271. Telegram From the Embassy in Iraq to the Department of State1

92. For Under Secretary—No (repeat no) Distribution. Shah of Iran expressed to Iraqi Government desire to meet me. In order to provide Department with first hand account of recent Iranian events as Shah sees them, and recalling his basic pro-western attitude and Department’s policy of supporting him, I called quietly at 9:30 last evening at Iraqi official guest house where he is staying. I found Shah worn from three sleepless nights, puzzled by turn of events, but with no (repeat no) bitterness toward Americans who had urged and planned action. I suggested for his prestige in Iran he never indicate that any foreigner had had a part in recent events. He agreed.

Shah stated that in recent weeks he had felt increasingly that he would have to take action against Mosadeq as the latter became bolder in flouting Iranian Constitution. Therefore, when a fortnight ago it was [Page 673] suggested that he sponsor a military coup he accepted the idea. However, in giving it more thought he decided that such action as he took must be within the framework of his constitutional power, hence, not (repeat not) a coup. Thus, after consultation with an American, not (repeat not) an official of the State Department, decided to appoint General Zahedi as Prime Minister in place of Mosadeq. After being assured that everything was arranged and that there was no (repeat no) possibility of failure, he left Tehran for his Caspian Palace in order to put Mosadeq off guard and from there three days ago sent letter of appointment of General Zahedi to Tehran with a trusted Iranian Colonel. The letter was delivered to General Zahedi and he was to choose the timing and method for informing Mosadeq. The Shah expected action would take place that very day. But no (repeat no) action took place, apparently because message arrived too late in day, and no (repeat no) action took place the following day, apparently because it was a holiday. On the third day Mosadeq by some means had been alerted and had had the time to take successful countermeasures so that when the Colonel arrived at Mosadeq’s house he was himself arrested.

This morning the Shah left his Caspian Palace in a Beechcraft with a pilot, one Palace official and his Queen and landed in Baghdad at 10:15. King Faisal returned from Jordan at 11:00. This afternoon, the Shah called upon King Faisal and King Faisal returned the call, offering hospitality, but lacking the supporting presence of his uncle who is in Cairo, seemed somewhat overpowered by events.

The Shah said that he will have to issue a statement very soon and possibly tomorrow. He needs, however, to be informed of the situation in Tehran and to have advice from his American friend. He will try to hold off giving out a statement until he gets advice, but the pressure to issue is great and mounting. He is thinking of saying in his statement that three days ago he dismissed Prime Minister Mosadeq and appointed General Zahedi as Prime Minister, taking his action because Mosadeq had continually violated the constitution. As he himself had sworn, upon ascending the throne, to respect and uphold the constitution, he had no (repeat no) choice, but to remove the Prime Minister of a government acting unconstitutionally. When it was apparent that his orders were not (repeat not) being followed, he left the country to prevent bloodshed and further damage. He is ready to return when he can serve the Iranian people and in the meantime prays for the independence and safety of Iran and that all true Iranians will never allow their country to fall under the control of the illegal Tudeh Party.

The Shah said that he is utterly at loss to understand why the plan failed. Trusted Palace officials were completely sure of its succeeding. The American friend was absolutely confident of its success. When he had said to the American if it should fail what should he do, the Amer[Page 674]ican scouted the possibility of failure adding when pressed, that the Shah should go to Baghdad. The Shah said that is why he came to Baghdad when the plan miscarried. Now he needs information and advice upon his next move. He said that he thought that he should not (repeat not) stay here more than a few days, but would then go to Europe and he hoped eventually to America. He added he would be looking for work shortly as he has a large family and very small means outside of Iran. I tried to boost his morale by saying that I hoped that soon he would return to reign over his people for whom he has done so much, but he replied that Mosadeq is absolutely mad and insanely jealous, like a tiger who springs upon any living thing that it sees moving above him. Shah believes Mosadeq thinks he can form a partnership with the Tudeh Party and then outwit it, but in so doing Mosadeq will become the Dr. Benes2 of Iran.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/8–1753. Top Secret; Security Information; Priority. Repeated to Tehran. Received at 7:14 a.m. This telegram is printed with redactions in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 746–748 (Document 345).
  2. Czechoslovak President, 1935–1938 and 1945–1948.
  3. In a memorandum dated August 18, Under Secretary Smith summarized this telegram for the President and forwarded it to him as an attachment. He commented that “the attached message is self-explanatory and will give you the Iranian situation in a nutshell. The move failed because of three days of delay and vacillation by the Iranian generals concerned, during which time Mosadeq apparently found out all that was happening. Actually it was a counter-coup, as the Shah acted within his constitutional power in signing the firman replacing Mosadeq. The old boy wouldn’t accept this and arrested the messenger and everybody else involved that he could get his hands on. We now have to take a whole new look at the Iranian situation and probably have to snuggle up to Mosadeq if we’re going to save anything there. I daresay this means a little added difficulty with the British.” (Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, p. 748; Document 346)