73. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Iran


  • Mr. Launcelot Pyman, Former Oriental Counselor, British Embassy, Tehran
  • Mr. William M. Rountree, Director, GTI
  • Mr. C. Vaughan Ferguson, GTI

Mr. Pyman has served as British Oriental Counselor in Tehran and has handled Iranian problems in London for eleven years, with the ex[Page 233]ception of one year in St. Louis, Missouri. He recently returned to London for leave and reassignment to Rio. He was sent by the Foreign Office to Washington to consult with the British Embassy upon Iranian matters and to participate in the conversations between the Embassy and Departmental representatives. In this final meeting with Mr. Pyman before his return to London, we sought to obtain his views upon several matters, particularly upon possible candidates as Prime Minister in the event Dr. Mosadeq should resign or fall. Rather than the usual running account of the conversation, the following reflects the summary of what Pyman had to say.

It was recognized by both sides that the type of Prime Minister who would be chosen to succeed Dr. Mosadeq would depend in large measure upon the circumstances surrounding the latter’s exit from office. For example, if the strength of the National Front should be greatly diminished and the Shah’s position strong, he would probably select a man from the group identified below as “Normal-Type Candidates”. If the situation should be such that the Shah, even in the face of a strong National Front position or in circumstances in which the security position is difficult, should wish to appoint a strong Prime Minister to govern in a dictatorial manner, he might consider the appointment of one of the “Military Figures” listed. Finally, either to perpetuate a National Front government or mollify the National Front, a Prime Minister in the third category, “National Front Candidates” might be chosen.

Normal-Type Candidates

1) Qavam—The Shah does not like Qavam and fears that he would constitute a threat to the Shah’s position. The principal disadvantage of Qavam as a Prime Minister would be that nepotism and corruption would flourish, and his political opposition would be such that he probably would not last very long. The advantages, however, would be that he is a “strong man” and would check the drift toward anarchy; as an opportunist he would be prepared to settle the oil dispute upon any basis which he felt he could “get away with”. He would probably be appointed only as an interim solution. Qavam is, of course, old, sick and feeble.

2) Mansur—Mansur is a routine, traditional Iranian politician, and an opportunist who would make a serious attempt to settle the oil dispute, not so much on the basis of principle as upon the basis of expediency. While the Shah’s opinion of Mansur is not known, it is believed that he would find some reassurance in recalling that he successfully fired Mansur upon “15 minutes notice” in order to make way for the appointment of General Razmara. The Shah would, therefore, find in Mansur no threat to his own position.

3) Seyid Zia—The possibilities of Seyid Zia’s appointment are considered extremely remote. The Shah would be afraid of Seyid Zia since [Page 234] he might not be able to control him. Seyid Zia is a patriot who wants to do something for Iran, and that is why he will never be popular with Iranian politicians. He is regarded as a British tool, and has been greatly discredited in Iran by this factor. This may also explain in part the Shah’s attitude toward Seyid Zia, since the Shah has a fixation upon the British ejection of his father. With a strongly pro-British Prime Minister in office, his logic is that there is no guarantee this would not happen to him. The Shah would also be reluctant to appoint Seyid Zia for the same reasons which make Qavam unacceptable to him.

4) HakimiHakimi, about 90, is the champion of the “Iranian Youth Movement”. He probably will not again be considered seriously as a candidate. The Shah remarked recently when Hakimi’s name was mentioned as a possible Prime Minister, “He didn’t do a damn thing before and wouldn’t now. Why should he be Prime Minister?”

5) Entezam—There is some evidence that the Shah has been thinking about Entezam as Prime Minister. He is highly regarded by the British in terms of ability and integrity. His past record in the Cabinet was very good. His obvious difficulty, of course, is that he has been out of the country for five years and has no political following. On the other hand this might be said to be an advantage since he is untainted. While he is not in the National Front or associated with that party, there has been some talk of his replacing Kazemi as Foreign Minister in the Mosadeq government upon his return to Iran from Washington.

6) Ebtehaj—An energetic, patriotic man who is liked by the Shah. There has been some indication that the Shah has been considering Ebtehaj as a possible replacement for Mosadeq. His difficulty is that he cannot get along with his countrymen and engages in running battles with key political leaders. He would be “good at anything” but Prime Minister, except under dictatorship of the Shah. He has no Majlis support, and his appointment is unlikely.

7) Soheily—Soheily, until recently Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is about the most useful and practical Iranian political figure. He is a good operator and has the confidence of the Shah, who would not be afraid of him. He has no strong principles or convictions regarding the oil controversy and should be able to “patch up” a deal if he were Prime Minister.

Military Figures

1) Ahmadi—Ahmadi is a dead political force who is busy collecting rent for the 500 pieces of property which he owns in Tehran. His level of intelligence was not eulogized by Pyman.

2) Zahedi—Zahedi, unscrupulous, energetic and ambitious, has a rare quality of interest in practical problems and how to deal with them. He is an opportunist and as such would seek a settlement of the [Page 235] oil controversy on a realistic basis. He is loyal to the Shah, and an indication that he is in the Shah’s favor is that the Shah took him to Shiraz as a member of his entourage. Politically, he is persona grata to the National Front which might accept him as a constitutional replacement of Mosadeq. Also, he is a friend of Kashani. The Iranian non-communist trade unions like him since, as Minister of Interior, he was very cooperative with them. His position in the Senate is regarded as good, and he has many respectable political friends both there and elsewhere. Perhaps also in his favor is the fact that in 1942 the British, regarding him as a principal link between the Iranians and the Germans, kidnapped him and interned him in Palestine for a considerable period. Pyman does not feel that he bears a grudge against the British for this and Zahedi in fact said, in explanation of his attitude toward the Germans, that he hopes the British hold no continuing grudge against him. He is an anti-communist and has a good record as Minister of Interior and Chief of Police. He is regarded as a leading contender for the job of Prime Minister, either as a compromise candidate vis-à-vis the Shah and the National Front, or as a “dictator” under the Shah.

