was part of a comprehensive strategy. it was one half of the strategy, the other half being detente, the goal of the administration was to redirect american resources and attention away from what they perceived as needless engagements, unnecessary commitments towards the issues that mattered, which they -- by which they really meant relations between the great powers, china and the soviet union and the united
states. so, how to achieve that? well, the united states would have to pick and choose where in the world it confronted the soviet adversary rather than allowing the soviet union to determine where those battles would be fought. but this is a very difficult thing to do, because if you are a global superpower, you have global interests, so even the most obscure conflict in some far-away place suddenly takes on very important significance, global significance. how do you do that? well, they resolve that dilemma with the nixon doctrine, that america is partners in these various regions, would be given the resources, the arms, the support, to be able to confront the soviet union and its local allies in those regions, without direct american military intervention. and this was music to the shah's ears. this is exactly the role that he
wanted for iran. a strong regional power with the full support of the united states. able to contribute to american strategies of containment, to be an asset rather than a liability in the cold war. >> over the course of the next year, from 1969 to 1970, president nixon, henry kissinger re-evaluate policy and henry kissinger issues national security decision memorandum 92 in which he evaluates all the different american strategy options. just a couple of bullets here on the screen we have. assuming the united kingdom role as protector ourselves, backing iran as our chosen instrument the keeper of stability in the gulf, promoting saudi/iranian cooperation, dealing directly with new states in the lower gulf and actively promoting a regional security pact. they evaluate all those different options and they come up with a determined course of
action. here they are. to promote saudi/iranian cooperation as the mainstay of the regional system but to recognize iran is the preponderant power in the gulf and to do what we can to develop the working relationship with the new political entities in the lower gulf. how did the nixon administration come to this conclusion? >> it was -- it was a very long process. it took at least two years. in part it reflected the realities, political realities, of the persian gulf. britain had withdrawn. the united states was unable to take on that role because of vietnam war. and the only country in the region that had both the will and the resources to be able to maintain regional stability was iran, which was a close ally of the united states. the only other option, of course, was saudi arabia.
but the saudis did not have the military capability to play that kind of role, nor were they particularly willing to play that role. they didn't want to be -- they didn't want to open themselves to the accusation from the nasrists and the arab nationalists as being a sort of proxy for the united states while the shah had no such qualms and was quite happy to take on that mantle of regional primacy. but i would argue that that is not really a sufficient explanation. because the johnson administration in 1968 faced exactly the same dilemma and came to a very different conclusion to the one that you've just listed. they decided to continue with the policy of balancing iran and saudi arabia. their idea was that a balance of power between iran and saudi arabia was the best way to maintain stability in the
region. this was the famous twin pillars policy. the nixon administration abandons that policy and shifts to one of what i call iranian primacy. they still pay lip service to the saudis, but in effect everybody knows that the -- -- conclusion that i come to is that it has a lot to do with that personal relationship between richard nixon and the shah. that relationship that went all the way back to 1953. there was a mutual respect. there was a trust. i would even say an esteem between the two men that gave nixon the assurance -- the sort of confidence that he could trust the shah to play that kind of role. >> you brought up the nasrists and the saudi arabia reluctance to cozy up to the united states. how does this affect -- there was another track in the nixon administration of pursuing a
middle east peace pact between the saudis and iran. >> the ultimate objective, of course, was to diminish soviet influence in the middle east. in the minds of nixon and kissinger and not just them, i think, most of the foreign policy establishment at that time, this was one theater of global cold war. of course, that's not how the actors in the region saw it. you know, they don't see themselves as just a theater in the global cold war. they're fighting their own battles for their own reasons to do with sometimes very, very local issues. so, the rogers plan and secretary rogers' approach to the region and his sort of portfolio really was the israeli issue but his approach was more of the regional one. he was trying to solve i think a
regional issue, the arab/israeli issue, to try to gain some traction and some momentum. this was not something i think that was of great interest to either nixon or kissinger unless it had some kind of consequence for the global cold war. and so the two -- whereas their policy in the arab/israeli issue under rogers had this kind of regional approach, in the gulf it's the global one. it's the cold war approach. and the shah understands this perfectly and he uses the language of the cold war. he uses the threat of the soviet union to get what he wants, to get what he wants from washington. to present himself as an asset to the united states in strategies of containment. now, ultimately he succeeds and the rogers plan fails so that
tells you something about which approach has more traction in washington and i think that probably applies as much today as it did back then, you know, the -- where you stand depends on where you sit as they say, you know, and the shah understood that very, very well. >> you write that on may 30th, 1972, following president nixon's historic trip to moscow where anti-ballistic treaty was ratified and detente became a doctrine of both the united states and russia during that period of time. nixon goes to -- from that trip he goes to tehran may 30th. and he -- you write that that doctrine, that doctrine of iran's primacy, was ratified during that meeting in tehran. wouldn't detente have made iran much more vulnerable to the russians?
