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332. Letter From the Ambassador to Iran (Henderson) to the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Richards)1

Dear Art:

I am enclosing herewith as of possible interest to you, Mr. Stutes-man, and other members of the Department, a number of memoranda which I have received in the last few days from various members of the staff. Since these memoranda are self-explanatory I will not comment on them at length. I am not sending them under cover of despatch since I consider that they are too fragmentary to have a place in the permanent files of the Department.

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[name not declassified] who is the author of several of these memoranda, is, as you are undoubtedly aware, a most active CAS source. During the turn-over last August he made close contacts with certain military circles, including the Prime Minister and the son of the Prime Minister, and has assiduously exploited those contacts. The Prime Minister’s son arranges frequently for [name not declassified] to join himself and the Prime Minister at dinner. During these dinner parties many matters are discussed. Usually [name not declassified] advises me regarding at least certain passages of these conversations. The fact that he sees the Prime Minister so frequently of course builds up his prestige and causes many Iranian officials to approach him rather than our Armed Forces Attachés and other appropriate members of the Embassy staff.

You will note that Colonel Pakravan, Chief of G–2, who formerly maintained close relations with CAS, has avoided CAS contacts since August 19. It is clear that Colonel Pakravan is hostile to General Zahedi and is unhappy at the shift which brought Zahedi into power. It would appear from the comments which he made to Colonel McNulty that he, like a number of other Army officers who do not feel that they are profiting from [name not declassified] close relationship with the Prime Minister, is not pleased at this relationship. I assume that [name not declassified] is carrying on his activities under instructions from his superiors in Washington. I am trying so far as is possible to cut down too much free-wheeling. This is not too easy, however.2

I have discussed with the Shah the growing strength of Baqai in the Army, but His Majesty does not seem to be particularly concerned. He intimates that he is sure that Baqai and the Army are loyal to him, and so long as they are there is no need to worry regarding their attitude towards the Government. The Shah even remarked to me that it is important that there be some opposition to the Government and it is preferable that that opposition be composed of persons loyal to the Crown. I have tried to impress upon the Shah the fact that it would be unfair for the Prime Minister to be compelled to deal with a General Staff politically active and critical of himself. The Shah however takes a rather smug attitude about the matter.

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I thought you might be interested in Imam Jumeh’s conversation with Howison.3 There is no doubt in my mind that the so-called “pro-Shah” party which the Imam is organizing is not particularly friendly to the Prime Minister. We are not particularly disturbed regarding the warning which Ahmad Aramesh gave to Mr. Howison. There is always a possibility, of course, that some of us might be made victims of terroristic tactics. I believe, however, that Aramesh has talked about this with Howison primarily to establish a closer personal relationship with him.4

You of course will recall Mostafa Fateh who has the reputation of being a particularly loyal British agent. He has been extremely critical of the United States in the past. He is one of the Iranians who has repeatedly charged that nationalization of oil would not have taken place without U.S. encouragement.

Sincerely,

Loy W. Henderson

Attachment 1

Tehran, October 12, 1953.

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Gen. Batmangelich on October 9, 1953

1. At the request of Chief of Staff Batmangelich, the undersigned visited Batmangelich at his office on 9 October 1953. Deputy Chiefs of Staff Akhavi and Deihimi were also present.

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2. In the course of the meeting, the following observations were made:

A. Batmangelich stated that the Chief of Staff should have full control over martial law in Tehran. Failing that, he should at least have final authority over the right of release of incarcerated persons. The COS said that Military Governor Dadsetan was a junior officer and owed him, Batmangelich, more respect.

B. Batmangelich stated that his relations with Gen. Zahedi are now good but the latter has asked him to relieve Deputy COS Deihimi, who, according to Batmangelich, is a very good officer. The COS said he would not relieve Deihimi until forced to do so.

C. Batmangelich said that the plight of the junior officers and the men is terrible. He said that the Army must not be undermined by the Tudeh Party, and that the U.S. is taking an unnecessary gamble by refusing to use money from the Military Aid program to increase the pay and improve the living conditions of military personnel. He said that Gen. McClure had tried and failed and that Ambassador Henderson should step in to help.

D. Akhavi and Deihimi agreed with the above and said that fighting the Tudeh in the Army is not enough; the U.S. should insist on a united political front between Zahedi and the National Front leaders. Both Akhavi and Deihimi told of former close associations with Baqai. After a discussion between Akhavi and Deihimi, they both said that it was impossible to unite Zahedi with the National Front; therefore, the latter should be split by joining Zahedi with Baqai.

E. Deihimi stated that the only hope for Iran was for a Zahedi–Baqai coalition.

3. As a result of the above statements, the undersigned reached the conclusion that: Baqai’s strength in the Army is obviously becoming a serious matter. Deihimi and Akhavi fully control Batmangelich, who seems to feel that his position is strengthened vis-à-vis Zahedi by Baqai support.

[name not declassified]

Attachment 2

Tehran, October 14, 1953.

