194. Briefing Notes Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency for Director of Central Intelligence Dulles 1


The failure of the Iranian Parliament to meet during the past week again underscores Prime Minister Mossadeq’s current political weakness.2 A report sponsored by the Prime Minister, aimed at further reducing the Shah’s powers, has been before parliament for the last month. Mossadeq’s supporters, however, have been unable to secure the necessary quorum to act on it.

Eight opposition deputies have left Tehran and thus have blocked all efforts to convene a quorum. Mossadeq reportedly asked the Shah to dismiss parliament, but the latter refused.3

Mossadeq’s extensive but disunited opposition is also in a weak position, mainly because of the Shah’s unwillingness to take any initiative. General Zahedi and other leading political figures who have been plotting against Mossadeq have, according to late reports, postponed plans for a coup, awaiting a more propitious time.4 Mullah Kashani, president of parliament, a long-time critic of Mossadeq, has moved cautiously in the present situation. Opposition elements to Mossadeq in the army are apparently not well coordinated with his political opponents.

Mossadeq controls the Army Chief of Staff and he has a large popular following which the Communist Tudeh party has temporarily joined.5 While he has not been able to secure parliament’s cooperation [Page 547] in recent days, Mossadeq has a compact bloc of parliamentary votes, which can, in turn, prevent effective action against him by his parliamentary opposition. Since neither the Prime Minister nor his opponents appear at present strong enough to win decisive control, the situation is deadlocked for the moment.

The rioting on the 15th and 16th in Shiraz, in the southwest, which threatened the lives of American Point IV personnel was apparently caused by Communist exploitation of demonstrations by rival factions.

Current Tehran cables reflect high tension and suggest that the situation is building up to a climax which could result in a breakdown of public order as antagonistic groups struggle for power.6

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80R01443R, Box 1, Folder 14, NSC Briefing 22 Apr 53. Secret; Security Information. Prepared for DCI Dulles for his briefing of the NSC on April 22. The official minutes of the April 22 NSC meeting record that DCI Dulles gave an oral briefing on Iran and that the NSC noted the March 20 Progress Report on NSC 136/1 and directed that “all outstanding copies of this Progress Report be recalled by the Executive Secretary.” (National Archives, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Minutes 1947–1961, Box 26, 140th Meeting) The Progress Report is Document 180. The memorandum of discussion at the NSC meeting of April 22, drafted by Gleason, notes that “Mr. Dulles spoke briefly about the situation in Iran. He noted a further decline in both the prestige of the Shah and the power of Mossadegh. He described the situation as one of perpetual crisis, but predicted no dramatic turn of events within the next several weeks.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Series, Box 4, 140th Meeting of the National Security Council)
  2. This sentence is underlined by Dulles.
  3. This paragraph is underlined by Dulles.
  4. Most of this sentence is underlined by Dulles.
  5. Most of this sentence is underlined by Dulles.
  6. Most of the last two paragraphs are underlined by Dulles. Henderson reported on the attacks on the Point IV office in Shiraz in telegram 4085 from Tehran, April 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/4–1853)