65. Despatch From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1
- Transmitting a study entitled “The Rise of an Iranian Nationalist”
There is transmitted a report prepared by Mr. John H. Stutesman, Jr., Second Secretary of Embassy, entitled, “The Rise of an Iranian Nationalist”. This report is a study of the political techniques of Mohammad Mosadeq and as such, is the third in a series of basic reports which the Political Section of the Embassy is preparing.2
Mr. Stutesman has spent nearly two and a half years in Iran. Most of that time he has been assigned to the Political Section of the Embassy and he has therefore had a unique opportunity to appraise the origins and techniques of the Iranian nationalist movement under the leadership of the present Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosadeq. As well, he is qualified to make the report by virtue of his experience as an official interpreter for two American Ambassadors in many lengthy conversations with Dr. Mosadeq. This first hand experience has proved most valuable in preparing this timely and interesting study.
The Embassy commends the report to the Department’s attention and considers that Mr. Stutesman is deserving of special recognition for this valuable report.
For the Ambassador:
Arthur L. Richards
Counselor of Embassy
How did nine Persian politicians win sufficient power to destroy the concession of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and to capture government from the men who previously had held power in Iran? An understanding of this question is sought in this study of the political techniques of Mohammad Mosadeq.[Page 186]
First are studied the personal characteristics and ambitions of Dr. Mosadeq. He has identified his own ambitions with national aspirations. By winning popular support for his emotion-charged policies “in the nation’s interest” he has succeeded in winning political power.
The nature and profundity of the national emotions to which Mosadeq appeals are then considered. Nationalism, social discontent and political irresponsibility are basic elements in Iranian politics today. Iranian nationalism is not unlike other fervent, though usually ill-defined, nationalist sentiments in Asia. The social discontent and xenophobia of the Persians is also similar to such phenomena in other countries. Peculiar national vanity and political irresponsibility lead Iranians to support a Premier who insists that the rest of the world must accept his uncompromising point of view.
The final chapter of this paper describes Mosadeq’s realism in directing the National Front’s rise to power. His understanding of the vulnerabilities of his opponents allowed him, by simple opposition, to cripple previous Governments, to turn a disorganized and selfish Majlis into an emotional pro-Mosadeq, pro-nationalization group, to terrify the Shah and, so far successfully, to deal with the entrenched interests in Iran, the communists and other foreign influence.
Mosadeq’s new design for politics in Iran, a country so long ruled by a clique of old-line politicians, must be known in detail in order to understand Iranian politics of the past two years and in order to realize that the future trend of Iranian politics is towards nationalistic leadership of a more or less dynamic character.
When Mohammad Mosadeq walked upon the scene of recent history, a new act in Iranian politics commenced. His political techniques and the national emotions he aroused are power factors for the future. New leaders will undoubtedly arise, but all will have to charge their programs with emotion for a mass appeal, and must claim that they represent Iranian national forces rather than limited cliques or interests.
Mohammad Mosadeq’s great success came from his recognition of the power inherent in national and religious prejudices and in popular acclaim. He removed Iranian politics from the closed arena of corrupt self-centered intrigue into a broad field in which it was possible to exploit the passions and credulity of the ignorant and irresponsible masses. Study of the techniques which he used and the emotions he appealed to is necessary for observers of Iran’s future.
II. Political Characteristics of Mohammad Mosadeq
Iran is not easily comprehensible to westerners. Iranians have many different values, respond to different appeals, have customs and [Page 187]characteristics quite peculiar to themselves. Mohammad Mosadeq is an aristocratic Moslem Persian, born to wealth, bound by tradition, steeped in classic Persian culture. He is proud to be a Persian and he understands and loves his people. The vices and the virtues he demonstrates are not unusual characteristics in Iran, although he emphasizes those aspects of his character which are most useful to his politics.
Patriotism First among these characteristics is love of country. It is astounding how eagerly Iranians will tell foreign acquaintances about Iranian immorality and undependability; but, in a perverse way, this attitude reflects the deep pride in country which all Iranians have. Mosadeq shares this patriotism. Examples of a willingness to join in patriotic movements are numerous in Mosadeq’s career, most prominent among them being his participation in the constitutional reform of 1906 and his determination, while in the Majlis, to prevent the Russians from controlling northern Persia.
A politician who wants to claim Iranian popular support will have to emulate Mohammad Mosadeq and build at least a reputation as a patriot, even leaving other attributes aside. For instance, Hosein Maki now holds a place in many Persian hearts solely because he demonstrated battling patriotism in his supervision of expropriation of the British oil industry in Khuzistan.3
Incorruptibility Another characteristic which has won for Mosadeq a good public reputation is his disregard for the material benefits which usually accrue to Persian government officials. Many Persians consider that corruption is the natural state of the human race and refuse to believe that the tremendously wealthy oil company could not buy Mosadeq to its point of view or at least persuade him to pervert the nationalization law to some long-term, devious British advantage.
By his refusal to be bought, Dr. Mosadeq broke the ancient pattern of bribery which had been used to move most previous politics in Iran. The old gang of intriguing greedy politicians could not overthrow with their traditional tactics a Premier who was not interested in cash profits. Mosadeq’s colleagues, however, do not fail to profit from their positions under the cloak of the Prime Minister’s peculiar probity.
Infirmities As an aged man, Mohammad Mosadeq naturally finds the burdens of the premiership extremely wearing. There is no faking in his need to rest as much as possible. However, as the following story4 shows, he sometimes used his weariness to serve political purposes.[Page 188]
Once, in the early days of his premiership, when Dr. Mosadeq worked in his official office, an important visitor asked to see him with some request. The Prime Minister, who up to that point had been energetically handling correspondence at his desk, said he would receive the man in a minute. He then hastily undid his tie and collar, adjusted some pillows on a sofa and lay down. When the visitor appeared, the Prime Minister, in a gasping voice, asked him to make his request. The visitor, horrified to see the Prime Minister so weak, left without making his request, flattered that Dr. Mosadeq had received him.
His illness also serves to emphasize to the Iranian public that Dr. Mosadeq is carrying on his duties despite great personal pain. This act encourages, and to some extent symbolizes to Iranian minds, national resistance to the British. On April 30, 1951, in his first speech as Prime Minister, Dr. Mosadeq declared, “I never thought that my health would ever permit me to accept so important a position, but the oil question obligates me to take up this heavy burden”.5
It is possible that more than age and acting contribute to these physical infirmities. One of Dr. Mosadeq’s daughters is in a mental institution. A Persian physician once told Ambassador Grady that he thought Mosadeq suffered from a form of hereditary insanity. Too much emphasis, of course, cannot be placed upon this diagnosis; but there is little doubt that Iran’s Prime Minister is a sick man and his frequent petty passions reflect to great extent his physical infirmities.
Dramatic Personality To his career, Mohammad Mosadeq brings the most necessary attribute of a demagogue—a dramatic personality. The fainting and the tears which seem so funny to Americans deeply move his Persian listeners. He has a superb sense of timing and of symbolism.
A good demonstration of this quality occurred when he left Tehran in 1951 to present Iran’s case in the oil dispute before the United Nations. At the airport, after the dignitaries and a small crowd had arrived, a car drew up some distance from the waiting plane and the limp figure of the Prime Minister was helped by attendants past the crowd. The shrill chanting of the mullahs, the wailing of the crowd, the pathos of the fainting man, who claimed that he would champion his people before the world, were all background to the well-timed moment when the very symbol of Iranian hopes and fears was supported, half-fainting, in the doorway of the aircraft to take a last look upon his people. It was very foolish and unstatesmanlike but very moving.
Oratory Mosadeq is a master of the rhetoric which appeals to Persian listeners. His voice, in every speech, ranges from a slow reasonable [Page 189]tone to shrill accusations. He mixes wit and poetry into debates upon most serious questions. He plays for emotional reactions from his audience rather than reasoned approbation.
Even the unemotional politician Dr. Raji once was impressed by a speech of Dr. Mosadeq in 1950. When asked what Mosadeq had said, he only could reply, “It was a wonderful speech; it moved us all.”
