17. Memorandum by the Chief of the Near East and Africa Division, Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Roosevelt)1

The Tehran station submits the following estimate of the situation in Iran as of 18 April 1951 for the purpose of operational planning.

The position of the Ala Cabinet is considered uncertain despite the vote of confidence given it 17 April 1951. At present Ala is acting with extreme caution. Although it appears he has made no working arrangement with Mullah Kashani, the opposition of the National Front has been neutralized, at least temporarily, and several Front representatives such as Fazlullah Zahedi, appointed Minister of Interior, have been included in the Cabinet. Ala, however, is receiving only limited active support from the Shah and others and is facing opposition from Seyyid Zia and his British supporters and from Qavam. Nevertheless Ala may be able to retain the premiership and, if so, he plans to take stronger measures against the extremists. Most observers, however, believe Ala will be replaced by Seyyid Zia, a move which the station feels would probably occur only with Ala’s full approval as being in the best interests of Iran.2 If Seyyid Zia becomes Prime Minister, he would apparently inaugurate a strong man type of government. It is believed that the Shah would order dissolution of the Majlis after Seyyid Zia obtained a vote of confidence, call for new elections and support Seyyid Zia in governing by decree and forcefully suppressing [Page 68] opposition. Although Seyyid Zia claims privately that he will demonstrate by his actions that he is no longer under British control, the station comments that unless he can convince Iranians he does not support British policy, the US would come in for sharp Iranian resentment if it supported him. Iranian antagonism toward the British is deep-seated and widespread and, according to the station, all its information indicates that nationalization of oil is inevitable. Furthermore, since Seyyid Zia’s past ties with the British are well known and he is reportedly now being given strong British backing, his appointment as Prime Minister would lead to even more serious discord, touched off by the nationalists and exploited by the extremists.

An accurate evaluation of the situation in Abadan is considered impossible since the news from there is so exaggerated. While there have been no disturbances since 15 April, the strike is no nearer settlement. Abadan security forces are not attempting to prevent picketing or arrest agitators but they are prepared, presumably, to halt any sizeable riots. The workers have been publicly urged by Kashani to refrain from strikes and disturbances. The refinery is reportedly working 25% of normal.

In Isfahan order has reportedly been restored by [but] the government has yet to settle the problems of the textile industry.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Secret.
  2. In the margin next to this sentence is a handwritten note, apparently written by Wisner, that reads: “‘Most observers have been influenced by British propaganda, I think!”
  3. Printed from a copy that bears Roosevelt’s typed initials.