229. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Iran0
1726. Re Embtels 16371 and 1647.2 While we are pleased that GOI apparently endeavoring play down somewhat publicity re “plot”3 nevertheless Embtel 1637, [1 line of source text not declassified] cause Department serious concern that nature of contacts with opposition elements which have come to attention of Shah, and manner of confirmation by Ambassador, may have raised serious doubts in minds Shah and GOI re intentions of US toward present government.
We note first para Embtel 1637 reports Ambassador confirmed to Ardalan that US officials had listened to “plotters” to inform themselves as to what was going on and that they felt “plot” was fuzzy and amounted to little. It would appear that effect of statement might be (a) to confirm that plot actually had been undertaken (this confirmation presumably might be used in trial of so-called “plotters”) and (b) to confirm that US reps were privy to “plot” against Shah and GOI, implying non-constitutional measures, without informing them as they might have reason to expect in light nature of existing relationship. In this connection, while Department has been aware in past that Embassy has, as has been case for many years, maintained contact with broad elements public opinion in Iran including opposition, we had not been aware that contacts with opposition had exposed officials to hearing of non-constitutional means of opposition. In fact so far as reports available here indicate, even Gharani group has confined its discussions to constitutional opposition.
It unfortunate in our judgment that Ambassador Amini had been brought into matter by Shah. To our knowledge and belief Amini has conducted himself in exemplary manner and has loyally and faithfully served Shah as Ambassador to US. We have had no reports of any [Page 542] conversations by Amini with US reps not wholly consistent with his responsibilities to Shah and Government which he represents. We realize that it might be counterproductive for US officials to volunteer defense of Amini to Shah. However foregoing might be used as appropriate if opportunity is presented for US reps to comment on statements by Shah or GOI.
We also concerned that Shah has raised question of Bozorgmehr contact with Rountree in Athens [1 line of source text not declassified] Shah should understand nature of contact in Athens. Rountree had no previous knowledge that Bozorgmehr was in Athens when he received telephone call asking for few minutes meeting. This lasted about 20 minutes in course of which Bozorgmehr mentioned no plans or organization, and requested nothing. He merely discussed in general terms situation in Iran. Rountree had no knowledge of Bozorgmehr’s present activities or associations and was under impression Bozorgmehr was still official of GOI.
We are considering what measures should be taken now to remedy damage which might have been done to our relations with Shah and GOI. We are considering for example possibility high level message to Shah endeavoring put matter in proper context. We will await further reports and recommendations from Embassy before making decision this regard but are inclined believe that at minimum Ambassador should seek meeting with Shah [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to allay his suspicion in so important a matter.4 This connection, re last para Embtel 1647,5 Department did not anticipate that insistence upon Embassy’s right to maintain broad contacts would be primary or even substantial purpose of meeting but would be used only to explain as appropriate nature of contact.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 788.00/2–2858. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rountree and cleared by Henderson in draft.↩
- In telegram 1637, February 27, Chapin reported that the Shah had informed U.S. officials in Tehran “with a great show of indignation” that U.S. Embassy personnel had encouraged the Qarani plot by talking to the plotters. (Ibid., 788.00/2–2758)↩
- Dated February 28; see footnote 5 below. (Department of State, Central Files, 788.00/2–2858)↩
- On February 27, the Iranian Government announced that 39 Iranians, including General Qarani, had been arrested for attempting to overthrow the government and that an unnamed foreign power was involved. The next day, the government modified its statement, ostensibly to quell public speculation, by stating that only five Iranians tried to seek help from foreigners to bring about a new government pledged to safeguard foreign interests. The declaration stated that the foreigners “ignored the pleas” of the plotters. (Telegram 1647)↩
- In telegram 1663 from Tehran, March 2, Chapin reported that the situation in Tehran was more relaxed and, in light of conversations already undertaken with Iranian officials, Chapin thought that it would be a mistake to seek a special audience with the Shah to explain the Qarani affair as this would only “rewaken his suspicion of U.S. involvement.” (Ibid., 788.00/3–258)↩
The last paragraph of telegram 1647 from Tehran reads as follows:
“Embassy is in fact in no way involved although no doubt arrested persons may attempt to fix blame on others in effort disculpate themselves. In circumstances I believe we should sit tight, particularly after my talk with Ardalan [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] (mytel 1637), and not attempt at this time again to justify Embassy’s right maintain broad level contacts with all classes Iranians. To do so would in my considered opinion only lead Shah to believe we were worried and some way involved. I naturally, however, will continue as occasion offers to set record straight when I see Shah or high officials.”↩