Perhaps the best recent instance when his oratory won antagonistic listeners to his side was in the Majlis on December 11 after an eloquent opposition had heaped vituperation and some very searching criticism upon his Government. The gentle tone with which he pointed out that he, an old and honorable man, had listened with restraint to everything the opposition had to say gave the impression that it was not he but his critics who were irresponsible. He wove into the tapestry of his speech a thread of reason as though he were a father explaining to a little boy the need to fight for independence in an evil world. Gradually, he brought the color of anti-British feelings into the design, moving from reason to emotion almost imperceptibly so that his listeners felt at the end that he had won a victory over national enemies.6
Calm study of his speech shows that he did not answer any of the trenchant criticisms and certainly gave no reason to believe that he would leave the road down which he leads his country. But even Hosein Ala, Minister of Court, the evening that he heard this speech on Radio Tehran, eagerly told Ambassador Henderson that Iran was fortunate to have Dr. Mosadeq to champion its interests against “its AIOC incubus”.7
Ambitions Mosadeq has shown constant ambition to be the leader of his people. He shapes his actions often to obtain applause. He has shown willingness, any time his political position is threatened, to resort to the cheapest kind of political trickery to discredit his opponents.
The futile hopes of his opponents that Mosadeq would resign after driving out the British oil technicians, leaving to his successor the heavy burden of recovering the nation’s financial and political stability, failed to take account of Mosadeq’s desire to hold power. When he won the premiership he said he would withdraw when nationalization of the oil industry was completed. As this program neared its end, he declared “reluctantly” that he would stay in power while elections to the 17th Majlis were held. It can be assumed that when these elections near completion Mosadeq will find another reason to remain the man in charge.[Page 190]
Mosadeq has shown little shame, conscience, or dignity when question of his political advantage is raised. An example of this was given when Mosadeq, in order to avoid weakening his internal political position, refused to give clear assurance that U.S. aid would be used to strengthen Iran’s military and economic ability to maintain its independence. It was not Mosadeq’s refusal which was so shocking as his casual remark that for the U.S. offer of 23 million dollars aid, given freely by Americans to help his weak and threatened country, he would offer in return “assurances” worth only and exactly that sum.8
When it has served his political advantage, Mosadeq has broken confidence. Prime Minister Hosein Ala, an honest devoted servant of his country, was led to believe in early 1951 that Mosadeq wanted to develop legislation to nationalize the oil industry with the concurrence of the Ala Government. When it appeared, with the sudden passage of the nine-point Nationalization Law, that the National Front had used Ala’s confidence only to increase the Government’s embarrassment, Hosein Ala had no alternative but to resign, thus opening the way for Mosadeq to assume power.
To gain a temporary advantage before Parliament, Mosadeq has used slander. On September 5, before the Senate, and on September 9, before the Majlis, he implied that British policy and money dominated court officials.9 He continually has slandered the motives and reputations of his opposition in the Majlis. Any criticism of his Government has been labeled by Mosadeq as “pro-British” action.
Determination Unusual among Iranian politicians, Mohammad Mosadeq has shown an uncompromising determination to obtain what he desires. This characteristic, worthy in just causes, often becomes for Mosadeq a form of political fixation. Mesmerized by his own ambitions, he discards advice and reason while steering towards his fixed objective. If it is demonstrated that this course will lead to chaos, he still shows an inability, or unwillingness, to change his reckoning.
This peculiar complex has been evident in his long career in government (Enclosure No. 1). In 1917, as Under-Secretary of Finance, he thought that the best way to save money would be to fire great numbers from the crowded civil service list. His refusal to believe that chaos would ensue can be the only explanation for this attack upon the ancient Persian graft of swollen payrolls. He, of course, had to resign and the status quo returned.[Page 191]
In 1921, in three fantastic months as Minister of Finance, Mohammad Mosadeq cut all salaries in his Ministry and fired the numerous incompetents. Again, the consequences of this drastic action, which in itself could have but small effect upon the general inefficiency and incompetence in government, were not considered. He was dismissed by his Prime Minister but he did not lose the capacity to act upon a moment’s whim without the slightest thought for future consequences. The nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, with all its devastating consequences, is quite a natural idea for him to conceive. Probably one reason for the vast confusion in Iran’s government is Mosadeq’s inability to set a new objective now that oil nationalization is completed.
III. Mosadeq’s Appeal to National Emotions
There is in Asia a quickening of national aspirations. Recent history has shown that the ignorance, isolation, poverty and apathy of the Asiatic masses do not prevent their emotional support of national causes. The roll of Asiatic nations which, despite antique feudalism and grinding poverty, have built force from unity in support of national aspirations, grows longer every year, headed by such names as Turkey, China, India and Japan.
The nationalist movement in Iran cannot be viewed as a conspiracy of clever politicians who invented the emotion and are but froth upon an uncomprehending sea. Without leaders, Iranian nationalism might have remained quiescent for a longer time; but the oratory and maneuvers which Mohammad Mosadeq and his colleagues used to gain political support rest upon the profound force of awaking nationalism in Iran today.
The failure of the British to recognize this fact and to face the psychological rather than the economic issues in the oil dispute led, more than any other failure of the West, to the present impasse in Iran. Sir William Frazer’s classic statement of his Company’s position in early 1951, “There will be no further concessions”10 could only anger, frustrate and unite the Persians. The wave of feeling which engulfed the British in Iran may have started as a demand for a better bargain; but, encouraged by its own emotions, it passed far beyond expected margins of success. The National Front in some part guided but in large part rode this wave.
Indigenous Nationalism What are Iranian national aspirations? At this moment they are unformulated, except for the “independence” [Page 192]urge to drive the British from Iran. Any people bound together by geography, language, central government and history, are conscious of a common background which sets them apart from others. Time, in its story of Prime Minister Mosadeq as “man of 1951”, gave an impression that he ranked with great philosophical nationalists like Nehru. In fact, he is much more an opportunist who perceived the potential force in indigenous nationalism and had the ability to direct it to his support.
Towards the end of 1949, nine politicians11 formed a coalition whose name, the National Front, showed its determination to win power from Iranian nationalism. It was not the first time that this appeal has been made in Iran. Reza Shah, after capturing the throne by force, called for popular support of his nationalist program to give Iran a new position in the modern world. His son, the present Shah, appealed to nationalism in 1946 when Iran regained control of Russian-dominated Azerbaijan. Seyid Zia Tabatabai called his anti-communist organization the National Will Party. Majlis deputies often have appealed to national pride, in the fashion of politicians around the world. But the National Front was the first Iranian political organization deliberately to set out to capture popular support in order to gain power. They sought, in nationalism, the force which was required to break the closed circle of entrenched governing politicians.
Independence from Foreign Domination First among national aspirations is Iran’s hope to be, as well as seem, a sovereign nation. Such previously colonial countries as India, Pakistan and Indonesia now determine their own destinies. The Persians feel that they are behind the times in Asia and they want “independent” life. It is quite true that, during recent centuries of European rivalry in Asia, Persia has been subject to foreign domination. Now, the Persians quite simply want freedom from this influence.
When Mosadeq leaned forward in his bed to tell Ambassador Grady sharply, “We value independence more than economics”,12 he was not only arguing against American advice that Iran should make a settlement with the British in order to preserve oil revenues. He was expressing a heart-felt, earnest belief that by driving out the British, he would end what he believed to be Iran’s semi-colonial status. This sentiment was shared by Persians of all classes. Even the present opposition to Mosadeq’s Government does not declare that British influence [Page 193]should return. Removal of the British from Iran was a necessary part, in Persian eyes, of winning Iran’s “independence”.
