The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State1
384. 1. My talk with Mosadeq this evening lasted one hour. He received me fully dressed (not pajama clad) as though for ceremonial occasion. He was as usual courteous but I could detect in his attitude certain amount smoldering resentment. Usual exchange amenities after which I expressed sorrow at chain events since my departure over two months ago, adding I sorry see Iran apparently [Page 749] even worse off politically and economically than it was then. He acknowledged my statement with sarcastic smile and there lull in conversation.
2. I remarked I particularly concerned increasing number attacks on American citizens. After Shiraz incident he had issued instructions to law enforcement agencies which had afforded high degree protection to American nationals. Unfortunately law enforcement agencies appeared again to be becoming lax. Every hour or two I receiving additional reports attacks on American citizens not only in Tehran but also other localities.
3. He said these attacks almost inevitable. Iranian people thought Americans were disagreeing with them and, therefore, were attacking Americans. I said disagreements no reason for attacks. He replied Iran in throes revolution and in revolutionary stress and strain it would require three times as many police as exist to afford full protection to American citizens. I should remember that in American Revolutionary times when Americans wanted British out, many Britishers in US were attacked. I said if Iranians wanted Americans out individual attacks not necessary. We would go en masse. He said Iranian Government did not want Americans leave but some individual Iranians did and, therefore, were attacking them. I replied Chiefs of American military mission, American gendarmérie mission, and TCI had informed me today that Iranian officials with whom they dealt had assured them they were anxious that these missions continue to function in Iran. These missions could be assured of maximum cooperation from Iranian authorities. These chiefs had also told me that at no time had they been receiving more full and effective cooperation from Iranian authorities than at present. I had refrained from informing Washington of this situation until I could talk with him. I wanted to know what his present attitude was re these American aid missions and also re giving adequate protection to members these missions. It did not make sense for certain Iranian authorities to insist that these missions remain in Iran while members of these missions were subject to insults and attacks from gangs of hoodlums.
4. Prime Minister said he sure law enforcement agencies doing all possible give protection. I disagreed and read to him excerpts various memoranda which I had received from members American aid missions during course of day, some of which indicated that police were passive while they were being attacked. He said he wished assure me that he desired aid missions to stay. He thought they were performing valuable services and would look further into matter protection of their members.
5. After another lull I told him I would be grateful if he would tell me confidentially for use my government, just what had happened [Page 750] during recent days. US Government interested with respect both events and legal situation. He chose interpret my remarks as reference to President’s letter to him last July. He reminded me that we had had agreement to effect existence these letters would be confidential and exchange would not be published unless US reply would be favorable. He maintained American officials either in Washington or in Tehran had directly or indirectly deliberately leaked information to pro-British Iranian press re this exchange and against his will US had insisted on publishing notes. He said he had actually never consented to their publication and was astonished to receive letter from Embassy expressing appreciation his willingness that exchange be published. When he saw US Government was determined to publish, he had finally insisted previous messages exchanged last January between him and President-elect be also published. I told him it had been my understanding leak had occurred in his office and in view distorted public version of President’s letter unfavorable to US, US Government had thereupon insisted exchange be published. He denied heatedly Iranians had been guilty of leaks. No Iranian except himself and Saleh, US Embassy Iranian assistant and interpreter, had been aware of existence these letters. He had kept them among his own private papers, not in office files. I intimated I not sure his private papers were kept in manner which would prevent clever agents having access to them. I also pointed out there were certain modern hearing devices which might result in knowledge this kind falling into possession of agents parties hostile both to Iran and US. He continued insist certain Americans had deliberately leaked in order that public knowledge of contents of President’s letter might weaken his government. I told him that I knew that exchange had been handled in US and Tehran in most discreet manner by trusted officials and I sure no US leak.
6. Mosadeq then outlined events which led to dissolution Majlis. His narrative in general line with information already furnished Department by Embassy. He maintained however that 30 members Majlis had been bought outright by British. Only 40 votes had not been bought. Ten of these 40 votes could easily have been purchased for 100,000 tomans and when he learned that negotiations were in progress to complete such purchasing operation he decided that British-purchased Majlis was unworthy of Iranian people and should be eliminated. He asked me if I had any comments to make regarding his dissolution Majlis.
7. I reminded him he inviting me comment on Iran internal affairs. I realized it not usual for comments of this kind to be offered by foreign diplomat. Nevertheless he would recall that during some of our past conversations I had overcome my scruples in this respect. [Page 751] I said only comment which I wished to offer at this point was that it seemed to me unfortunate for Iran and no compliment Iranian people that Government of Iran apparently could not be based on a Parliament. Iran was in most dangerous international position and I thought it would be more secure if all organs provided for in Iranian constitution could be functioning with at least certain degree of harmony.
8. I told him I particularly interested in events recent days. I would like to know more about effort replace him by General Zahedi. He said on evening of 15th Col. Nasiri had approached his house apparently to arrest him. Col. Nasiri himself, however, had been arrested and number other arrests followed. He had taken oath not try to oust Shah and would have lived up this oath if Shah had not engaged in venture this kind. Clear Nasiri had been sent by Shah arrest him and Shah had been prompted by British.
9. I asked Mosadeq if he had reason believe it true Shah had issued firman (decree) removing him as Prime Minister and appointing Zahedi in his place. Mosadeq said he had never seen such decree and if he had it would have made no difference. His position for some time had been that Shah’s powers were only of ceremonial character; that Shah had no right on his personal responsibility issue firman calling for change in government. I said I particularly interested in this point, and I would like to report it carefully to United States Government. Was I to understand (a) he had no official knowledge that Shah had issued firman removing him as Prime Minister, and (b) even if he should find that Shah had issued such firman in present circumstances he would consider it to be invalid? He replied “precisely”.
10. Before departing I told Mosadeq that during 24 hours since my return Tehran, members American official family here had received intimations from various Iranian authorities which caused me believe some Iranian officials suspected Embassy harboring Iranian political refugees. I would like tell him point blank this untrue. My present policy in this respect was as follows: (a) if political refugees should endeavor to enter Embassy, efforts would be made to stop them; (b) if they should succeed in entering compound, efforts would be made to persuade them to leave voluntarily; (c) if they should refuse to leave voluntarily, it my intention to notify Iranian authorities that persons had taken refuge in Embassy and that I was telegraphing my government for instructions.
11. Mosadeq thanked me for my statement and said he would like add statement of his own. In case any Iranian political fugitives would take refuge in Embassy, he would like Embassy keep them there. I asked if in such event Iranian Government prepared defray expenses for lodging and food or whether he would expect [Page 752] this to come out of Point IV funds. He said Iranian Government would be glad, despite limited budget, pay expenses these refugees.
12. Mosadeq seemed to be in much better frame of mind when I left him. Nevertheless, from his unusual reserve I inclined believe that he suspicious United States Government or at least United States officials either implicated in effort oust him or sympathetically aware of such effort in advance. His remarks to me were interspersed with number little jibes which, although semi-jocular in character, were, nevertheless, barbed. These jibes in general hinted that United States was conniving with British in effort remove him as Prime Minister. For instance, he remarked at one point national movement was determined remain in power in Iran and it would continue to hold on to last man, even though all its members would be run over by British and American tanks. When I raised my eyebrows at this remark, he laughed heartily.
13. Hope special care be taken prevent leaks contents this message.
- Transmitted in three sections; repeated to London. Ambassador Henderson returned to Tehran on Aug. 17.↩