788.00/11–552: Telegram

No. 235
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State 1


1850. 1. We disturbed by fact we apparently have not given Dept full info background on basis of which estimate Iranian situation prepared with concurrence all sections Emb (Deptel 1081 Oct 31). We therefore deem it advisable comment upon various points raised in reftel in hope this may aid Dept’s thinking on actual situation Iran.

2. Re factor one discussion natlist rejection Sov domination:

Mosadeq at present unchallenged in auth with Kashani for time being indefinite secondary position has succeeded in taking under his control or eliminating, at least to considerable extent, several pol segments of influence which had been potential or [Page 514] active opponents prior to July, as for example Shah, armed forces and Senate. This personal accretion of power might result in increased pol instability in event Mosadeq shld disappear from pol scene. Mosadeq has capabilities to move in decisive way against Tudeh so that its org and activities might be temporarily crippled and driven deeper underground. However he has thus far not done so. We think he does not want USSR to receive impression he has irrevocably closed all doors to rapprochement nor does he wish Tudeh to go all out against his govt at this time. In our opinion Mosadeq not likely take decisive action against Tudeh unless he concludes appeasement will no longer restrain it or unless he is convinced aid will be forthcoming from West of sufficiently substantial character to permit him to revitalize state admin and to give real incentive to Iranian people.
During last twelve months there has been a marked deterioration of forces making for steady admin and for stability country. This deterioration has caused Emb to call to Dept’s attention on various occasions danger to entire free world inherent in this situation. During this period there has also been strengthening of spirit of extremism in natl front as it has encountered series of frustrations. This extremism has been reflected in series pol acts, culminating in break in relations with UK and abolition Senate. This irresponsible extremism, expressions of which frequently serve Tudeh purposes, combined with intrigues and personal opportunism of many front leaders, causes us to believe that we should not take it for granted that Communists can not capture national movement. At this time when as result UK departure from Iran, US responsibilities here become more heavy, Iran is in custody of a national front govt which has announced its intention to maintain Iranian independence and “neutrality” but which is at same time undermining the very institutions necessary for carrying out this intention. We are not attempting to predict extent of trend or to suggest that unexpected developments may not change picture. It seems to us just now however, that forces in Iran working in behalf Sov objectives are stronger than those working for West.
We have been impressed by manifold ways in which Tudeh influence, altho not open is being exerted on govt. It becoming steadily more clear that PM is receiving considerable amount Tudeh slanted advice. [garble] Kashani’s rels and those his entourage with Tudeh have already been reported.… Altho Cab has no known Tudeh mins some of its mbrs reputedly have Tudeh sympathies. Among them are Justice Min and his Under Secty, as well as Under Secty Labor and Interior. Min Educ not above suspicion as Tudeh tools. This info shld already be in Dept’s bio files or on way there. As stated in original estimate flexibility of principle is characteristic [Page 515] of many Iranian bureaucrats and politicians. This opportunism makes them at least potentially vulnerable to Tudeh infiltration. As we pointed out infiltration this kind might result in Communists creeping almost imperceptibly into power.
In our calculations reftel factor 1(b) and (c) likely to be only slight if any impediment to Tudeh Party organizational work and other activities. Party thru stooges being permitted operate so that legalization at propitious future time cld be formality. Our observations show martial law thus far not seriously affecting Tudeh organizational activities altho it does for moment keep demonstrations within bounds. Recent acts of govt were of course taken into consideration at time estimate. During past week they have been subjected to strong criticism and may be emasculated by extremists in Natl Front itself as reported Embdes 343 Nov 1 and Embtel 1810 Nov 3.2 These reports show that Kashani and Baghai against security and press laws that all but small fraction Tudeh demonstrators thus far have been released while remainder are awaiting decision re security law and that Tudeh papers are again reappearing. Estimate called attn to fact certain Front elements apparently becoming more aware of Tudeh menace and this increased awareness may in time result in creation effective counter force. On other hand some anti-Communists like Baghai balk at strong measures and at present at least no organized effective action against Tudeh in sight.

Re factor two possible stronger successor govt to Mosadeq regime on dictatorial, anti-Communist pattern:

We believe that if Mosadeq shld leave PNJ arena in near future chances are he wld be replaced by Kashani sponsored candidate of weaker character. Successor this kind not likely command support upon as wide scale as Mosadeq. Furthermore even if such successor wld desire take strong measures he wld be handicapped by weakened party and govt apparatus. In Embtel 1285, Sept 26,3 we pointed out characteristics of possible future Kashani supported govt which affirmed this view.

Re factor three Nationalist support from landowner and merchant classes:

Landowners unhappy at prospect Front’s announced ideas of reform measures aimed at curtailing their traditional privileges. Lacking leadership they reluctantly go along with present govt. Merchants criticism of Mosadeq handling econ affairs also arise as Emb reported altho here too they for moment have nowhere else to go. Kashani influence altho somewhat diminished remains strong [Page 516] in Bazaars in leading towns and such elements will probably follow his pol lead at least temporarily. Simultaneously these classes well aware personal differences within Front cliques. Shld Front schism arise, we consider pol issues will not be presented to them as clear-cut Nationalist vs Tudeh decision but as choice of several personal leaders to whom they may adhere for maximum individual advantage. With these classes split and uncertain Tudeh can thus neutralize them.

