217. Memorandum Prepared by the Naval Attaché in Iran (Pollard)1
I met Ardeshir at his request at 9:00 p.m. last night as arranged, and cleared through you yesterday. He had just left a meeting of the opposition deputies which included Makki, Baghai, Mir Ashrafi, Mostafa Kashani and others.
The opposition is now concentrating on organizing the deputies in order that Kashani be re-elected as “Speaker” of the Majlis. He then stated that at this moment the opposition is guaranteed of 42 votes for Kashani in these elections. I expressed surprise and Ardeshir explained that by law this election must be secret, and that by extensive campaign “methods” the opposition group, now openly led by Zahedi, had persuaded enough deputies to vote for Kashani to make up a total of 42. These he said would be identified by distinguishing marks on their ballots so that it could be determined which deputy, if any, had failed to keep his bargain. This he said must be kept strictly secret in order to [Page 588]avoid counter-action by Mossadegh, and by covert methods available to the Soviet Embassy.
He requested that because of the extreme sensitivity of this that I retain it for my own information and not transmit it to the Embassy. I agreed, but have quoted all that he said on this subject. In this case, I do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by referring this to the various members of the Political Section of the Embassy for possible compromise by attempts to confirm.
The opposition feels that this election will be the turning point, if not the crucial point, in the drive to oust the Mossadegh government for a Zahedi government. He explained this by saying that until the election the opposition will conduct a concentrated campaign of propaganda through their new newspapers, and the present opposition newspapers, but would conduct their campaign for votes for Kashani covertly. The deputies, in addition to the opposition’s original 25, are only willing to vote for Kashani in a secret ballot, and if not identified. This, at present, seems assured. The result, however, if Kashani is re-elected over the express opposition of Mossadegh, is close to a vote of no confidence. The opposition feels that if Kashani’s reelection is followed by intense campaigning that many more deputies will be encouraged to come out openly for Zahedi, in a sort of “get on the band-wagon” movement. Indeed 42 votes for a candidate not favored by Mossadegh would certainly be an accomplishment and would indicate that there is an opposition to Mossadegh which is strong, contrary to the views of many foreign observers.
In addition, the opposition is attempting to change the political orientation of Ghashghai and Abol Amini. Previously both of these characters were firmly behind Zahedi and it is felt that with the proper persuasion that they can again become supporters of an opposition government. Ardeshir stated that one of the secret ballots in favor of Kashani would be that of Khosrow Ghashghai.
General Zahedi, in addition, feels that General Riahi requires some attention. Through a number of Army officers his exact orientation is being determined along with estimates of the possibility of a change. In his position, the opposition feels that this must change or there are plans for his assassination (ugh!). Particularly repulsive to the opposition are his intense political activities in attempting to organize the Army as a political party in favor of Mossadegh.
Ardeshir is certain that most of the police officers in police headquarters will be replaced by Army officers. However, he stated that this would not be more than a nuisance as most of the Army officers involved are great admirers of General Zahedi. That the present police leadership is at least secretly behind Zahedi can easily be proven. There [Page 589]are many examples of this—one of interest refers to the fact that Ardeshir is a fugitive and that twice now official announcements have been made demanding that he present himself to police headquarters. Pertaining to this, when the Ambassador asked me if I could contact Ardeshir, I stated that I could, and proceeded to contact the man that Ardeshir had indicated—this man is the Chief of Detectives, Imperial Iranian Police Force.
Ardeshir is aware that Mossadegh is planning to try to force the Shah to sign a Firman to close the Majlis and is fearful that by some means he might come close to success in this. However, in the meantime, intense campaigning revealing Mossadegh’s plan is now being planned and will be evident in a day or two in the newspapers and in the Majlis. If Mossadegh ever attempts to close the Majlis without a Firman from the Shah, Ardeshir feels that this would be Mossadegh’s greatest mistake and with the present strength of the opposition would be almost, literally, fatal to him.
He also mentioned that in the voting for “Speaker” of the Majlis the opposition papers are encouraging the present internal quarrelling within the National Front. At present a bitter struggle is being carried on between Shayegan, Moazami and Razavi to be the National Front candidate for Speaker; this could weaken the National Front considerably.
Ardeshir stated that it is evident to most Iranian observers that the British aim in Iran is as follows: To officially agree that Mossadegh should go, but not to actively, covertly, work to this end, feeling that the strength of the opposition itself will work this out and that there remains a possibility that by a weak change in government the British might be able to control the next government. The number one aim of the British, however, is to weaken the Shah’s powers to intervene in time of crises to the point that at some time in the future when a pro-British Prime Minister appears the most can be made of it. He feels that in spite of the weak character of the Shah such a curtailment of powers would be disastrous to the country and would place the country at the mercy of whatever adventurers might temporarily be in position of political power, and that the country is not yet ready for this. In addition, the only symbol which holds the diverse elements of Iran together is the Shah himself.
He asked me if it was not a sign of the strength of the opposition that in the Majlis which was practically handpicked by Mossadegh there were men who realized that his course led only to Communism and who had the courage in the face of serious intimidation to oppose him and that among these men were the organizers of Mossadegh’s strength—Kashani, Makki, Baghai, etc.[Page 590]
This is an objective report of the statements of Ardeshir Zahedi and there are no reflections of the opinions of the author contained in any of the various points enumerated above.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 80–01701R, Box 3, Folder 7, TPAJAX. Top Secret; Security Information. On the covering sheet to this memorandum is a handwritten note, apparently from Waller to [name not declassified], which reads: “A cable went out to Station complaining that Pollard is crossing wires with us.”↩
- Printed from a copy with Pollard’s typed signature.↩