788.00/3–1053: Telegram

No. 316
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State 1


3627. 1. Department will have noted we have not as yet presented our ideas as to why Mosadeq should have chosen this particular time to bring to issue his long smouldering differences with Shah. Our silence has been due in part our own lack assurance as to [Page 707] what answer this question should be. Mosadeq so much creature his own emotion, prejudices and suspicions that attempts to analyze motives his various actions in light ordinary rules logic or on basis of reason might well lead one astray. It is therefore with diffidence we seek explanations for his present attitude regarding Shah.

2. Altho at times he has cooperated on temporary basis with Shah and has insisted that in his opinion institution Shah necessary for Iran stability he nevertheless like many members of former ruling Kajar family has always had secret contempt in his heart for Shah whom he regards as weakling son of upstart tyrannical imposter. His toleration thus far of Shah prompted by political opportunism. Little doubt that he has been consistently endeavoring undermine authority and prestige of Shah. We do not believe that Mosadeq thus far has intention restoring Kajar dynasty or setting up another Shah. He would like however completely crush present dynasty Tekhat if Shah is not actually dethroned he will be Shah in name only and no member Shah’s family can succeed him. Mosadeq would probably prefer Iran become some kind republic under his dictatorial control altho his ideas regarding future in this respect may not have been completely formulated.

3. Last summer following Qavam episode Mosadeq made temporary peace on his own terms with Shah. Shah was to support him and he would not interfere with Shah’s authority. For some time Mosadeq has considered this arrangement advantageous to himself. Under it he had hoped obtain complete control over all Iran armed forces including police and then eventually to divest Shah of all political power and economic independence. It had become gradually clear to him however that despite his endeavors to win support of secret forces and to undermine prestige Shah, officers those forces continued to look to Shah despite latters weakness as head of state and as their chief. He also conceived of court as rallying point for various elements (exclusive of Commies and Fellow Travelers) who distrusted his judgment in international and internal affairs and who were opposed to his assumption of full dictatorial powers.

4. So long as opposition using court as rallying point was composed primarily of those whom his national movement had eliminated or was threatening to eliminate from public life and those who considered that it was in Iran’s interest to throw in its lot with West politically or at least morally, he did not consider it expedient openly to break with court. When however nationalist movement politicians such as Kashani and Maki who were inherently anti-foreign and who had hitherto supported him also began to turn towards court Mosadeq could no longer contain his hatred and contempt for court. Opposition polarized around court was becoming [Page 708] too strong. He began to feel majority members Majlis were giving him lip service loyalty in view his tremendous personal prestige among political conscious Irans, and that at opportune moment under banner constitutionality and loyalty to Shah would turn against him. One of his most effective weapons in combatting opposition had been widespread belief that he would be able with united Iran behind him to solve oil problem on basis completely favorable to Iran. It was also becoming clear to him that either acceptance or rejection British proposals for compensation might bring about his downfall in present political situation. Hard-kernel national movement closest to him was opposed to acceptance British proposals. He must go along with them. It would be safer however to demolish court, thus paralyzing what he considered center of opposition, before announcing breakdown oil negotiations.

5. Mosadeq’s resentment against court was deepened by recent Bakhtiar disturbance. He convinced that Bakhtiars in view their blood relationship to Queen were working with Shah and also receiving encouragement and aid from British across border in Iraq. His suspicions of ties between court and British were strengthened.

6. Temperament Mosadeq can not be ignored in assessing his present attitude re court. His career has been based on negative activities and slogans. As Prime Minister he has not been able accomplish anything of constructive character. When frustrated he searches for some new opponent to blame and destroy. He has thrown out British; emasculated Majlis; eliminated Senate; forced all well-known politicians out of public life; deposed all prominent civilian and military officials; sent various members Royal Family into exile, etc. Now he places blame his failures on court and takes measures against Shah. He may later blame rump Majlis and take steps get rid of it. If coop of kind desired not forthcoming he may give Americans same treatment as that given British.

7. Plan of action against Shah has not gone as anticipated. Behind smoke screen confusing conciliatory announcements opposition still defensively stubborn. Even apparently passive Shah appears to be holding his ground. Despite his undoubted feelings of angry frustration and his control of security forces and communications Mosadeq is showing unprecedented hesitation in carrying through project on which he had already embarked.

  1. Transmitted in two sections; also sent to London and pouched to Ankara, Baghdad, Cairo, and Dhahran.