888.2553/9–2751: Telegram

No. 93
The Ambassador-Designate in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State

top secret

1180. From Henderson for McGhee.

Ala told me fol last evening personally and in extreme confidence:
Shepherd UK Amb who had been trying see Shah for several days and who had finally been given appointment this afternoon 4 o’clock called on Ala yesterday afternoon. Shepherd informed Ala that under instrs from his govt he had made strong oral protest earlier in day to MFA against decision Iranian Govt to expel Brit oil experts from country. According to his note which he gave Ala Amb had on behalf his govt expressed to MFA “astonishment at drastic measures against Brit natls residing in Persia without any communication to HMG”. Amb had further told MFA “Persian Govt bears full responsibility for consequences this decision which must have grave effect on Anglo-Persian relations. In circumstances HMG reserve full liberty of action”. MFA had replied to Amb no communication to HMG had seemed necessary since latter must already have had notice intentions Iranian Govt. Mosadeq had some time ago outlined program to Senate which had given approval; these experts had been unwilling enter into contracts with Iranian Oil Co and since AIOC was already defunct in Iran their presence Iran merely served render their replacement more difficult.
Brit Amb told Ala he regretted delay seeing Shah because he had most urgent msg for Shah from Attlee. He gave Ala copy his instrs from Attlee which Ala showed me. Amb was instructed to inform Shah of seriousness with which Attlee regarded latest move Iranian Govt to state, “this will gravely affect relations between our two countries and have most serious immediate and long-term effect on Persia’s econ as well as on her internal and external position”. Amb was also instructed say that altho Attlee cld understand hesitation of Shah hitherto to intervene he thought Shah “must appreciate that political situation has now arisen which he alone can redress, and that if he does not act now situation may well be beyond our power of control or repair. I trust that he will [Page 175] take immed action to ensure that expulsion measures against Co’s staff are not carried out”.…
Ala had discussed this conversation with Shah just before coming see me.1 Shah was greatly perplexed as was Ala who did not know just what advice give. No doubt opposition to Mosadeq growing but Mosadeq crafty, resourceful, and effective rabble rouser. He might, by open denunciation of Shah if latter shld try intervene and by appeals to religious and national fanaticism, create such atmosphere that Majlis wld be completely cowed and Shah’s position irretrievably ruined. He thought carrying out of expulsion order wld be unfortunate; elimination of Shah who was just now main stabilizing element in Iran wld however be even more disastrous. Already Mosadeq had demonstrated readiness to turn against Shah. He had recently sent Shah ltr charging Princess Ashraf with endeavoring rally opposition against him in Majlis and had informed Shah unless Princess wld refrain from political activities he wld be compelled publicly denounce her.
Seyid Zia who had weekly audience with Shah had also talked with Ala during course of day. He had also told Ala he had advised Shah time had come for replacement Mosadeq. He (Seyid Zia) had no desire for polit office just now. He wld, however, give support Qavam or anyone else who might be named succeed Mosadeq. Ala had asked him if he wld serve in Qavam Cabinet and suggested at this critical time responsible Iranian polit leaders shld put aside personal ambitions and form govt together for good country. Seyid Zia said he wld not enter another’s Cab but wld support any successor Mosadeq agreeable to Shah.… Ala thought, however, Qavam preparing succeed Mosadeq. Qavam extremely active and was even drafting statement criticizing present govt and making suggestions re Iran future policies. Ala was afraid, however, as Qavam was, Mosadeq by appeals to mob spirit cld out-maneuver him.
Ala said Shah and he deeply worried re Brit intentions. Reports from Moscow and other capitals indicated some kind talks re Iran might be taking place between Brit and Russians. In past Brit and Russians had not hesitated sacrifice Iran for their selfish ends. Possibility cld not be ignored Brit might stir up violence in south, land troops to protect Brit citizens and property and let these troops remain there. Russians then with at least tacit approval Brit cld move into north Iran. One his purposes in coming to me was to ask me whom we knew to be friend Iran: (a) Did I think Brit might resort to force against Iran? (b) what in my opinion shld he advise Shah do or not do in circumstances?
