788.00/2–2852: Telegram

No. 164
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1


733. Supplementing Embtels 685 and 690 Feb 17,2 Emb has made fol appraisal strength Natl Front.

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In chronically disordered Iran polit sitn, group of ambitious politicians exploiting appeal of nationalism, organized Natl Front around wily old master, Dr. Mosadeq, and rode oil nationalization issue to power. Resultant govt unique in Iran politics, since it bases its popular appeal upon polit principle of nationalism. Natl Front also typifies local tradition of clique united by mutual self-interest.

At same time there are disruptive forces at work within Natl Front which since Mosadeq assumed power have twice threatened unity largely thru personal dissensions. First rift caused by disputes over division of spoils and influence after coalition became govt. Majlis deputy Azad broke with front on this. Maki and Kashani, as well as Iran Party Group in front, showed their dissatisfaction thru maneuvers at time. Said no open Natl Front dissension came during Mosadeq trip to US in autumn 1951. Maki was irritated not being member Mosadeq Party on trip, and he and Haerizadeh publicly criticized several PriMin’s intimates, calling them Brit agents. Kashani was also rumored to have joined anti–Mosadeq intrigues. These signs of questioning Mosadeq leadership encourage Majlis opposition. Mosadeq’s masterly parliamentary and polit strategy on return routed opponents and seemingly again solidified position.

Currently there is talk of dissension among Mosadeq, Maki and Kashani. This is believed to stem from increase in popular dissatisfaction with govt arising primarily from deteriorating finan sitn but is also connected with efforts Kashani faction to secure disproportionate govt support for its candidates in elections.

Given element of individualism, which is traditional disruptive force in Iran politics, it seems apparent that Natl Front coalition is unstable and shld not be expected to endure indefinitely. However, we believe coalition can survive internal frictions and rivalries so long as Mosadeq, Maki, and Kashani, three outstanding personalities in govt, continue their association. At this juncture there appears no convincing evidence that coalition, which serves mutual self-interest these leaders so well, may be upset thru open detection by any one of them. It wld appear that now it is not to advantage of anyone of three openly to break with his colleagues.

Three factors or developments, singly or in combination, aside from internal personal rivalries, might eventually cause coalition breakdown. These are:

Loss of hope securing sizeable oil revenues or fon budgetary aid.
Continued finan deterioration.
Domestic polit action sparked by Shah.

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We doubt whether continuance oil negots with IBRD will produce Natl Front schism, especially since Joint Oil Comm, including Senators, intervened and have assumed partial responsibility for this intervention. Natl Front may be in for serious trouble, however, if it becomes clear to public that there is no real hope of settling oil impasse thru IBRD or other internatl proposed solution, or of selling oil in large quantities. PriMin may be expected conceal fact so long as possible, if this shld develop. As last resort he may make certain number private oil sales, while suggesting he may make more, to keep alive impression Iran can withstand stalemate in oil negots. This, similarly, might for time longer forestall difficulties within Natl Front between extremists who wld oppose any reasonable provisional or permanent oil arrangement, and moderates pressing Mosadeq be realistic and accept proposals which, though perhaps not all Iran desires, wld revive sizeable oil industry.
While there is insidious disintegration throughout Iran in various social and polit fields as result deterioration finan sit, there is still imponderable factor of improvisation and extraordinary measures which govt may be able to take to permit continued payment state salaries. All govt finan resources will reportedly be expended by Noruz (Mar 21). However it is not inconceivable govt wld resort to stop-gap measures, such as nibbling at gold coined currency, securing cash advances from possible private oil sales (mentioned in (1) above), and further tapping pension and other special funds. Such measures might be sufficient to continue salary payments for addl month or two. Hence, imminent break-down state administration because lack funds pay salaries might not have to be faced by Natl Front leaders.
Shah will not willingly change from habitual vacillation or drop his policy of awaiting play other forces which might painlessly dispose Mosadeq Govt without his intervention. Senate, also, which is talked of as presently possible means of overthrowing Mosadeq constitutionally, not likely to move except most reluctantly and after strongest prodding. Senate may hesitate until it receives clear indication from Shah of his full and open support before it wld vote nonconfidence in govt. Forces working for success this move in near future appear indecisive.

Natl Front position weaker than 2 months ago we had thought it wld be. However, survey of factors and developments above described induce conclusion for near future, say 2 months, dissolution Natl Front Govt improbably. We believe govt may continue for this period even though it may become apparent there will be no early [Page 364] resumption substantial oil revenues and no budgetary aid from abroad.

  1. Transmitted in two sections; repeated to the Department as telegram 3284, which is the source text.
  2. In these two telegrams, repeated to the Department as 3135 and 3140, respectively, the Embassy in Tehran outlined possible courses of future action open to Mosadeq if the International Bank approach to the oil controversy failed. (788.00/2–1752)