When badly handled, badly publicized oil negotiations in 1950 focused popular attention on that issue, Mosadeq sensed, like a weathervane, the direction in which winds of national sentiment were blowing. He and his colleagues expanded and exploited the emotions on this issue; and, calling expropriation “nationalization”, he assumed charge of a “crusade” to drive the hated British from Iran. Never has he admitted that he excited or directed this crusade to bring himself to power. On the contrary, he always claimed, “God only knows that I did not expect to become Prime Minister . . . I agreed because I realized that if I did not accept charge of the Government, all our efforts (to pass the oil nationalization law) and all the endeavors of the people of Iran would be wasted.”13
Antagonism to the British has served many purposes for the National Front. Mosadeq’s critics on any issue are portrayed to the public as British agents. Covering all sources of possible opposition, Mosadeq once said, “British agents are in the Majlis; British agents are in the Government; British agents are in the national societies; and British agents are in the Court”.14
Whenever parliamentary votes of confidence are called for, Mosadeq has forced the vote to take a pro- or anti-British character. The first votes were kept on the issue of the oil nationalization law. “Those who oppose the Government also oppose the nationalization of the oil industry”.15 When criticisms rose that Mosadeq had missed a good chance to settle the oil dispute to Iranian advantage when the Stokes Mission was in Tehran, the Prime Minister forced a parliamentary vote on the Government’s decision to drive out the British oil technicians from Abadan. Anyone who voted against him would have been classified as favoring retention of British influence there.
In October, 1951, even previous parliamentary opposition turned to Mosadeq’s support when he announced that he was going to New York “to defend the rights of the oppressed and tyrannized Iranian people before the Security Council”.16 The question whether his defense was sound or necessary obviously could not be raised when the [Page 194]nation’s defense against the British “tyranny” was at stake. The recent action of the Government to close all British consulates again drew the sting from the opposition’s searching criticism of Mosadeq’s disastrous policies. Anyone who is against him is accused of wanting to keep British consulates and “influence” in Iran.
The lesson for future nationalist leaders to learn is obvious. An “independence” movement in these times of developing nationalism in Asia, provides a sure vehicle to success.
Freedom from Foreign Exploitation of Iranian Resources There is a national anger at foreign exploitation of Iranian resources. Both national pride and greed are involved. The Persians naturally resent the implication that they cannot handle their industries themselves, and they hopefully expect greater income from their resources if they do not have to share the profits with outsiders. In close support of these emotions stands the knowledge that a foreign concessionaire will probably attempt to influence the country’s government.
The antagonism of a people to foreign “exploitation” is not a new phenonomen in the world. Iran has stripped off the capitulations which gave foreigners special legal privileges and has blocked or “nationalized” all concessions except the Caspian fisheries concession to the Soviets. The boasts of Mosadeq and Maki, his lieutenant in expropriation of the Abadan refinery, that it would be preferable to leave the oil below ground rather than allow foreign profiteering are rooted in national resentment against foreign concessionaires.
In his first speech as Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosadeq declared, “Thanks to God and to the efforts of both Houses of Parliament, the greatest source of national wealth has returned to us”.17 Such statements typify the view that Iranian anger against foreign exploitation makes it unlikely that a foreign profit-sharing concessionaire could return to Khuzistan.
Neutralism Another of Iran’s national aspirations is the general hope that it can avoid entangling alliances with the world’s great powers. The knowledge that Iran has served often in the past as a catspaw in the rivalry of Russia and Great Britain, and the fear that Persia would be involved by its allies in another war encourage this unwillingness to join too closely with the interests of the free world or the communists. Few Persians will believe American assurances that we are not rivals of the Soviets in Iran but only want to help Iran withstand the pressures of Soviet-directed communism.
When Razmara, in 1950, first gave indications that he thought Iran’s best hope for survival lay not in close alliance with the West but [Page 195]in a policy of “neutralism”, he obviously hoped that Iran, like Switzerland, could remain outside all major international conflicts. He, and most Iranians, drew from the battle in Korea a conclusion that Iran, so far from UN bases, so vulnerable to Soviet might, should avoid any provocation of the Russians. Also, he saw that a trade agreement with Russia would restore economic life to northern Persia. And finally, in true Persian fashion, he felt, as Mosadeq probably also feels, that Iran cannot afford to antagonize both the British and the Russians simultaneously. All Persians look upon their near-destruction in 1907 and in 1941, through Anglo-Russian division of Iran, as a direct result of bad policy in angering both previous rivals simultaneously.
Mosadeq recognizes the necessity to rely on foreign power to protect him from Soviet or British aggression. In a conversation with Ambassador Grady, he said that he appreciated the American attitude in the oil dispute since he considered it “protection for Iran”.18 But he sponsors and expresses a policy of neutralism. Hosein Ala once refused the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs for Mosadeq because Ala would not cut Iran’s ties to the West.
On May 3, 1951, Mosadeq said “our foreign policy shall be based on support of the United Nations Charter, friendship with all states and mutual respect for all nations.”19 Throughout the year which followed, he held to this pronouncement but refused to make or even seem to make new commitments or new alliances. His trip to Egypt in late 1951 and his statement that Iran and Egypt had close ties and similar aspirations20 does not represent a military, economic or even sympathetic alliance. It was international blarney, a sop to Kashani’s ambitions to lead a Moslem “brotherhood”, an easy show of anti-British feeling and, perhaps most important at the time, something he could show Iranians who were questioning his failure to obtain a settlement of the oil dispute or American assistance.
In January 1952, when Mosadeq refused to give required “assurances” in order to obtain American military aid, he said he was fearful of popular and parliamentary outcries if he made what would be interpreted as a military alliance with the United States.21 Whether this view was either wise or well-founded is not pertinent here. The fact is that [Page 196]Mosadeq’s foreign policy has been set and he can be expected to follow it unswervingly.
Since the purpose of this study of Mosadeq’s techniques is to find a pattern which new nationalist leaders must follow or at least understand, it is important here to state, that, in the writer’s opinion, the national aspirations described above will be factors in any political movement in the near future in Iran. The words and actions which Mosadeq has used to cater to and excite these emotions are not the only techniques possible. However, they have proved successful and he will likely hold to them. Another man could probably score equally well, if he follows Mosadeq’s example.
The Gap Between the People and Their Rulers The causes and the character of social discontent throughout Asia have been described by other writers. The depressed people of Iran share the suffering and the slim margin of existence of other Asiatic masses. The great, sordid contrast between their misery and the luxury of their masters is apparent to the most casual observer. Iran is ripe for social revolution.
Mosadeq described this situation to Ambassador Grady in their first conversation.22 “There has been in Iran a gap between the government and the people . . . This gap, combined with miserable economic conditions, has produced deep discontent . . . The greatest force in this country is public opinion and no government can stand which does not close the gap between itself and popular opinion.”
In his first speech as Prime Minister, Mosadeq assured his people that he understood and would take care of their discontent. “The shadows which were covering our unhappy country will soon give way to the sun of happiness.”23
The organized tours of Tehran slums which officials and newspaper correspondents had to take in the summer of 1951 emphasized this aspect of National Front propaganda. National Front speeches always make some reference to present misery and future blessings if Iranians will support the National Front. It has been apparent, however, that Mosadeq has not made any move which might tear the present social fabric of Iran. He has no program for reform; he claims no panacea for progress beyond nationalization of the oil industry.
Through hope of social change, Mosadeq has gained a following of liberal Iranians who see its necessity and who support the National [Page 197]Front in preference to communism. His emotional appeals and his promises of future prosperity have won to Mosadeq great masses of discontented city workers. The peasant masses have been hard to ex-cite since any government, even Mosadeq’s is represented to them by the same oppressive tax-collector or landowner; but vague country-wide emotions are stirred by Mosadeq’s oratory, to hope for social betterment.
In another way, Mosadeq has turned social discontent to his advantage by focusing national irritations and emotions upon the British, thus protecting his Government’s inefficiency and bankruptcy from public indignation.
Suspicion of Government Government in Persia is rightly considered oppressive. The people are suspicious of the traditional selfishness of authority in Asia.24 Mosadeq, in constant opposition to governments in power, became known almost automatically as a champion of the people.
