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11. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Dulles) to Director of Central Intelligence Smith1


  • CIA’s Role in Iran

1. I have reviewed the attached memorandum2 respecting CIA’s role in Iran and pass it on with concurrence. I wish to stress, however, that the steps which CIA alone can take in this situation will probably not substantially change the present downward trend and to be really effective should be combined with an over-all program in the economic, financial, and military fields. This would imply coordinated planning.

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2. With the present trend I feel that Iran may be lost to the West in the coming 12 months and believe that it is urgent to plan and carry out the steps which might change the trend and protect this vital position in the Middle East.

Allen W. Dulles




1. Currently CIA operations are severely restricted in Iran owing primarily to the hampering effect of increased distrust of the West, including the US. The Iranians, alleging that US aid has been wholly inadequate, remain unconvinced of the genuineness of US interest in Iran.

2. Under existing circumstances, and in the absence of a series of major overt US efforts in the political, economic, and military fields, CIA can do little more than intensify its psychological-political warfare with the object of trying to prevent a bad situation from growing worse. To this end, CIA is:

a. Providing increased subsidization for selected Iranian newspapers.

b. Extending guidance and money to Iranian elements opposed to ultra-nationalism and terrorism.

c. Investigating the feasibility of establishing new, pro-Western political parties.

d. Taking steps to discredit and if possible disrupt forces hostile to US security interests.

e. Exploring the possibility of establishing [less than 1 line not declassified] a radio station for clandestine broadcasts which would reach at least certain parts of Iran.

f. Gearing its collection machinery to provide intelligence needed for these activities.

3. Obviously in the present situation these efforts alone cannot be relied upon to prevent the possible collapse of the regime. Accordingly CIA is endeavoring to organize indigenous resistance groups against the possibility that a hostile government may be installed in Tehran.

4. If the US should establish a policy of all-out aid to Iran, which would produce a more friendly and cooperative atmosphere, CIA operations could be expanded to include:

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a. A general overhauling of the Iranian intelligence and security services.

b. Greater influence upon the Iranian press.

c. The possible establishment of a clandestine radio station in Iran.

d. Greatly intensified political warfare.

e. Accelerated organization, with better prospects of success, of resistance groups and escape and evasion nets for operations in the event of Soviet occupation.

This expanded scale of CIA operations would not be possible of accomplishment covertly without the pretext and cover which only a greatly increased overt program would provide.


1. In view of the seriousness of the Iranian situation, CIA is striving to do what it can to help reduce the possibility of the country’s falling into Soviet hands and to foster the establishment of an enduring pro-Western alignment. Existing conditions are such, however, as to make all CIA operations exceptionally difficult and uncertain of outcome. Of the various circumscribing factors, the most serious is a mounting distrust of the West, including the US, which makes it almost impossible to send additional covert agents into the country, restricts the movements and effectiveness of those already there, severely limits the number of Iranians willing to cooperate with the US in clandestine operations, and makes the people in general unreceptive, if not downright hostile, to US overtures. US policy has not succeeded in demonstrating to the Iranians that the US is genuinely interested in their country or in convincing them that their salvation lies in firm alignment with the West, and not in rapprochement with the USSR nor in an untenable course of neutrality.

2. It is believed that the conditions noted above will obtain so long as US assistance to Iran is maintained at the present rate or at a rate which is not substantially more vigorous than at present. It is questionable whether the program provided for in NSC 1073 even if fully and speedily executed would suffice to reverse the unfavorable trend. Under these circumstances, CIA can do little more than intensify its psychological-political warfare campaign in an effort to prevent or retard further deterioration of the Iranian situation. Specifically, CIA is currently augmenting the following existing programs in Iran:

a. Providing for increased subsidization of newspapers, for the preclusive buying of newsprint or printing facilities, and (if circumstances warrant) for the establishment of new newspapers. These meas[Page 49]ures are designed to combat the tendency of influential sections of the Iranian press to encourage and support the chauvinism and religious fanaticism which have a paralyzing effect on the Iranian Government.