3) ArfaArfa is not a serious contender, although his name has cropped up from time to time. He is anti-communist and in fact was jailed by Qavam as being too anti-communist during the latter’s regime. He is unstable and was described as a “wild man”. He has friends in and near the National Front, although this friendship may derive from his insuperable hatred of Razmara and his collaboration with the National Front to oust him. He lives on a farm and is not active politically now. The Shah’s attitude is not known, although the General and his wife were formerly among the Palace set.

4) GarzanGarzan, Chief of the General Staff, is not a likely candidate, although his name has been mentioned from time to time. He does not have a forceful personality although in general he is regarded as a good military man. He has never played an active role in politics.

National Front Candidates

1) Maki—Although Maki is sometimes regarded as a moderate, it is believed that he is more an opportunist. As such he would probably endeavor to settle the oil controversy if he could get away with it. His firebrand statements in Abadan should not be taken too seriously. His position on the oil matter is not on the basis of principle but on the basis of what is to his advantage. Contrary to Mosadeq’s record, that of Maki is not in opposition to the Shah or the Shah’s prerogatives. A former Qavam man, Maki has important connections with the Qavam party and could get the support of a certain number of non-National Front politicians. His relations with Kashani are probably not good, an important factor being that in the recent elections he received more votes as Deputy from Tehran than did Kashani. Although he would be con[Page 236]tending with Baghai as Mosadeq’s replacement in the National Front, he would probably have a majority of the National Front members behind him. Maki has no financial means, having had a meteoric rise since about 12 years ago when he was an Air Force sergeant. After that he was a “hack journalist” and a minor government employee. He is probably anti-communist at the moment for reasons of self-interest rather than conviction. All things considered, he would not be too bad as Mosadeq’s replacement.

2) Baghai—Baghai’s influence is limited to his own small segment of the National Front, and is therefore not regarded as a likely candidate. His relations with Kashani are not as good as Maki’s.

3) KashaniKashani sees his role as that of influencing developments from behind the scene. It is unlikely that the role of Prime Minister is one in which he sees himself, and thus he would not seek appointment, although such a possibility should not be excluded.

4) Busheri—Busheri does not have much of a personal following. He is a light-weight with no administrative capacity or solid ability of any sort. However, as the most moderate of the National Front leaders, he would be a possible compromise candidate. He would probably earnestly seek to settle the oil question, but probably is without convictions upon the matter. His relations with the Shah are much better than those of any other National Front man, and the Shah would have little fear that Busheri would endeavor to usurp his prerogatives.

5) Martin [Matin]-Daftari—“Neutralist Joe” is for a sterilized Iran. His idea is that if there are no Western interests in Iran, Iran would not be the object of USSR hostility; if there are no Russian interests in Iran, the West would not be mad because Persian oil is going to the Soviet Union. “Say nothing, do nothing and the Soviets will not know Iran is there.” He is within the fold of the National Front, is moderate, although ineffective. Some members of the National Front dislike him and consider him a British spy. As Prime Minister, his political philosophy would lead him to insist on a form of oil settlement so that he could say to the USSR that the British or Americans have no control of the operation in south Iran. He would endeavor to obtain face-saving devices, but might render it possible to come to some agreement. He is regarded as a possible candidate, although the considerations which might lead to his appointment would far more likely lead to the appointment of Busheri who would have all of Matin-Daftari’s advantages and few of his disadvantages.

6) Shayegan—He is regarded as a narrow and bigoted man. He shares Mosadeq’s views on restricted royal prerogatives, and does not have good relations with the Palace. He is in very bad health and may not want the job of Prime Minister even if he could get it. He has indi[Page 237]cated a strong desire to be President of the Majlis and is actively seeking that office.

7) Saleh—Saleh is in the “dog house” but perhaps this is to his credit. As Minister of the Interior he refused the National Front pressure to cancel certain elections which were going against the chosen candidates, and as a result was forced out. He has very few friends in the National Front. The British regard him as honest and intelligent, but extremely hardheaded. In 1946 he was responsible for the fusion between segments of the Iran Party and the Tudeh, but apparently lost his propensity for the communists. Less has been heard recently about his communist sympathies. His appointment is considered extremely unlikely.

In summary, it would appear that if the Shah has a free choice and if constitutional methods are to prevail the most likely candidates would be Qavam, Mansur, Soheily and Entezam, possibly in that order. If a strong dictator-type Prime Minister is sought, Zahedi would be the leading contender. As a purely National Front candidate Maki would be the most likely, while Busheri’s chances would be good as an all-around compromise. If such a compromise is sought, however, Zahedi would also qualify in this category.

Turning to other subjects, we discussed with Pyman the appointment of a British Ambassador to Iran. Pyman said that he and Chargé d’Affaires Middleton had recommended against the appointment of any ambassador under present circumstances. He felt that the arrival of a new ambassador at this time would be grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in Iran and that difficulties might be created from the very outset. If, however, there is a change of government in Iran the arrival of an ambassador might have practical and psychological advantages. While a firm decision has not to Pyman’s knowledge been made, no disagreement to this suggestion was voiced to him in the Foreign Office.

Regarding the British case before the International Court of Justice, Pyman felt that the chances of a favorable decision were about 50–50. In discussing the consequences of the ICJ action, Pyman said that the British position would probably be much more difficult if the decision should be unfavorable. On the other hand, it is hard to see how a favorable decision would have any great influence upon the situation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/5–1652. Secret; Security Information. Drafted by Rountree.