Once installed in the 16th Majlis, the National Front deputies took this theme for every speech and every action. The technique was easy. Every time a government proposal was discussed, the National Front tore it to bits. They denounced the Saed Government for not decentralizing power. They attacked the Razmara Government when it attempted to decentralize authority.
By recognizing the popularity of plain opposition, Mosadeq won a reputation while crippling any progress of the government in power. When he became Prime Minister, he said that previous governments had failed to close the “gap” between the rulers and the people, while he, basing his strength on popular support, could be opposed only by anti-national interests. He always seeks to identify the public interest with his policies and actions. Even so, he recognizes the profundity and permanence of popular suspicion of any Government and he allowed only one of the National Front deputies to enter government service.25
Penetration of New Ideas After centuries of resignation the Asiatic people have begun to see a possibility for change. This has been primarily the result of history and of western influence; although in the past thirty years communist propaganda has played an essential part. The Persians cannot help but learn about neighbor nations who have taken destiny in their hands. Inevitably they see indications that Euro[Page 198]peans and Americans conceive of higher standards for all people. Increasingly they are stirred by communist propaganda.
To the Persian of the lower classes any change is bound to be improvement, in his view. The peasant or the city worker is no worse off than he was a hundred years ago, but today he feels that by some action he might somehow improve his lot. This is the essential difference between the past and the present in Iran. It has been hard for many western diplomats and oil company directors to believe that Iranians could change. Haji Babal26 has seemed changeless, but the penetration of new ideas and the propaganda of the communists is bringing change and increasing discontent with existing conditions.
Mosadeq encourages feelings that Iran and Iranians can have a better life. In his speeches about oil nationalization, he continually insists that Iranians can change the ancient pattern of bare existence and exploitation. As the leader and the voice of this discontent he gains great political strength. At the same time he becomes vulnerable to extremists of both right and left. Whenever Mosadeq appears to halt or moderate his headlong course he is denounced by communists and by extreme nationalists. Popular dissatisfaction will break out if Mosadeq fails to provide the benefits he promises. The tiger of social discontent which he has loosed and now rides may eat him yet.
Desire for Leadership A great factor in Iran’s social discontent is the desire of a confused people for a leader. Persia’s greatest periods of prosperity and power have been under despotic rule. There is no tradition in Iran of democracy or of progressive action by an electorate. Although they hated Reza Shah’s oppression, most Persians now refer to those days longingly and say that Persia needs again a “strong man”.
Mosadeq has taken advantage of the bewilderment and anarchy which existed in Iran in the ten years following the deposition of Reza Shah. He has shown ability to lead and organize. Unlike his fellow politicians, he says exactly what he means to do. He gives a course to follow, and he wins adherents as much because they seek a leader as because they share his aspirations.
In a political situation of complete futility and confusion, the National Front won great support because it offered leadership. The direction it pursued was almost less important than its dynamism in an atmosphere of weakness and of vacillation. It should not be forgotten, therefore, that Mosadeq and his brand of nationalists can only be challenged by some equally dynamic leadership.[Page 199]
The courtesy, tolerance and hospitality of the Persian people are deservedly world famous. Paradoxically, suspicion and dislike of foreigners in Persia is just as old and as profound. The members of the National Front appeal to the emotions of this national xenophobia.
Dr. Mosadeq is a gentleman of the classic Persian school and his reception of American officials has always been marked by utmost courtesy. Yet, his anti-foreign attitudes are never far from the surface. They have been expressed publicly throughout his long career of resistance to foreign pressure or advice. They were clearly shown on May 28, 1951, when he burst out in irritation at Ambassador Grady’s argument that foreign operation of the oil industry would be beneficial to Iran, “It would be better for Iran if all foreign influence were removed.”27
Religious Fanaticism Religious fanaticism gives, in Persia, a bitter flavor to the national xenophobia. The Shia mullahs traveling or resident throughout Iran foster this emotion out of their ignorance and out of fear that contact with the modern world will destroy their present power in Iran. Religious bias is exemplified by such extremes as the coarse man who spits at foreign footsteps in the streets and the courteous host who purifies his dishes after they have been defiled by foreign touch.
The Shia sect of Islam sets the Persians apart from other Moslems. The Safavids built a Shia state to stand against the Sunni Turks and Arabs. The Persians were politically endangered and they coupled to their temporal fears religious antipathies. It is true that members of the sect, in fact some of its holiest places, are outside Iran. This only gives more strength to the question of the countryman who asks the stranger not “What is your nationality?” but “What is your religion?”. There is a deep feeling, based on this religious influence, that outside Persia’s national confines, except in the homes of a few co-religionists, there are only enemies.
Mohammad Mosadeq, like most Persians, is not excessively devout. The superficial aspects of religion appear in his name and in his references to God in almost every speech. The political advantage he finds in Islam clearly shows in his close alliance with Mullah Kashani who now holds extensive influence in the Government.28
There is one other great effect which Islam has had upon the mind and character of Mosadeq. The fatalism of Islam plays an important [Page 200]part in Mosadeq’s attitudes. Like the Moslem chauffeur who believes that no matter how recklessly he drives, if Allah wills it, he will not crash, Mosadeq allows himself the freedom of acting recklessly, certain that great forces, including God and Fate, will save him or destroy him as they will, no matter what he does.
Both by personal conviction, by his understanding of Iranian emotions and by the political advantage he will gain, it is expected that Mosadeq will continue to placate extreme and retrogressive religious fanaticism. Permission for bigger, bloodier Moharram flagellant processions, continued pressure to cut off foreign cultural and educational influence, will probably result. The nationalist leader who follows Mosadeq will find easily aroused emotions and fanatic following in cooperation with Iran’s mullahs.
Pride in Past History It is impossible for a Persian to forget that, in the past three thousand years of history, his country has often been superior politically and culturally to the rest of the world. He turns, in modern times, for comfort to past martial and intellectual glories. The neo-Achaemenian architecture of public buildings in Tehran, the choice of first names from the Book of Kings, which celebrates legendary Persian glory, are two of numerous examples of Iranian concentration on the past.
This introversion leads inevitably to resistance or indifference to foreign inspiration. It is true that Cadillacs and western education are marks of wealth and social status in Tehran. It is true that western fashions, architecture and commodities have changed the facade of Tehran and its people. But the place remains essentially Central Asian. Most Persians think their ancient ideas and traditions are the best. Scholarly attempts to strip Arab words from the Persian language may be an intellectual affectation, but they rise from a sense of Persian superiority over all things foreign. Mosadeq shares and takes advantage of this national pride. On September 1, in an address to the nation, he said, “We must bring to the attention of the whole world the fact that the Iranian nation, conscious of its glorious past history, cannot tolerate any contempt or humiliation.”29
An excellent example of the way he appeals to patriotic pride in order to avoid parliamentary criticism and to focus hatred on the British occurred when he addressed the Majlis on September 9. The Stokes Mission had returned to England, and Iranians were anxious that they might have failed to make best use of the opportunity to come to an agreement with the British. Mosadeq declared, and cheers [Page 201]showed Majlis approbation, “Iran must regain its past greatness, and also regain its lost territories. (Cheers) . . . . Patriots want Iran to safeguard its old greatness. They say that Iran should have the control of everything she has. (Cheers) The oil which belongs to it should be in its own hands. (Cheers)”30
Compensation for Inferiority With this introversion comes a national sensitivity to any real or imagined slight of Iranian self-importance. This is the psychological compensation of a people who feel inferior in the family of nations and who believe they are behind the times in a modern world.
