President Carter and his top foreign policy advisers must share responsibility with the Central Intelligence Agency and others for the U.S. failure to assess accurately the rising political challenge that drove Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from Iran this month, a congressional investigating panel charged yesterday.
"U.S. policy options which might have existed esrlier no longer held promise" by the late autumn, when top policymakers for the first time began to realize the shah would not survive the upheaval, the House subcommittee on evaluation of intelligence asserts in an 11-page staff report issued yesterday.
The report portrays the administration's reactions to Iran as a broad failure involving the entire policymaking system. Previous comment, including a secret memorandum from Carter to his advisers, had focused on an isolated intelligence failure being at the root of the sluggish U.S. reactions to the apparent downfall of a highly valued strategic ally.
In other developments yesterday:
Iran's ambassador to Washington, Ardeshir Zahedi, said the shah does not plan to come to the United States now, but will stay in the Middle East. Currently in Morocco, the shah is expected to travel next to Jordan and Egypt.
The State Department said that the United States is arranging the shipment of 200,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel to Iran to keep military and government vehicles running. Until strikes shut down Iranian oil fields last month, Iran was the world's second largest crude oil exporter.
The shipment of 150,000 barrels of diesel fuel and 50,000 barrels of gasoline from an undisclosed Persian Gulfport later this week will be financed by U.S. military sales credits.
In issuing the subcommittee report yesterday, Rep. Charles Rose (D-N.C.) disclosed that his staff investigatirs at one point suspected that criticism of the shah has been deliberately suppressed "by intelligence officials who did not want to be bearers of bad news."
The subcommittee turned up no evidence "of such deliberate manipula tion,? Rose said, but the report asserts that "U.S. policy toward the shah prevented direct contact with opposition elements" inside Iran.
"Long-standing U.S. attitudes toward the shah inhibited intelligence collection, dampened policymakers' appetite for analysis of the shah's position and deafened policymakers to the warning implicit in current intelligence, the report says.
While not anming President Carter, his national security affairs adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and other policymakers, the report's stress on the failure of "users" of intelligence to ask the right questions and to pay attention to events in Iran at critical points is clearly intended for them.
Based on a month-long review of classified documents and interviews with CIA, State Department, Pentagon and other agencies, the report concludes:
The CIA for two years produced no intelligence based on sources within the religious opposition that led the revolt against the shah. U.S. embassy political reporting from contacts within the opposition "was rare and sometimes contemptuous."
The State Department's Bureau of Intellitence and Research spotted the strength and Depth of the opposition before the CIA, but evidently did not press strongly enough to get that view to higher policy levels. As a whole, "intelligence community production on Iran can be judged no better than fair.'
Even if the reporting had been better, it may well have had no impact on a president already under pressure to make a policy decision to express firm support for the shah.
The intelligence agencies and the embassy evidently restricted their contacts with political opponents in Iran because they feared displeasing the shah and losing his agreement for what are termed higher priority intelligence tasks, according to the report. The CIA's main target from its operations in Iran is reported to have been the Soviet Union.
Intelligence field reporting from Iran "provided a narrow and cloudy window through which to observe the sweepint social and political changes underway," the report states.
In August 1977, the CIA concluded that "the shah will be an active participant in Iranian life well into the 1980s" and "there will be no redical change in Iranian political behavior in the near future." The opposition was still seen as being little more than "troublesome" by early 1978.
Even as recently as last Sept. 28, the report continues, the CIA concluded that the shah "is expected to remain actively in power over the next 10 years."
But the report states that "policymakers must assume responsibility, perhaps to a greater degree than the intelligence community, for the unwritten considerations which restricted both open and cladestine intellitence field collection on the Iranian internal situation."
The White House and other "consumers did not demand analysis of the shah's stability. Large arms transfers and other major policies in the region were pursued without the benefit of in-depth analysis of the Iranian political scene," the subcommittee concluded.