788.5 MSP/12–1451: Telegram

No. 136
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State

top secret

2199. 1. Have just spent more than 2½ hours frustrating and depressing conv with Mosadeq, most of which devoted to subj exchange ltrs re aid. Embtels 2118, December 9 and 2193 of December 14.1

Conv was at times tense, at times lightened by humorous or semi-humorous comments. There were of course considerable Mosadeqian repetition, backtracking, and evasiveness. Net result was complete failure my part persuade him agree to exchange ltrs. He expressed willingness however, if I shld insist, to submit my ltr as it stands or amended to Majlis which he was sure wld be hostile to suggested exchange. Majlis cld then direct him as to answer.

2. I explained to him that members Cong had insisted on incorp Sec 511a in act, in order to satisfy their constituents that expenditure of US tax payers money authorized in act wld be in interest internatl peace and security. This sec provided that US must have certain assurances from countries receiving aid of character contemplated for Iran, in order to be able to continue such aid after January 7, 1952. I said my primary purpose in seeing him today was to endeavor arrange exchange ltrs which wld furnish US with required assurances. In my opinion giving of these assurances by Iran wld not constitute any departure Iran’s internal or fon policies but wld merely rep confirmation of policies already being pursued by Iran. I thereupon handed Mosadeq suggested drafts of ltrs and Persian translations. After carefully reading two ltrs he said Iran cld not possibly agree to them since their exchange wld rep treaty alliance. In any event exchange of this kind must go to Majlis. Endeavor persuade Majlis to agree to such exchange wld be sure to result in destruction such popularity as US still enjoyed in Iran. Majlis wld never consent to promise for any amount of money [Page 292] that Iran wld join US in case of war between US and countries behind Iron Curtain.

3. I did my utmost persuade Mosadeq that no alliance was suggested; that exchange this kind cld be effected without depriving Iran its freedom action in time either war or peace; that by agreeing to such exchange Iran would not be committing itself any further than it had already done when it signed Charter UN. After arguing over my letter point by point, Mosadeq finally concentrated his opposition upon phrase “defensive strength of the free world”. He said “free world” had become term which was universally understood to mean those countries not belonging to Sov bloc. This meaning was accepted in Iran and would be accepted by Majlis. There could be no interpretation this point other than that Iran was agreeing to join with other nations of “free world” in its def against Sov Union. He said note would be less obnoxious if this whole phrase could be deleted. I said I feared deletion this kind would result in assurances which would not meet requirements of Cong. It seemed to me Cong expected countries receiving assist to indicate their support of policies of internatl coop in interest world security. I might suggest to my govt that we substitute phrase “and to the support of the principles contained in the Charter of the UN” for the phrase to which he objected. I did not know, however, whether my govt cld accept such a change. Mosadeq replied that such change would still be objectionable to Majlis; nevertheless, it would not give rise to so much opposition as phrase contained in law.

4. Mosadeq said that altho US was seeking commitment from Iran it was not committing itself. He suggested that my letter should contain definite promise that US wld give Iran $23 mil for econ develop, in return for assurances required. He cld then reply that Iran in return for $23 mil would be willing to give $23 mil worth of the kind of assurances required. At this point I began to assemble my papers to depart. I said that if he talked to me in this vein it was useless for us to pursue subj further. I could not understand how even in joking he could suggest that Iran for value recd would be willing contribute $23 mil worth of support to efforts to promote world peace and to strengthen internatl security at time when US by only one act was authorizing expenditure more than $5 billion for this purpose. Mosadeq made several soothing remarks. He said he would like to know precisely what US really desired from Iran. I answered US merely desired that Iran should take such steps as might be nec in order preserve its pol independence and territorial integrity. US really believed, and this belief was strengthened by remarks made at various times by Mosadeq himself, that without US aid it would be difficult for Iran to maintain [Page 293] its independence and integrity. As it desired to give aid Iran, Cong had laid down certain conditions for extension this aid which it did not seem to my government should be difficult for Iran to meet. The US desired from Iran just now assurances which wld enable it to help Iran.

5. Mosadeq then suggested I write him a ltr stating that US was prepared to spend $23 mil for econ development Iran provided Iran was determined to maintain its pol independence and territorial integrity. He wld write a reply thanking US for its generosity and stating that Iran determined defend its independence and integrity. It would not be nec he said for such exchange to go to Majlis and our aid missions cld continue to function. I replied that while such an exchange wld be most pleasant and agreeable it wld not meet requirements of act.