I told Ala I of course no position say what Brit wld or wld not do given circumstances. I was confident however, UK as loyal sincere [Page 176] member UN wld do nothing contrary spirit UN Charter even though Iran chose ignore findings Intnatl Court. Undoubtedly individual Britishers perhaps even some officials favored use force. I was sure, however, Brit Govt itself wld not tolerate use force except possibly protect UK nationals in case they seemed be personal danger.
Ala said language used by Brit Amb was that traditionally employed when force contemplated. Was there no danger that certain Brit agents might themselves promote violence Khuzistan so that UK wld send in troops protect its citizens?
I said I did not believe any serious danger this kind existed. Important, however, Iran made sure all foreigners in Iran just now receive full protection.
Re Ala’s second question difficult for me suggest kind of advice he shld give Shah. I still novice in Iran; he knew internal conditions, Iranian frame of mind, possibilities and difficulties better than I. Did Shah and he consider it wld be in interest country for Mosadeq to be replaced just now?
Ala said it had been hitherto opinion Shah preferable that Mosadeq himself be responsible for such agreement as might be made with Brit so that he and other extreme nationalists wld not be in position later to attack it. In view Brit apparent determination not deal further with Mosadeq and latter’s determination to go ahead with his plans regardless of effect on Iran, Shah and he both believed it wld be better Mosadeq get out now. Wrong move on Shah’s part, however, cld be disastrous.
I said if responsible leaders Iran considered it wld be country’s interest for Mosadeq be replaced seemed to me they shld take action among themselves and not wait for Shah to endanger his position by personal intervention. Ala, Min Court, somewhat handicapped since Shah wld be held responsible for his actions, nevertheless there must be other statesmen who at this critical time wld put interests country over their own polit ambitions. Were there not polit leaders who wld dare openly say that interests Iran demanded that if possible arrangements be made with Brits whereby under Iranian auth and scrutiny Brit specialist experienced in Iran cld produce and distribute Iranian oil on terms which wld be advantageous both to Iran and to UK as well as world econ? Such leaders cld denounce to their hearts content past interference AIOC in Iranian internal affairs and insist any future arrangements must provide guarantee against further interference but at same time they cld point out Iranians merely hurting themselves if they fail make every effort utilize services specialists already acquainted with peculiar problems of producing and distributing Iranian oil. I thought Brit arguments that they cld not effectively operate [Page 177] in Iran except through companies which had Brit manager and certain degree autonomy had much validity. It was in my opinion possible for companies this kind to exist and operate under restrictions which wld render it extremely difficult for them engage in other than tech and purely commercial activities. Naturally in course of time Iranians themselves would want to take over from Brit. Length of period of Brit tech control and manner of distributing of profits cld be matters of negot. Factor of amount of compensation due Brit and method discharging debt might well affect decision both these questions. Cld not some responsible Iranian statesmen come forward with sobering suggestions this kind.
Ala replied he thought that perhaps they cld. Qavam was person take leadership. Ala had already talked with Sadr Fakhr Hekmat, Speaker of Majlis who was Qavam man and Hekmat was considering possibility asking that Majlis hold secret session on Sept 27 to discuss national situation. Hekmat hoped during such session gauge and mobilize such latent opposition as existed.…
I again stressed that during our conversation I had merely been thinking aloud. I was not speaking for my govt but was only trying express some of my own ideas. I was grateful for confidence he had displayed in me which I hoped he would find had not been misplaced. He cld be sure what he had told me wld not be passed on to any other govt.
Regret length this tel. Present situation such it difficult for me move in direction that I conceive be our objective without action on my own judgment on spot without awaiting instructions. Therefore like for Dept know considerable detail what I am doing and circumstances prompting me.
  1. On Sept. 28 Henderson reported that Shepherd had given him a copy of Attlee’s message to the Shah on that afternoon and had told him that the Shah took the position that “now was no time to intervene.” Shepherd also told Henderson that the British Cabinet had decided to take the case to the U.N. Security Council and repeated that, in his opinion, it was useless to attempt to deal with Mosadeq. (Telegram 1205; 888.2553/9–2851)