SUBJECT

  • Baqai Influence in the General Staff, Iranian Army

1. Chief of Staff Nader Batmangelich and his two deputies, Brig.Gens. Akhavi and Deihimi, have engaged in power struggles [Page 790]against Prime Minister Zahedi, Commanding General of the Gendarmérie Golpyra, and Military Governor Farhat Dadsetan.

2. Maj.Gen. Batmangelich has a reputation for honesty in handling funds but heretofore has not been accused of possessing political acumen. Therefore, CAS has conducted an investigation to determine what influences lie behind Batmangelich and to what extent they control him.

3. It will be recalled that Maj.Gen. Batmangelich displayed cowardice during the night 15–16 August. During that same night and for several days before, Brig.Gen. (then Col.) Akhavi was sick in bed and did not participate in the events of 15–19 August, 1953. Brig.Gen. Deihimi (then Col.) was Chief of Staff of the Kerman Division and did not participate in the events of 15–19 August, 1953.

4. Batmangelich was accepted as Chief of Staff by HIM the Shah upon the nomination of Brig.Gen. Akhavi, who has for years seconded Batmangelich during Batmangelich’s Army assignments.

5. Brig.Gen. Akhavi and Maj.Gen. Batmangelich are known to be close friends of Maj.Gen. Arfa; in fact, Akhavi suggested, through two cut-outs, to Gen. Zahedi that Gen. Arfa replace Batmangelich. Batmangelich stated on October 2nd that he considers Maj.Gen. Arfa one of his oldest and dearest friends, but Batmangelich does not know of Gen. Akhavi’s attempts to make Gen. Arfa Chief of Staff. The fact that Maj.Gen. Arfa has for years been close to British officials is well known, but it is not believed until further evidence is gathered that either Gen. Akhavi or Gen. Batmangelich are particularly pro-British. However, the influence of Maj.Gen. Arfa upon those two officers seems to be quite strong.

6. Brig.Gen. Deihimi stated to the undersigned on October 2nd that he acted for five years as an official in the Shah’s personal intelligence organization. Gen. Deihimi stated that he was a foe of Gen. Razmara’s and later, an enemy of the National Front. Gen. Deihimi related that when the National Front, led by Dr. Mossadeq, threatened to become strong enough to oust the Shah, he went to the Shah and asked for imperial authority to split the National Front by weaning Dr. Baqai away from Dr. Mossadeq. Gen. Deihimi stated that the Shah gave him that authority and that subsequently Dr. Baqai did break away from Mossadeq.

7. American sources have reported that Dr. Baqai for years has considered Deihimi one of his closest lieutenants. It is not known to what extent Akhavi was involved in the Baqai group, but on October 2nd Gen. Akhavi stated that he joined privately with Dr. Baqai approximately one year ago in an effort to oppose Dr. Mossadeq and that he has been in touch with Dr. Baqai ever since. The relationship between Gen. Deihimi and Dr. Baqai appears to be much closer than the Ak[Page 791]havi–Baqai relationship. Gen. Akhavi has stated that he respects Gen. Deihimi as much as any other officer in the Iranian Army and that he heavily relies upon Gen. Deihimi’s judgment.

8. After August 19, 1953, when Gen. Zahedi displaced Dr. Mossadeq, Gen. Akhavi sent Gen. Batmangelich’s personal Army plane to Kerman to fly Gen. Deihimi to Tehran. In Tehran Gen. Batmangelich and Gen. Akhavi ousted Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Abbas Farzanegan and replaced him with then Col. Deihimi. The Shah approved.

9. There followed a struggle which continues: the struggle between the Shah and the Prime Minister for control of the armed forces. Maj.Gen. Vossuk, Deputy Minister of National Defense, a Shah man, was ousted by Prime Minister Zahedi from his cabinet. Maj.Gen. Hedayat, whom Gen. Zahedi believes to be his man, was made Minister of National Defense. In the meantime, the Shah ordered Gen. Batmangelich to refer all papers concerning the Army directly to him, rather than going through Gens. Zahedi and Hedayat. This decision by the Shah greatly strengthened the position of the Chief of Staff, who thereby was able to promote officers friendly to him in such a way that Gen. Zahedi was unable to prevent it. It is known that Gens. Batmangelich, Akhavi and Deihimi have ignored Army regulations in promoting their personal friends, with the Shah’s approval.

10. The prosecution of the Army officers apparently guilty of treason and of Dr. Mossadeq and his closest advisers has proceeded at what Gen. Zahedi considers to be a snail’s pace. Upon five different occasions Gen. Zahedi has sent his son to protest against this slow-down. Gen. Zahedi became convinced that the Chief of Staff and his deputies were deliberately attempting to embarrass the Zahedi government by keeping alive the hopes of those who were still political friends of Dr. Mossadeq and of the Tudeh Party. Upon one occasion Gen. Zahedi threatened to resign. On 13 October he sent his son to the Shah with a demand that the Shah dismiss the Chief of Staff or accept Zahedi’s resignation; however, his son did not tell the Shah that Gen. Zahedi desired to resign, in an effort to smooth over this crisis in his father’s political career. There now can be no doubt that the failure by the Chief of Staff to execute, or at least to prosecute, those traitors now in his hands continues gravely to embarrass the Zahedi administration.

