134. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Jernegan) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)1


  • Discussion of British Paper on “The Communist Danger in Persia”2

The first discussion with the British Embassy of the paper which they handed in on October 8 was held yesterday. Those participating on the British side were Mr. Burrows, Mr. Adam Watson, and Mr. Ronald Bailey. The Americans were Mr. Kermit Roosevelt and [name not declassified] of CIA, Mr. Beale of BNA, Mr. Lampton Berry of S/P, Mr. Richards of GTI and myself.

Mr. Burrows provided a certain amount of background as to the British thinking behind the paper, which did not however do very much to fill out the bare bones of the document itself. The main points brought out in the course of the discussion may be summarized as follows:

1. The paper is to be regarded merely as a tentative compilation of thoughts and suggestions and not as an approved statement by the Foreign Office.

2. It seemed apparent that, at least so far as the British Embassy here is aware, the paper does not represent a first step toward revision of British policy toward Iran. So far as we could determine, all of the suggestions in the document must be read within the context of the existing British attitude toward the oil problem.

3. The suggestion in Paragraph 4(f) of the British paper that Mosadeq should be influenced by economic pressure through “negotiating an oil settlement” and “arranging financial assistance” merely means, according to Burrows, that if and when a settlement is negotiated or financial assistance is extended, conditions should be attached to require the Iranian Government to take suitable anti-communist measures. Burrows does not believe the Foreign Office is in fact considering the extension of financial assistance to Iran under any circumstances. He suggests that this item was included in the paper merely in order to list all possibilities, and he reminded us that for the past year [Page 380] the Department has had in mind the possibility that we might be forced to give financial aid to Iran even if an oil settlement were not reached. Since this possibility existed in the American mind, the Foreign Office had thought it well to mention it. (I confess I do not find this explanation very satisfying but I suppose we must accept it in view of the fact that Burrows could give no other.)

I commented that it seemed unrealistic to suggest that conditions regarding anti-communist moves should be attached to the negotiation of an oil settlement when it had so far been impossible to arrive at a settlement even without attaching conditions. After some discussion, however, both the British and we ourselves agreed that if he achieved a satisfactory oil settlement Dr. Mosadeq might be disposed to move against the Tudeh of his own volition, since he would be relieved of the Western pressure and would no longer need to be so cautious about antagonizing the Russians and their stooges. He would also no longer need the Tudeh as a “bogie” with which to scare the Western Powers.

4. There was some discussion of the British emphasis on “absolute Anglo-United States solidarity”. It appeared from what Burrows said that this meant in their minds just what it said. We did not belabor the point but I suggested there might be tactical advantages in maintaining at least the appearance of independent action in certain cases. No attempt was made, however, to arrive at a definition of the degree of solidarity which would be desirable. This is a point which I think should have further attention in the Department if we are to avoid (a) upsetting the British by rejecting their appeal for solidarity, or (b) tying ourselves hand and foot by agreement to a document which speaks of “absolute” or “monolithic” solidarity.

5. We stated our opposition to the ideas of (a) “neutralizing” Iran, (b) making a new statement of our interest in Iran’s independence, and (c) causing the Russians to believe that a Tudeh coup would be the signal for a British counter-coup in the south (the “big bluff”). I gathered that the British representatives were disposed to agree with us on all three points, although Burrows seemed attracted by the idea of neutralizing Iran. On this particular point I took the line that we would probably be very happy to see Iran neutralized, including the withdrawal of American aid missions, if it could be done but that we did not think it was feasible. We thought the Russians would simply seize the opportunity to step in and grab Iran for themselves. We also feared that neutralization, if successful, would encourage other Near Eastern and South Asian states to adopt a neutral position and, if unsuccessful, would be regarded as a betrayal of Iran and discourage other countries from standing firm against the Russians.

6. With regard to the suggestions of military intervention or tribal revolt after a Tudeh coup, we advanced the idea that such measures [Page 381] would be politically more feasible if there were a legitimate Iranian authority, some remnant of the former legal government, which would ask our assistance and call on the tribes to defend it. We also suggested the tribes should be encouraged and assisted to maintain control of their own territory against the assumed Tudeh central government as soon as such a government came into power, since otherwise the government would probably take steps to destroy their ability to resist and their future usefulness to us in the event of a general war would be destroyed. We emphasized that we did not at any time advocate aggressive action by the tribes, as they did not have the military capability to operate outside their own territory.

7. We also emphasized that we did not favor any movement by the tribes prior to the coming into power of a Tudeh government. Such a movement we argued would give the communists a good excuse to stage a coup and would risk the loss of all of Iran in return for the very uncertain prospect of holding only a portion of it.

8. The British put forward very strongly the view that the greatest danger of a communist take-over in Iran does not arise out of the country’s bad financial situation but rather Dr. Mosadeq’s unwillingness to take measures to check the growth of communist strength. Burrows argued that there are many things within the power of the Government to do which do not depend on money and which are simply not being done. Our objective, they said, should be to induce Mosadeq to take these measures, utilizing whatever means of persuasion or pressure we can find. On the American side, we agreed that money alone would not be the solution to the Iranian problem and that we should in fact do everything possible to create a more positive anti-communist attitude in the Iranian Government. However, we did think that finances have a very important effect on the situation. We pointed out that if the army were not paid it would in time disintegrate and thus destroy the last concrete barrier against the Tudeh.

Burrows said he would like to report our observations to London and get the Foreign Office reaction. [2 lines not declassified] It was agreed that in the meantime the Department would try to put down on paper some of its views on the more important points and to draft new paragraphs for insertion in the British paper, as a step toward a sort of “agreed text”. No time was set for the next meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 888.2553/10–2352. Top Secret; Security Information. Drafted by Jernegan. Copies were sent to Richards, Beale, Berry, and Roosevelt.
  2. Attached to Document 133.