b. Extending guidance and financial support to individuals, groups, and parties hostile to the ultra-nationalists, fanatical terrorists, and pro-Soviet groups.

c. Investigating the feasibility of establishing new political parties, which might include a progressive religious party, a moderate “socialist” party to draw liberals away from the Tudeh Party, and a party with vigorous, pro-Western representation in the Parliament.

d. Taking positive steps to discredit and if possible disrupt forces inimical to US security interests by subversion and by directing black propaganda against the leading chauvinists, fanatics, and Communists.

e. Exploring the possibility of establishing [less than 1 line not declassified] a radio station for clandestine broadcasts in Azerbaijani. These broadcasts (countering those of the Soviet “Free Azerbaijan” station) could be beamed to certain parts of Iran but not so effectively as if the station were located in Iran, which is hardly possible under present conditions.

f. Gearing its collection machinery to provide increased intelligence needed in connection with these various activities. “Soft” targets relatively easy to penetrate for information purposes include [1½ lines not declassified] (especially the following of Mulla Kashani), [1½ lines not declassified]. “Hard” targets requiring long-range operations to penetrate include the Tudeh Party, [1½ lines not declassified].

g. [1 paragraph (3½ lines) not declassified]

3. For the reasons outlined in Paragraph 2 above, these efforts obviously cannot be relied upon to prevent the possible collapse of the present regime. CIA has accordingly begun to identify and establish contact with the tribal, military, and civil leaders who would effectively support a resistance program in the event that a hostile government is installed in Iran. Once agreements are reached with these leaders, CIA will determine the material aid which they would require and will commence to acquire and stockpile material at appropriate points.

4. If the US should decide to follow a policy of all-out aid to Iran, both overt and covert, the prospect of preserving Iran during the cold war period could be immeasurably improved. Greater cover would be available, and the atmosphere might be cleared for augmenting and expanding CIA operations, which could be more effective in support of a program directed positively toward promoting stability and active cooperation with the West instead of toward the negative objective of trying to prevent a bad situation from growing worse. Emphasis would be placed on rehabilitating Iran and building up immunity to Soviet [Page 50]and Soviet-inspired subversion, and plans could be more effectively laid for operations to be carried out if Soviet troops should invade and occupy Iran.

5. Under a US program of all-out aid, CIA operations could include the following:

a. A general overhauling of the Iranian intelligence and security services. The program would include material aid; training of key officers in modern techniques; and insistence (at least to some degree) that CIA guidance in such matters be followed. The objective would be to create an efficient organization with which CIA could work and which would be extremely useful in helping to prevent hostile penetration of key government offices and in running operations against the Tudeh Party, Soviet installations, and the USSR itself.

b. Greater influence upon the Iranian press. Subsidization would be increased as needed; hostile publications could be forced out of business; and the direction of certain influential papers would, in effect, be completely taken over.

c. If possible, the establishment of a clandestine broadcasting station in Iran. The station, purporting to be inside the USSR, would transmit black propaganda designed to discredit the USSR and Soviet Communism and aimed particularly at the Azerbaijani and other waverers. This station could be a powerful instrument in strengthening Iran against hostile penetration from without and within.

d. Greatly intensified covert political activity in support of desirable and against undesirable individuals and groups. If need be, the government itself or key officials therein could be subsidized to promote US security interests. The subsidization of politicians and political parties has long been a common practice in Iran, and effective steps would be taken to encourage defection in the Tudeh Party and to create vigorous new groups which would actively support US interests.

e. Increased efforts, with better prospects of success, to organize resistance groups to function in the event of Soviet invasion and occupation. This program would include more substantial efforts to prepare tribal groups and segments of the army to carry out guerrilla activities against Soviet units and installations. It might even prove feasible to bolster the Shah’s avowed intention of withdrawing to the mountains and setting up a government there.

f. [1 paragraph (6 lines) not declassified]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Top Secret. The undated attachment was apparently drafted in the Directorate of Plans.
  2. A list at the end of Dulles’ cover memorandum refers to two enclosures, TS 55559, attached and printed, and TS 55558, which was not found.
  3. Document 6.