888.2553/8–2552: Telegram

No. 208
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State1

top secret

843. Eyes only Secy and Byroade. No other distribution.

I saw Mosadeq today noon at his request. His health was much improved although he still looked unusually frail.
He told me he had sent for me because situation continued deteriorating so rapidly that unless foreign financial assistance should become immediately available, he must take radical measures. Among these measures would be dropping from payroll tens of thousands civilian employees; sharp reduction of armed forces, et cetera. These measures would, of course, create intense dissatisfaction. [Page 459] New malcontents added to opposition already existing would make position of Iran Government difficult. In such situation his government could afford to take no risks. He had heard that in certain influential British circles, it was being said that there was plenty of time to deal with Iran problems; that Iran could go on for months without financial aid of any kind; and that anyone who insisted that Iran-British differences must be settled quickly was simply not acquainted with Iran and its problems. He was convinced that Britishers who advocated leisurely approach really hoped, and were working, for some kind of coup d’état, including tribal uprisings and Tudeh outbreaks which might throw country into confusion, which might bring downfall present government and which might even result in eventual partition of Iran. He therefore intended if he did not receive by August 27 reply from UK which would change atmosphere and promise bring economic relief to country, to dispatch note to British Government severing diplomatic relations. He would follow up this action by going personally to US in autumn for purpose bringing to attention of Security Council or General Assembly or to both.
I told Mosadeq now was no time for him or his govt to engage in talk re severance of diplomatic relations with UK. Act this kind wld harm Iran more than it wld any other country. I cld not believe that he had considered all consequences which might flow from such action. We were at present in small boat drifting in very rough seas. Any person or govt who rocked that boat might be responsible for catastrophe of wide dimensions. I myself thought I cld see rift in clouds which might promise better weather ahead. If there was ever time when patience was required that time was now. If he had any confidence whatsoever in my desire to be of assistance to Iran he wld take my advice and refrain from precipitous action just now. PriMin asked if he was to understand from what I had said that there might be reply from Brit in few days which wld result in relief of situation of Iran. I said I really hoped that there wld be reply which cld bring about complete change in present atmosphere. He said, “Will Brit give us money? Money is what we need”. I said I cld not undertake speak for Brit. I did not know what wld be their reply but I hoped that it wld result in changing Iran situation and that following it Iran wld be in position receive sufficient finan assistance to enable it to meet its present immediate financial crisis. Prime Minister should understand I was making no promises and I was not in position to make any promises. I was merely stating my hope, for which I thought there was some foundation, that if he would only exercise patience brighter days might be ahead.
Prime Minister said in view of what I had told him he wld proceed with drafting of note but would not deliver it until Aug 30. Iran situation could not remain as it was beyond that date. He would show me note before sending it if I desired. I said I had no particular wish see note but would like his word that he would not send any message this kind until after he had spoken with me again. This he agreed to do.
I asked Prime Minister if he would have objection if I should inform US Government of our conversation. He replied in negative. He said he would like for US Government to know what he was planning. I said that it might be extremely unfortunate if British Government should obtain idea that by his statements to me he was indirectly sending it ultimatum. British Govt did not relish ultimata and if it should believe that he was trying to threaten it, effect on British attitude re Iran which at present in my opinion was conciliatory might undergo change. Prime Minister said he did not intend to issue ultimatum either directly or indirectly to British Govt. He was telling me about his plans and his intentions merely because he had understood from press that US and Brit Govt had been having conversations re Iran and he did not wish to take such decisive measures as severance of relations without, as matter courtesy, informing US Government in advance.
From my experience with Mosadeq I am inclined to believe he really means to do what he told me he would do. Developments between now and August 30 might cause him not to carry out his intentions even if no British reply is recd by Aug 30. Regardless of what Mosadeq may have said to me I earnestly urge that reply be delivered to Govt of Iran if possible within next two or three days. Anti-west pressures are at present increasing steadily.2
Above telegram being discussed this afternoon with Middleton. I hope, however, UK Government will at no time indicate that it has knowledge of this conversation.
  1. Repeated to London eyes only for the Chief of Mission.
  2. On Aug. 25 Ambassador Henderson reported that in light of his conversation earlier that day with Mosadeq, Mosadeq would be disappointed when he learned that he would get no more than $10 million. Therefore, Henderson urged again that he be given authority to tell Mosadeq that if an agreement was entered into and negotiations were proceeding satisfactorily, the United States would do all it could to provide economic assistance if the Iranian financial situation became critical. (Telegram 850; 888.2553/8–2552)