Since his entrance onto the international stage as Vice President under President Eisenhower, President Nixon strived to maintain a healthy relationship with Middle Eastern leaders, particularly Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran. At the time of his ascension to the presidency, RN had regularly consulted with the Shah for advice and counsel on worldly affairs, having preserved their mutual friendship for over 20 years. He knew that a close ally friendly to the United States in the unstable Middle East would prove to be an invaluable asset, especially considering the Soviet Unionlooming to the north.
RN’s relationship with Pahlavi dated back to December of 1953. At the time, President Eisenhower decided to send Vice President Nixon on a good will tour of the Persian Gulf and Indochina regions. RN became the first US vice president to be received on an official visit by these countries. Throughout the trip, he had four main goals: to honor and reassure American friends and allies, to explain American policies in countries that had adopted a policy of neutrality, to get a firsthand look at the rapidly developing situation in the Middle East and Indochina, and to assess Asian attitudes toward the emerging colossus of Communist China.
As RN reminisced on his first meeting with the Shah of Iran, he recalled sensing “an inner strength in him…and felt that in the years ahead he would become a strong leader.” At the time, the Shah was only thirty-four and had just escaped a harrowing attempt to assassinate him.
On 24 July, 1973, President Nixon welcomed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to the White House. In his opening remarks, RN stated that “there is no area in the world in which one can see more spectacular development – development in which the people of the country have benefitted – than in your country.” RN emphasized Iran as a kingpin in maintaining peace in the otherwise unstable Persian Gulf region, whose collapse would pose a potential threat to peace in the world.
RN greatly anticipated talks between him and the Shah for they would undoubtedly foster peace, progress, and prosperity in the Middle East and bring an era of tranquility to the region.