>> yeah. it -- they have two meetings in tehran on the way back from moscow. and one of the first things that nixon says to the shah is that -- that iran shouldn't see detente as something that weakens iran. in other words, the united states is not going to sell out iran to the soviet union as part of some grand bargain. the shah has anticipated this. he has his own strategy of dealing with the soviet union and the communist world. he has already normalized relations with the soviet union in 1962. he's trading oil and gas with soviet union, with communist countries of eastern europe. his strategy is to deal with detente by making iran indispensable to the communist bloc, by supplying them with oil.
so, for example, one of the countries that iran had the closest relationship with in the 1970s was romania. and iranian oil -- this is extraordinary. iranian oil would be -- would reach the mediterranean via the escalon pipeline that went through israel to the mediterranean coast from the red sea. and then would be shipped to romania, where the oil would be refined in romanian refineries and sold throughout the communist bloc. right? this was a way for the shah to integrate himself both into the east and into the west, and to buy something of an insurance policy against detente. moreover, detente was also an opportunity for a country like iran, a middle power like iran. a relaxation of tensions by the
two superpowers creates more space for countries like iran to be able to assert themselves on the global stage. it reduces the barriers, the restrictions, that are in place on iran flexing its muscles. because when tensions are really high between the superpowers, the smallest action by iran could have very drastic consequences. for example, a conflict between iran and iraq could very quickly escalate into a superpower confrontation between the soviet union and the united states. when those tensions are low, it allows a country like iran to maybe take some more risks and be able to assert itself more strongly. so, he did -- the shah did a very good job of responding to detente and taking advantage of it. >> in that context, you write of a really interesting exchange between president nixon and the shah in which the president says, during the same meetings on may 30th, he -- nixon says, protect me. what did he mean by that?
>> yeah. it's really extraordinary. he looks at the shah, and he says protect me. and i think this must have been the best day in the shah's life, you know,. the president of the united states had come to tehran to ask him to protect him. what did it mean? i think it meant that, well, protect the interests of the western world in this really vital strategic theater. help maintain the stability of the gulf. keep oil flowing through the strait of hormuz. now, that wasn't just the united states' interests, that was also iran's interests. iran's economy depended on the ability to produce and export its oil to global markets.
that is a consistent policy. so, yeah, i just remember the first time i read that document, i mean, just extraordinary. by the way, the only record we have of those meetings are henry kissinger's minutes because only these three men were privy so what was said in those meetings. the shah would never allow any other official to be present when he met with such important heads of state. it was another way for him to be able to control the flow of information within his government. so i guess it depends how honest henry has been in those minutes. >> let's turn to iraq for a moment. it was a client of moscow on the persian gulf and in 1937 the shah's father signed a treaty in tehran that gave under pressure from the british, that gave this water way called the shot ala ran right off the persian gulf, gave the iraqis complete sovereignty of it. the shah, then the current shah,
the son, wanted to aggregate this treaty wand wanted to water way back. why was this so significant to take a portion of this back from the iraqis? >> it's crucially important because iran's -- at that time iran's largest oil refinery that's been built by the british was located on the shot al arab. so it was absolutely vital. whoever controlled that water way controlled the lanes through think iranian oil was shipped into the persian gulf and ultimately into global markets. now, for the iraqis it's particularly important, i mean, as you can see on that map iraq has a very small coastline on the persian gulf, a very tiny opening through which it can export its oil.
iran of course has a very long coastline that goes all the way past the strait of hormuz into the arabian sea. so it's always been a very sensitive and important border. of course, having a waterway as a border is always a bad idea because any of you that know about waterways, they shift over time, they move, they are not fixed. they change in seasons, they change over time. i don't know if you remember, but fairly recently some british sailers were arrested by the iranians for apparently wandering on to the wrong side of the chateau arab. it's a very sensitive and important water way and the shah didn't like the fact that iran had given this concession to the iraqis or then the otto man governments that iraq would have sovereignty over the entire water way.
that the border would be on the iranian shore. what he wanted was the convention, the international -- the standard practice internationally which was to have the border in the middle of the water way, what was called the foul way which is the deepest navigable channel in the water way. this wasn't something that the iraqis were willing to succeed until we have a crisis in 1969 when matters come to a head and the shah uses military force, he has a full military escort and lo and behold the iraqis don't resist, they don't put up any resistance and that establishes de facto iranian sovereignty at least in their half. this was ratified in 1975 in an agreement between saddam hussein and the shah.
