151. Letter From the Chargé d’Affaires in Iran (Mattison) to the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs, Department of State (Richards)1

Dear Arthur:

As a result of receiving the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran2 we have worked out the following comments, which I am sending in a letter to you for such use as you may care to make. There also is attached a memorandum upon certain economic sections of the Estimate.3

Any variance of opinion that there may be in our view of the Intelligence Estimate may be boiled down to a differing concept of the present Government. Here we consider that even the concept of a National Front organization, beset as it may have been by potential dissensions, has become outmoded. In essence, what we have is a Mosadeq Government with full support from only a portion of the traditional National Front groupings—the others being too untrustworthy, if not at odds with Mosadeq. At present the Iran Party and a few ambitious men such as Fatami are the only “certain” Mosadeq henchmen, whereas Kashani and Baqai maintain but a surface cooperation with the Prime Minister. This really means that the only true organizational support for Mosadeq rests with the Armed Forces. Mosadeq for the time is not challenged as Prime Minister, but to go on the assumption, as the Intelligence Estimate does, that “a National Front Government” [Page 430] can carry on through 1953 seems unrealistic to us in view of what I have said above and in view of the fact that only Mosadeq might possibly be able to do the trick.

It is not unlikely that the elements becoming more antagonistic to Mosadeq might even turn to the Tudeh Party for support. Kashani might do this if he became convinced, as we believe, that his political importance is declining vis-à-vis Mosadeq. This would indeed be serious, as the Intelligence Estimate implied, if Mosadeq should disappear from the political arena and if political factions should bid against each other for Tudeh support. Our hope (because this is speculative) would be that the Armed Forces would not be too weakened by Mosadeq maneuvers designed to assure political loyalty among the military officers, so that a virtual military regime could take over if Mosadeq disappeared from the political scene.

The political factors that are given in the Intelligence Estimate as potentially operative after 1953 are just as inherent in the situation for the near future, for it is most difficult to affirm that they would not show their explosive possibilities at any time before the end of 1953. Put another way, the Intelligence Estimate does not show convincingly how these could not erupt in 1953.

We are inclined to believe that with the current nationalist emphasis upon an oil-less economy, the present Government’s objectives may be achieved if “substantial” quantities were sold abroad, since this would symbolize Mosadeq’s victory over the UK, and be a reaffirmation of Iranian political independence. Similarly on oil, paragraph 5 of the conclusions conjectures that Iran would make the same efforts to sell oil to the Soviet bloc as to the West. This idea is developed in paragraphs 17 and 39 [18]. For Iran to do so to the Soviet bloc, it must reckon with restrictive provisions of United States legislation, such as the Battle Act, which would place such economic aid as Iran is now receiving in serious jeopardy. We doubt at this stage, with the prospect of continued Point IV assistance on a scale comparable to the present—not to mention military aid, which Mosadeq might continue to welcome since he controls the Armed forces—that the present regime would actively seek to sell oil to the Soviet bloc.

This week we have received a visit from a pleasant G–2 colonel, who works on Iran at the Pentagon and who told us that the Embassy’s two estimate telegrams were considered too alarmist. We asked him on what basis this impression was acquired and he stated that some like himself, “perhaps taking the long view”, felt that Iran had existed for thousands of years, had been getting into scrapes during that time, and had been getting out of them, with something turning up to save the situation. Our only reply, of course, to such an argument was that all of us at times, in order to keep a sense of balance, could not help but hope [Page 431] that some unknown “X-factor” or deus ex machina would intervene favorably to change the complexion of things. This contingency we had provided for by emphasizing that our estimates were made on the basis of present political factors. The so-called “X-factor” could be a policy matter to the extent that the United States might try to change the situation through specific programs. But this had no part in an impartial estimate of the factors now operating upon the Iranian situation. This type of “long view” as a basis for intelligence planning seems meaningless except in terms of new policy recommendations on our part, or completely unforeseeable developments in Iran. The countries in the communist world are “going on”, but unfortunately for our side, as tools of the Kremlin’s policies. Naturally, we have to hope at all times that things will break our way, but no serious planning policy can go on the assumption that we will be given presents.

All best wishes and I hope to be seeing everyone back home very shortly.

Sincerely yours,

Gordon H. Mattison4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 10. Secret; Security Information. Drafted by Melbourne. A copy was sent to Stutesman.
  2. Document 143.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.