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3. Memorandum Prepared in the Office of National Estimates, Central Intelligence Agency1

MEMORANDUM OF INFORMATION NO. 32

FOR

  • National Estimates Board

SUBJECT

  • The Situation in Iran

1. Information is still incomplete regarding the influences at work behind the assassination of Premier Razmara of Iran. It appears, however, that the murder was an outgrowth of Iran’s internal stress and strains and that Soviet influences were not directly involved. Little is known about Fedi-i-a-Islam, the organization which planned to [the] murder, but it is probably a band of religious fanatics similar to the so-called Committee of Twelve responsible for the murder of Minister of Court Ilajir in November 1949. Like the Committee of Twelve, Fedi-i-a-Islam appears to be an extremist off-shoot of the small but vociferous troup of religious reactionaries and xenophobes in the Majlis. This group has opposed Razmara especially for his “sellout” to the UK on the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) concession issues. Members of group, however, have also accused Razmara of appeasing the USSR and of coddling the pro-Communist element in Iran; although there have been various unproved assertions that Mulla Kashani, the leader of the ultra-reactionary clerical element, has covert ties with the USSR, it is unlikely that the USSR could have had any direct influence on the murder. The pro-Soviet Tudeh Party was officially charged with planning another act of terrorism, the attempted assassination of the Shah in February 1949, but the evidence to that effect was unconvincing.

2. The assassination will have no immediate effect on Iran’s willingness and ability to resist Soviet pressures. Nevertheless, it will promote a further weakening of Iran’s internal stability, both by adding to the general sense of aimlessness, insecurity, and frustration and by highlighting Iran’s lack of capable leadership. The Shah may well respond temporarily to the challenge by attempting personally to provide the vigorous leadership that Iran needs, but it is doubtful that he [Page 17]has the tenacity of purpose to persist in such a policy. As for the premiership, General Razmara was elevated from Chief of Staff to Premier last year because he appeared to be the only man who had the prestige and vigor needed to stir the Iranian Government out of its accustomed lethargy. The Shah is reportedly considering naming Minister of Court Ala, the competent and strongly pro-US former Iranian Ambassador in Washington, to the premiership. Although Ala might get more whole-hearted support than did Razmara from the Shah, (who was unable to control his fears that Razmara might attempt to seize power as the Shah’s own father had done), Ala lacks strong supporters in Parliament. Whether or not Ala is given the premiership, Razmara’s office will probably revert in the end to the old-time politicians who have borne the principal responsibility for the Iranian Government’s tendency to drift.

3. The effect of the assassination on the oil nationalization issue is less clear. Yesterday’s unanimous pro-nationalization vote of the Majlis Oil Commission indicates that the ultra-nationalists have not slackened their fight to expel the oil company. General indications before the assassination, however, were that the Oil Commission would make such a declaration but that no practical steps to expropriate the company would ensure. Razmara himself, apparently felt that some sop to the advocates of nationalization was needed. In presenting to the Oil Commission, as his own, an AIOC proposal for a more generous concession agreement, Razmara inserted a declaration that nationalization was the ultimate objective of the government.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 79T00937A, Box 1, Folder 1, Staff Memoranda—1951. Secret. There is no drafting information on the memorandum.