335. 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
Attached hereto is a memorandum prepared by [name not declassified] which is almost self-explanatory. General Batmanqilich seems to be dominated by his two deputies, Generals Deihimi and Akhavi, who owe allegiance to Dr. Baqai and who owe their present positions to the support of the Shah. General Batmanqilich, in my opinion, means well but he is politically an infant and fears what might happen to him if Baqai and Baqai’s friends should turn against him.
I met Batmanqilich on the evening of October 17 at a reception and had a frank talk with him. I told him that [name not declassified] had described to me the conversation which [name not declassified] had had with Baqai, as arranged by Batmanqilich. Batmanqilich said that he was glad that [name not declassified] had seen Baqai. Baqai was probably the greatest man in Iran and it was important that the American Embassy should work with him. I said that Baqai had been arguing publicly for [Page 800]an oilless economy and had advocated such an economy in his conversation with [name not declassified]. If Baqai intended to oppose a solution to the oil problem and the exploitation by Iran of its oil, he was in my opinion one of the most dangerous enemies of Iran. Iran could not afford to have dangerous internal enemies at the present time and if Batmanqilich was following a policy of strengthening and collaborating with an Iranian who favored an “oilless economy” he was doing his country great disservice. An oilless economy would mean the doom of Iran.
Batmanqilich was somewhat taken aback. He asked if I could not arrange to meet him, General Deihimi and Baqai secretly. I said the American Ambassador met no one surreptitiously. If Baqai would care to call on me I would be glad to meet him. If Baqai would like to invite me to his house I would go there. There would, however, be nothing secret about such a meeting. The General asked if I would be willing to speak to the Shah about the matter. He was afraid to arrange for me to meet Baqai without the consent of the Shah. I said I would be glad to discuss the whole matter with the Shah.
It is my intention when I next see the Shah to talk with him frankly about the situation in General Staff. I have already touched on the matter during previous conversations with the Shah, who on each occasion changed the subject. During my last talk with the Shah on October 14, I mentioned the danger to the country from the direction of Baqai. The Shah minimized this danger. He said that an opposition was a good thing and in his opinion it was better for Baqai, who was loyal to the regime, to be leader of an opposition than someone who was opposed to the regime. It was clear that the Shah in referring to the regime meant himself. It would seem that the Shah is endeavoring to placate Baqai at a time when Baqai is undermining Zahedi.
The Shah did make the concession in talking with me that it might be a good thing to send Baqai out of the country for a time. He thought Baqai might be a good man to serve as a contact with Iranian students in Europe and America. Baqai was a learned man and could probably be useful in convincing Iranian youth abroad that the Iranian Government was after all progressive. When I suggested to the Shah that Baqai’s particular type of “socialism” might not be a good thing with which to infect the students, the Shah reminded me that he personally thought that socialism might be good for Iran. He repeated that he was rather sympathetic to socialism and in his opinion the future of Iran lay in a marriage between socialism and capitalism.
I have been so busy during the last week with the Congressmen and am at present so much occupied with Mr. Hoover that I fear that I am unable to keep the Department currently informed to the extent [Page 801]that I would like of political developments here.2 I may say that I am not happy with the situation, which seems to be gradually deteriorating. I hope that the Shah and Zahedi will have come to a better working arrangement during their trip to Isfahan. They are returning this morning.
Tehran, October 19, 1953.
- Conversation with Dr. Mozaffar Baqai
1. This conversation was held during the night of October 16, 1953, at the request of Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Batmangelich. While talking with the undersigned between 1600 and 1800 hours on October 16th, Gen. Batmangelich insisted that the undersigned meet with Dr. Baqai. Gen. Batmangelich repeated several times that Iran should have two top men: Zahedi and Baqai. Undersigned accepted Gen. Batmangelich’s invitation to meet Dr. Baqai.
2. At 2100 hours undersigned met with Dr. Baqai and Brig. Gen. Deihimi in the latter’s home; Dr. F. Taylor Gurney of the Embassy interpreted.
3. The undersigned asked Dr. Baqai what he thought of the present situation. Dr. Baqai replied that in his opinion the situation is not good. He severely criticized the Zahedi Cabinet, saying that Gen. Zahedi had retained several members of the old Razmara Cabinet: Dr. Jehan Shah Saleh, Maj. Gen. Hedayat, Hekmat, and Eng. Sharif Emami. Dr. Baqai also severely criticized the appointment of Dolatabadi and Amidi-Nuri as assistants to the Prime Minister.
4. Dr. Baqai charged that only “poor” members of the Tudeh Party were being arrested, while those with influence and money were not. Dr. Baqai said that no real effort was being made to arrest the real leaders of the Tudeh Party and that among those arrested who were important Tudeh members, Lankarani, Noruzi, and Hormoz had immediately been released. Dr. Baqai said that the same thing occurred under Dr. Mossadeq. He said, “When we saw that and also the way [Page 802] Mossadeq was helping the Tudehs secretly, we worked for his overthrow—to get him out and to get Zahedi in.”
