117. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans (Wisner) to Director of Central Intelligence Smith1


  • Plan for Arming Iranian Tribal Groups

1. Pursuant to your instructions of two weeks ago,2 the attached plan for arming Iranian tribal groups has been developed by the Near East Division with the assistance of other appropriate elements of the Agency. This is an emergency plan which is for implementation only in case of the collapse or Communist take-over of the Iranian central government. However, in order to be in a position to carry the plan into effect certain additional physical preparations, over and above those already taken, will be necessary. Because of the critical situation presently prevailing in Iran we are continuing with these preparations, including procurement of weapons and ammunition and the forward stockpiling of additional quantities thereof, but I should nevertheless appreciate receiving your guidance as to whether you desire to have this plan submitted to either the Project Review Committee or the Psychological Strategy Board. Certain basic features of the plan have already been extensively coordinated with the Departments of State and Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but in view of the size and amount of effort and facilities involved in this program, it has occurred to me that you may wish to have a further review of the plan by one or both of the bodies indicated.

2. You will recall that, at the suggestion of the State Department and with the concurrence of the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we approached the British Service with a proposal that a joint plan should be developed. The only reply which we have received as yet is to the effect that the Foreign Office considers that it is “premature” for the British Service to engage in any joint planning effort with us.3 We are still uncertain as to the underlying significance of this position of the British Foreign Office, but the fact remains that we are presently unable to coordinate our planning with any plans which the British Service may have in being or in contemplation for this eventuality.

Frank G. Wisner

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August 8, 1952.


I. General

A. Purpose

To store arms and allied matériel at an overseas base as close as feasible to Iran for possible use by anti-Communist elements in southern Iran in the event of the deterioration or collapse of the non-Communist central government.

B. Period Covered by the Plan

August 1952–June 1953

C. Area of Responsibility

Geographic area of Near East-Africa

D. Policy

1. Oral instructions by DD/P to DCNEA/O on 30 July 1952.

2. Conversation between DCI and Mr. Frank Pace, Secretary, Department of the Army, on 30 July 1952.4

3. Memorandum for the Record by DCNEA/O, Subject: “State Guidance on Emergency Operations in Iran”, dated 31 July 1952.5

4. Further oral instructions by DD/P to DCNEA/O on 31 July 1952.

5. Memorandum for the Record by DCNEA/O, Subject: “Meeting with General Balmer and General Magruder on Emergency Operations in Iran”, dated 31 July 1952.6

6. Iran Country Plan—Part II, Cold War, Annex D, Guerrilla Warfare Program, particularly the objective, which is to “Develop guerrilla [Page 328] warfare organizations and resources for activation in support of United States political and military aims”.7

7. The following restrictions on the scope of this plan are imposed by the Department of State in the above referenced Memorandum for the Record:

a. That the tribes be given no indication of this plan before the emergency arises and that there should be no change in pace or emphasis in our liaison with them.

b. That the weapons and other matériel not be delivered to the intended users in advance of the emergency.

c. That the weapons and other matériel not be delivered to the intended users without concurrence of the Department of State.

E. Factors Bearing on the Situation

1. In the event of civil war between Communist and non-Communist groups for control of the central government, it is believed that certain tribal groups in southern Iran would prove the most effective opponents of a Communist regime.

2. Since the major tribal group, the Qashqai, have been closely associated with American agencies for several years and are strongly motivated against Communism, they are assessed by this Agency as America’s strongest potential weapon against possible communist seizure of all Iran.

3. In event of a successful Tudeh (Communist) Party coup against the central government, there appears little prospect of any effective armed intervention other than in the southern tribal areas.

4. The Qashqai, as the strongest and best armed tribal group, would be expected to lead such opposition in an attempt to hold the southern part of the country against the Communists and to prevent all Iran from falling behind the Iron Curtain.

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F. Summary of the Situation

1. The July 1952 political upheavals in Iran have produced extreme internal instability and some strengthening of the Tudeh position.

2. The Tudeh Party is the most closely organized political group in Iran and stands to profit most by the present chaotic situation.

3. As a result of the July riots, the position of the Shah and the morale of the Army have been considerably weakened. The National Front under Prime Minister Mossadegh, because of its acceptance of Tudeh support in the riots, is now plagued by a series of splits in its leadership which provides the Tudeh with opportunities to infiltrate certain factions and increase its influence in government affairs.

4. The people in the north, confused by the temporary cooperation of National Front and Tudeh elements and with little voice in their government, could be expected to do little in the way of preventing a political upheaval.

5. Currently CIA capabilities in Iran are insufficient to prevent a Tudeh coup should such be attempted. Following such an event, however, a foothold might be gained in Iran through support of selected tribes. The Qashqai are the only such group which we are considering supporting at the present time. Their organization, orientation, leadership [less than 1 line not declassified] make their selection obvious. Also, they have indicated in the past that they would be receptive to our support, and have claimed that they could bring other tribal groups into an armed alliance against a Communist central government.

II. Mission

To make preparations for combating, by paramilitary methods, the efforts of Communist elements to seize control in Iran.8

[Omitted here are 25 pages of operational details of the plan.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11 Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Secret; Security Information. Noted by the DCI on August 27.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 109.
  3. See Document 110.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Document 109.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 109.
  7. Apparent reference to Annex D to the Iran Country Plan as of June 10, 1952. The “Country Plan for Iran” is undated, but in its final form probably dates from late December 1951. Drafted in the Office of Policy Coordination in the Directorate of Plans, a Country Plan aimed to describe OPC objectives and activities within a given country. The introductory remarks of “Operational Annex D” established the need for the United States Government to prepare for the contingency in which Communists might take control of the Iranian Government. It assumed that “in the event of general war, resistance to communist occupation of Iran will be conducted by the Qashqais and perhaps other tribes which are strongly antipathetic to communism and the Russians.” Therefore, the United States, through OPC, must provide enough assistance to the Qashqais to enable them to “sustain an effective guerrilla warfare campaign.” It behooved the United States to provide such assistance since it was rapidly becoming the only Western country capable to doing so. (Central Intelligence Agency, DDO–IMS Files, Job 80–01795R, Box 8, Folder 2, Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) History 21Dec51–27Dec51)
  8. In a covering note, Helms wrote: “Meeting with Director was held 28 August 1952 at which time he approved this plan. He gave certain oral instructions with regard to the arms to be acquired. The program is now being implemented by the NE Division.”