661.88/9–153: Telegram

No. 361
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State 1


539. 1. During my talk yesterday with Prime Minister Zahedi (Embtel 536, London 159, August 31)2 he said he wished to keep me informed re developments Iran-Soviet relations. He was approached recently on behalf Soviet Embassy with inquiry re policy new government re Soviet Union. His reply Iran wishes maintain normal friendly relations with Soviet Union. These relations possible on condition (a) Soviet Union refrain from interfering in Iranian internal affairs, particularly in giving material and moral support to Tudeh and other subversive organizations; (b) Soviet Union treat Iran as equal in all matters, refraining from making open or impolite threats; (c) relations between two countries be maintained on basis mutual advantage.

2. Prime Minister said Razmara when Prime Minister and also Mosadeq had been ostentatious in negotiations re various relatively unimportant matters with Soviet Union. They had puffed up to false proportions such routine arrangements as they were making or negotiating with Soviet Union. It necessary for Iran maintain correct relations with its largest neighbor possessing common border more than 1600 miles long. He had given orders, therefore, that negotiations for trade agreements with Soviet Union continue at “appropriate levels”, which would mean discussions between officials in various interested ministries and Soviet representatives. These negotiations were proceeding. If successful, Iran would sell Soviet Union certain commodities of which it had surplus and would buy from Soviet Union commodities which it could purchase there more advantageously than elsewhere. He had no intention selling Soviet Union or any Iron Curtain country strategic materials. It not in interest Iran engage in traffic which would strengthen Soviet military power. If I should hear of trafficking between Iran and Iron Curtain countries of commodities which US considered as strategic character he would appreciate it if I would tell him.

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3. I told Prime Minister I grateful for his frank statement. I sure US Government would understand his position and respect it. US did not wish Iran follow policy re Soviet Union which would justifiably be considered provocative or unfriendly. I thought previous Prime Ministers had made tactical error in endeavoring to make it appear relations between Iran and Soviet Union more friendly than they really were. Deceit this kind served strengthen subversive elements in Iran. I also thought some previous Iranian governments had made error in thinking it to Iran’s advantage try to “play off US and Soviet Union against each other”. Such efforts only too transparent and merely caused diminution both in Soviet Union and US respect Iranian sincerity. Furthermore, tactics this kind create resentment in the US where it gave impression Iran considered that US and Soviet Union had similar ambitions of aggressive or at least selfish nature re Iran, and Iran was therefore protecting itself by playing each against other. Intelligent Iranians knew US desired nothing from Iran other than that latter maintain its independence and improve its economic position.

4. Prime Minister said I could be sure, so long as he Prime Minister, his government would not indulge in childish game of trying play US and Soviet Union against each other.

5. Prime Minister must have mentioned our conversation at cabinet meeting later in evening. In any event member cabinet telephoned me last night to ask if US considered lead ore strategic material.

  1. Also sent to London and Moscow.
  2. Not printed. (788.00/8–3153)