Like a youth who thinks that he is man enough to have his own opinions and his chosen way, Iran resents the patronizing attitude implicit in offers of advice from other nations. The Millspaugh missions, the British military and financial missions, the Overseas Consultants and American military and Point IV missions have all met resistance from Iranians, Mosadeq among them.31 However, since he became Prime Minister, Mosadeq has walked softly where questions of American military and economic advisers are concerned, probably because he hopes that the United States will protect him from British pressure. Also, and extremely important in Iran, the National Front has fostered a widely held belief that the United States has sponsored the rise to power of the National Front. Furthermore, he uses this attitude as partial blackmail to obtain our support in order to have a Point IV program and to give military advice and aid.32
Iranian Vanity and Irresponsibility
International Blackmail Based on Vanity There is no vanity like the belief of a Prime Minister that, no matter what he does, the rest of the world, preoccupied with the importance of preserving his country, will save him from destruction. “If (Iran’s) oil industry collapses and no money comes and disorder and communism follow, it will be your fault entirely”.33[Page 202]
Mosadeq is gambling that Iran’s strategic and political importance will force America to give him money to meet his budgetary deficit and will lead to pressure on the British to lift their blockade of Iran’s oil sales.34 Other politicians find this approach to American support equally enticing.
“The Unseen Hand” Even more extraordinary than this vanity is a peculiar national faith in the omnipotence of an “Unseen Hand”. The profound effect on Persian psychology of Islam’s belief in an inexorable fate and the mass frustration of a people who have been dominated for centuries by foreign forces beyond their control give rise together to an amazing national irresponsibility. It is difficult to emphasize sufficiently the great importance of this Persian resignation to the influence of the Unseen Hand. There is no limit to their fantasy in this respect. Many Persians honestly believe the British engineered the nationalization of their oil industry in Iran. Many Persians, therefore, blame their present situation on the British. Prime Minister Mosadeq catered to Iranian suspicions of the British hand in all things when he said to the Majlis that Mr. George McGhee’s transfer to Turkey resulted from the pressure of antagonistic British on the U.S. Government.35 Only understanding of this psychological infirmity can make explicable a wide-spread Persian rumor that the British are behind Mosadeq and that the Tudeh Party is primarily British-dominated.
Iranian irresponsibility, which blames every ill upon the Unseen Hand, allows Mosadeq a freedom of action which few political leaders of the world could have. No matter what he does, he can blame it on the British and his people will believe him. This seems so incredible that western readers, unfamiliar with the Persians, will have to take the statement on faith. As deputy Jemal Emami told Ambassador Henderson in December, 1951, “There sometimes is no barrier between a Persian and his fantasy”.36[Page 203]
Mosadeq and any other Persian politicians can use this national irresponsibility to frame and follow almost any policy. If they fail, they and their people will blame the Unseen Hand.
IV. Mosadeq’s Political Realism
The Political Realist
Good speech-makers can easily arouse Iranian emotions. To acquire and keep political power, they must be shrewd and realistic politicians. Mohammad Mosadeq won popular acclaim by easily emulated techniques, but he showed unusual realism and ability in maintaining his position and in overcoming the great forces ranged against him. Fanaticism leads him in strange channels but his manipulation of Iranian politics has been masterful.
Understanding Mosadeq has real understanding of the character of his people and of the factors in Iranian politics today. There is nothing fuzzy in his thinking on how to overcome or turn to his advantage the forces which are obstacles to his progress. He recognizes and exploits the vulnerabilities of his opponents. A leader who does not have this understanding of political affairs will waste his other talents.
Ruthlessness Mosadeq’s political fixations and ambitions have been described. His ruthlessness in politics derives from these personal characteristics and has proved a constant source of power in his handling of previous governments, the Shah, the Majlis, entrenched interests and foreign influence in Iran. Ruthlessness in action and in attitude is the basis of his “realpolitik”.
Organization The greatest problems facing any leader in Iran are the country’s apathy and anarchy. The first comes from public ignorance and frustration. The second rises from mutual distrust among all Persians.37 One of Mosadeq’s most extraordinary feats has been his welding of nine selfish, power-seeking politicians into a National Front which acted in cooperation and submerged individual interest into common purpose. Organization and refusal to disintegrate is probably the greatest factor in the National Front’s political success.
Propaganda Advertising men agree that a sales campaign must have a simple, heavily-repeated slogan. When Mosadeq first came to power he said he had two programs: implementation of the oil nationalization law and electoral reform.38 Even this platform was soon re[Page 204]duced to one plank—oil.39 The propaganda of the National Front, both as a Parliamentary minority and as a Government, has depended on this theme and, without a similarly simple, emotion-charged appeal, no opposition has been able to succeed.
Control The familiar military trappings of a police state are lacking in Iran today, but Mosadeq, when crossed, acts as tyrannically as any dictator, using popular excitement and gangs of thugs to enforce his will. He told the Majlis opposition bluntly and quite truthfully, “You dare not step outside the Majlis and criticize the National Front. You would be torn to pieces by the crowds.”40
Saed Government The Government, the Court and Army controlled elections to the 16th Majlis, and expected that their influence would be paramount in Parliament. The National Front minority, elected from Tehran and Kashan after public indignation led the Shah to order a review of obviously rigged results in the first balloting, found strength in the fact they were not sponsored by governing authority. They sought and gained popularity by criticizing every move or proposal of the Saed Government. Their wholly unconstructive parliamentary tactics appealed to Iranian convictions that government, traditionally oppressive, would never seek to further public good. Therefore, Mosadeq by merely pointing out in public that the Government was against him and that he opposed it won a reputation as a champion of the people’s interests.
It cannot be said that the National Front brought down the Saed Government, but its minority obstruction to parliamentary action on Government proposals weakened both the nation and the Government and gave the National Front its first advance in public esteem.
Mansur Government The Mansur Government, appointed by a vacillating Shah in an attempt to put off the rise of “strong man” Razmara, was easy prey to Mosadeq. The Government’s corruption and inefficiency was at once a target for parliamentary attacks and a protection for the National Front since no concerted counter-action could be organized by the weak Government. Again the National Front’s popularity grew as the prestige and authority of the Government waned.
Razmara Government The full history of the rise and fall of Razmara could probably not be written. The intrigues of this Premier became so intricate within a few months of his rise to power that it would be impossible to follow the many secret channels he maintained to British [Page 205]and to Soviet sources of promises and pressure, to learn what liaison he had to various Court and Parliamentary cliques, or to know the extent of his grandiose ambitions.
It is a paradox that Mosadeq most strenuously opposed the man who first broke Iran’s close identification with the West and who focused national attention on an oil dispute with the British. It was the fight against Razmara that brought the National Front most prominently before the public eye. Again Mosadeq turned to his advantage what seemed to be the greatest threat against him. Razmara’s reputation of being a strong-handed military man allowed Mosadeq to champion parliamentary and press freedom against a tyranny which in fact did not exist. Mosadeq tilted with a windmill but the whole nation thought he was fighting a giant. When the “giant” fell, the credit redounded to the National Front.
Ala Government When Hosein Ala became Prime Minister, Mosadeq saw that it could only be an interim appointment while major forces in Iran worked to establish the next Government. Mosadeq gained Ala’s confidence and used him to avert much British pressure on the Shah and Parliament. He used the Ala Government almost like a stalking-horse as he prepared to ram oil nationalization through an emotionally aroused Majlis. Ala, who had confidently thought that Mosadeq had been working to prepare constructive legislation, suddenly was faced with a proposed law which he felt could only bring destruction of Iran’s economy. When he resigned, he was as much a victim of Mosadeq’s political realism as Saed, Mansur and Razmara.
Attitudes Towards the Shah41
National Front Antagonism to the Monarchy The antagonism of National Front leaders to the monarchy antedate the creation of the Front. Mosadeq was raised in the Kajar Court and has little respect for the upstart Pahlevis. His personal encounters with Reza Shah’s tyranny cannot be easily forgotten. His long devotion to constitutional reform has shown his profound belief that a monarch should have, at most, a symbolic or ornamental place in Iran’s government.
