During the period of the Nixon-Kissinger Doctrine, 1971-1979, there was close cooperation between the two kingdom pillars of Iran and Saudi Arabia. For the first time, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) developed into an effective international cartel, able to influence the direction of the world economy and also able to influence political gains (Mojtahed-Zadeh, 1998). For example, increasing of oil prices in 1973 was in reaction to the Arab-Israeli ‘October war’, a protest against Zionism and the western countries because of their support of the Israeli regime (Kissinger, 1982). Although the Pahlavi regime depended on Western powers and colluded with Israel, in that context, demonstrating solidarity with Iran’s Arab neighbors on the issue of Palestine was a utilitarian-economic decision and had its economic reason to raise crude oil prices, because the shah had begun huge industrial and economic development plans and needed more petroleum income.
There was excellent cooperation between the regional Persian Gulf states and the role of diplomacy was important between 1968 and 1978. During this period and especially after the withdrawal of British forces in 1971, the harmony between Iran and Saudi Arabia secured the region against the communism of the Soviet Union. Without a meaningful military presence in the Persian Gulf, the ‘West’ legitimized the regional stability, relying on Saudi Arabia and Iran as regional proxies. Also, during this period there was excellent cooperation between the twin-pillars of the region that was extended to their alliance in OPEC for the stability of crude oil prices. In this regard, Richard Hass, Special Assistant to the Deputy under Secretary of Defense and also Director of the Bush administration’s Policy Planning Staff expressed:
… It is the large degree of commonality of interests and purpose between Iran and Saudi Arabia throughout much of the past decade that impresses the observer. Despite differences over the price and availability of oil, the two were instrumental to OPEC’s ability to both survive and thrive during a period of fundamental change in the international political economy of oil. Massive importation of arms and mutual military development did not bring about deep hostility or conflict between the two countries, while the absence of formal machinery for the promotion of regional security did not preclude co-ordination and tacit co-operation. Lastly, differences between approaches to the Arab-Israeli Middle East question narrowed rather than widened over time… (haass, 1981).
3.7.1 Areas of cooperation between Iran and US
During the period of 1971 – 1979 when the Shah Pahlavi regime was one of the pillars of western alliance in the Persian Gulf region, the convergence of the U.S. and Iran had some results in the Middle East, South West and South East of Asia: in the Middle East (a), the Shah Pahlavi’s regime did not permit the Soviet Union flight airlifts to the Arab countries; (b) the Pahlavi regime refused to join the Arab oil embargo against the U.S. and western countries in 1973; (c) export of oil to the western countries and Israeli regime during the period of the Arab oil embargo and Arab-Israeli conflict; (d), Iran’s export of fuel to the American carrier task force in the Indian Ocean; (e), the Pahlavi’s readiness to play an intermediary role in the Arab-Israeli struggle; (f), the Pahlavi regime’s support of Egyptian president Saadaat in his negotiation with the Israeli regime and financially supporting Egypt from 1974-1975 and supporting the Camp David accords and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty (R. Ramazani, 1976); J) to absorb the energies of radical Arab neighbors to prevent them from threatening the moderate regimes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Persian Gulf (Kissinger, 1979, p. 1262)
The role of the Shah’s regime in Western of Asia was considered as; (a), “to help damp India’s temptations to conclude its conquest of Pakistan” (Kissinger, 1979, p. 1264); (b), opposing India as a threat to the United States-Iranian security interests in South Asia, with the Shah giving his full support to Pakistan. In South-East Asia also, the Shah supported American policies: (a), Iran helped south Vietnam during the Vietnam war and had a medical team in Saigon (Kissinger, p. 1264); (b), United States used F-5A jet fighters borrowed from Iran when it was forced to withdraw from Vietnam according to the 1973 agreement; (b) Shah Pahlavi supported the US policy and position in Indochina.
