153. Briefing Notes Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency for Acting Director of Central Intelligence Dulles1


Continuing deterioration of Iranian situation, confusion in Tehran highlighted by:

1. The oil problem. Mossadeq told Ambassador Henderson that on 21 February he would:

a) tell Majlis there is no hope of oil settlement.

b) recommend sale of oil to anyone including Orbit.

2. Mossadeq charges British don’t want a settlement, are trying to overthrow him, using fanatical religious groups, Communist-front organizations, and the tribes.

3. Tribal unrest:

a) numerous reports of unrest.

b) intrigues appear aimed primarily at strengthening tribes’ position against government rather than overthrow of government.

c) 14 February clashes between Bakhtiari tribesmen and army developed apparently from local incidents, can probably be controlled by army.

d) No indication of unified tribal plot. Concerted tribal effort might result in breakdown of internal law and order.

(1) Soviet contacts among tribes, especially Kurds, long reported, evidence slim.

(2) Bakhtiari are alleged to have accepted Soviet aid, reportedly plan to repudiate it, set up independent pro-Western state in south if government comes under Tudeh influence.

(3) British intrigues constantly reported especially among southwestern tribes including Bakhtiari.

e) Imminent failure of oil negotiations and continuing internal decline will not necessarily arouse tribes to action.

4. Mossadeq 13 Feb threatened to throw up his hands and resign:

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a) He has threatened to do this before.

b) His death or removal might furnish occasion for unified tribal action, especially if successor government is leftist, revolt is foreign-backed.

5. Shah has said he would abdicate. Reportedly in same breath he might take control of government in emergency. Latter unlikely in view of his record of indecision and weakness.

6. The Iranian situation is highly dangerous. For the moment events have brought all of the elements back into a temporary focus, which may be preliminary to a final disintegration. This is not the first time in the past two years when Iran’s collapse seemed imminent, but the situation now appears more explosive than at any time in immediate past.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80R01443R, Box 1, Folder 4, NSC Briefing 18 Feb 53. Top Secret; Security Information; Canoe. Prepared for Dulles for his briefing to the NSC on February 18. The official minutes of the NSC meeting of February 18 record under the heading “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” that the NSC “discussed the subject in the light of an oral briefing by the Acting Director of Central Intelligence on Latin America and on the situation in Iran.” (National Archives, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Minutes 1947–1961, Box 23, 132nd Meeting)