5. Dr. Baqai severely criticized the opening of the Senate and said that he had not been consulted in advance concerning that event.
6. When asked about his opinion concerning the possibility of achieving an oil settlement, Dr. Baqai launched on a long dissertation about the possibility of achieving an oilless economy. He said that Iran had never really enjoyed any oil profits. He said that those profits which were intended for use by the Seven Year Plan Organization had been dissipated by quarreling between the British and Americans. Undersigned asked Dr. Baqai to expatiate upon that statement but Dr. Baqai changed the subject. Dr. Baqai expressed the opinion that Dr. Mossadeq had always used the oil question as a means of silencing his opponents, who were constantly told that they must remain silent because a settlement was imminent. He said that he did not propose to remain silent any longer, although it was perfectly true that Zahedi could force an oil settlement on Iran should he desire to do so. Undersigned then asked Dr. Baqai if he believed an oil settlement to be important to the future of the country, and Dr. Baqai replied that he did not necessarily believe it was. He then praised the economic assistance that the United States had given Iran, and said that because of that policy, the prestige of the U.S. had been very high. Dr. Baqai was asked if he realized that the present administration in the U.S. had been elected on a platform of balancing the budget, reducing the national debt, and cutting costs wherever possible. In the same line of questioning, Dr. Baqai was asked if he believed an oilless economy were possible if the American government found it necessary to reduce in FY 1954 economic assistance to Iran. Dr. Baqai then answered by saying that he did not know if an oilless economy were possible without American economic assistance but that he was certain that if the Zahedi administration continued to blunder as it was now doing, the country would be ruined anyhow. Dr. Baqai stated that he had appointed a small commission to study the oil question on behalf of the Toilers’ Party and that he would print the results of that study when it was completed. He said that he would support “an honorable oil settlement based upon the nine points of the Nationalization Law.”
7. Dr. Baqai stated that he was identified with the Zahedi government whether he liked it or not, but that he would criticize that government whenever he felt it necessary. When asked if he were a supporter of the Zahedi administration or an opponent of it, Dr. Baqai replied that he found himself in a dilemma: he had helped bring the Zahedi government to power and was politically identified with it, but he felt Zahedi’s gang would ruin the government if it continued in the way that it has started. He made it clear that he was neither identifying [Page 803]himself with the Zahedi government nor with the opponents of that government. He was then asked if he would accept a proposal to join the Hassibi, Sangabi, Zirakzadeh group now working against Zahedi. Dr. Baqai replied that those men were traitors and that he would never join them. He was then asked if he would join Makki against Zahedi and he skirted that question.
8. Dr. Baqai made it clear that he did not identify his political future with the present group surrounding Gen. Zahedi but that he was still open to a move from Zahedi designed to bring him into closer working relationship with the Prime Minister.
9. Conclusions by Undersigned
A. Dr. Baqai’s political future can quickly be ended by the prosecution of the Afshartus affair.3 The Military Governor of Tehran, Maj. Gen. Dadsetan, stated on October 18th that he had proof certain that Dr. Baqai was directly implicated in the murder of the former Police Chief. That fact means that in order to be safe, Dr. Baqai and his men must control the General Staff, the Police Department, and the Office of the Military Governor. During the last two weeks Dr. Baqai’s men have been attempting to capture those positions or to neutralize them. Gen. Zahedi’s hands are momentarily tied in this matter because he has decided to free all of the military officers who plotted against the life of Afshartus and who executed him. At the moment, therefore, Dr. Baqai may with impunity criticize the Zahedi administration. As an insurance measure, however, his men continue to attempt to capture the posts mentioned above.
B. Involved also in this whole business is the fact that Gens. Deihimi and Akhavi meet Maj. Gen. Arfa every Thursday night in Gen. Arfa’s home. Maj. Gen. Guilanshah is of the opinion that Gens. Akhavi and Deihimi are closer to Gen. Arfa than to Dr. Baqai. CAS did not necessarily agree with that estimate but, nevertheless, the hand of the British may very well be a part of this particular problem.
C. Dr. Baqai’s friends in the General Staff continue to insist that the U.S. urge Gen. Zahedi to make Dr. Baqai his right-hand.
D. There can be little doubt that HIM the Shah is perfectly aware of Dr. Baqai’s influence with the Army. Whether or not the Shah desires that Dr. Baqai become the leader of Zahedi’s political opposition is not clear at the moment.
E. CAS will know on Wednesday, October 21st, whether or not Dr. Baqai accepts Makki’s offer to join him against Zahedi.