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79. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

4837. 1. When I arrived palace morning June 12 to call on Shah I found Ala awaiting me (Embtel 4812 of June 12).2 He said he hoped I wld not (rpt not) hesitate impress on Shah necessity for urgent action. He feared that Shah who had seemed quite resolute two days ago was again weakening and becoming indecisive. He knew that I had been consistently refraining from doing anything which might be considered as interference in Iranian internal affairs. Nevertheless, he thought I wld be doing Iran service if I cld say anything which wld encourage Shah to assume more decisive attitude at this moment so critical for country.

2. At beginning my conversation with Shah I referred to msg which he had sent to me through Ala and said I failed understand how Shah cld have obtained impression that US Govt or I was supporting Mosadeq. Mosadeq had been named by Shah as Prime Minister and his nomination had been approved by Majlis. I had considered it my duty to endeavor to maintain as friendly working relations as conditions wld permit with Prime Minister of Iran. During my numerous conversations with Shah I thought that I had made it clear to him that in opinion US Govt and of myself Mosadeq’s policies were pushing Iran toward ruin. Furthermore, I had also not (rpt not) hesitated in my various talks with Mosadeq to let him also know that in opinion US Govt and myself he was fol policies which were not (rpt not) beneficial to Iran.

Shah said he had thoroughly understood my attitude and had never had any doubt that I was voicing views of State Dept. Nevertheless, numerous stories had come to him to effect that US press and many Americans including some US oil companies were supporting Mosadeq. He had also heard that various American nationals in private conversations had been saying that choice was between Mosadeq and communism. He therefore had asked Ala to obtain definite statement re our attitude towards Mosadeq.

3. I then referred to remarks made by him during previous conversations indicating disappointment at amount and type of military aid [Page 253]which US seemed to be prepared to extend to Iran. Endeavored to assure him US deeply interested in future Iran and anxious to strengthen Iran’s defensive capacity. During this portion our conversation I followed line contained in para 4a–b of Deptel 2742 of May 30.3 He seemed to take my remarks with good grace and to be anxious to enter into discussion of country’s immediate financial and political problems.

4. Shah said he deeply concerned at both financial and political situation. Apparently funds not (rpt not) available to pay portion of govt salaries due May 20 unless steps wld be taken which might undermine public confidence in Bank Melli. What wld happen on June 20, next pay day, no one knew. Although Mosadeq had been requested return immediately after presentation Iranian case at Hague Prime Minister seemed determined stay on for time in Europe. He might not (rpt not) get back until after June 20. Meantime, increasing pressure being brought on Shah to replace Mosadeq at once or encourage Senate and Majlis vote no (rpt no) confidence in govt. Shah did not (rpt not) see how he cld do anything while decision of Court still pending. If Court shld find itself competent, failure Mosadeq policy wld be clear. Mosadeq might resign or steps cld be taken get rid of him. If Court shld decide itself incompetent Mosadeq might again be hero. He likely to announce that he had won Iran’s freedom, that Iran cld now sell its oil, and that in short time financial difficulties wld be eliminated. This wld not (rpt not) be true; Iran wld still have difficulties in selling oil to buyers who had means to transport it. Nevertheless, Mosadeq wld probably be able with his false promises deceive public for some time and until his deceit shld become known it wld be dangerous remove him. Therefore, nothing cld be done until Court had made its decision and if decision favorable to Iran it might be impossible do anything for considerable time.

5. I stressed to Shah desperateness of present financial situation of country. I said responsible Iranian statesmen seemed now to be fully conscious of seriousness of crisis which Iran was facing. It seemed to me they were hesitating from acting because they did not (rpt not) know what Shah wanted them to do. I doubted that thinking Iranian leaders would believe that a favorable decision of Court would be of material assistance in helping Iranian financial difficulties. They would be quite aware that if Mosadeq stayed on and Iran should make no (rpt no) constructive move in direction oil settlement Iran would continue drift towards ruin. These people were looking towards Shah to show [Page 254]same decisiveness in this situation as he had shown in 1946 when he had ordered armed forces to clear usurpers out of Azerbaijan. Prestige of Throne was high this moment. If, however, Shah allowed Iran to continue drift towards ruin without taking some action himself or indicating to statesmen looking to him so anxiously for guidance that he would not (rpt not) object to their taking action, confidence in Throne might ebb to such extent it would be much more difficult to rally people round it later in last minute effort to save country.

I was expressing these thoughts without having Shah’s background knowledge. Shah might be aware of various factors unknown to me. Shah should therefore understand in giving voice to some of my thoughts I was not (rpt not) venturing to press advice on him.

