304. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

2048. Following is Embassy’s present analysis reasons for current Government change,2 reactions to it, and prospects of new government:

Decision to remove Zahedi, timing of this decision, and choice of Ala have all been Shah’s own. Believe Shah motivated primarily by desire effect social and economic reforms and development program along lines he had proclaimed both in US and to Senators and Deputies prior his departure and immediately after his return and which he believes people are counting on. He had reached conclusion Zahedi and most his Cabinet not sufficiently capable this field or so enthused [Page 727] over such plan as to make prompt beginning demanded by Shah. Factors counting against Zahedi in this context were his opposition to plan director Ebtehaj and his devotion to certain cronies among Ministers who were neither particularly effective nor interested in Shah’s program. Moreover, Shah had come to regard Zahedi Government’s reputation for corruption as real liability. Embassy believes that fear of strong Prime Minister long attributed to Shah did not play significant role in decision oust Zahedi, especially since popular regard for Prime Minister if anything on decrease and Zahedi was making no moves to enhance his personal power.
Popular attitude toward change is as yet difficult to judge. First factor to be noted is perfect calm with which change is taking place. There have been no demonstrations for Zahedi, who apparently believes his own return to power in not too distant future will be necessary for welfare Iran and has conducted himself in loyal and dignified manner at departure. Newspapers are commenting very carefully, generally praising Zahedi in broad terms for past accomplishments but leaving clear implication that new team may be better for new tasks. To some extent, calm reflects lack of popular enthusiasm for Zahedi, cynical indifference of many to membership of any government, and wait–and–see attitude as to what improvements new government will actually bring about. Few if any, take ill health as imperative reason for Prime Minister’s departure, especially in view imminent trip of Ala to undergo operation.
Parliamentary attitude promises to be one of acceptance Ala Government, with no marked enthusiasm. Some Deputies of course still loyal to Zahedi and may not vote confidence in Ala, but they not expected to create real difficulties at this time. Coupled with lack of enthusiasm for Ala Government there has been some resentment among Deputies and Senators at manner of change–over, which is taking place during Parliament recess and thus without chance for organized Parliament expression of opinion. Ala has however been in constant touch with President of Majlis and through him with heads of factions, and President Hekmat expects no troubles over vote of confidence, which is to take place April 10. Postponement of presentation of Cabinet to Senate may reflect greater opposition in that body which contains number of would–be Prime Ministers, but it very unlikely that Senate would fail give overwhelming vote of confidence to Shah’s choice.
No significant change in direction of either foreign or domestic policy is to be anticipated; Ala informed us he intended emphasize this point when he appears before Majlis. New Government might in itself be inclined to go slow on association with neighbors on defense matters, but pace of developments particularly in this respect will depend on Shah. Presumably emphasis in immediate future will be put on [Page 728] anti–corruption program and economic development, with some effort to bring down cost of living and gesture in direction social reform. Concrete proposals for action may, however, not emerge even from Ala’s speech when he presents Government to Majlis. Prospect for reforms suggested more by reputation for honesty of members new Government than by shift in Government composition to give important places to intelligentsia or progressives from other than old ruling class, which some claim to be Shah’s long–term intent. Furthermore, Parliament not itself inclined toward reform and has great power kill Government efforts through delaying tactics. Although Ala and Alam, now Minister of Interior, far less strong personalities then Zahedi, change need not affect vigor of anti–Tudeh campaign since this inspired by Shah and conducted largely through military, and Ministry of War and Military Governor of Tehran unchanged.
Expect composition of new Government gives generally favorable impression. Three most important hold–overs from Zahedi Government (Foreign Minister, Minister Finance, and Minister War) were soundest and most capable on Zahedi team. New men in other Ministries, especially those in economic field, promise in each case to be as good as or better than predecessor. Furthermore, qualified Iranians consider proposed Government as a whole more homogeneous and capable of relatively effective team work. (Remains to be seen whether team work will include Ebtehaj, who remains as Plan Organization director.) Detailed comments on Cabinet by despatch when membership official.
Weakness of new Government, as reported Embassy telegram 20313 is that Prime Minister unable start Government off and in fact is unlikely to provide strong leadership even when he returns. As President Majlis put it, Ala is “moon that shines only by reflection of light from sun, the Shah.” There is of course possibility that Shah will, after decent interval, accept resignation Ala and appoint another Prime Minister, and anticipation that development on part many is itself weakening factor. But Shah may decide keep Ala and exert increased direct influence on Governmental policies and actions. Under such circumstances, progress along commendable lines of Shah’s announced desires for country would be subject his tendency to listen to too many advisers, vacillate, and indulge whims. Furthermore, as Shah takes more active role in politics he will be unable avoid blame as well as take credit for developments. Therefore, while Embassy believes Ala Government best solution in present circumstances given Shah’s determination oust Zahedi, it considers it likely best interests [Page 729] will be served if Shah at first suitable opportunity should elevate Deputy Prime Minister (either Amini or Entezam) to be head of Government.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 788.00/4–855. Confidential. Repeated to London, Meshed, Isfahan, and Tabriz.
  2. The Ala Cabinet was presented to the Majlis on April 10 and the Senate on the following day and was approved by the Majlis and Senate on April 17 and 18, respectively. But as of April 11, Cabinet Ministers had begun functioning informally as heads of their Departments. (Telegram 2053 from Tehran, April 10, and despatch 458 from Tehran, April 15; ibid., 788.00/4–1055 and 788.13/4–1555)
  3. Dated April 6, not printed. (Ibid., 788.00/4–655)