211. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Smith to President Eisenhower1

Ambassador Henderson has personally written several despatches giving his own analysis of trends in Iran and of recent conversations with the Iranian Foreign Minister and other officials. I have made the following extract of the most important paragraphs of these despatches. I believe they are a very accurate expression of the situation and national state of mind in Iran, so accurate in fact that I suggest you read them.

“On the one hand the Iranian press as well as most Iranians capable of expression condemn in principle foreign interference in Iran. On the other hand relatively few politically conscious Iranians really believe that it is possible for a power like the United States to refrain from interference in Iran. Most Iranian politicians friendly to the West would welcome secret American intervention which might assist them in attaining their individual or group political ambitions and are inclined to believe in the absence of United States interference on their behalf that the United States must be supporting rival politicians.

“Iranian distrust of foreigners is so intense that it is not difficult to stimulate resentment against any foreigners engaged in activities in Iran even though these activities are clearly beneficial to Iran. Therefore, the more American nationals there are in Iran and the more energetic and conspicuous these Americans are, the easier it is for various Iranian elements who dislike the presence of Americans or who wish to create difficulties between the United States and Iran to incite Iranians to violence against United States citizens in Iran. It is only fair to the Prime Minister to point out that undoubtedly one of the reasons why he has been so anxious that a minimum amount of publicity be given to activities, beneficial though they may be to Iran, of the so-called American military advisers and of TCI personnel is his awareness that the more attention that is attracted to the activities of these American nationals the more susceptible the Iranian people in general are likely to be to appeals to throw the Americans out of the country. It is difficult, of course, for the average American to understand the lack of appreciation of the Iranian public of disinterested efforts made by individual American nationals in Iran for the benefit of Iran. There are historical and psychological reasons for this phenomenon which I shall not attempt to set forth in this despatch. Nevertheless those in the United States who are inclined to believe that [Page 575] a mere increase in publicity of efforts of Americans in Iran to assist Iran will contribute to a solution of some of the problems which we are facing here at the present time should not overlook the fact that there are extremely important psychological differences between the public mind of Iran and that of the United States.

“The frustrations of practically all sections of the Iranian public, including those supporting as well as those opposing Dr. Mosadeq, as they note the deteriorating conditions of the country fan the embers of xenophobia. Only those sympathetic to the Soviet Union and to international communism have reason to be pleased at what is taking place in Iran.”

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Box 32, Iran 1953–59(9). Secret; Security Information. There is no drafting information on the memorandum.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears Smith’s typed initials.