11. Efforts by the U.S. to keep the Shah and the Prime Minister together have been successful except over the issue of the armed forces. This problem is greatly complicated by the fact that Gen. Batmangelich and his deputies now seem to feel strong enough in the Shah’s graces to move out and to attack Zahedi stalwarts. Recently Gen. Batmangelich attempted to replace Col. Malek, Chief of Staff to Maj.Gen. Golpyra, with Brig.Gen. Mirfanderski, Gen. Batmangelich’s brother-in-law. For professional reasons, the American Mission to the Iranian Gendarmérie [Page 792]has strongly opposed that move and has sought CAS intervention. On October 9th Gen. Batmangelich promised CAS that Col. Malek would not be removed from his post. On October 11th CAS learned that Gen. Batmangelich was still attempting to assign his brother-in-law to the Gendarmérie where, as a Brigadier-General, Mirfanderski would greatly strengthen Batmangelich’s ability to intervene politically on behalf of Baqai or other Zahedi opponents in the forthcoming elections. This situation is further complicated by the fact that Maj.Gen. Golpyra and Brig.Gen. Mirfanderski are old enemies; in fact, Gen. Zahedi’s right hand, Maj.Gen. Hedayat Guilanshah, stated on October 13th that Maj.Gen. Golpyra might be forced to resign unless Gen. Zahedi be able to block the Mirfanderski assignment.

12. Gen. Batmangelich has also attacked another important official. During interviews with Maj.Gen. Dadsetan, Military Governor of Tehran, Gen. Batmangelich has attempted to gain complete control of the Office of Military Governor, an office of great importance in the forthcoming elections. When Gen. Dadsetan refused to buckle under, Gen. Batmangelich asked for Dadsetan’s resignation. Gen. Dadsetan refused. Gen. Batmangelich then carried his fight against Dadsetan to the Shah. On October 2nd and 9th, Gen. Batmangelich also solicited CAS assistance in attacking Gen. Dadsetan. With the Gendarmérie and the Office of the Military Governor of Tehran in his hands, the political position of Gen. Batmangelich would be very strong indeed. Of course, the position of Gen. Zahedi might seriously be weakened.

13. From numerous sources and from direct personal observation, CAS is convinced that Gen. Batmangelich is only the creature of Gens. Akhavi and Deihimi. This certainly means that the influence of Dr. Baqai is far greater at the moment than is overtly realized.

14. The ability of the U.S. to do something about this matter is further complicated by the fact that there is a distinct possibility that the Shah is a party to the BaqaiDeihimi scheme. Gen. Deihimi has himself stated that when he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, he was told by the Shah to “play politics” with Dr. Baqai on the Shah’s behalf. Gen. Zahedi was not told by either the Shah or by Gen. Deihimi of that action.

15. Gen. Zahedi’s protest to the Shah on October 13th against Gen. Batmangelich met only a noncommittal answer by the Shah, and the entire problem remains unsolved.

[name not declassified]
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/10–1753. Secret; Security Information; Official–Informal. Attachments 3–5 are attached but not printed. See footnotes below.
  2. At the end of this paragraph is a handwritten note by Henderson that reads: “Please take no action with regard to this matter which I prefer to handle here. [name not declassified] is [illegible] and has done much useful work.” Henderson marked the letter to indicate that the note applied to the concluding sentences of the third paragraph.
  3. In a conversation of October 14 with Dr. Sayid Hasan Emami, the Imam Jumeh, Second Secretary of Embassy John M. Howison discussed Jumeh’s intention to form a political party which “the Shah approved” but “was not sponsoring.” In another conversation that Howison had on the same day with the Imam Jumeh and Mostafa Fateh, formerly of the AIOC, Jumeh commented “that he did not believe Zahedi would ever come to grips with the oil problem. Zahedi was reinforcing rather than destroying nationalistic propaganda in order to cater to public opinion.” Both memoranda of conversation are attached.
  4. Howison reported in an attached memorandum to Melbourne, October 15, that Minister of Labor Ahmad Aramesh had told him that “pro-Mosadeq and Tudeh elements were planning a putsch which was tentatively scheduled for October 22. As a build up for this effort they would resort to terrorist methods of which Americans would be primary targets. He had learned that I ‘might be one of the people’ to be assassinated as a preface to the uprising. . . . My assumption is that Aramesh was trying either (a) to impress me with his usefulness to me personally in a manner which would imply that closer professional relations between us might be very convenient for me as an individual or (b) to impress me with the seriousness of the putsch allegedly being planned. If the latter was in fact his aim, it was a highly successful tactic.”