133. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Byroade) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)1
- Comments on the British Paper entitled “The Communist Danger in Persia”2
Although the British paper under reference appears generally factually correct and its basic conclusions are not unsound, there is a distinct impression in NEA that the paper does not come to grips with the true nature of the Iranian problem nor are the solutions proposed always realistic.
1. Present Situation—Although this section is somewhat oversimplified, there is no point of fact or conclusion with which NEA does not agree.
2. Possible Openings for the Tudeh—NEA has no reason to dispute the facts presented or the conclusion, but suggests that the wording of the penultimate paragraph should be clarified.
3. Persian Action to Forestall these Developments—It is NEA’s opinion that this section suffers from oversimplification and can be confused with section 4 as regards possible eventualities and possible courses of action. In this connection, it would be useful to review the six contingencies foreseen and studied in the Annex to NSC 107/1 dated June 20, 1951 and the existing Statement of Policy, 107/2, which is under current revision.3
II. Possible Courses of Action
4(a) There is real question whether “whatever course of action is chosen, absolute Anglo-United States solidarity is essential”. If this is taken to mean that prior consultation, general agreement and mutual [Page 372] understanding between the United States and United Kingdom are essential, NEA has no objection. However, if the sentence means that there is no circumstance in which the United States or the United Kingdom should carry out a course of action alone in Iran, there is ground for much discussion. It is entirely possible that the Anglo-Iranian dispute might reach such a phase of deadlock and animosity that it would be in the interest of the free world for the United States to remain capable of independent action vis-à-vis Iran.
4(b) If there is no implication that an anti-nationalist dictator could be successful, NEA has no objection to this statement. A “suitable figure” in NEA’s opinion must be someone capable of identifying himself with nationalist issues and emotions although he might gradually deflect the present course of nationalist fanaticism.
4(c) There is a tendency today utterly to disregard the Shah’s importance in the Iranian political scene. As a matter of fact, although he certainly does not exert any independent influence, he is of considerable usefulness to Dr. Mosadeq at this time as an ally. There is still reportedly considerable loyalty to the Shah in the armed forces, and, throughout Iran, there remains the ancient identification of the Central Government with the figure of the Great King. The Shah does not exert independent influence on the course of events but he is and will continue to be an important pawn in any political maneuvers.
4(d) NEA concurs in the belief that a tribal revolt prior to the establishment of a Tudeh regime would only create further chaos and would probably end only by serving communist interests in Iran.
4(e) It has been NEA’s understanding that a campaign of “covert propaganda aimed at stiffening the government and increasing its anti-Tudeh activities” has been in progress for some time. Certainly this course of action should be continued.
4(f) The British paper appears to avoid a fundamental problem in the Iranian situation which, in summary, is that any foreign financial aid to Iran necessarily affects the course of the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute. While the paper admits that Iran “will certainly eventually need external help” it insists “it is essential that there should be complete Anglo-United States solidarity”. If this “solidarity” supports a policy which resists giving “external help”, there is a paradox which should be pointed out in any discussions with the British. It is suggested that the British be asked to explain exactly what they mean in Paragraph 4(f).
There are possible courses of action which are not listed in the British paper, because they could not develop from a position of obvious and absolute Anglo-United States solidarity. Two such courses of action are listed below:[Page 373]
A. Without requiring commitments from Mosadeq regarding a settlement of the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute, the United States could support the Mosadeq Government with substantial financial aid and a program of economic development.
B. The United States Government could take a position that American or other concerns should no longer be discouraged from assisting in the operation of the Iranian oil industry or from purchasing Iranian oil products. This could be based upon a decision that government negotiation has failed to break a deadlock in the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute and free enterprise alone can bring commercial forces to bear upon both parties to the dispute, eventually proving that it is in the interest of both the Iranians and the British to make some arrangements whereby Iranian oil is sold to a large oil company, preferably the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Another possible difficulty in maintaining solidarity could arise out of the fact that there is a quantity of evidence that many British officials believe that Mosadeq is the worst possible Premier Iran could have and that his ability to resist the Tudeh Party is nil. This is in complete contrast to a United States view that the nationalist Mosadeq Government constitutes at least a chance, perhaps the last one, to combat Tudeh rule and that although Mosadeq is admittedly very weak, there is no better alternative presently in sight.
5. Persian-Soviet Relations
5(a) NEA concurs.
5(b) It does not seem to be useful in this fluid and vague situation to reassert “western interest in Persia’s independence”. On the contrary, this does not seem a good time to wring our hands publicly over Iranian developments, a move which would support Iranian vanity and irresponsibility and would not measurably affect Soviet decisions about aggression in Iran. In no circumstances, however, should the United States allow the Soviets to obtain an impression that communist pressure upon Iran would not produce dangerous reactions.
