788.13/6–652: Telegram

No. 178
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State1

top secret

4736. 1. During casual conversation which I had with Ala on June 4 he told me that Shah had already requested Mosadeq in view of delicate situation of country to return to Tehran immediately after latter had completed presentation of Iran’s case at Hague (see paragraph 6 Embtel 4609 of May 28) and that Mosadeq was expected arrive in Tehran about June 13. Ala said shortly after Prime Minister’s arrival Majlis and Senate would probably be called upon to give government vote of confidence and Shah was seriously considering advisability of exerting his influence as discreetly as possible to bring about vote lack confidence. Ala therefore would like see me in nearest possible future to discuss further various points reached in our conversation of May 27.

2. I met Ala June 5 his office. Ala said that questions uppermost in mind of Shah and his advisers were:

Would British assume conciliatory attitude towards new government if latter should endeavor in reasonable and friendly way reach quick agreement regarding oil problem?
Even if British should prove conciliatory it might take some time before agreement could be negotiated and funds from oil would be made available to Iranian Government. How could new government finance itself during interim?
If British Government should not be conciliatory and efforts new government to find reasonable and fair solution oil problem should fail what would happen to new government and Iran in view present financial situation? Shah was hesitating in view his lack knowledge as to what Brit or US might do to make move which might result in Mosadeq’s involuntary resignation because he and new govt might find themselves in impossible financial situation with govt bankrupt and no financial relief in sight. Mosadeq and his supporters cld then claim that they had worked out plans for saving country from financial ruin which they had been unable put into effect because with backing of Shah they had been ousted by govt which had no solution to offer. Ala asked if there was any hope whatsoever that US wld be willing assist new Iran Govt financially in case that govt shld take what US wld consider as reasonable attitude re oil problem and shld make honest effort bring about quick solution that problem.

3. I told Ala so many factors involved in hypothetical situation presented by him I cld not give categorical answer. Said I had reason believe however that if present or future govt shld adopt course of action which wld make it clear that Iran itself was doing all that it reasonably cld be expected to do in order to finance itself from its own resources, including oil, US Govt wld do what it cld in circumstances save Iran from collapse. I then outlined to Ala points A, B and C of Deptel 2742 of May 30. In so doing I made it clear that I was merely giving him what I understood to be way in which US Govt was thinking at present time. US Govt was of course not in position to make any commitments re what it might do in situation which might involve unanticipated factors. Ala expressed appreciation and asked if I wld object if he wld pass on to Shah who is at present on Caspian Sea for weeks “rest” what I had told him. I replied in negative and said I would be glad to discuss matter myself with Shah on his return in case latter shld desire me to do so.

4. Reverting to problem of who successor of Mosadeq might be, Ala referred particularly to Hakimi, Qavam and Mansour. He said that there was strong feeling in Senate that situation of country made it necessary for some widely respected personality of broad experience to take over as PriMin and to bring into his cabinet other political leaders also of imposing stature. If, for instance, Hakimi shld come into power he might bring into his cabinet people like Mansour, Rais (former MinFonAff in Razmara cabinet), Djam, etc. I said that I had heard that Qavam was reputed to dislike having imposing figures about him, he was to want only “yes men” in his cabinet. Ala said he thought I had been correctly informed. If Qavam shld become PriMin cab might be made up of comparatively young so-called “technicians” rather than elderly statesmen. Ala said he had noticed me talking with Hakimi on preceding [Page 391] evening and he wondered what kind of impression Hakimi had made. I said that it had been difficult for me to believe that Hakimi was really 82 years old. He seemed to me to have energy and alertness of well-preserved man of 65. Ala said Hakimi was continual surprise to his friends because of his excellent physical condition and mental alertness.

During recent trip of Shah to Shiraz Hakimi had shown more stamina than most younger men in Shah’s party. For first time Ala spoke in rather favorable way of Qavam. He also said Shah had been impressed by Mansour during his recent convs with latter. Altho Mansour had been charged with public dishonesty in his past career these charges had never been proved. Ala asked what my impression had been of Mansour during my various convs with him. I said that I not in position to adequately judge but if Mansour had ability to put into practice what he preached he shld make excellent PriMin. I cld not but wonder however why in his last term as PriMin he had not accomplished what he now said shld be done.…

4. [sic] I asked Ala whether Shah had yet tentatively worked out manner in which change of govt might be effected. Ala said no. Great pressure was being brought to bear on Shah however to decide at once who new PriMin was to be and to permit several of his most trusted advisers know what his decision was so that plans cld be made in advance for selection of new cabinet and so that feelers cld be sent out re solution of oil dispute. Ala said he wld talk to me again within next few days in case any kind of definite decision was made. Altho Shah is apparently seriously toying with idea of making move to get rid of Mosadeq and altho he is beginning to realize that his prestige is suffering because he has permitted sit of country to deteriorate over such long period without intervention, nevertheless he has in past shown himself to be so indecisive and cavilling that we cannot assume in advance that he will not find some excuse for failing to take action.2

5. For last two months supporters Qavam have been trying make arrangements for us to meet. They have made numerous suggestions that I see him at house of some mutual friend. I have refused however to call on him or to meet him in some ostentatious way because it was clear that if I shld do so impression wld be created I was supporting his candidacy. Furthermore I have turned down categorically suggestions that I meet him surreptitiously. Arrangements [Page 392] have finally been made through Turk Amb for Qavam and myself to meet at a dinner arranged at Turk Emb this evening. Other important Iran polit leaders including Ala, Hakimi, Mansour and Rais will also be present. Furthermore Dutch and Belgian Mins have been invited. This is first time in several yrs Qavam has appeared anywhere socially and his supporters are extremely anxious that he will impress his fellow guests with soundness of his mental and physical condition. I doubt that any polit convs can take place at dinner this kind but shall report to Dept re my impressions.3

  1. Transmitted in two sections; repeated to London.
  2. On June 9 the Department informed Henderson of its satisfaction with the manner in which he had handled the delicate matter of selecting a successor to Mosadeq and told him as well that it was still unenthusiastic about the candidates. (Telegram 2810; 788.13/6–652)
  3. In telegram 4812, June 12, Henderson reported that he had dinner with Qavam on June 10 and was favorably impressed with this elder Iranian statesman, especially with regard to his good mental and physical condition and his stated desire to come to an understanding with the British. Henderson reported his findings to Middleton on June 11.

    Henderson also reported that the Shah had returned unexpectedly from his Caspian Sea resort to Tehran; that he (Henderson) had a conversation with Ala to ascertain the reason for the Shah’s return; and that Ala had told him that he, Ala, had again urged the Shah to pick a successor to Mosadeq and to implement plans for Mosadeq’s downfall. Ala also told Henderson he had based his argument for rapid action upon the fact that the country’s financial condition was perilous, and that the Shah should seek a change to avoid blame for a possible catastrophe. (Telegram 4812; 788.13/6–1252)