Re factor four acceptance land reform by peasants:

Emb without basis to support Dept’s assumption that land reform being implemented in most Iran without diff. In Embtel 1423 Oct 7, 898 Aug 28 and 571 Aug 7, and Embdesp on land reform including monthly econ report No 190 Sept 9 contrary reports were submitted.4 These were to effect disturbances cld not be pinpointed to any one region although more marked in Azerbaijan. Recent Tabriz cables forwarded by Emb support this. Similarly, periodic Embtels giving est Tudeh activities (such as Embtel 1407 Oct 7)5 show party’s efforts meeting success some areas among peasants.

Re factor 5, Kashani’s need for accepting Tudeh assistance:

In considering Kashani’s position we view situation in light comment on factor 2 above, wherein possible Kashani successor regime to Mosadeq wld be weaker than present govt. Such regime with Kashani backing may in its weakness turn to Tudeh for support.

Re factor 6, attitude tribes:

Con Tabriz has reported dissatisfaction among all Kurds widespread toward present govt. Other Emb info from travelers of same tenor. We wld say outward position other tribal elements ranges from passivity to restlessness toward regime, with Qashqais for own personal reasons currently giving it support. Slackening of govt auth in tribal areas especially marked in Shiraz area, as indicated by US official travelers (see des 217 Sept 19 and 331 Oct 30).6 [Source] has reported growth pol intrigues among southern tribes.

Re factor 7, importance of great power balance in Iran calculations:

There no doubt that Natl Front lists in position responsibility wld prefer that US support cld be used as counterbalance to Sov pressure. On other hand, if NF obtains impression that US does not fol course which will strengthen Iran’s econ position, it likely, regardless consequences, lash out at US. Our opinion US at this [Page 517] moment being tried in balance by Front leaders, attitude of whom will not remain static. US being given brief period wherein to produce concrete and substantial evidence of its material interest in Iran. If this evidence not forthcoming we believe Iran Govt will need no prodding from Tudeh deliberately to curtail and eliminate various US activities here. It might not however go so far as to break diplomatic relations with US. As Dept has been informed, hostility to mil mission widespread in Front circles and certain elements including Kashani critical Point IV. Elimination these US activities wld place US at disadvantage in its efforts combat covert Sov activities.

3. We agree with Dept that conclusion C is basic US problem re Iran. However re conclusion A we have considerable doubt. In our opinion situation already possesses instability which presently existing factors tend to develop. We seriously doubt that present loose coalition like NF has org durability, clarity of objectives and determination which wld be necessary to carry it intact thru another year. Only conclusion we can draw just now is that for immed future Mosadeq likely remain in power. We know of no other leader who cld head loose coalition and control factionalism within its ranks. Successor to Mosadeq, therefore, to remain in office must have support elements other than or additional to NF. Without external finan and econ aid (such as US assist in selling its oil) which Mosadeq govt believes it requires for pol purposes, his regime cld be increasingly responsive to Tudeh pressures. Successor govt purporting to be based on NF might be more so. In midst country’s trend toward disorg we hesitate predict rate growth Tudeh influence other than to state it will be progressive.

Econ comment upon Dept’s conclusion be given in immed fol tel.7

  1. Transmitted in three sections; repeated to London and pouched to Moscow, Ankara, Baghdad, Kabul, Karachi, Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Amman, Tel Aviv, Jidda, Dhahran, Rome, Isfahan, Meshed, and Tabriz.
  2. Neither printed (788.00/11–152 and 11–352, respectively).
  3. Not printed. (888.2553/9–2652)
  4. None printed. (888.16/10–752, 788.00/8–2852, 788.00/8–752, and 888.00/9–952, respectively)
  5. Not printed. (788.00/10–752)
  6. Neither printed. (888.00 TA/9–1952 and 10–3052, respectively)
  7. On Nov. 5 Ambassador Henderson reported that while he and his colleagues agreed with the general proposition that the Iranian economy could continue for some time to exhibit resilience and adaptability, they believed the Department’s economic estimate advanced in paragraph b of telegram 1081 (Document 233), was overoptimistic for the longer term. Although the Iranian Government’s secret decision to increase the amount of currency in circulation was providing short-term economic benefits, in the long run it would become dangerous and could lead to rampant inflation unless Iran received more foreign aid or renewed oil revenue before the beginning of Iran’s new year on Mar. 21, 1953. A second source of potential difficulty was the balance of payments situation, although, at that time, it was satisfactory. In conclusion, Henderson thought that if the oil-less economic situation continued, only a regime which was a skillful, strong, and ruthless dictatorship could successfully resist Tudeh penetration. Henderson did not see any political group other than the Tudeh capable of providing such a dictatorship. (Telegram 1851; 888.00/11–552)