166. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

3449. Early this morning stories regarding imminent departure Shah pouring in from many sources. These stories had conflicting details. Altho some reflected confusion and bewilderment, there seemed be general impression that Shah’s decision depart was in some way connected with friction between him and Prime Minister. Most common version was that Shah had decided leave because Mosadeq was threatening if Shah did not (rpt not) do so he would issue proclamation to country criticizing Shah and asking people to choose between Shah and himself.

2. Embassy Attaché reported that at dinner yesterday evening attended by Bazaar merchants, Qashqai Chieftain Khosro, and others, rumors of Shah’s departure in immediate future was chief source conversation. Practically all guests present, with exception Khosro who privately expressed gratification that Shah was leaving indicated in their opinion Shah’s departure would be detrimental to interests country. Similarly at dinner attended by myself last evening editor of largest newspaper in country and chief protocol Foreign Office told me of rumors expressing their concern at ultimate effects on country.

3. I decided this morning that since news was now out I was more free than hitherto to try to effect cancellation or at least postponement Shah’s plans leave country. Unable obtain appointment with Foreign Minister I was able arrange see Ala, Minister Court, at 11:15. Ala had just returned from audience with Shah. He told me he had done utmost persuade Shah at last moment not (repeat not) to leave. Shah however was determined insisting that if he did not (repeat not) depart Mosadeq would issue proclamation attacking him and members his family; it would be difficult for him without necessary facilities effectively to answer charges which would be made against him. He preferred leave country to becoming involved in one-sided squabble. Ala said that while he was with Shah word had been received that at instance Kashani, President Majlis, who claimed to have heard news of Shah’s departure only this morning, informal closed meeting of some 57 members Majlis was taking place to discuss situation. When Shah received this news he had become excited and insisted on leaving at once [Page 463] before lunch because he was afraid that if he did not (rpt not) get away so much pressure would be brought upon him that he would have difficulty leaving without incident. I told Ala that as Minister Court I conceived it to be his duty to inform Shah that in interest of country Shah should not (rpt not) leave in this fashion. I also asked him tell Shah that I had just received message indicating that very important personage for whom Shah had most friendly feelings had also expressed sincere hope that Shah could be dissuaded from leaving country (London telegram 195, February 27 repeated Washington 4844).2 Ala asked if Shah’s present adviser, Valatbar, could join our conversation. I agreed and at Ala’s request repeated to Valatbar what I had just told Ala. Ala said he thought it would be good idea if I could talk directly with Shah. Would I object? I said in circumstances even though I might later be charged with interference in Iran affairs, I would welcome opportunity. Ala called Shah on inter-Palace telephone and after few minutes conversation said Shah unable see me personally since Prime Minister already on way to Palace to bid him farewell. Shah would appreciate it however if I would talk to him by telephone. I asked Ala if he sure telephone not (rpt not) tapped; Ala said every possible precaution taken in this respect.

4. Despite risks involved I talked with Shah. I told him that in present emergency I had had no (rpt no) time to obtain instructions from Washington but I knew US Government policies sufficiently well to be confident that US Government just as I considered it would not (rpt not) be in interest Iran for him leave country so hastily in present circumstances. No (rpt no) matter what kind of announcement he or Iran Government might make impression would be created through-out world that he was departing under duress. Furthermore after he departed Communist and other internal enemies of independent Iran would fabricate stories against him. It would be charged that his sudden departure was proof he was not (rpt not) worthy remaining as Shah. He represented symbol unity and also hope for future Iran throughout country. His departure would be sure to lower morale of those enlightened elements of country who understood Iran’s external dangers and were anxious preserve Iran independence. Shah repeated he must go immediately. He had promised Prime Minister he would leave today. He could not (rpt not) go back on his word. I said when you gave your word it must have been with understanding that your departure would be secret and would be accompanied by announce[Page 464]ments which would assure your country and world at large that you proceeding abroad for purposes not (rpt not) connected with Iran internal situation. Rumors now afloat that you leaving in order prevent Prime Minister from issuing public statement denouncing you and your family. No (rpt no) one would believe that your departure entirely voluntary. Shah replied, “I not (rpt not) leaving under duress. Prime Minister insists that I do not (rpt not) have to go unless I desire do so. He says, however, that if I remain he will be compelled issue proclamation attacking me and my family. In such circumstances I prefer to leave.” I said I quite prepared to take this matter up with Prime Minister personally. He replied, “it will be useless. He will tell you I am leaving on my own volition and he cannot stop me.” I said “not (rpt not) only US Government and American people in my opinion will be shocked at your departure in present situation but many other friends of yourself and Iran throughout world.” I pointed out that rumors of his impending departure had already penetrated other countries. In indirect way I gave him understand views regarding his departure of person referred to in reference telegram. Shah expressed appreciation, but insisted he must go. He said he wished to thank US Government and myself personally for friendship and support. He would now (rpt now) bid me farewell. He hoped and expected to return.

5. After this conversation Ala said “you see how hopeless it is”. He expressed hope despite Shah’s negative attitude my conversation might still have some effect. I told him I prepared go at once to Prime Minister. Did he perceive any objection? Ala replied not (repeat not) insofar as court was concerned. He not (repeat not) sure that Prime Minister would appreciate my intervention. At that moment messenger informed Ala that Bureau of Majlis had arrived with request that Ala arrange for it deliver urgent message to Shah. I returned to Embassy.

