Mr. Henry Kissinger's comments on Iran are filled with factual errors and flawed analysis. Contrary to what he twice asserts, the United States government never advocated that the shah create a coalition government. Nor did the shah leave "office under the visible urging of the United States." Quite the contrary, no American representative ever suggested to him publicly or privately -- visibly or invisibly -- that he should go, and President Carter gave him unqualified support to the end.
In all Mr. Kissinger's long post-mortem he fails even to mention the two most conspicuous causes of the shah's debacle -- for one of which he himself bears heavy responsibility. The first was the pervasive corruption practiced by the shah's family and by the whole large circle of sycophants, supporters and hangers-on. This gave force, passion and unity to the hatred of the shah in all sectors of society, including the middle class.
The second was President Nixon's disastrous encouragement to the shah to overload his country with inappropriate military hardware. This costly burden resulted not only in precipitating a financial squeeze that compelled cutbacks on construction, with resulting unemployment and disaffection; it also led the shah to a megalomania that cut him off from all contact with reality and the Iranian people.
In May, 1972, in Mr. Kissinger's presence and in the spirit of the socalled Nixon doctrine, President Nixon embraced the shah as an equal and proclaimed him our "protector" in the whole Gulf area, asking that he not shut off the oil supply as that "crazy man" Mossadegh had done. The shah replied that he would defend the Gulf area and maintain the flow of oil on three conditions: that the United States help him with the Kurdish revolt, that we send him a large number of military technicians, and -- most important -- that he have an unrestricted right to buy our most advanced weapons. Mr. Nixon agreed wholeheartedly.
Thereafter, the United States not only furnished covert help to the Kurds in their struggle against Iraq, and supplied military technicians, but Mr. Kissinger, then national security adviser, issued one of the most remarkable documents in American history. In the name of the president, he directed the secretaries of state and defense that they should let the shah buy any and every kind of our most advanced military hardware (including F14s and F15s, still in development, and laser-guided bombs), that the Iranian government should have the final word and that no American official should try to discourage any purchase.
Prior to this 1972 act of folly, our government had prudently kept a tight rein on the shah's obsession with elegant weapons. During the 22 years from 1950 through 1971 we had limited our aggregate military sales to Iran to only $1.2 billion, but during the brief span of seven years after Nixon's reckless decision, our aggregate military sales vaulted to almost 16 times that amount -- or $19.5 billion.
With such spectacular instruments of power under his control, how could the shah avoid delusions of grandeur? No wonder he stopped predicting that he would lead Iran to a European standard of living (like Portugal or Greece). Now he boasted that he would make his country the fifth most powerful in the world, even overtaking West Germany -- and that Allah was supporting him in that objective.
It is nonsense for Mr. Kissinger to say that the shah "certainly had the means at his disposal to resist more strenuously than he did. And he chose not to exercise them because he must have had doubts as to our real intentions." The reason the shah did not stand and fight was that his whole country was solidly against him and his army was beginning to disintegrate under the pressure of competing loyalties -- as has now occurred. It is fatuous to think that we could have kept a hated absolute monarch in power by encouraging the repressive use of military force. This was, after all, an internal revolt. What would Mr. Kissinger have done? Sent the Sixth Fleet steaming up the Gulf?
I can only believe that Mr. Kissinger is laying down a protective smokescreen when he seeks to put the blame on too rapid modernization (the curent facile, but inadequate,cliche) or on American efforts to persuade the shah to liveralize, or on President Carter's human-rights policy. I am sure he knows better than that.