There is enclosed for the Department’s information a memorandum of
conversation of another conversation which I had recently with Dr. Mozafar Baqai who has been the
leading open critic of the Zahedi
Government. While, as in the previous instance, the memorandum of
conversation is self-explanatory, my purposes in attending this recent
meeting were to learn Dr. Baqai’s
current points of view towards the Zahedi Government, the United States, the Iranian
resumption of relations with Great Britain, and upon the oil question.
Similarly, I wished to express to him clearly the policies and points of
view of the United States.
Memorandum of Conversation
Tehran, December 4, 1953.
- Ambassador Henderson
- Mr. Roy M. Melbourne,
First Secretary of Embassy
- Dr. Baqai, Leader of
- Mr. Christian Chapman,
Third Secretary of Embassy
At the request of Dr. Baqai,
leader of the Workers’ Party, Ambassador Henderson received him on the
evening of December 4, 1953. The conversation was carried on in
French, which the Doctor speaks quite fluently, and lasted three
Baqai excused himself to have to give a lengthy introduction in order
to explain clearly his position.
Everyone agreed, he said, that Iran was a sick country. Most
generally this sickness is ascribed to a lack of education, or a
lack of hygiene, or to malnutrition, or to other similar causes.
However, the more he and his collaborators studied the problem, the
more they became convinced that the real problem lay in the
psychology of despair which grips the people. Iranians have lost
hope for the future. This, according to Dr. Baqai, is the real issue and it is
to combat this mentality and attitude that he organized his party.
He feels he has been partially successful in accomplishing this end.
While previously all those who were actively discontented with
things as they were joined the Tudeh party, more and more have come
to join his. Thus, his party has acted as a screen against the
His position towards Communism and towards Dr. Mosadeq, he continued, is well
enough known, so that he need not amplify on the subject. However,
he considers that the manner in which the trial of Mosadeq has been handled by the
military court, the press, and the radio is a grave error. No
difference is made between the two periods of Mosadeq’s regime, between the first
fifteen months which lasted until July 1952 (the event surrounding
the abortive Ghavam Government) and the second period, which lasted
until August 19, 1953. In the first period, Dr. Baqai considers that Dr. Mosadeq accurately reflected the
national will or movement; he was a symbol of national resurgence.
But after July 1952 he became entangled with the communists and in
the last few days of his regime finished by committing treason. His
connec[Page 858]tion with the
communists, Dr. Baqai knows
for a fact, because, through reliable informants within the Tudeh,
he received, in August 1952, a report of the meeting Mosadeq held with four of the
principal Tudeh leaders. This meeting was alleged to have taken
place on July 20, 1952. At this meeting, the Tudeh leaders told
Mosadeq that he now had
the opportunity of doing away with the Shah, the court, and the
present form of government, and of establishing a Republic with
himself as president. The Tudeh representatives argued that he had
become a national symbol while they, on the other hand, represented
a popular party. They offered him, therefore, their collaboration to
carry out this plan. Mosadeq
did not reject their offer outright but, on the contrary, simply
answered that the situation was not yet ripe for such a change. Ever
since that time, Dr. Baqai
considers that Mosadeq has
had an understanding with the communists.
In August 1952, after he had received the report of the meeting, Dr.
Baqai called on Mosadeq and argued with him at
length about the dangers of both the British and the Communists.
Both, he told Mosadeq, preyed
on the weakness of Iran and therefore sought to perpetuate this
weakness. If the British were to be expelled, he advised Mosadeq, all Britishers should
leave, not just those who carried British passports, but also all
their agents, even those who were Iranian nationals. Otherwise,
argued Baqai, the breaking of
diplomatic relations and the expulsion of the British would only
delude the people. Mosadeq
did not take his advice and the result is that, even today, there
are British agents who are as active as ever in the country.
Now, continued Baqai, the
question arises of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with
Britain. He considers, and he has carried out a long campaign in his
newspaper on this subject, that if relations are reestablished
without some previous tangible evidence from the British that they
mean to change their attitude towards Iran, then this
reestablishment, taken together with the condemnation of Mosadeq’s whole regime, will be
interpreted in the popular mind as a condemnation of the national
movement. To Iranians, it will simply mean that British colonial
policy is reaping its revenge. The consequences of such a
disillusionment he foresees as most grave.
After this long preamble, he put the question to the Ambassador in so
many words: What reason is there against postponing the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations until the British have made
some definite gesture (“a gesture of facts”), show their good faith,
i.e. permitting the sale of oil, delivering goods which had
previously been paid for, or other similar minor concessions?
The Ambassador answered that the British Government had taken the
position that diplomatic relations must be reestablished before any
conversations on the oil problem can be held. That Government be[Page 859]lieves that only direct
negotiations can adequately settle the problem and such negotiations
can only be undertaken after diplomatic relations are established.