>> another sticking point between iran and iraq is the status of the kurds who encompass regions of both areas. in 1972 the shah supports the -- covertly supports the kurds in their war against the united arab front in iraq. why does he do that? >> yeah, i mean, iranian intervention in iraq is nothing new. the ties between iran and iraq are very, very old, they go back to the era of the ottomans. in the 15th, 16th century. in the 1970s the shah's goal essentially was to paralyze the iraqi army, to keep the arab nationalists iraqi governments busy fighting the kurds in the north of iraq rather than making trouble for the iran in the south. the support for the iraqi kurds
begins in the early 1960s in cooperation with israel. iran's intelligence service and the israel intelligence service begin a covert operation to support the iraqi kurds. it's very important that iran has a role here because the iranian border was the only way for the israelis to actually be able to access kurdish territory. there is no other way to physically get in there. but of course for the iranians it's very sensitive because iran has its owned kurdish population and the last thing that the shah wanted was an independent kurdistan in northern iraq, which could create all kinds of problems in iran. so he played this very some would say cynical game of supporting the kurds enough to keep them fighting against the iraqis but never enough for them to actually triumph and achieve independence. of course, the kurds and their leader, this kind of epic man on horseback heroic type figure,
they are not fooled. they understand exactly what the shah is doing and they start to flirt with the idea of making some kind of peace with the iraqis, some kind of deal with saddam hussein that would win the war and them achieve their objectives and this makes the shah very nervous. how can he keep this war going? how can he maintain this stalemate that paralyzes the iraqis? he has to find -- he has to provide barzani with some kind of guarantee, he needs to give him some kind of insurance policy that iran is not going to sell them out. there's only one country that can provide that guarantee and that's the united states, the only country that barzani would trust and so the shah asks nixon and kissinger to come into the -- come into the covert war in iraq.
for the cia to provide money and arms to the kurds, but more importantly to establish contact with the iraqi kurds and express sympathy for their goals. this would represent a break with the policies of all previous administrations who had resisted getting drawn into this war in iraq. after all, the united states is fighting a war, another civil war, in the judge else of southeast asia, the last thing anybody wants is to get involved in another obscure conflict in some place that most americans had never heard of. not surprisingly the entire foreign policy establishment in washington advises both -- advises the white house to not do -- to say no. to resist getting involved, but interestingly nixon and kissinger overrule them and on the advice of the shah they agreed to become involved in the kurdish war in 1972 during those meetings in tehran.
>> it was a cold war context to their involvement. >> absolutely. the argument the shah makes to them is that the iraqis are backed by the soviet union. if the kurds and the baath, come to terms this will represent soviet domination of iraq and the only way to prevent that is by the united states becoming involved in the war. but here is the question that i find really interesting. why does the president and his national security adviser trust the advice of the shah over the advice of the secretary of state, the director of the cia, the secretary of defense? why is it that they place so much faith in the wisdom of the shah?
my argument is that it has to do with that relationship. that rather unique relationship that existed between nixon, kissinger and the shah. the united states didn't really have an iraq policy. it had an iran policy. what they did with the kurds was a subset of that policy. united states policy was to support the shah. if the shah said that this needed to be done, then it should be done. that is how the process evolved. i think if that relationship had not been there but the kurds' appeals for help from the united states would have been ignored by the nixon administration just like they were by the johnson administration and kennedy and all the rest before them. >> so how does this war end? >> it ends in 1975. the problem is that as much as the iranians and the israelis want to keep this conflict hidden and covert, it escalates
over time. one reason for that is the massive increase in oil prices over 1973 after the october war. this gives both iran and iraq tremendous resources to be able to prosecute this war and this escalates the war to the point that iranian forces actually cross the iraqi border dressed as kurds, iranian soldiers cross into iraq and actually engage with iraqi forces. the shah is very worried that this will lead to a full scale war between iran and iraq at that time when its american ally has been weakened by watergate, by the war. the fear is that they will find themselves in a position without the support of the united states. so he has a choice, either
escalates the war or he makes a deal and what he does is he makes a deal. he meets with saddam hussein on the sidelines of the al jazeera opec summit and they issue a communiqué in which iran essentially agrees to seal its border with iraq, in other words, cut off supplies to the kurds and in exchange saddam agrees to make the territorial concessions that the shah had been demanding. >> so the shah he comes out more powerful as a result of this war and iran gets everything they want at the end of things. you write that iran has ambitions of becoming even a greater power in the region, perhaps even a nuclear power. could you talk a little bit about iran's nuclear ambitions during that period of time?
