281. Memorandum for the Record1

Ambassador Henderson saw Prime Minister Mossedeq by appointment for an hour yesterday evening. He reported that Mossedeq was as usual courteous but the Ambassador detected in his attitude a certain amount of smoldering resentment.

The Ambassador told Mossedeq that he was particularly concerned at the laxity of the Iranian law enforcement agencies in permitting the increasing number of attacks on American citizens both in Tehran and other localities. Dr. Mossedeq replied that these attacks were almost inevitable as the Iranian people thought the Americans were disagreeing with them. The Ambassador replied that disagreements were no reason for attacks, and that if the Iranians really wanted the Americans out individual attacks were not necessary, as the Americans would go en masse. After stating that the law enforcement agencies were doing everything possible to give Americans protection, the Prime Minister assured Ambassador Henderson that he wanted the Aid Missions to remain in Iran. He thought they were performing valuable services and said he would look further into the matter of the protection of members of the Missions.

Mossedeq then outlined events which led to the departure of the Majlis along much the same lines as reported in previous telegrams. He did maintain, however, that certain members of the Majlis had been bought outright by the British. He said only 40 votes had not been bought and that 10 of these 40 could have been purchased by 100,000 tomans. When he learned that the negotiations were progressing to complete the purchasing operation, he decided that a British-purchased Majlis was unworthy of the Iranian people and should be eliminated. Mossedeq then asked for Henderson’s comments concerning the dissolution of the Majlis. Henderson replied that although he was reluctant as a foreign diplomat to comment on Iranian internal affaires, it did seem to him unfortunate for Iran and no [comfort(?)]2 to the Iranian people that the Government of Iran apparently could not be based on a Parliament. Iran was in a most dangerous international position and Ambassador Henderson thought that it would be much [Page 690] more secure if all organs provided for in the Iranian constitution functions with at least a certain degree of harmony.

As to the events of recent days, Mossedeq explained that on the evening of August 15, Colonel Nasiri had approached his house with the apparent intention of arresting him. Colonel Nasiri himself, however, had been arrested and a number of other arrests followed. The Prime Minister said he had sworn not to try to oust the Shah and that he would have honored this oath had the Shah not engaged in a venture of this kind. It was clear that Colonel Nasiri had been sent by the Shah to arrest him and that the Shah had been prompted by the British.

In reply to a question by Ambassador Henderson as to whether he had reason to believe that it is true that the Shah had expected a firman removing Mossedeq and appointing General Zahedi as Prime Minister, Dr. Mossedeq said that he had never seen such a firman and that if he had, it would have made no difference. His position for some time had been that the Shah’s powers were of a ceremonial nature and that the Shah had no right on his personal responsibility to issue a firman calling for a change in government. When Ambassador Henderson pointed out that he was particularly interested in this point and that he would like to report it carefully to the United States Government, Mossedeq affirmed that: (a) he had no official knowledge that the Shah had issued a firman removing him as Prime Minister, and (b) even if he should find that the Shah had issued such a firman, he would consider it invalid in present circumstances.

Ambassador Henderson reported that Mossedeq appeared in a much better frame of mind at the end of the talk but that nevertheless, from his unusual reserve, the Ambassador was inclined to believe that Mossedeq was suspicious that the United States Government or at least United States officials were either implicated in the effort to oust him or were sympathetically aware of such an effort in advance. His remarks were interspersed with a number of little jibes which although semi-jocular in character were nonetheless barbed. In general the jibes hinted that the United States was conniving with the British to remove him as Prime Minister.

Ambassador Henderson requested that the above be treated as highly classified information.

  1. Source: British National Archives, FO 371/104570. Secret; Security Information. The memorandum is attached to a covering note from R.J. Bowker, a Foreign Office official, indicating that the memorandum was handed to him by Joseph Palmer of the U.S. Embassy in London.
  2. Brackets are in the original. The word in telegram 384 (Document 280) reporting the conversation is “compliment.”