Kashani has a long record of anti-Pahlevi attitudes, and in early 1949 when the Shah was almost killed, Kashani was among the first arrested. Police brutality to him when arrested did little to abate his hatred of the monarchy. The intellectual radicals in the National Front have long distrusted Court intrigues and the Shah’s tendency to mix, unconstitutionally, in Iranian politics. In their more radical moments, [Page 206]National Frontists have responded to communist propaganda which obviously holds no place for the Shah in Iran’s future.42
When the National Front became a minority in the Majlis, one of its most repeated themes was criticism of Court corruption and intrigues. Princess Ashraf was a favorite target; and, although the Shah, by his position, was free from direct attack, the National Front did not fail to blame him indirectly for his Court’s iniquities. Kashani never opens his numerous “proclamations” with the customary courtesy—“under the auspices of his Imperial Majesty the Shahinshah”. Hosein Maki, a historian of some repute in Persia, has written biting criticism of the Pahlevis. Haerizadeh always called the first Pahlevi, “Reza Khan,” in his speeches in the 16th Majlis, and he led National Front attacks on Princess Ashraf’s reputation. Nariman publicly criticized the Shah in 1950 when Razmara was appointed to the premiership without a Majlis vote of inclination.
Prime Minister Mosadeq’s Control of the Shah When Mosadeq became Prime Minister, he was aware that his popularity and a strong Majlis vote of inclination had forced the Shah to appoint him. He later reported to the Senate43 that his pro-British rival, Seyid Zia, had been waiting with the Shah when the news arrived that Mosadeq had been acclaimed by parliament. Mosadeq knows the Shah’s propensity for intrigue and his natural enemity of strong premiers. Mosadeq found an antagonist in the Shah and he had to move carefully to prevent effective use of the potent pressure which the Shah could have brought to bear upon the Government and the issues of the day.
Again, Mosadeq used to his advantage what seemed to be a threatening force. The very reason why the Shah had undermined previous Prime Ministers was his fear of being overthrown by a successful “strong man”. Mosadeq took the problem by its horns and underlined the Shah’s own fears, pointing out that, if the Shah removed him, the forces of nationalism which he represented would in turn throw out the Shah.
It is not admiration for the National Front which has kept the Shah silent when he could have weakened and perhaps overthrown Prime Minister Mosadeq. It is a fear that Mosadeq out of power would be more dangerous to the dynasty than he now is. The Shah recognizes the dangers of the Government’s present policies, but he feels, as a Court source recently observed, “He cannot go against the national current”. [Page 207]Mosadeq does everything he can to strengthen that opinion and its resultant fear and procrastination.
Thus Mosadeq has avoided the pitfall which the Shah dug for other premiers. By relying on national forces beyond reach of Court plots, Mosadeq is protected from the Shah’s most dangerous weapon and has caught the Shah in his fears of deposition. The control which Mosadeq now holds upon the Shah can best be illustrated by the following examples.
In September, 1951, Mosadeq insisted that the Shah prevent the members of his family from intriguing. A court source has reported that the Shah wept in frustrated rage at the demand, but both Princess Ashraf and the Queen Mother had to leave Tehran.
In late December, 1951, the Queen Mother, who had returned from semi-exile in Hamadan, expressed her open support of Qavam to replace Mosadeq and sent flowers and candy, with her card, to opposition deputies in asylum in the Majlis. Mosadeq’s protest took the form of a threat of resignation from the premiership which the Shah and Minister of Court Ala begged him to withdraw. He “reconsidered” his offer to resign, but, in the meantime, the Shah forced his mother to halt her activities. Shortly after this, Qavam left Iran, reportedly convinced that the Shah would never act to put him in the place of Mosadeq.
Recently, Mosadeq has shown his low regard for the Shah more clearly than before, telling Hosein Ala on January 12 that he would not consult the Shah before making important decisions on internal or external affairs.44 Also, he has exerted efforts both internally and by refusing U.S. military aid to weaken the Iranian Army upon which the Shah relies for support.
It has been interesting to speculate about the reasons for Mosadeq’s evident antagonism to the Army. He has always been opposed to military control of Iran’s affairs. During his political career, Mosadeq has found the Army usually oppressive. At present, the Army is the main source of power for the Shah. If he should win control of the Army, Mosadeq might not be so firm in his opposition but probably he will always fear and distrust military might.
Conquest of the Majlis
The National Front Minority When the 16th Majlis opened in early 1950, it seemed inevitable that the National Front minority would be submerged by the apathy or selfishness of their colleagues. It was un[Page 208]thinkable that the corrupt, disorganized deputies ever could be stirred by unprofitable emotions.
It is unfortunately true that the Iranian Parliament rarely has shown understanding of its constitutional role as a legislature to pass laws designed to promote the nation’s welfare. On the contrary, most deputies spend their terms in petty intrigues to further personal or local interests.
Mosadeq, veteran of parliamentary politics, saw a way to utilize this situation. He organized his few colleagues into a unit which had strength of purpose and of cooperation. Party strategy was planned to gain maximum advantage from the source of each man’s powers. Kashani, who never took his Majlis seat, was consulted on how to stir his bazaar following in support of National Front policies. Saleh, Nariman, Shayegan and Haerizadeh had close touch with Iranian intellectuals and leftist liberals. Mosadeq was a great orator and a national hero. Maki, Baghai, Azad each appealed in different ways to numbers of admirers. All these men worked to focus the attention they commanded towards the National Front rather than upon themselves alone.
It was this organization and common purpose which gave the National Front minority an importance in the Majlis far beyond its actual strength. A typical, though minor, example of how they forced their views upon their colleagues was the planned strategy of National Front deputies to give their previously requested speaking time for pre-agenda speeches to one man who could, therefore, hold the rostrum for two full hours rather than the 15 minutes allowed each speaker. By this cooperation the best orators of the National Front won publicity, attention and reputation while obstructing legislative action.
The National Front remained aloof from the petty graft which satisfied most deputies. The Government in power could not woo the National Frontists with cash or privilege since they were out for bigger game. Their steadfast opposition to the Government and reiteration of emotional appeals gradually placed the National Front in the forefront of the Majlis and won a growing following among the deputies themselves. The National Front offered leadership. Even the most apathetic deputy gained a sense that Mosadeq and his colleagues represented a new and vital force which offered a way out of confusion and depression. By 1951, the National Front minority was the most important force in the Majlis. Parliamentary debates then became mainly sounding boards for National Front opinions.
National Front Government’s Suppression of Majlis Opposition When Mosadeq became Prime Minister, he had the unanimous support of Parliament. The motives for this unanimity were various, ranging from National Front extreme views to hopes of Seyid Zia’s partisans that [Page 209]Mosadeq would hang himself in his responsibilities. It was not for several months that questions of a serious nature were raised on the Majlis floor against Mosadeq’s direction of the nation. The Prime Minister has avoided all these questions and controlled his Majlis opposition by three primary methods—parliamentary maneuvers, anti-British moves and propaganda and terror in Tehran streets.
Good examples of Mosadeq’s shrewd parliamentary tactics were his maneuvers to overcome, by evading answering it directly, an opposition interpellation which he was supposed to answer on January 22. His counter-attack moved along two cleverly coordinated lines. His first aim, which was successful, was to cause the Majlis to dissolve itself, thus preventing an embarrassing session. Pro-Government deputies were told to leave town in such numbers, ostensibly to attend provincial elections, that by January 22 there was no Majlis quorum in Tehran. Simultaneously, Mosadeq ordered British Consulates to be closed and it is clear that he intended, if his strategy of preventing Majlis sessions failed, to force a vote of confidence upon his anti-British actions rather than upon the opposition’s interpellation.
At every turn the opposition has been described as British “tools”. Every speech that Mosadeq has made since he became Prime Minister has included by direct reference or by innuendo this accusation. The opposition, outmaneuvered and completely vilified, has never reached the point where it could marshal strength to overthrow Mosadeq by parliamentary action.
The auxiliary tactic for suppressing Majlis opposition is constraint by terror. When opposition deputies and newspaper editors took asylum in the Majlis in December 1951 they made propaganda from their action, but they were in real danger and many of them were really terrified. The thugs who looted anti-Government newspapers, beat up opposition deputies on occasion, and threatened or attacked the families of the men in asylum, were acting under orders of National Front leaders. The crowds gathered to demonstrate for Mosadeq on numerous occasions were obviously controlled by terroristic organizations such as Kashani’s Warriors of Islam and Baghai’s so-called Iran Workers Party.