>> yeah, the iranian nuclear program begins under the shah. it was a very modest program in the 1950s under the eisenhower administration's atoms for peace program, they built a small research reactor in tehran, but in the 1970s with all of this oil money flowing into iran the shah makes a decision that iran is going to join the nuclear club, it's going to be one of the few countries in the world that can produce electricity from nuclear power. you have to remember in the 1970s this was the considered the height -- it was a very exclusive club of countries that could do this, only the most advanced economies in the world had this technology. he didn't necessarily want a nuclear weapon. every indication i've seen is that he thought that if iran developed nuclear weapons it would actually undermine iran's
position as a leading power in the region because if iran develops nuclear weapons so will the iraqis and so will the saudis and then everybody is equal. it will eliminate iran's advantage as the largest country in the region with the largest conventional force. but nonetheless he was of the view that iran should have the scientific base and access to the necessary technology to be able to develop a nuclear weapon if its one of its adversaries did so. so if the iraqis suddenly one day have a bomb when iran should be able to respond. of course, things are changed dramatically since the 1970s. iran no longer has a conventional superiority over its neighbors that it did back then, the iranian military is feeble as compared to the israelis and saudi arabia armed with the latest technology and weapons so i'm sure the calculation is somewhat different now but the ambitions
are very similar. iran is a country with a long history, with a memory of memo empire, of greatness, and that is something that's really central to the iranian view of their place in the world. of course, at the same time, and the irony, of course, that like not dissimilar say, china, or russia, iran sees itself as a victim of history, it's a kind of -- two sides of the same coin. they see themselves as a victim of colonialism and imperialism yet a memory of their empire and their greatness. and i think these two things in a way actually reinforce each other. for the shah, the challenge was, how can iran's ambitions be
integrated within an american world order? do these things necessarily have to conflict with one another? is there a way that the united states can accommodate an ambitious iran? is there a way that iran's ambitions and reinforce american's interests? and this innen, kissinger and the shah found a way to did that and it worked effectively, as long as the men were in power. of course it all falls apart after the iranian revolution. whether that's possible today, i'm very skeptical, but i do see a great deal of continuity. >> thank you very much. >> pleasure. >> we have some time for questions. let's give a round of applause. we are going to take a few questions. >> i'd like to ask a question. it's basically the relationship
between both men post-presidency, post-exile. what was it like? >> it's funny you ask that because i've been here looking at the papers. i mean, the rip didn't end with the fall of the shah or watergate or nixon's resignation. when the shah went into exile in january of 1979, nixon and kissinger worked very hard to try to secure a safe haven for the shah in the united states. highly critical of the carter administration for not allowing the shah to come to the united states, reluctantly. and in fact, they -- kissinger secured a safe haven for the shah in mexico, the bahamas, they visited him when he was staying in mexico. president nixon drove up from california to see him. and when the shah died, in 1981,
cairo, one of the few heads of state to attend the shah's funeral was president nixon, who made a point of being there and was highly, highly critical of president carter when he arrived in cairo. he referred to carter's policy as one of the black pages of the history of american foreign policy. >> next question. >> hi. i'm name is lou. why is there so much hatred in the current iranian regime toward israel, because i mean i've heard they say if they had a nuclear bomb they would destroy israel tomorrow or yesterday. why is that hatred there? what provoked that? >> u think it's a very cynical instrumental policy. iran is a country in i region
where it's in a minority. it's a shia country and it's a persian country surrounded by sunni arab states who a historic antagonistic relationship with iran. if you want to make a case for leadership for iranian leadership, you need an issue which is going to allow you to rally support, and the issue of israel is one that the iranians use effectively in the past to rally support. now that strategy has totally collaps collapsed because of the arab spring. but i think it's a very cynical policy because the same government that professes to hate israel was quite happy to do arms deals with israel in the 1980s during the iran/iraq war and quite happy to engage in the sort of cold war with israel as long as there are iranians doing
any fighting. so, it's a very instrumental policy. i -- i really wonder if there's anyone left who believes in it anymore, to be honest with you. next question? >> good evening, sir. wayne scott. the u.s. has a long history of what administrations -- one administration standing behind a foreign leader in support of u.s. national policy and then over time that leader possibly corruption, possibly some type of internal insurgency, fighting against them, and a future administration withdraws that support, the leadership is deposed, collapses, we end up being replaced by a government that's very hostile to the united states. vietnam, iran, philippines, egypt, there are several. >> absolutely.
