Immediately following a historic trip to the Soviet Union, President Nixon visited the Iranian capital of Tehran. The two-day visit featured a full-itinerary including a state dinner hosted by The Imperial Majesties The Shahanshah and Shahbanu, a wreath-laying at Tomb of the Shah’s father, a luncheon hosted by the Nixons and diplomatic meetings between Nixon, his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and the Shah. The visit created fanfare as thousands of Iranians lined the street waving Iranian and American flags as the two leaders passed by waving from a limousine. 

Nixon first met the Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, when traveling as Vice President in 1953. Nixon recalls his first impression in his memoirs: “I sensed an inner strength in him, and I felt that in the years ahead he would become a strong leader.” The Shah came to power in 1941 and led reforms in his country known as the White Revolution that created economic growth and moved towards modernization.

The visit in May of 1972 was strategically important to reinforce Iran’s primacy in maintaining regional stability and project Western influence in the region. This was the first time in thirteen years that a U.S President visited Iran and the timing was important in the context of the Cold War. Iran had a growing economy and a strengthening military and the Persian Gulf region was in a relatively peaceful period. The result was a partnership between the United States and Iran to help contain the Soviet Union.  

Nixon aide, Dwight Chapin recalls the visit in his recently published memoir, The President’s Man:

From Moscow we flew to Iran, an oil-rich country moving into the Western sphere. Everything in Iran was lavish, big and beautiful. As it turned out, though, visiting Iran and meeting the Shah at that moment was the equivalent of meeting Czar Nicholas a few years prior to the Russian Revolution.
The United States and Iran maintained the partnership strengthened by President Nixon until the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Nixon visited the Shah in exile and, in 1980, was the only American dignitary to attend The Shah’s funeral in Cairo and marched through the streets alongside Queen Farah and Crown Prince Reza.

The Nixon Foundation hosted a special event to commemorate the 50th anniversary you can view here:

This was the first in a planned series of engagements featuring scholars in Iranian history, art and culture of the Golden Age of Iran celebrating the Iranian people and President Nixon’s special relationship with them.