In a more gentle way, Mosadeq has terrorized the entire Majlis by turning to the “people” when he was not satisfied with his reception in Parliament. On September 6, 1951, when opposition deputies, by refusing to attend, prevented a session quorum, Mosadeq went outside the building to tell the several thousand people gathered there that they were the real parliament and that he would deliver his planned speech to them.
Struggle with the Entrenched Interests
Any political leader in Iran has to face the power and inertia of Iran’s entrenched, reactionary interests. Mohammad Mosadeq with re[Page 210]alism and great shrewdness has played his politics to break up this monolithic force, first cloaking with nationalist emotions his real ambitions to break the power of old-line politicians in Government, then defeating conservative elements in the Court and Majlis, and then commencing a direct attack upon the electoral strongholds of the landowners and merchants. The wealthy families who have left or are prepared to leave Iran to live abroad show their fears of National Front antagonism or of the chaos and the communism which many think inevitable.
Truce Dr. Mosadeq is a wealthy landowner and an aristocrat. His son’s luxurious house in town is placed on a crossroad with three royal palaces. Despite his oratory about social reform, most Persians consider Mosadeq a member of the wealthy ruling class.
When emotions were aroused about the oil dispute, Persians of all classes were swept with nationalistic fervor. The angriest pro-Mosadeq speeches heard by westerners at private parties came from the scions of important Persian families. The antagonism which would have been expected from the entrenched interests to any politician calling for substantial change in the existing system was not forthcoming because the entrenched interests were dominated, in early 1951, by the emotions of Mosadeq’s oil nationalization program.
It is also true, unfortunately, that the class which in England produces dedicated and courageous leaders seems generally to produce in Persia a selfish and weak-willed group of men. When this class can crush reform without fear of much opposition, it is a potent force. When Mosadeq appeared on the political scene he was too dangerous a quantity for either the Shah or entrenched interests to oppose. These “leaders” mostly spent their efforts to persuade someone else to remove Mosadeq.
Piecemeal Defeats Mosadeq’s treatment of the Shah and Court and his capture and suppression of the Majlis has been described. In these victories Mosadeq defeated representatives of Iran’s entrenched interests. It is quite possible that a coordinated opposition from the Court and Majlis, based on contributions and other influence from the landowners and great merchants, could have defeated Mosadeq. By persuading the Shah against cooperation with the Majlis opposition deputies, by labeling as British agents any courtiers or deputies who were courageous or aware enough to speak against the National Front, Mosadeq prevented much concerted opposition from the entrenched interests.
Direct Attack Mosadeq’s timing has been excellent. By the time elections started for the 17th Majlis he had terrorized the 16th Majlis and had nullified, to a great extent, the influence of the Shah and of the Army. When he began to change officials in the provinces, draw up [Page 211]lists of National Front election candidates, and prepare to change the composition of the Majlis which had been almost self-perpetuating for years, he faced a weakened and divided enemy. The entrenched interests, predominately selfish in character, were divided by Government bargains with certain leaders.
Great landowners, merchants and tribal leaders and their representatives will be found in the 17th Majlis, but their numbers will have decreased and they will be faced with a substantial number of deputies who owe allegiance to the National Front or whose natural inclinations are toward National Front policies. It is quite true that the morass of Persian politics will not be drained overnight and Mosadeq may bog down in corruption and inertia. Also, it is possible that Mosadeq will join with the full force of the entrenched interests to fight against a threatening communism. So far, Mosadeq has dealt successfully with the entrenched interests, and he maintains the initiative in the struggle with them.
Dealing with Foreign Influences
Anglo-Russian Rivalry Persians of recent generations have been brought up in the belief that Anglo-Soviet rivalry is the basis of Iranian independence. The necessity for the Persians to play these rivals off against each other and some third force, first French, then German and now American, has developed a traditionally devious foreign policy. The history of recent foreign influence in Iran’s affairs has been well described in Lenczowski’s book Russia and the West in Iran 1918–1948. Mosadeq’s decision to drive out the British required him to establish a new balance in Iran between Russia and America. So far, he has done this with consummate skill, and the technique which he has used differs in each case.
Great Britain and its “Agents” In dealing with the British, Mosadeq has taken a directly antagonistic approach, accusing them of every sin and driving first the oil company and then the British consulates from Iran. There is nothing in his policy but bitter opposition to the British. Everything they do is wrong and he will neither equivocate nor be reasonable. He wants them out of Iran and he is achieving his objective.
U.S.S.R. and Iranian Communists Mosadeq has clearly shown his fear of provoking official Russian anger, but he has been willing to fight the communists in Iranian streets. The extreme nationalist adherents of Kashani, Baghai and Pan-Iranism, with police protection, have deliberately set upon the demonstrations and establishments of communist front organizations such as the Partisans of Peace. There is little doubt that this type of opposition is fruitless since communist strength grows as Iran’s economic and political chaos deepens. The National Front has not yet used the weapon of police suppression of the communists al[Page 212]though the law prohibiting the Tudeh Party is still in force. Mosadeq is playing a difficult game of encouraging Russia officially while attempting, by street riots, to prevent communist action.
America And Aid Mosadeq has shown himself rather too realistic where Iran’s relations with the United States are concerned. He has used and abused American good will, encouraging the United States to play the “honest broker” in the oil dispute in order to lay upon the shoulders of Ambassador Grady, then Mr. Harriman, then Assistant Secretary McGhee, the blame for failure to “persuade” the British to Mosadeq’s point of view. He gambles on Iran’s strategic and political importance in America’s “containment” policy to force American budgetary aid. He views American efforts to give him aid as evidence of some international desperation to prop him up. He realizes that American “desperation” apparently will grow as the Soviet threat to Iran increases. Therefore, he throws his hands up, in conversations with American officials, and says in substance “It is too late for me to change (any of several drastic actions such as driving the British oil technicians from Abadan, expelling a New York Times correspondent, closing British consulates in Iran). . . . You Americans must save Iran anyhow”.
Asiatic “Neutrals” The neutralism of India and the theory of a “neutral” bloc of Moslem states meets the approval of the National Front and many Persians. Kashani often speaks of an international Moslem union, presumably under his command. Mosadeq, in Egypt, called for mutual, though essentially moral, support between Middle Eastern nations. It is doubtful if these vague thoughts will soon become particularly concrete. Certainly, at this moment, the influence of neighboring Moslem countries is negligible in Iran. But Mosadeq, by paying deference to this subject of some popular and official interest, shows his realism in handling internal propaganda but shows great ignorance in believing “neutralism” as a policy will serve the interests of Iran.
In military terminology the history of the National Front would be described as “assembly” and “approach” in 1949 and 1950, “assault” in the first months of 1951, success in “taking the position” on April 30, 1951 and subsequent “consolidation”, a phase which is now ending as elections to the 17th Majlis are being held under National Front control. Study of the characteristics and political techniques of Mohammad Mosadeq shows how the National Front used its political environment to come to power. A drastic change in this environment may bring forth new techniques and new leaders; but, if Iran continues approximately in its present course, even given revenue from oil or other sources, it is likely that Mosadeq’s example will be followed in the future.[Page 213]
The national emotions upon which Mosadeq has played are permanent and profound in Iran. Hopes that Iran’s aroused nationalism can be or will be disregarded are unfounded. Nationalist emotions could possibly be rechanneled or transformed in some way, but they will not easily be erased. As described, they are considered to be factors in any situation in Iran under present social, economic and political circumstances.
It is not necessary for an Iranian politician to have all the characteristics of Dr. Mosadeq in order to win power, but at least he must be determined, ambitious and able to portray himself as representing national interests. A character such as Mosadeq’s is unusual, as is the strong admiration which many Persians have for him. His extreme nationalism, his fantasies and his lack of conscience are not unusual in Iran. Should he die or be overthrown there are many who, since he has blazed the way, might replace him, at least in their ability to appeal to Persian national emotions.
