888.2553/9–3051: Telegram

No. 98
The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State


1215. Fol presentation my credentials morning September 29, had forty minute chat with Shah and MFA. Apparently in view presence MFA, Shah steered conversation away from oil dispute; stressed urgent need Iran for econ development; appreciation of such support US had given Iran in past etc. He mentioned his keen disappointment at outcome his trip to US;1 he had hoped his visit wld assist in interesting US Govt and people more deeply in Iran and in helping them understand how important it was for future Middle East and world peace for US aid Iran in carrying out its program econ development. He had hoped he cld contribute to US realization that no matter how much US resources and energy were poured into Eur and FE, free world wld continue to be in danger so long as there was weak, backward and vulnerable Iran. For years fol Tehran conf Iranian people had thought their hope for future lay in free world. They had been expecting US wld take lead in helping them improve their lot. Much disillusionment particularly had followed his visit to US. Since his return, Tudeh Party and other groups who looked to Russia rather than free world had been growing in strength. There had also been unfortunate increase in anti-foreign, particularly anti-Western sentiments. He still hoped that US wld come to Iran’s assistance before it was too late.

I told Shah US Govt and wide sections US people had long realized importance Iran and had desired and still desired help it become prosperous, progressive, self-respectful country—politically, economically independent. US resources were not however, inexhaustible. [Page 186] It cld not distribute these resources recklessly; it also cld not carry econ burden whole world at one time; it, therefore, had been compelled concentrate its econ aid those areas which seemed to it at time to be in greatest danger and which cld make most effective use assistance extended to them. I thought sitn was developing which wld make it possible for US give more assistance than hitherto to Iran. US public opinion wld not however, permit assistance be given unless convinced country receiving such assistance wld be simultaneously doing everything it cld to help itself. It cld not be overlooked that technique and matériel from abroad cld, if effectively used, help Iran but future of country must rest basically on industry, initiative, public spiritedness and integrity Iranian people and on enlightened leadership Iranian statesmen.
Shah concurred. He expressed his concern at tendencies middle class intellectuals, particularly youth, to turn towards communism. He asked if we had similar problems in US. Our talk was friendly and informal and I had impression in spite his disappointment at our past failures to live up to Iran expectations in matter of aid, he still regarded US as Iran’s greatest hope for future.
My talk alone with Shah late yesterday afternoon lasted more than hour. It was devoted almost entirely to matters connected with current crisis arising out of oil dispute. Shah did not try hide his great anxiety and his distress at what he seemed to consider his helplessness in sitn. Again and again in seeming despair he wld say “But what can I do; I am helpless.” He said if there was any real opposition to Mosadeq’s oil policy, it was not organized and apparently did not dare speak out. Some of older Iranian statesmen including Qavam were telling him if he wld remove Mosadeq they wld try form govt. They refused, however, themselves openly to oppose Mosadeq. Their idea was apparently to move in if Shah shld be successful in ousting Mosadeq but not to lift finger if Shah’s efforts shld fail. Shah insisted national sentiment was aroused against Brit and had rallied behind Mosadeq as valiant defender Iran’s interests. Mosadeq had been greatly strengthened as result rumors Brit might use force in south; he had during afternoon recd emissary with msg from Broujerdi, most influential ecclesiastic in Iran, stating that all Iran must stand together in face Brit threats and if Brit shld invade Iran, country must present solid front. This msg from high conservative ecclesiastic of greatest significance. It meant that those religious circles which in gen were opposed to rabble-rousing were aligning themselves with govt at least on oil issue. Unfortunately msg had been delivered in presence number persons and was already probably circulating in bazaars where it wld have great impact. Announcement of Brit to take dispute to SC made it still more difficult remove Mosadeq who was already [Page 187] saying he wld appear personally before SC to defend Iran if health permitted. If Shah shld now replace Mosadeq, latter’s friends cld tell sympathetic public Shah wld not allow Iran’s best champion defend it in SC. “Brit tell me there shld be strong man and take resolute action, but these so-called strong men like my father, Hitler, Stalin, etc. took resolute and bold action when they knew that natl sentiment was behind them. They never moved against basic feelings their peoples. In this case natl feelings Iran are against Brit in oil matters; these feelings have been inflamed by demagogues; no matter how strong and resolute I may wish to be, I cannot take unconstitutional move against strong current natl feelings. What slogans have I to change this time? Can appeals to balanced budgets and increased natl incomes have much effect when deep national passions have been aroused? I know that Mosadeq’s policies are leading Iran towards ruin; I realize that in spite of Brit exploitation and even betrayal at times of us in past, we must have Brit friendship and support if we are to survive as independent country; I am aware that if Brit turn against me personally our Monarchial system, which in my opinion is main stabilizing influence in country, can collapse; but what can I do? I am convinced that attempt my part remove Mosadeq just now wld give his friends and my enemies opportunity convince Iran public that Crown has degenerated into mere Brit tool and such prestige as Crown has wld disappear. Only hope as I can see it is for Mosadeq either to become more sober and reasonable or for him to make so many mistakes that responsible leaders of Iran will overthrow him in Majlis. This hope will not however, appeal to Brit Amb who is seeing me this evening. When he learns I do not feel I shld try dismiss Mosadeq just now he will be furious and his govt may turn against me.”
I told Shah I was not insisting on his removal Mosadeq. He knew better than I what he might be able or not be able to do. It seemed to me, however, that Iran’s position was growing daily more desperate and in end it might be necessary resort desperate remedies. I wld like to keep in touch with him; if later I had any suggestions to make to him I hoped he wld understand they were made solely for purpose saving Iran. Shah said he wld like to see me from time to time. At present he did not know where to turn.
Shah said he was trying to prevail on Mosadeq be more reasonable. He had, therefore, sent Ala to him on preceding day and Ala had reported Mosadeq had talked in supposingly restrained manner. Shah hoped that US or UK might offer some suggestions which wld again open door. Unfortunate Brit had so rudely rebuffed his own last overtures.
Ala telephoned me last evening tell me he was still hoping msg from Broujerdi not authentic. He was checking and would let me know results.
  1. For documentation on the Shah’s visit to the United States, Nov. 16–Dec. 30, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 471 ff.