19. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Office of Current Intelligence, Directorate of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency1
- The Soviet Attitude toward the Situation in Iran since the Assassination of Razmara
1. The situation in Iran since the assassination of Premier Razmara on 7 March has presented the Soviet Union with favorable opportunities to increase its influence and gain ultimate control over the country. The ostensible show of non-intervention in the situation on the part of the USSR calls for a comprehensive review of recent Soviet diplomatic moves, current propaganda, activity along the Soviet-Iranian border, and the tactics of the outlawed pro-Soviet Tudeh Party. The possibility of future Soviet intervention under the terms of the 1921 treaty should also be considered.
2. Diplomatically, the USSR has continued its policy, inaugurated in the latter half of 1950, of displaying friendship for the Iranian Government and not interfering in the government’s problems connected with oil nationalization, internal unrest, and relations with the British. There is no evidence that the Soviet Ambassador in Iran has put any pressure on the Iranian Government. In corroboration of this, Premier Ala told the French Ambassador in late March that there had been no Soviet pressure on him. The Soviet Union seems aware that for the time being any ill-timed Soviet diplomatic pressure or demands for oil rights might cause these advantages to be forfeited.[Page 71]
3. Soviet propaganda since 7 March, in its daily reporting on Iran, reveals the Kremlin’s close interest in developments there, particularly with reference to the oil situation, the recent strikes, and public demonstrations. Consistent with its diplomatic effort to disassociate the USSR from events in Iran, Moscow has refrained from commenting editorially on actions taken by the Iranian Government or speculating on future developments. Soviet press and propaganda have avoided any hint of unfriendliness towards the government or comment on its instability. Since Razmara’s assassination this propaganda has concentrated on US–UK rivalry for Iranian oil and US–UK exploitation of Iran. The Communists’ “clandestine” “Free Azerbaijan” radio in Baku, on the other hand, has adhered to its previous policy of attacking the Shah, Premier Ala, and the Majlis as pawns of US–UK imperialism and betrayers of the Iranian people.
4. While the Soviet Union is believed capable of invading Iran successfully without prior warning, there has been no indication that the USSR is preparing to take such a step at this time. Iranian military intelligence, although fragmentary, constitutes the best source of information on Soviet border activities. This source reports Soviet troop movements on the Azerbaijan frontier and some additional military activities since late February. These are probably connected with the annual Soviet maneuvers in this area, which began earlier than usual this year. Reports that dissident elements (exiled Azerbaijani Democrats and Barzani Kurds) are on the frontier ready to invade Iran have appeared, as is common during periods of tribal migrations and regular maneuvers. No reports of any Soviet activity on the Khorassan sector of the border east of the Caspian Sea have been received. Soviet military maneuvers on this section of the frontier generally begin later than those on the Azerbaijan border.
5. Communist policy in Iran since Razmara’s assassination has been aimed at inciting further agitation on the oil issue while keeping Communist connections with the disturbances on a covert level. Although there is no firm evidence of pro-Soviet Tudeh Party involvement in the current disturbances, press reports and Iranian officials commonly blame the Tudeh Party. The Tudeh is said to be behind the “Organization for the Expropriation of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company” (AIOC), which, with the National Front (the ultra-nationalist faction in Parliament), has spearheaded the movement to nationalize Iran’s oil. The Tudeh, according to Iranian intelligence reports, is also behind the organization of the “Hayat-i-Islam,” which has been agitating on the oil issue in the North. Tudeh agitators have also been reported in the southern oil fields during the recent AIOC strike. Tudeh agitation, as reported by Iranian military intelligence, showed a noticeable increase in February in all parts of the country, but declined markedly in March.[Page 72]
6. Moscow has followed a noncommittal policy concerning Soviet intervention in Iran under the terms of the 1921 Iranian-Soviet treaty, and neither the press nor the radio has referred to the treaty since Razmara’s assassination. Soviet Ambassador Sadchikov, conferring with Satellite officials in Tehran on 16 April, reportedly stated that it was hardly likely that the Soviets would intervene in Iran if British troops landed to maintain law and order in the south. He added that any Soviet action would depend on the duration of the UK action and that furthermore the treaty’s terms would require an appeal to the USSR from the Tehran government. His delineation of Soviet intentions may have been an effort to encourage a more forceful British policy towards Iran. While the USSR undoubtedly realizes that British military forces are unlikely to occupy the oil area, any Communist-inspired agitation in the oil fields during the strike was presumably aimed at provoking the UK. Should Communist-Nationalist agitation tactics bring on new disturbances in the oil area, British intervention would intensify unrest and hatred of the UK to the USSR’s advantage. On 26 April, a Moscow commentary alleged British concentration of armed forces in the vicinity of southern Iran and for the first time charged the British with the intention of “interfering actively in internal affairs should occasion arise.” Repeated emphasis on the possibility of UK intervention could be viewed as an unspoken threat of Soviet intervention under the terms of the 1921 treaty.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, OCI Files, Job 91T01172R, Box 3, Folder 29. Top Secret; ACORN.↩