An essential element in the rise to power of the National Front has been Mosadeq’s shrewd realism. Selfishness and disorganization characterize Persian politics, and Mosadeq has made the most of those conditions. Whoever tries to stand against him or to follow him must have equal realism. Again, in military terms, Mosadeq’s political ability has been shown in his consolidation of a position when it was won and his ability to prevent or overcome counter-attacks.
The great tragedy for Iran is that Mosadeq, who has recognized and led nationalist emotions, does not now seem to know where he is going. The methods which Mosadeq used to come to power are fine for “assault” and capture of power, but, by their own destructive nature, these methods are not sufficient to bring progress. The Iranian nationalist movement which could be used by communists, army leaders, the Shah himself, a strong reactionary, or by nationalist leaders more extreme than Mosadeq is now entering its most dangerous phase. The great question for the future in Iran is who will capture and how will he lead Iranian nationalism in its next phase of development.
|1940||Arrested by Reza Shah’s police. Imprisoned in Birjand. Remained in prison five months; was released due to intercession by then Crown Prince Mohammad Pahlevi. Returned to his village under surveillance.|
|Sept. 22, 1941||Amnestied with other political prisoners.|
|1941–1944||Continued to live on estate but visited Tehran.|
|1944–1946||Deputy to Fourteenth Majlis; sponsored bill forbidding government to grant oil concessions without consent of Majlis.|
|1947||Took asylum in Royal Court in protest against the rigging of elections for 15th Majlis.|
|1949||Elected Deputy to Sixteenth Majlis, after again taking asylum in Court in protest against election rigging. Formed National Front coalition.|
|April 29, 1951||Became Prime Minister of Iran.|
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/2–1652. Secret. Received March 11. Drafted by Melbourne. The study was drafted by Stutesman. Written on the despatch is the following comment: “Excellent despatch.” Except as noted in the footnotes below, the telegrams and despatches cited have not been found.↩
- See the following Secret Embassy Despatches: (1) #736 December 20, 1951, entitled “Transmitting a Study of the Shah of Iran”. (2) #870 of February 1, 1952, entitled “Transmitting a Study of the Political Influence of Shi’ism and of the Shi’ite Clergy in Iran.” [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- It may be appropriate here to note Dr. Johnson’s definition of patriotism: “The last refuge of a scoundrel.” [Footnote is in the original. At the end of the footnote, there is a handwritten comment that reads: “Who is the scoundrel, AIOC or Mosadeq?”]↩
- Related by a reliable source who was present during the incident. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Radio address to the nation, April 30 (Embassy despatch 881, May 1, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. Despatch 881 is in the National Archives, RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 29.]↩
- Embassy telegrams 2159, 2162, December 12, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Embassy telegram 2158, December 12, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Embassy telegram 2199, December 14, 1951. [Footnote
in the original. Telegram 2199 from Tehran is printed in
Foreign Relations,1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 291–295 (Document 136).]↩
- Ala’s “explanations” (Embassy despatch 341, September 11, 1951) failed to erase the slander. [Footnote is in the original. Despatch 341 from Tehran is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 888.2553/9–1151.]↩
- Embassy telegram 1454, January 3, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Deputies Abol Qadar Azad, Dr. Mosafar Baghai, Seyid Abol Hasan Haerizadeh, Ayatollah Kashani, Seyid Hosein Maki, Dr. Mohammad Mosadeq, Seyid Mahud Nariman, Alayar Saleh, Seyid Ali Shayegan. Only Azad subsequently left the coaliton. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Memorandum of Conversation, June 28 (Embassy despatch 1159, June 29, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Address to the Senate Sept. 5 (Embassy despatch 333, Sept. 10, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. Despatch 333 from Tehran is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 888.2553/9–1051.]↩
- Address to the Majlis Sept. 9 (Embassy despatch 335, Sept. 11, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. Despatch 335 from Tehran is ibid., RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 29.]↩
- Address to the Senate, Sept. 5, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Farewell speech to the nation, Oct. 6 (Embassy despatch 466, Oct. 9, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Radio address to the nation, April 30, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Memorandum of Conversation May 2 (Embassy despatch 889, May 4, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Statement before the Majlis, May 3 (Embassy telegram 2661, May 3, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. Telegram 2661 from Tehran is in National Archives, RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 29.]↩
- Joint Statement of Mosadeq and Nahas Pasha November 22 (Cairo telegram 753 to Department, Nov. 23, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Conversation with Ambassador Henderson (Embassy telegram 2011, Dec. 1, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Memorandum of
Conversation, May 2, 1951. [Footnote is in the original. Grady reported on the conversation
in telegram 2650 from Tehran, May 2, printed in
Foreign Relations,1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 45–46 (Document 17).]↩
- Address to the nation, April 30, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- The old American proverb, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” becomes, in Asia, an injunction to get control of the government’s mousetrap monopoly. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Nariman was made Minister of Finance, but he soon resigned to run for election to the 17th Majlis. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- The typically Persian hero of Haji Babal of Isfahan. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Memorandum of conversation, May 28 (Embassy despatch 1023, May 31, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- A study of Mullah Kashani’s techniques and organization is being prepared by the Embassy. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Radio address to the nation, Sept. 1 (Embassy despatch 308, Sept. 4, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. Despatch 308 from Tehran is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/9–451.]↩
- Address to the Majlis, September 9, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Arthur Millspaugh has bitterly described his difficulties in Americans in Persia. Opposition to his Financial Mission to Iran was led, in the Majlis by Mohammad Mosadeq. “In November, (1944) the new Majlis majority—pro-court, pro-Soviet, and anti Millspaugh—turned again to Mosadeq (for leadership).” [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- In January, 1952, National Front newspapers openly threatened that American military advisers would not have their contracts renewed unless American military aid is given. (Embassy telegram 2693 January 18, 1952). Use of the Point IV program to win a sort of pro-Mosadeq American lobby is apparently one of Mosadeq’s objectives. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
of conversation, May 29 between Mosadeq, British Ambassador Sir Francis Shepherd and American
Ambassador Grady (Embassy
despatch 1022, May 31, 1951). [Footnote is in the original. The
memorandum of conversation is printed in
Foreign Relations,1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 57–59 (Document 24).]↩
- It is pertinent to point out here that Mosadeq has good reasons for taking the calculated risk of threatened suicide. If Iran falls into communist hands, a great rent will be torn in our “containment” ring around the USSR. Strategically, loss of Iran will be calamitous for the free world. In 1918 the Bolshevik writer K. Troyanovski assigned an important role to Iran in his “The East and the Revolution”. “The Persian revolution is the key to the revolution of all of the Orient, just as Egypt and the Suez Canal are the key to the British domination of the Orient. Persia is the Suez Canal of the revolution. If we shift the political center of gravity of the revolutionary movement to Persia, the Suez Canal loses its strategic value and importance. For the success of the oriental revolution, Persia is the first nation that must be conquered by the Soviets. This precious key to the uprising of the Orient must be in the hands of Bolshevism cost what it may. . . Persia must be ours; Persia must belong to the revolution.” [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- To the left of this sentence in the original is a handwritten note that reads: “But was he right?”↩
- Memorandum of Conversation, December 3, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- “I and my tribe against the nation; I and my clan against the tribe; I and my brothers against the clan; and I against my brothers”—Old Persian Proverb. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Address to the Majlis May 3 (Embassy telegram 2661, May 3, 1951). [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- “My program concerns the oil and my work is to carry out the nationalization law”. Address to the Senate September 5, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Statement in the Majlis, December 11, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Embassy despatch 736, December 20, 1951, A Study of the Shah. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- All National Front leaders signed, in 1950, the communist-sponsored “Peace Petition” and all pronounced themselves opposed to UN intervention in Korea. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Address to the Senate, September 5, 1951. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- Embassy telegram 2607, January 13, 1952. [Footnote is in the original. Telegram 2607 from Tehran is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 888.2553/1–1352.]↩