56. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

1984. Please do not (rpt not) disclose to British.

1. Middleton, British Chargé d’Affaires, talked with me today in extreme confidence re political situation. Said under instructions he was planning to see Shah within next few days in order to point out dangers to Iran from present Communist activities. British first-hand info indicated Communists and fellow-travellers have greatly improved their organization and have penetrated certain Iran civilian agencies and military institutions. British concerned unless these activities are checked, there can develop real danger Communist coup.

2. Turning to political situation Middleton said British Embassy feared if Mosadeq carried out plans for “free elections” result would be elimination from Majlis of moderate elements and packing of Majlis with emotional, ignorant national extremists and groups willing to look to Russia for leadership. Elections would probably come within ten days and unless in interim something could be done to replace Mosadeq, it would be extremely difficult if not (rpt not) impossible to bring about reasonable government in foreseeable future. Future for Iran under present auspices looks so dark he thought he should take advantage his coming conversation with Shah in order point out gravity situation and suggest time had come for Shah take action to have Mosadeq replaced. He intended to send at once telegram to Eden requesting authority to take such step but before doing so would like to ascertain what US attitude wld be. He thought Shah might hesitate to take necessary action unless convinced that both UK and US believed it should be done. Would I be willing support suggestions made by him to Shah for effecting change in government?

3. In response my inquiries Middleton said although British not (rpt not) enthusiastic about Qavam, they still thought latter with his political experience and well-organized following would have better chance of replacing Mosadeq than any other political leader. He did not (rpt not) believe Qavam serious in demanding his passport to leave country. In his opinion Qavam was merely trying to force Shah to make decision whether or not (rpt not) to give him support.

4. I told Middleton by no (rpt no) means sure it would be in our joint interest for US at this juncture join UK in pressing Shah to take [Page 161] steps to effect change of govt. If we both brought pressure on Shah and change was successfully effected, National Front opposition to new government would probably be both anti-American and anti-British. It might be able in cooperation with Communist sympathizers to block efforts our military and civilian aid missions to accomplish their purposes and might even make it difficult for such missions remain in country. It might also succeed in stirring up even more anti-Western sentiment than now exists. If under pressure from us Shah should make attempt and should fail, Crown as stabilizing element might be eliminated from Iran public life and National Front government would be just as bitter against Americans as British and any moderating influence we might have now would be destroyed. I also was not (rpt not) happy at idea of throwing support to Qavam, whose past record created certain doubts as to what he might do when once in power.

5. Middleton said idea was not (rpt not) to suggest to Shah that he exceed his constitutional powers. It was rather suggest to him that he inform Hekmat, Pres of Majlis privately that he thought time had come for Mosadeq to go and that if Hekmat cld obtain petition addressed to him signed by majority members Majlis asking that Mosadeq be replaced he wld take appropriate steps immed. Middleton said he thought there was good chance that Hekmat cld obtain requisite number of signatures if he cld tell members Majlis whom he approached Shah wld be willing to act. Middleton said perhaps it wld be possible persuade Hekmat rather than Qavam to try organize govt. I said I certainly thought that Hekmat from point of view world opinion wld be better replacement for Mosadeq than Qavam. I did not (rpt not) know, however, whether Hekmat wld be willing to undertake such difficult task or whether he cld, on such short notice, set up kind of organization necessary effectively to govern country in face of opposition which he wld be sure to encounter. Middleton said he also did not (rpt not) know whether Hekmat wld be willing and ready to undertake to head govt, that was matter which cld be settled between Shah and Hekmat. What Middleton wld like to know, however, was whether if Brit wld undertake to persuade Shah to effect change of govt Americans wld go along or at least not (rpt not) oppose.

6. I said my tentative position was somewhat as fols: “If Brit shld make suggestion to Shah along lines suggested and Shah or Ala wld ask my opinion in matter I wld not (rpt not) wet-blanket idea, neither wld I urge Shah to take such action. In talking over matter with Ala I might remind him of our conversation of some weeks ago during which he told me the Shah had decided that if Mosadeq after returning Iran shld refuse to change his advisers and policies and shld insist on new elections under his auspices, Shah wld feel that no (rpt no) matter what consequences might be he must take steps to remove Mosadeq [Page 162] before latter cld lead country to ruin. I might after reminding Ala this conversation ask him whether in his opinion time had come for him to make decision of this character”. I told Middleton that, of course, my tentative position might be altered by instructions which I might receive from my govt or in light subsequent events. I cld not (rpt not) bind myself.

7. I wld be grateful if Dept wld inform me whether it approves my reply to Middleton. Present position here extremely critical. On one hand there is undoubtedly great danger that “free elections” under Mosadeq might result in Majlis dominated by irresponsible elements. On other hand for US, while maintaining outwardly friendly relations with Mosadeq, covertly to bring pressure for his overthrow, wld place it in invidious position regardless whether or not (rpt not) Mosadeq’s overthrow was effected. It wld not (rpt not) add to US reputation for us to play double-faced role in Iran. If we think that Mosadeq’s policies are so dangerous that we must work against him we shld let him know what we think before taking action. It seems to me, particularly in view statements made to me yesterday by Ala (Embtel 1983, Nov 28),2 Shah not (rpt not) likely relish idea attempting replace Mosadeq so soon after latter’s return as natl hero and while latter is probably more popular with masses than any polit figure in many years.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/11–2851. Top Secret; Security Information; Priority. Repeated to London. Received at 3:02 p.m.
  2. In telegram 1983 from Tehran, November 28, Henderson reported Ala’s appraisal that Mosadeq was now displaying considerable political skills. The efforts of the Queen Mother to intrigue with Ahmad Qavam, in Ala’s estimation, were likely to backfire. The Shah had directed Ala to speak to Mosadeq, “who repeated anti-Brit line as entire justification his policies of intransigence re oil solution . . . Further, Primin expressed opinion US would give budgetary aid rather than see Iran go communist, since if economic chaos came to Iran there would be no chance for pro-Brit govt and communism would result.” (Ibid., RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 29)