There was a common political development perception between Iran and the U.S. in the Horn of Africa during the 1970’s: (a), Iran had the role of supporting moderate regimes against Soviet-Cuban violation (Kissinger, p. 1262); (b), the Shah’s regime was supporting the pro-western regime of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, in its disputes with the radical regime in Somalia and by 1977 Iran became a source of military and economic aid to Somalia against Ethiopian rebellion.
3.7.2 US military assistance to Iran
Following the announcement of the Nixon Doctrine and the subsequent choice of Iran as the regional guarantee of the US and western countries in the Persian Gulf region, the U.S. gave its military assistance to Iran. According to the US government, such assistance was essential to enable the United States to participate effectively in arrangements for individual and collective security and increasing the responsibilities of American allies in other geographical regions (Lewis, 1977, p. 188). William Rogers, former US Secretary of State, in 1971 stated:
The US objectives in Iran are… to assist Iran, in accordance with the Nixon Doctrine, in attaining economic and military self-reliance… We now provide Export-Import Bank loans to assist Iran in purchasing both military and commercial equipments and services in the United States (Szulc, 1978, p. 444).
Table 4: U.S. Military Assistance to Iran, 1965-1973*
Export-import-Bank military loans
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
– – –
*Source: U.S. Foreign Assistance and Assistance from International Organization Obligations. Loan Authorization Development, Statistics and Reports Division. May 1976. P. 16.
According to the above table, during the period 1971-1973, the US government gave a total of USD400 million in Export-Import Bank military loans to Iran. During the visit of President Nixon to Iran in May 1979, he agreed to sell Iran conventional weapons systems and to provide an increased number of US technicians.
Table 5: GNP & military expenditures of Iran (1968-1980)
Central Govt. Expenditures (CGE)
Source: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers. 1968-1977, Washington, D.C., 1979, p. 46, and Ibid. 1971-1980,
Washington, D.C., 1981, p. 52.
As Table 5 shows, in 1968 the military expenditure of Iran was 7.4 percent of the GNP and 25.7 percent of the Central Government Expenditure but in 1973 and following the increase of oil prices by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), it increased to 8.3 percent of GNP and 30.2 percent of CGE. On the eve of 1978 and at the beginning of the Iranian revolution, Iran’s military expenditure totaled USD11.342 billion, with GNP and CGE increased to 14.6 percent and 27.4 percent respectively. While Iran’s received military grant aid from 1950 to 1970 was USD1.8 billion, American Arms sales to Iran from 1970 to 1976 totaled USD12.1 billion (Ghassemi, 1988, p. 186), indicating that the Nixon Doctrine had a key role in the military purchases of the Shah’s regime from the U.S. to be able play its main role as gendarme of the Persian Gulf region.
In sum, the policy of providing the Shah’s regime with the advanced sophisticated military weapons was the result of the following factors: 1) The Nixon Doctrine: America increased its arms sales to Iran to enlarge its armed forces to play a more active role in regional security arrangements; 2) US Balance of Payments: raising the oil prices in the 1970s and also increasing of US purchases of foreign oil caused the expansion of US military sales abroad to help the US Balance of Payments; 3) resolving US unemployment problems: the US Defense Security Assistance Agency believes that every USD1 million in arms sales creates 50 new jobs and maintains 50 existent jobs; also a study in the U.S. in 1977 shows that foreign military Arms sales in 1975 provided 277,000 jobs; 4) Sharing the costs: Arms sales to foreign countries such as Iran help the US government to save on research and development costs. According to a research done by the Congressional Budget Office in 1976, sale of USD9.95 billion had saved the Department of Defense USD1.3 billion, with about USD600 million in research and development costs (The-New-York-Times, July 12,1970)
3.8 Carter Doctrine
The fall of the Shah of Iran on 11 February 1979 and the Soviet military entry into Afghanistan on 25 December of the same year obligated the U.S. to realign its role in the Persian Gulf region. The U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, adopted a new policy in the form of the Carter Doctrine on 23 January 1980:
Let our position be absolutely clear, an attempt by any outside