316. Despatch From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

No. 154


  • Attitude of Qashqai Tribes Toward the Zahedi Government

There are transmitted herewith several items reflecting upon the attitude of the Qashqai tribes toward the Zahedi Government (see list on page 3).2

As was to be expected, the Qashqai tribes were greatly alarmed by the change in administration occurring on August 19, fearing that it portended activity against them by the Central Government and by the Shah in particular. Principally through the leadership of Khosro Qashqai, a member of the National Movement Faction in the 17th Majlis, the tribes thoroughly allied themselves with the Mosadeq Government and on repeated occasions indicated to American officials in Iran that they would resist with force any change in administration unless they were assured in advance of a benevolent attitude on the part of the successor government.

In keeping with previous events, on August 19 tribesmen disarmed the Gendarmérie garrison of some 20 men at Semiron, summer seat of the tribes, but restored them to their former duties several days [Page 762] later when it appeared no untoward actions against the tribes were forthcoming from Tehran. Khosro Khan, who had personally led an anti-Shah mob through the streets of Shiraz on August 16, was back in Tehran by August 19 but beat a hasty retreat that day to Fars Ostand when it became apparent the Mosadeq Government was falling. Meanwhile, Nasr Khan who had already sought to impose the role of intermediary between the tribes and the American Government upon Mr. Elmer C. Bryant, Regional Director at Shiraz of Technical Cooperation for Iran, got in touch with Mr. Bryant through Dr. Bahman Bege. Initially his intentions were ostensibly to acquaint the American Government with the alarm the tribes felt, but in reality he doubtless wished to solicit American moral if not material support as well as to sound out the intentions of the new administration in Tehran. The tribes began immediately preparations for the southward migration, some 30 days earlier than customary, in order to place as much distance between them and Tehran as possible and to take up secure winter positions in the shortest period of time. Mr. Bryant relates his several conversations with Dr. Bahman Bege in a memorandum of August 24, 1953 (see enclosure no. 1).

As a consequence of these conversations and of the local situation, Mr. Bryant decided to come to Tehran, making the trip by car on August 23. The Embassy’s telegram to the Department (no. 484 of August 26, repeated London as no. 140)3 relates the oral message he brought from the Qashqai chieftains, the Ambassador’s conversation with the Shah and the oral messages given to Mr. Bryant to be conveyed to the chieftains from the Shah and the Ambassador. As yet no report has been received from Mr. Bryant concerning any further conversations he may have had with the Qashqais. Under date of August 30, however, he forwarded a memorandum (enclosure no. 2) on “Current Activities of the Qashqais and Associated Tribes,” in which he indicates he had not yet been in direct touch with the Qashqais as the chieftains, who apparently desired to meet jointly with him, were still separated over a wide area and would not receive any communication through an intermediary.

The Qashqai chieftains have, of course, maintained other, more conventional channels with Tehran. Their mother has remained in the capital since before the events of August 19 and is known to have counseled them recently more than once not to take any precipitant action. Habib Qashqai has made a number of trips to the South since the fall of the Mosadeq Government. Moreover, Ali Hayat, who became Governor General at Shiraz following August 19, but recently resigned that post in order to accept appointment as President of the Supreme Court, [Page 763] has been in direct touch with the tribes and states that “since there is still some unfinished work to be done (he is going back to Fars temporarily) as the Government’s special representative” (see enclosure no. 4).4 He has stated that the tribes have given solemn assurances they will not disturb the peace, and that for its part the Government has assured the chieftains may safely visit Tehran in order to pay their respects to the Shah.

As of present writing, it seems apparent that the Qashqai chieftains do not in fact intend to resort to a state of insurrection against the Central Government unless they are subjected to punitive action, but that they intend to take precautionary measures against such an eventuality. Meanwhile they have talked “loudly” and made numerous threats, partly as a result of the initial shock felt by the turn of events on August 19, partly to check any untoward moves by the Tehran authorities, and partly to save face with their own tribesmen. The Zahedi Government as well as the Shah, on the other hand, gives every indication of wishing, for the present at least, to relax tensions between them and the Qashqais, and to restore amicable relations.5

For the Ambassador:
Roy M. Melbourne First Secretary of Embassy
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/9–1153. Secret; Security Information. Drafted by Gannett. Received September 18. Sent by pouch to Isfahan and London.
  2. The list of enclosures on page 3 is not printed. None of the enclosures is printed.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 321.
  4. Enclosure no. 4 is a report from the newspaper Kayhan, September 9, on the appointment of Ali Hayat, former Governor-General of Fars Province, to the Presidency of the Supreme Court. In his former capacity as Governor-General, Hayat commented on the tense, although improving, relationship between the government and the Qashqai.
  5. Enclosures no. 3 and 5 are not commented upon in the despatch. Enclosure no. 3 reproduces a warning issued on August 21, in which Brigadier Davalu referred to rumors that Mohamed Nasr Qashqai wished to incite a rebellion in the Semiron area. Davalu warned: “If these publications were really signed by Mr. Mohamed Nasr Qashqai, he, as well as Messrs. Mohamed Hosein and Khosro, is hereby notified to confess that he has been wrong, come immediately to Isfahan, and ask to be forgiven and be sure that he will definitely be secure. Failing to do so, they and the small number of people who, contrary to their religious and national duties, should make troubles for the people or the guards at the Gendarmérie outposts, etc., will promptly and mercilessly be wiped out by air and land.” Enclosure no. 5 is a report from Asia Javan, September 9, that listed four conditions rumored to have been put to Hayat by the Qashqai, but which Hayat denied. The conditions read: “1. Release of Dr. Mosadeq and the leaders of the National Movement; 2. Freedom for political parties; 3. Continuation of the national struggle; 4. Continued severance of relations with Britain.”