123 Rossow, Robert, Jr.: Telegram

The Ambassador in Iran (Murray) to the Secretary of State

secret

56. I regret I cannot agree with position taken in Deptel 25, January 1134 for following reasons:

1. Whole episode of Tass despatch smacks of Soviet “frame up” especially since Rossow’s … background is unquestionably known to Soviets. Should our Govt remove Rossow at this juncture, it would lend credence to Tass despatch and give impression we do not believe his denial given in his telegram 2, January 10.35 Removal would completely discredit Rossow in Iranian eyes and would make him of no further value in Iran. Soviets without doubt are opposed to any American consular officer in Tabriz who follows vigorous course and Rossow’s sudden flood of telegrams and interviews has [Page 303]undoubtedly indicated to them fact that he intends to keep his Government fully informed of all events in Azerbaijan. We have permitted Soviets to effect removal of one American Consul (Kuniholm) from Tabriz36 and I feel strongly we should resist their intrigues at all costs in present instance.

2. I fail to see how any officer sent to Tabriz can function efficiently without contact with only authority in power. I feel Rossow’s contact with Pishavari has been valuable and has not in any way jeopardized our position in Iran. Only authority which could possibly object to his activities in this regard would be Iranian Govt and no such objection has materialized. My understanding is that sole reason for maintaining Tabriz Consulate is for reporting of political events and it seems difficult to see how this is to be done if our Consul can not interview the persons making the news. Certainly should Jernegan or Ferguson replace Rossow under these circumstances their hands would be tied as far as reporting is concerned.

They would not only be unable to approach any of rebel officials but all native informants would be afraid of report if got them [sic] through fear of reprisals. Little or no information could be obtained from Soviets and they would be forced to rely almost entirely on bazaar rumors.

3. While I realize personalities can not always be taken into consideration in matters of this sort I feel recall of Rossow would be unfair and humiliating to officer who has been working hard to provide Embassy and Dept with prompt and accurate information.

4. Rossow has been cautioned to say or do nothing which would in any way indicate to rebels that their movement in any way has American sympathy or support. I am convinced he has done and will do nothing in variance these instructions. I would appreciate therefore Dept’s reconsidering matter as I can see no good and a great deal of harm accruing to our Government from change at Tabriz. I would appreciate urgent indication of Dept’s reaction to above.37

Murray
  1. Not printed; it stated that Mr. Rossow’s “continued presence in Tabriz will add to the impression that the official contact which he made with the rebel group implied American sympathy and support.” The Department added that it believed it “wise to replace him at least temporarily”. (123 Rossow, Robert)
  2. In telegram 52, January 12, 10 a.m., Ambassador Murray transmitted to the Department the text of Mr. Rossow’s telegram 2 which stated: “Peshavari states vehemently he did not interpret anything in my conversations with him as connoting US approval of or sympathy with his regime, that he fully understood my visit to have been on purely personal and informal basis, and that he never made any statement remotely approximating Tass report. …

    “I can only conclude that Tass report is deliberate fabrication, probably of local inspiration, intended to cause me embarrassment.

    “You may be assured that I have been and will be most cautious in my statements, and would under no circumstances attempt to express US policy in this region without specific instructions.” (123 Rossow, Robert)

  3. For documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, pp. 337 361, passim.
  4. In telegram 46, January 18, 8 p.m., the Department notified Mr. Murray that it deferred to his judgment and withdrew its suggestion that Mr. Rossow be replaced. It gave instruction that “Rossow should say or do nothing which might create an impression in Iran that he is endeavoring to bring about mediation between the rebels and the Iranian Govt or that he would be wiling to play a mediatory role”. (123 Rossow, Robert)