6. On my arrival I learned that members Majlis in secret session had decided send message to Shah to effect that his departure from country at this time would be inadvisable. I was also told by acting Air Attaché that Chief Air Staff had just informed him that General Baharmast Chief of Staff was en route Palace to inform Shah that whole General Staff had decided to resign in case Shah should leave country. Thus far unable to obtain confirmation firmness of resolve General Staff in this respect.

Baharmast not (repeat not) strong character and he might well wilt in delivering General Staff message to Shah. General Zimmerman thinks Baharmast rather weak character.

7. I decided make endeavor see Prime Minister at once and asked Saleh Embassy Iranian Adviser seek appointment. Saleh learned from Mosadeq Secretary that Prime Minister in Palace with Shah. At Saleh’s [Page 465] request Secretary left at once for Palace to tell Mosadeq I wished see him urgently. I called on Mosadeq at 1:15.

8. Mosadeq back in bed apparently suffering from severe headache. He received me in friendly though guarded manner. I told him I coming without awaiting instructions from Washington in view of what seem to me urgency of situation. Widespread rumors throughout city that Shah was leaving Iran at once because if he did not (repeat not) do so Prime Minister would issue proclamation denouncing him and family. As friend of Iran and as his personal friend I considered it my duty tell him that departure Shah just now would tend confirm these rumors. Support of Iran independence was basic policy re Iran. In my opinion and I sure my opinion represented that of US Government Shah’s hasty departure in these circumstances would weaken security country and I therefore, had come to him in hope that he could take some last minute measure to prevail on Shah not (repeat not) to leave or at least to postpone his departure. Mosadeq replied Shah preferred to leave country. He did not (repeat not) request him do so and was not (repeat not) in position order him not (repeat not) to do so. At this very moment groups of persons including representatives British agents were in Palace trying persuade Shah not (repeat not) leave. Some of these people had entered Palace while he was telling Shah farewell and had made unnecessary scenes. Shah was receiving these people freely and could decide for himself what to do. I asked Prime Minister why it was necessary for him to issue proclamation which clearly would be critical of Shah unless Shah left. Prime Minister replied he could not (repeat not) institute necessary reforms or obtain solution oil problem so long as court served as basis of operations of British agents who were trying stir up dissension in country. Unity was necessary if Iran was successfully to emerge from present crisis. I told Prime Minister had myself some knowledge of Shah’s attitude and I convinced Shah not (repeat not) engaging in or countenancing participation of court in activities against interest Iran.

Prime Minister maintained that people around Shah were causing great injury to country. After some discussion it became clear it quite useless endeavor prevail on Prime Minister alter his attitude. I told Prime Minister I regretted having troubled him personally at time when I knew he harassed with many worries. I had hoped discuss matter in preliminary way with Foreign Minister but had been unable to obtain appointment today. I had therefore called on Ala who clearly was not (rpt not) in position deny Shah was leaving almost immediately. My call on Prime Minister had been prompted by hope that latter would cooperate in preventing developments which might ultimately if not (rpt not) almost immediately have consequences unfavorable to Iran. Prime Minister said it would be better for me if I did not (rpt not) [Page 466] make calls on Ala or anyone else connected with court at this critical time. I was opening myself to charges of interfering in internal affairs Iran. I said I fully conscious this danger but in my profession it sometimes necessary take risks just as it was necessary for him sometimes to take risks as Prime Minister. I would regret being charged with intervention but I would prefer charges this kind to feeling that I had failed to do all that I possibly could to advance interests of friendly country to which I was accredited as well as interests world peace. Prime Minister altered his attitude and in more friendly manner repeated that he was not (rpt not) insisting that Shah leave country. If Shah did not (rpt not) do so he had no (rpt no) choice other than to issue proclamation to Iran people. I said that in his political career he had undoubtedly on previous occasions found it possible to prevent differences from developing into open conflict which would be harmful to country. Was he sure that he had no (rpt no) alternative other than to issue proclamation critical of Shah and court unless Shah should leave country? Prime Minister said he had given this matter much thought and he considered that he was following proper course.

9. Before departing I gave Prime Minister note amending alternative text of original Compensation Agreement as suggested in London telegram 194, Feb 27, repeated Department 4838.3 We agreed that in case of press inquiries both he and I should merely state that during course my visit I had corrected minor omission in one of documents which I had handed him on February 20.4

10. On my way to Prime Minister’s residence I found all neighboring streets blocked with soldiers. On my departure 50 minutes later I observed still more soldiers. Groups of persons in surly mood apparently ready for demonstrations of some kind were observed gathering in vicinity.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.11/2–2853. Top Secret; Security Information; NIACT. Repeated to London, Baghdad, Ankara, and Dhahran. Received at 12:11 p.m. This telegram is printed with redactions in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 685–688 (Document 308).
  2. In telegram 4844 to Tehran, February 27, the Department relayed a message from the Embassy in London that reads in part: “Foreign Office this afternoon informed us of receipt message from Eden from Queen Elizabeth expressing concern at latest developments re Shah and strong hope we can find some means of dissuading him from leaving country.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.11/2–2753)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 888.2553/2–2753)
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 670–674 (Document 300).