>> what would be your thought toward how do we keep -- how do we stop repeating this path? >> well, it remains me of -- i remember during the shah's first state visit to washington, during nixon's presidency, he had a number of demands and asking for this and asking for that. and kissinger said to him, well, look, it's much easier for the imperial ruler of iran to make policy than for us here in the united states because the united states is a democracy and it's subject to all of the vagaries of domestic politics. it seems like there's an election here every year. that makes it difficult to have a consistent, long-term foreign policy based on the national
interest. there's only really one way of doing that, that is to do everything in secret, which is what the nixon administration did for the most part. i mean most of the biggest achievements in foreign policy were done in total secrecy, presented as a fait accompli. bus that has its on pitfalls because you fail to build public support for your policy and it can backfire very badly. so how do you resolve that dilemma? i think it's very, very difficult. the -- i think the only real way to do it is appeal, rather than as a leader, trying to appeal to people's worst instincts is to treat people intelligently and speak in substance to people. i think that's something that has been completely lost, to be honest with you in politics, it's so+++5q
question is whether it's realistic to imagine a world in which iran has no i flunance in iraq the one tri which it has hundreds of years of relations of which -- with which it has many common cultural links. i think that's not really a realistic strategy. actually, as far as the united states is concerned, iran and the united states have many common interests in iraq when it comes to fighting isis, when it comes to maintaining stability in the country. the question is whether iran is going to encourage a direct in iraq that is inclusive of the sunnis or a winner takes all strategy and that remains to be seen, i think. >> one more question. before we get to that, i want to let everybody know that he'll be available in the front lobby to sign copies of his book, which are available for sale.
last question. >> i want to ask the question that this gentleman in the back asked about the current iran deal in a different way. i was 20 years old when the iranian revolution came about. by the way, before i get to that, be happy about all of the rain in london. over here, it's a problem. that we don't have it. but since then, it's always seemed to be there's been this underlying thread of wanting to get back and work with iran, whether it's the reagan administration, arming them up or to today's deal. what is it about us wanting to take another run at iran to see what we can do to make friends with them under this -- the fray that's going on out there that says death to america, death to -- what is it about that?
>> it's fundamental reality that iran is a very important country. economically, politically, historically, culturally. this is not a country that can be ignored. and the u.s. policy, since the hostage crisis, understandably, has been to contain iran, to isolate iran. and that strategy has consequences. it hasn't worked very well. it creates in a way creates more problems than it solves. and so every administration, as you said, over time, floats with the idea well, maybe we can engage with them, talk with them, maybe it's possible to have some kind of deal. we came very close during the clinton administration. there was a real meaningful detente between the khatami government in iran, a reformist government, and the clinton administration. any attempt at detente, any
change in the status quo is going to upset a lot of vested interests. there are many, many other countries, many domestic players, both in the united states and iran, who benefit from this status quo, who are invested in it. and who will fight tooth and nail to prevent it from happening. so with the current engagement effort, to be honest with you, i'm quite amazed it's gotten this far, we are at this point the u.s. secretary of state and i the iranian foreign minister regularly talk to each other, and where american diplomats and the iranians sit and negotiate and come to agreement. i mean that's really extraordinary, after 30-something years of never talking to each other. in the very, very long run, there has to be some kind of relationship between united states and iran. these are two important
countries in a -- who have very significant interests in a very important region. so the idea that there can never be some kind of -- is unlikely. but when that actually happens, when the conditions will be ripe for that to happen, i don't think anybody can foretell with any confidence. >> thank you. >> thank you. he'll be available in the front lobby. ask any further questions and sign any books. again, they're for sale. pick one up. thank you. >> you are watching american h