788.00/2–2253: Telegram

No. 301
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State1

top secret

3334. 1. Ala, Minister of Court, asked see me this morning. He said he wished discuss “most serious recent development”. On evening February 19 Prime Minister Mosadeq had telephoned him requesting that responsible member of Court call on Prime Minister early morning 20 in order take personal message to Shah. Shah sent one of his Councillors who happened to be half brother Mosadeq. In presence Shayegan and two other deputies Mosadeq brusquely requested emissary to tell Shah that he could no longer tolerate unfriendly attitude of Shah and Court and that therefore on February 24 he would resign and would make public announcement to effect that reason for resignation was his inability effectively to perform his duties as Prime Minister while Shah and Court were intriguing against him. Mosadeq maintained that Shah was responsible for tribal unrest particularly among Bakhtiaris; that Shah was encouraging officers of Army who had been retired to plot against him; and that Shah and Court were encouraging conspiracies of various kinds, purpose of which was to handicap Prime Minister and bring about his downfall. Emissary vigorously denied these charges and appealed to Mosadeq on grounds patriot is not to make any move which might weaken position Shah. Shayegan and other deputies also asked Prime Minister to reconsider his decision. Prime Minister, however, was adamant.

2. Shah was deeply disturbed when he received message and asked Ala intervene. Ala therefore called upon Mosadeq on morning February 21. He also found Prime Minister intractable. Latter enumerated long list of grievances against Shah including events of last July when he charged Court supported Qavam against him. He also charged that Shah’s family particularly brother and Princess Ashraf [Page 675] had continuously intrigued against him. According to Ala he vigorously defended Shah. He maintained that Shah had been of opinion that Mosadeq should remain in office at least until solution oil problem had been found and had consistently discouraged attempts to have him replaced; that Shah still believed that Mosadeq should continue as Prime Minister since Mosadeq was better qualified than anyone else to effect solution. Ala insisted that Shah in his desire to cooperate with Prime Minister had sent his mother and Princess Ashraf out of country and was not permitting them to return despite fact he did not believe they were guilty of charges made against them by Mosadeq. Shah had resisted demands Mosadeq that latter be made Minister Defense because he thought that he was better acquainted with army problems and personnel than Mosadeq, nevertheless in order that Mosadeq would be willing again to become Prime Minister Shah had capitulated even in this respect. As result Mosadeq’s inexperience in dealing with military matters Army was now in bad condition with low morale. Although Shah believed that his judgment in this regard had been correct he nevertheless continued to support Mosadeq when complaints were made against him by those worried re deterioration armed forces.

Mosadeq also had repeated to Ala his charges that Shah was responsible for recent uprising led by Abol Qasem among Bakhtiari tribes. Ala had denied these charges. He told Mosadeq that Bakhtiari chieftains friendly with Shah and loyal to Government had warned Mosadeq not permit Abol to return to South Iran. Mosadeq had not heeded these warnings. Ala said that he could not but think that perhaps Mosadeq had decided to resign because of inability solve oil problem and because of international political difficulties and that Mosadeq instead of admitting his own failures was trying place blame on Shah. If such was case he hoped Mosadeq would reconsider. It would be unfortunate if after fifty years of public service Mosadeq would retire in manner which would be not only unchivalrous but harmful to interests of country. Mosadeq vigorously denied failure re oil settlement. He said he had just received new proposals which would place him in better position to continue negotiations and that he had no doubt that if he had been given full support by Shah he could eventually have worked out settlement in manner completely advantageous to Iran. There was no use however for him in present circumstances to try to accomplish anything.

3. Ala said Shah had asked him discuss this matter confidentially with me. Shah and he still hoped that Mosadeq could be placated without Shah making concessions which would completely undermine royal prestige. At Shah’s request Ala had told Mosadeq that Shah prepared to leave country and to stay abroad until Mosadeq [Page 676] requested his return. Mosadeq had said that Shah should not leave country. Mosadeq during conversation of February 21, had criticized Shah for his program of dividing Crown lands among tenants. He had said that Shah should turn lands over to Government and allow Government to determine their disposition. Mosadeq had also referred again to revenues at present at disposal of Shah from Meshe-Rine [Meshed Shrine] and other sources, maintaining that Shah should have control only of revenues appropriated by Government for support of Crown. Although Mosadeq made no specific demands on Shah it was clear that he wished to reduce latter to state of servile dependence upon Prime Minister and Cabinet and at same time publicly to humiliate him. Ala said that Shah had no intention of allowing himself to be placed in such impossible position. Shah was considering making every proper effort persuade Mosadeq not to resign and particularly not to issue statement blaming Shah for resignation. If Mosadeq should carry out this threat Shah intended to issue statement immediately in reply to Mosadeq’s charges. This statement would be along following lines:

“I have loyally cooperated with and supported Mosadeq since he became Prime Minister nearly two years ago. It has been and still is my conviction that he is in better position than any other person to restore Iran oil industry on basis which would give lawful control over that industry and would permit revenues from that industry to be used for economic development of country. I regret that Dr. Mosadeq has been misinformed re attitude of myself and of Court which I know has shared my views. I hope that Dr. Mosadeq in view of historical task which he has not as yet completed and of my assurances of cooperation and support will reconsider his decision”.

4. Ala said problem is what should be done in case Mosadeq insisted on going into retirement. Who should be successor and how should succession be arranged? On evening February 21 Ala had talked Kashani as President of Majlis on situation. Kashani had seemed pleased. He had said he not surprised at anything which Mosadeq might do and that if Mosadeq should attack Shah in Majlis it would give overwhelming support to Shah. Kashani however had not made any comment as to whether resignation would be accepted by Majlis and if so what successor might be named. Ala had not thought it wise to question Kashani in this regard. Shah had in mind just now two possibilities: General Zahedi and Saleh present Ambassador US. There might be others. One difficulty was Shah did not fully trust Zahedi. Another was there might be delicate interim before Saleh could return from Washington to assume duties. Ala was wondering whether or not Kazemi Vice Prime Minister might not act as Prime Minister until Saleh’s [Page 677] return. Problem here was that if Mosadeq resigned whole Cabinet automatically went with him. Kazemi therefore must be named by Majlis as acting Prime Minister pending Saleh’s return. It not possible be sure in advance what Majlis would do.2

. . . . . . .

  1. Transmitted in three sections; also sent to London.
  2. On Feb. 22 Ambassador Henderson informed the Department that he was uncertain of the reason Mosadeq chose that particular moment to resurrect his old policy, which had been dormant over the past several months, of trying to undermine the Shah’s prestige and to strip him of all rights and perquisites. Henderson speculated that, perhaps, Mosadeq had again become suspicious of the Shah since the latter had taken a firm stand regarding the royal rights in the matter of the Meshed Shrine. Once Mosadeq’s suspicions were aroused, it was difficult to placate him. Henderson suggested that this might be the prelude to the elimination of the Shah if not the Court as an institution. Or, it might be merely another manifestation of Mosadeq’s mental instability. Whatever the reason, Henderson emphasized that he was uncertain of it. (Telegram 3336; 788.00/2–2253)