6. Mosadeq told me as friend of US he wished to impress upon me and upon my govt that it wld be grave mistake to ask Iran for assurances of the character outlined in my ltr. At least three grps Majlis wld oppose giving of these assurances:

Grps under Brit influence who were opposed to US playing active role in Iran.
Grps under Sov influence; and
Iran patriots who did not wish their country to become attached chariot any great power.

It wld be better for US to sTop sending aid than to ask for assurances of such a character since request for these assurances wld merely result it arousing resentment and aid wld be stopped anyway. I asked Mosadeq if in case he shld make request for the nec assurances he wld present matter in favorable light to Majlis. He said he cld not support our request. I said my govt not accustomed request any PriMin to submit to his Parliament for approval an exchange of documents with US which he himself did not approve. If Mosadeq objected to giving nec assurances he cld refuse to do so at once and matter need not go to Majlis. Mosadeq said he wld not take personal resp of refusing to give such assurances. He wld prefer to place resp on shoulders of Majlis. It might be better submit matter to members Fon Affs Comits Majlis and Senate. These committees if they desired cld take resp for refusing to give assurances and matter wld not therefore become subj debate on floor Parliament.

8.2 I said I did not see how my govt at this stage cld cease giving aid to Iran without offering its own public and world public explanation. Only honest explanation wld be that Iran unwilling to give [Page 294] assurances required in law. I wld however refer matter again to my govt for purpose of ascertaining whether certain alterations might be made in draft my ltr which might make it more acceptable to Majlis. In view explicit provs law I did not think much cld be done. In response my ques, Mosadeq said he wld prefer that I not submit to him suggested draft of his reply. Majlis shld suggest kind of reply which shld be made.

5. Mosadeq asked me whether Irans refusal to give required assurances wld also result withdrawal ARMISH. I replied that I did not believe withdrawal of ARMISH wld automatically follow but I thought that work ARMISH wld be much less effective if Iran wld no longer be able receive arms under act. Mosadeq said Iran in any event was paying for all arms it recd and he cld not understand how its right to purchase arms wld be affected by refusal to give assurances. I said my understanding was that Iran was also receiving certain amt arms as grant. He said if this was so, he was being deceived by Min War, which had insisted that Iran was paying for all arms it recd. He said he wld look into this matter further since he desired no arms as gifts.

6. I asked Mosadeq if in his opinion it wld be nec for approval by Majlis of exchange ltrs prolonging present ARMISH agrmt. He said there cld be no such exchange since there had been no valid agrmt. Original agrmt never ratified by Majlis and was not therefore valid. Any exchange between two govts relating retention ARMISH must go before Majlis. No such exchange nec, however, since ARMISH cld carry on day by day as it had in past without any valid agreement. I said such arrangement wld not be satis my govt. Original agrmt had been registered with UN, as had extensions. Unless another extension or a new agrmt shld be registered charges might be made that mission was in country illegally. Furthermore, mission was already incurring increasing difficulties with customs officials who claimed that it had no right to customs privileges. Mosadeq said this latter detail cld be arranged. Govt from its budget cld reimburse mission for funds expended by it for customs duties.

7. Referring to cessation aid, Mosadeq said he never expected much from Point IV programs anyway. He said he had told McGhee Point IV like Iran tarantula, which everyone said wld bite but never had been known to bite. I said I had examined carefully Point IV prog for 52 and was convinced it had teeth and cld bite if given chance. I emphasized that decisions which were being made during our conv were extremely serious. They might result in life or death for Iran. They meant also much to my own govt and to world peace. I had heard his various remarks with heavy heart because for many years I had been friend of Iran and had undergone [Page 295] much strain and anxiety in connection with efforts to prevent Iranian people from falling under domination of most repressive and ruthless regime known in modern times. Mosadeq said he also regretted sitn which had developed. It seemed to him US had decided to give Iran aid and then under sinister influence, which cld be none other than Brit, had laid down conditions which it must have been clear Iran cld not accept. I told Mosadeq I wld submit our conv to Wash immed and give him reply as soon as possible. Matter was extremely urgent since we had only 3 more weeks before January 7.

  1. Telegram 2118 transmitted suggested texts of exchange letters concerning Section 511 assurances, while telegram 2193 reported certain changes in the suggested texts. (788.5 MSP/12–951 and 12–1451)
  2. This and the following paragraphs are numbered as in the source text.