5(c) Since NEA does not believe that Soviet interests in Iran derive primarily from Russian suspicions of “aggressive western influence”, it seems naive to assume that the Russians would lessen their support of the Tudeh if the West showed an inclination also to restrict its interest in Iran. In fact, NEA considers that western withdrawal from Iran would only strengthen Soviet pressures there.
6. Possible Action After the Establishment of a Tudeh Regime
6(a) NEA concurs and adds a qualification that, at present, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom is willing to assume military [Page 374] responsibility for intervention in Iran in the event of communist aggression.4
6(b) It has always been a part of United States planning that in the event of a Tudeh coup, the United States and United Kingdom would respond militarily to a call for help by a legitimate Iranian Government. There is little doubt that the Shah, if extracted from Tehran and preferably Iran, would welcome an opportunity to call for such support and would be only too willing to establish a government-in-exile with a claim to legitimacy. The British paper does not explore this contingency nor the desirability of providing such a framework for action among the southern tribes of Iran. While a tribal rising might not “seriously embarrass” a central Tudeh government, it might prevent the communists from reaching the Persian Gulf and the oil fields.
7. General Conclusion
NEA questions whether there is any validity in the use of the verb “compel” in discussing means of influencing the Iranian Government “to prevent a further expansion of communist influence in Persia”. We know of no practicable way to “compel” the Iranian Government to do anything. Furthermore, it is not entirely certain that the best way to prevent a Tudeh coup is to urge the Iranian Government to take action. The best way in NEA’s view would be to negotiate an oil settlement and the next best would be to provide financial assistance.
8. The arguments against the statements of section 8(a) have been made above and NEA suggests a substitute paragraph:
8(a) “Whether to inform Dr. Mosadeq that we believe his government represents a nationalist bulwark against communism and that without requiring commitments regarding the oil dispute, financial aid will be forthcoming so long as he maintains control of the communists.”
8(b) If the tribes are to be used at all, it is our opinion that it should be done immediately after a Tudeh coup, before the new regime has time to consolidate its power. Otherwise, it is to be expected that the Tudeh will take effective steps to destroy the power of the tribes to resist. “Use” does not necessarily mean an attempt to overthrow the new government; it might merely mean denying certain southern regions to the Tudeh authorities and preserving the tribal organization and fighting potential against attempts to destroy them.[Page 375]
The opening paragraph of the Annex summarizes the main paper and therefore includes the major points which have already been discussed. Sub-paragraph (d) is particularly in question in NEA, although, so far as it relates to liaison and collaboration [less than 1 line not declassified] it would obviously be very difficult to attempt such liaison in the absence of basic agreement on policies.
3. Suggestions for Covert Activity
In general, NEA has no objection to the points raised in this section of the British annex, except that for the reasons stated previously it would seem most unwise to allow “leakage” to reach the Russians indicating that the United States [less than 1 line not declassified] were prepared to “write off Persia”.5 This could easily set in movement events which would far out-weigh the dubious advantage to be gained from the impact of such “leakage” upon Mosadeq’s policies.
4. Since officers of NEA are not fully aware of the type of covert activity presently carried on in Iran, they are not in a position to decide whether any of these activities could be interpreted as “support to elements likely to provoke anarchy”. This is a point we should clarify with CIA.
5. NEA holds the view that the tribes of Iran should be stirred to activity by the United States and the United Kingdom only after a Tudeh coup, but without waiting for a general war, on the ground that if the Tudeh were given time to consolidate it could eliminate the tribes as a factor in the picture.6 Another point which is pertinent to section 5 concerns the United States Consulate at Isfahan where there is no CIA representative, a lack which could be made up if it is found desirable. [5½ lines not declassified]
5(b) Big Bluff
NEA holds considerable reservation regarding the advisability of the “big bluff”, not only for the reasons listed in the British paper but also because planning along this line leads logically to a conclusion that there is a solution to the Iranian problem in dividing Iran territorially between a Russian and a Western camp. This is a particularly dangerous basis for planning in view of both British and American reluctance, if not unwillingness, to accept military responsibility for the area.7[Page 376]
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 888.2553/10–1552. Top Secret; Security Information. Drafted by Stutesman and cleared by Jernegan. Copies were sent to Joyce, Nitze, Bonbright, and Roosevelt. A handwritten note in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum reads: “Comments passed on to Mr. Jernegan, 10/17/52—F.E.W.” All of the handwritten comments on the memorandum are in an unknown hand.↩
- The undated paper and its annex are attached below. It was conveyed to the Department on October 8 by the British Embassy; see Document 134.↩
- See Document 35 and footnote 2 thereto.↩
- In the left margin next to this paragraph is a handwritten question mark.↩
- In the left margin next to this sentence is a handwritten note that reads: “I agree.”↩
- In the left margin next to this sentence is a handwritten note that reads: “Yes.”↩
- In the left margin next to this paragraph is a handwritten note that reads: “Big Bluff should not be played.”↩