5. Paper Prepared in the Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency1


The assassination of Prime Minister Razmara seriously worsens an already grave situation in Iran. Political and economic insecurity combine with chauvinist and fanatical religious emotions to produce an atmosphere extremely favorable to Soviet subversion. Nationalization of the oil industry possibly combined with further assassinations of top Iran officials, including even the Shah, could easily lead to a complete breakdown of the Iran government and social order, from which a pro-Soviet regime might well emerge leaving Iran as a satellite state.

Assuming that we can for the moment discount the likelihood of direct Soviet military intervention, the following developments threaten, unless remedial measures can be promptly taken.

1. Continuation of the present uncertain situation under which Iran faces the threats of chaos and disintegration, with the ever-present danger of anti-US elements gaining control of the government.

2. A serious worsening of the internal situation and further assassinations, including that of the Shah and Prime Minister Ala. Such developments could well result in a complete breakdown of the central government and general disintegration.

3. The actual assumption of control over the central government by pro-Soviet elements and the absorption of Iran into the Soviet orbit as a satellite state. In our opinion, the most effective courses of action in these various contingencies are as follows:

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1. Continuation of the Present Situation.

At this moment it is essential to develop an intensified propaganda campaign (by both overt and covert means) in support of the Shah and Prime Minister Ala. The campaign, which should be country-wide, would obviously include the following: increased support to the papers which would publish stories in support of Ala and the Shah, advocating calmness and restraint in national crisis; appealing to Iranian patriotism and Moslem pride against foreign and anti-religious ideologies; support to political parties and individuals who would work for those same ends, including possibly an attempt, closely coordinated with the State Department, to establish a strong coalition movement enlisting the backing of individual political and religious leaders and parties, elements of the army and if possible of the tribes as well; and assistance in the form of money, personnel and technical aid to the police and security forces in Iran. It should be pointed out that this whole program would have a vastly better chance of success if it could be done in support of a vigorous overt US program to strengthen Iran, including loans, increased military aid, medical and public health programs, and Point Four assistance generally.

The chief danger to the continuity of any pro-Western government—aside from the consequences of failure to make progress with critical financial and economic problems and the disruptive influence of the USSR—lies in the unholy alliance of the Mossadeq2 group with Ayatollah Kashani.3 Their combined efforts work to impede the orderly functioning of the legislative body and to promote a chauvinistic program which is difficult for any cabinet to oppose without being charged with neglecting national interests.

It may be that the new government will have a period of two or three months of grace before it, in turn, is subjected to the destructive criticism of the above alliance. In this period a serious effort should be made to discredit, weaken, and split these groups. How can this be done?

In the case of the Ayatollah Kashani group, by persuading the leading pro-government clerics to take an open stand against the terrorism and inflamatory appeals of the Kashani group as being contrary to the principles of Islam. It is probable that leading clerics do believe this and, in addition, they are likely to be jealous of the popularity and conspicuousness of Kashani.

The individuals to be approached include the following:

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a. [5 lines not declassified]

b. [1½ lines not declassified]

c. [1½ lines not declassified]

d. [2 lines not declassified]

Efforts should also be made to buy off Kashani. It would appear that at heart Kashani is primarily interested in himself rather than being inspired by a crusading zeal, and there have been indications that his attitude toward the US can be influenced by money.

Approach to Kashani should be made through either:

a. [1 line not declassified]

b. [1½ lines not declassified]

An alternative course would be to discredit Kashani by means of printed material. Pamphlets could be clandestinely printed and distributed vehemently attacking Kashani. Two approaches, at least, are possible. One is to praise Kashani in such a way as fully to expose the dangers of his methods. Another is to trade his career, emphasizing the unsavory character of a good deal of it, and then tie him in with the Soviet efforts to undermine the Iranian Government.

Approaches to Dr. Mossadeq and the National Front group are more difficult.

Mossadeq, in spite of his emotional fainting spells, in the Majlis, his long-winded speeches, and his lack of a constructive program, is too widely admired to be the subject of successful attack. The approach should be against his conspicuous followers, to emphasize the idea that they are deceiving and misleading the grand old patriot. Two methods appear possible:

a. Use of clandestine publications to expose the Soviet ties of Hosein Makki, Sayyid Sbol Hazan Haerizadeh, and possibly Ibol Qader Azad.

b. Attempt to split off such of his more stable and reasonable followers as Dr. Mozafar Boghai and Illahyer Saleh by demonstrating the general disorder and anarchy which this group is fostering.

In addition to attacking the direct instigators of the present situation, “black propaganda” weapons should be used. Instructions could be “discovered” directing Tudeh Party members, following the recent success of the “Tudeh plot,” to carry out open revolt. (This might bring a measure of unity to the country and provoke the security forces to take harsh measures against the Tudeh Party.) Leaflets, newspaper articles, forged copies of Mardam (the Tudeh paper) should assign full credit to the Communists for the success of the plot against Razmara. “Instructions” could also be discovered listing the persons slated for liquidation after Tudeh assumption of power. These lists would include important religious and political leaders as well as important tribal chiefs.

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Another approach would be to attempt to split the Tudeh Party, particularly to exploit the deviationist tendencies of which there have already been indications.

2. Serious Deterioration of the Present Situation.

In this contingency immediate approach should be made to both conservation and progressive political parties, groups, and individuals who might be in a position either to regain control of the government or to establish security in limited sections of Iran. These elements include the following:

a. Political Factions.

There are many political groups, few of which can be called parties. All of these should be worked on in an effort to establish a practical coalition. They include, among others, the Majlis factions called Iran and Javan, which appear to be moderately progressive in character. There are also many prominent, intelligent, and influential younger government officials now affiliated with the Iran group. They have the ability to work together and are less inclined to the excessive nationalism of these leaders who tend to go along with the Mossadeq group. A new progressive party, under the leadership of Movvagar, was established about 1 March and appears desirous of US aid.

b. Ranking Army Leaders.

Many of the heads of departments of the Ministry of War and commanders of divisions are definitely pro-US and would welcome any catalyst which would unite their efforts to prevent disintegration of internal security. The names of these officers are known to us.

c. Important Religious Leaders.

These include the individuals mentioned in Section 1 above and also the all-important Shi’a leaders resident at the shrines at Kerbela, Nejaf, and Semarra in Iraq.

d. Tribal Leaders.

These include the following:

(1) [1½ lines not declassified]

(2) [2 lines not declassified]

(3) [1 line not declassified]

(4) [1 line not declassified]

3. Imposition of a Satellite Government.

In this contingency we cannot assume that any political group will be willing to oppose the government openly, nor can any early or effective results be obtained from the encouragement of clandestine political opposition.

The most effective tactic might be to encourage collaboration between Iranian Army divisional commanders and local tribal leaders in [Page 23] setting up military areas of resistance to the authority of the government. Approach would be made to the divisional commanders and to the same tribal leaders already mentioned. In addition, approaches would be made to leaders of the Boer Ahmadi, Lur, Southern Kurds, Khamseh, Kuh Giluyeh, Makran, and tribes of the coastal strip of the Persian Gulf.

Such of these groups as proved amenable could be covertly supplied with money, arms, matériel, food, and possibly personnel.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Top Secret. The paper is undated but is attached to a working draft dated March 13. This is apparently the paper presented to Department of State officials on March 14. See Document 8.
  2. In the margin after “Mossadeq” is handwritten “National Front.”
  3. After the name “Kashani,” a handwritten addition reads: “leader of the fanatical Crusaders for Islam.”