6. Shah seemed troubled. He said it would not (rpt not) be fair for Iranian statesmen to blame him if he did not (rpt not) come out for removal Mosadeq at time Mosadeq might again be national hero. If he should do so Mosadeq could become formidable antagonist not (rpt not) only to government but to Throne. In any event Shah would be taking great risk to support replacement of Mosadeq unless he was in possession assurances that new government would receive almost immediate financial aid from UK or US. With best will in world it would take considerable time for new government negotiate and sign oil agreement with Brit. Oil problem complicated. It could not (rpt not) be solved over night.

Furthermore no (rpt no) new government could exist if it should capitulate entirely. He was convinced, for instance, that no (rpt no) government in Iran could live if it should try negotiate oil settlement outside framework of nationalization laws. Settlement of oil dispute might require weeks, perhaps months. New government to continue to carry on might need foreign financial assistance in matter of days. Where could he obtain assurance of such assistance? If he should be instrumental in effecting removal Mosadeq, and successor government should be unable obtain foreign financial assistance, not (rpt not) only would that government fall, but Throne would be in jeopardy and influence those elements in Iran friendly to West would sharply diminish.

Could he also obtain assurance that British would not (rpt not) try drive impossible bargain with new government? What had taken place during recent months in Egypt not (rpt not) encouraging. Egypt in better financial position, however, than Iran; it could afford to wait. Delay in receiving financial aid and in effecting settlement oil problem acceptable to Iranian people would be fatal.

7. I told Shah he should not (rpt not) expect US Government to give him any fast assurances in advance of financial assistance. Attitude US people and members of Congress as events unfolded would contribute [Page 255]to making of US decision this respect. In my opinion this attitude would be determined by manner in which Iranian Government approached oil problem. I was convinced that if US public and Congress should obtain impression Government Iran trying energetically and sincerely find fair solution on oil dispute they would not (rpt not) like to see that government fall merely because it could not (rpt not) obtain temporary financial aid. Another factor which would influence US decision of financial aid would be attitude UK Government and public. US would not (rpt not) of course like to take action which would further inflame UK opinion against Iran and at same time injure USUK relations. Government of Iran by approaching UK Govt in genuinely conciliatory spirit and with obvious desire find fair solution could greatly improve atmosphere British-Iranian relations and prepare way for necessary financial aid as well as solution oil problem.

It might be helpful if Shah could get in touch at once with Middleton and talk to him with same frankness as to me. Shah said he would see Middleton before latter departed for UK next week for conference in London but he hesitated talk to him so openly, not (rpt not) because he did not (rpt not) trust Middleton but because he afraid of gossip in London with subsequent fatal leak to press. He had had unfortunate experience in this regard last autumn. He could have no (rpt no) objection, however, if I should outline to Middleton what he had told me about oil problem and financial aid.

8. I said British had made it clear they preferred settle oil problem by direct negotiations and did not (rpt not) relish dealing through third party. Although I would inform Middleton of some of Shah’s worries as expressed by him to me, I hoped he wld also talk with him frankly.

9. Shah said he had been giving considerable thought to problem of successor to Mosadeq. Seemed to be three approaches this problem:

(A) New Prime Minister to be either member National Front or someone closely associated with it. Saleh outstanding candidate this category. Saleh seemed to have progressive ideas, integrity and common sense. Saleh had made mistakes in past including experiment of collaboration with Tudeh. He thought Saleh had become wiser. Saleh might be able mold national movement, strength of which could not (rpt not) be ignored, into constructive force. If Saleh should go off wrong direction it would not (rpt not) be difficult remove him. Busheri also possibility. Busheri, however, sometimes showed opportunistic characteristics and too much under influence Kashani.

(B) New Prime Minister to be someone who could possibly work with National Front and at same time would have respect of country’s leading statesmen. He thought Mansour could play this role. Mansour experienced, resourceful, persuasive and progressive. He stood half-way between nationalists and so-called elder statesmen.

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(C) Cabinet headed by and composed of elder statesmen. Qavam, of course, ranked as most prominent of elder statesmen but Hakimi had almost as great prestige and had perhaps better reputation. Elder statesman like Qavam or Hakimi could form Cabinet outstanding men of country who might help tide country over present crisis. He was worried, however, lest such government might be entirely devoid progressive ideas. It might be charged such government was pushing Iran back to 1945 or 1946. On other hand situation during those years preferable to that at present. National Front and Tudeh should, of course, join in opposing such government which might be compelled take rather repressive measures during first days its existence to maintain law and order.