Furthermore, the British Government insists on separating the
establishment of diplomatic relations from the differences which
arise between governments. At the same time, the Ambassador
continued, he was afraid he differed on one point with Dr. Baqai as he understood his
position. Dr. Baqai, he
thought, believed that the Iranian economy could run without oil
revenues. The Ambassador, on the contrary, considered that oil was
essential to the Iranian economy and that, without the production
and sale of oil, he could see no hope for the economy and therefore
the country. He appreciated the difficulties which Dr. Baqai outlined regarding the
resumption of diplomatic relations, but he could see no alternative.
The British Government had taken a firm position and if the Iranian
Government took an equally intransigent position, then he could only
foresee the country drifting hopelessly towards bankruptcy.
Therefore, for the good of this country, he considered the
alternative of resuming relations as the better.
To the above argument, Dr. Baqai made two points. First, since he foresaw the
possibility for Iran of remaining a number of years without oil
revenues, he thought that, for morale purposes, it was better to
encourage the people to make them believe that doing without oil was
possible. His advocacy of an oilless economy has been dictated
solely for reasons of morale. He himself knows very well the
importance of oil to Iran and knows that, if the country is to
develop as an independent nation, it must obtain the benefits of its
oil resources. Secondly, Baqai did not see why it was not possible for the
British to separate the question of compensation from that of the
sale of oil. He admitted that the problem of compensation would have
to be examined by direct negotiations, but he failed to see why, as
a proof of their good faith, the British could not allow the
immediate resumption of oil sales. What the Iranian people wanted
from the British was tangible proof that they were in earnest
regarding their stated intentions of pursuing a new policy towards
The Ambassador answered that the unsuspected complexities of the oil
problem and the firmness of the British position had both led him to
consider that the two questions of the sale of oil and of
compensation were intimately connected. As things are, even if the
British agreed to let Iran sell her oil, only small quantities could
be disposed of, because no major oil company would touch this oil
for two reasons. First, because until the question of compensation
has been settled, there could be no security of title over the oil,
and secondly, because to encourage the sale of oil before
compensation had been agreed upon would deal a serious blow to
foreign investments throughout the world.
Baqai let it be understood
that he felt the American Government if it so wished, could very
well apply pressure on the large oil companies to come to terms. In
answer to this argument, the Ambassador strongly emphasized the
feeling of the American people against nationalization without
compensation and stated that, were the Government ever to give such
advice to the oil companies, there would be a wide outcry throughout
the country which would be echoed in Congress.
Dr. Baqai made a final point
by stating that one of the principal reasons why he felt it
important that the British give proof of their good intentions was
that the speech delivered in the House of Commons by Foreign
Minister Eden a few days ago
was a complete about-face of the previous position of the British
Government. Eden declared
that it would recognize the Iranian nationalization law on certain
conditions. Previously, on two occasions at least—once following the
Harriman mission, and
another which he described as the “Middleton letter,”—the British had formally declared
that they recognized the nationalization law and placed no
conditions on this recognition. Now, Eden’s statement was a definite reversal of policy
and this action inspired serious doubts as to the British
professions of good faith.
The Ambassador disagreed with Baqai’s interpretation of the former British
position and pointed out that the British position was that they had
accepted nationalization only “in principle”, that they had always
qualified their recognition with certain reservations.
In conclusion, Dr. Baqai said
that he could see that nothing could be done to prevent the
resumption of diplomatic relations, but he wished to make a
prognostication of what would follow. He could foresee two
consequences: one, politico-economic which he termed “ordinary”, and
about which he did not elaborate, and another which he considered
much graver. In view of the popular discontent which would follow
the resumption of diplomatic relations under present circumstances,
General Zahedi would have to
call for new elections to the Majlis and to ensure a strong majority
for the Government. He would be impelled to control these elections.
And, Baqai added, Zahedi is already half a mind to do
just this now and is being urged to do so by his advisers. Such a
maneuver would increase the general discontent, leading in turn to a
strengthening of the Tudeh Party and a dangerous increase in
agitation. He was sorry United States diplomacy was again making a
grave mistake in Iran. Although he did not specifically so state, he
left the impression that he might, with regret, begin attacking the
United States as well as Great Britain during the course of his
Salient Points of Conversation:
1. Dr. Baqai’s opinion of
himself as a philosopher-politician, driven to the dirty game of
politic in pursuit of the “sublime”.
2. His analysis of his country’s sickness as being caused essentially
by the psychology of despair prevailing among the people.
3. His explanation of his political tactics as being aimed at
bolstering morale, i.e. his advocacy of an oilless economy and his
opposition to the immediate resumption of diplomatic relations with
4. His view that Dr. Mosadeq’s
first government was truly representative of the popular will and
that he only failed the people in his second government by allying
himself with the Tudeh. His conclusion that condemning Mosadeq indiscriminately undermines
5. His flat statement that Dr. Mosadeq had had a meeting with Tudeh leaders on July
20, 1952 and had reacted favorably to the idea of creating a
6. His continued opposition to resumption of relations with Great
Britain until the latter had removed Iranian suspicions of British
attempted internal intrigues through concrete British acts of good
will in the oil sphere.