The US involvement in Iranâs military programmes dates to the late 1940s. From the immediate post-war period onward, strains developed between the Shah's view of Iran's defence needs and those of the US. American assistance in the restoration of the Shah in 1953 increased the psychological dependency of Iranian leaders on Washington. To this was added a real material dependency on US grant and budgetary assistance until 1967. By the mid-1960s, as Iranâs oil income increased, Iran moved from grant-aid to credit-purchases from the US. This in turn gave way to outright purchases in the late 1960s and Iranâs choices and bargaining power increased. US views of the optimum size for Iranâs armed forces, or the appropriate weapons-systems for them were still heard, but increasingly ignored. By the early 1970s these American views, which had counselled restraint on an arms build-up for over two decades, were no longer offered. In part this was because Iran's oil wealth enabled it to reject views which it earlier had no choice but to accept. But equally important was the changed international context within which the Shah's perennial appetite for arms appeared intelligible and even welcome.
Foremost among these was the need for a strong and friendly state to protect US (and Western) interests in the Gulf.3 The Shah was not only eager for Iran to do this and at her own expense but was prepared to do so on a wider canvas including the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. US interests thus coincided with those of the Shah and a relationship was fashioned that not only avoided the need for a direct US military role but also promised support for its growing interests at a very low cost. The (only) identifiable costs were the sale of arms to the Shahâs regime, a dependable but not formal ally. The strategic benefits from the point of view of a Republican administration contending with a public intent on retrenchment and selective commitment, were obvious. Equally clearly, a role as principal arms supplier implied concomitant influence which could be manipulated as the recipientâs dependence (on spare parts and training) grew. Hence Kissinger's cryptic reference in 1974 that he was fashioning with these states "reasons for restraint."