10. I said I could see both advantages and disadvantages in National Front government. No (rpt no) doubt there were strong nationalist feelings in country which might become positive constructive force. Six months ago National Front leaders had magnificent opportunity mold Iranian nationalist feelings into form which would be beneficial to country. It seemed to me they had missed this opportunity. They had played on Iranian nationalism merely to fan flames hatred and promote prejudice. They had resorted to demagoguery and cheap tricks. I wondered if so-called National Front has the leadership or vision to forge new nationalist progressive Iran. In National Front we remember intelligent, progressive men who not (rpt not) pleased with direction present government was taking country. I doubted any these men had experience and prestige to lead Iran out of its present difficulties. I had studied Saleh’s record carefully and was convinced he unstable and lacking in judgment. He was at same time so stubborn that if he once in power he might refuse take advice of Shah or anyone else.

It might be impossible remove him until he had already led country to ruin. So far as oil dispute was concerned Saleh had on number occasions indicated himself to be even more irreconcilable than Mosadeq. He had only lately spoken against presence foreign advisers in Iran. He was potentially dangerous demagogue in my opinion. Shah said during his talks with Saleh latter had shown moderation and common sense. Saleh had, for instance, seemed to be willing to be conciliatory regarding oil problem. I remarked it might be mistake to judge Saleh on what he might have said for purpose pleasing Shah. Shah agreed and said certainly he would not (rpt not) be appointed before very careful examination had been made of his past record and present tendencies.

11. Continuing my comments I told Shah that members of present National Front did not (rpt not) necessarily have monopoly on Iranian nationalism. Perhaps some other groups composed of leaders of national stature had learned some lessons during last year. Perhaps if [Page 257]they should boldly and without apologies stress positive aspects Iranian nationalism, they could divert national movement along constructive progressive lines. It was not (rpt not) necessary that national movement should encourage hatred for foreigners and elimination of progressive West ideas. I said I did not (rpt not) know Mansour very well. During my two conversations with him I had been impressed by his analyses of situation here and by remedies which he had proposed. I did not (rpt not) know whether he had strength of character or experience to put those remedies into effect if he should become Prime Minister. Shah knew Mansour much better than I.

12. I told Shah my personal knowledge of Qavam was also limited. Ever since my arrival in Tehran partisans of Qavam had been asking US to support his candidacy for Prime Minister. In particular they had been trying prevail on me to endeavor influence Shah in his favor. I, of course, had consistently refused become involved in intrigue this character. Some of Qavam’s friends had for some time tried to arrange for us to meet. I had refused to meet him surreptitiously or in circumstances which might justify belief we were conniving against present government. Last week, however, I had met him at dinner given by Turkish Ambassador. Since he was one Iran’s outstanding statesmen and since at that dinner he had expressed his desire talk further with me, I had offered call on him.

One of his adherents, however, informed me later that Qavam would prefer we have dinner together. Accordingly, I had dined with him on June 10 at house mutual friend. Shah said Ala had told him of my dinner with Qavam. What kind of impression had Qavam made? Could I tell him about our conversation? I summarized conversation with Qavam along lines contained Embtel 4812 of June 12. Shah was particularly interested in Qavam’s apparent attitude regarding oil problem. I said Qavam had not (rpt not) even intimated I try to influence Shah on his behalf. He had, however, told me he was too old have any personal ambitions and he would accept Prime Ministership only if he convinced Shah really wanted him head new government. He had also told me that he would not (rpt not) remain in government for single minute if at any time he should believe he had lost confidence of Shah. I said I of course not (rpt not) able judge sincerity of Qavam in making these remarks. They had had, however, every ring of sincerity.

13. Shah asked what I thought of Hakimi. I said I had had even less contact with him than with Qavam. I had met him casually several times and had appointment with him at his house later in day. During my brief encounters with him I had been impressed by his apparent sincerity of purpose and his understanding of situation. I had also been surprised by mental and physical vigor which he had displayed despite [Page 258]his age. Shah said he had great confidence in Hakimi with whom he had become closely acquainted while latter was Minister Court.

14. I met Middleton at luncheon few minutes after my talk with Shah and was able give him outline of conversation. Middleton said he had appointment meet Shah next Tuesday. He also told me in confidence that although in past he personally had had strong doubts regarding Qavam he was gradually coming to opinion that Qavam despite his age and certain unpleasant passages in his record might be best choice to steer government through difficult days ahead.

Henderson
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.13/6–1352. Top Secret; Security Information; Priority. Repeated to London. Received June 14 at 6:25 a.m. Printed with redactions in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 396–400 (Document 181).
  2. Document 78.
  3. Telegram 2742 to Tehran, May 30, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 386–389 (Document 177). For a summary of paragraphs 4a and b, see Document 77, footnote 4.