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Iran: the Shah papers.

In December 1979, one month after the hostages were taken in Iran, President Jimmy Carter ordered four highlevel State Department officials to compile a massive study of U.S. involvement in that country. the document was to serve as the basis for the american argument should an international tribunal assemble to hear Teheran's grievances against Washington, as the Iranians had demanded.

Initially, Carter intended the study to be published, saying "We have nothing to be afraid of." But his advisers persuaded him otherwise and tried to make it exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act. they did not succeed, however, and part of the study, a stack of paper nearly two feet high, has been released under the F.O.I.A.--albeit grudgingly. for every document released, two were denied in whole or in part.

Thus the fullest collection of primary documents on U.S.-Iranian relations continues to be that captured by the Iranian students upon seizing the embassy and subsequently published in some thirty volumes. Below are excerpts from a December 1978 "eyes only" letter from Henry Precht, the State Department's leading expert on Iran during the revolution, to U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan: The is real concern in this building about back-channel communications from the White House directly to the Iranians, notably the Brzezinski-Zahedi channel. . . . I met with Brzezinski myself 2 or 3 weeks ago [but] did not tell him . . . that I consider Zahedi [the Shah's Ambassador to the United States] to be a disastrous counterpart in dealing with the Iranian crisis. In my view he is utterly self-serving, lacks good judgment and is prone to act quickly on the basis of bad information. I regret that I believe his counsel has been one of the strongest factors working on opinion in the White House. . . .

. . . The task seems to me to be one of finding a graceful exit for the Shah while gaining a fair amount of credit in doing so for the U.S. . . . I do not think we ourselves ought to name ministers, but our midwifery could be very active. . . . I am afraid that we are losing valuable time and that events may sweep us by, depriving the U.S. of the opportunity to recoup its position in Iran.

Ignore, for a moment, the specific implications of this letter. Simply regard it as a reminder, during this election year, of just how vapid the debate over foregin policy is. congress's failure to examine postwar U.S. policy toward the Shah is a gross dereliction of duty.

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Title Annotation:report on U.S. involvement in Iran
Author:Bird, Kai; Holland, Max
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 6, 1984
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