67. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • The Significance of the Assassination of Prime Minister Hasan Ali Mansur

The Character of Regime Will Remain Unchanged. The death of Prime Minister Hasan Ali Mansur on January 26, five days after he was shot by Mohamad Bokharai, a twenty-year-old ironmonger’s assistant, will not alter the character of the regime. Amir Abbas Hoveyda, Minister of Finance in the Mansur Cabinet, was named Prime Minister by the Shah. Hoveyda’s appointment may cause difficulties because he is believed to be a member of the Bahai sect, which is deeply disliked by many Iranian Muslims. The Cabinet remains essentially the same as Mansur’s, except for the appointment of SAVAK Chief (the Iranian Security Organization) General Hasan Pakravan as Minister of Information. Shortly after Mansur’s death, the Shah, in a fiery speech, denounced “black reactionaries” and reaffirmed his support for the reform program formerly directed by Mansur.

Assassination Was Fanatic Expression of Widespread Discontent.2 There is no evidence that the assassin and his accomplices, all members of a small religious society called Maktab Towhid, were part of a larger movement. On the contrary, the assassination seems to have been planned without outside help. Anger caused by the exile to Turkey by the regime of the leading Iranian religious figure, Ayatollah Ruhollah Haj Musavi Khomeini, seems to have in part motivated Bokharai to shoot Mansur, but there was no known connection between the Maktab Tow-hid and the movement headed by Khomeini. There are hundreds of small religious groups like Maktab Towhid that could cause religiously motivated violence of the sort that has just taken place. The security measures taken by the regime have prevented the formation of broadly based political or religious opposition movements. At the same time, fragmentation of the opposition and formation of small conspiratorial [Page 128]groups make effective surveillance difficult. The fact that SAVAK was unaware of the activities of Maktab Towhid is a case in point. There is considerable discontent in Iran because of continued repression of opposition groups, exile of Ayatollah Khomeini, unpopular measures passed by the government such as the recent Status of Forces Bill, and the increase in the cost of basic fuels.

Problems Facing the Regime. The appointment of someone as Prime Minister reputed to be a Bahai may arouse additional religious antagonism. There are, however, signs that Mansur’s assassination has increased the regime’s awareness of the necessity to resolve the differences between the Shah and the religious opposition groups. The circumstances under which an accommodation could be made would require some loosening of political control and a greater measure of participation in government by groups presently in opposition.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Robert W. Komer Files, Iran, 1965–March 1966. Secret; No Foreign Dissem.
  2. A February 10 memorandum from Bracken to Talbot noted that GTI considered the use of the phrase “widespread discontent” in the January 28 INR briefing paper unfortunate, allowing as it did for the inference that “discontent” arose directly or solely from misgovernment and/or repressive government. On the contrary, GTI judged that political dissidence in Iran was at a relatively low point, viewed against the experience of the previous 50 years, and it saw the patterns of discontent in Iran as stemming predominantly from the rate of social change that had been taking place. (Department of State, NEA/IRN Files: Lot 69 D 489, Iran 1965, POL 23–8, Demonstrations, Riots)
  3. In telegram 793 from Tehran, January 27, Holmes reported that the appointment of Hoveyda to succeed Mansur would ensure continuity of government policies and practices. He also noted that the Shah’s television broadcast had blamed Mansur’s assassination on an unholy alliance between Communists and reactionaries, but that the Embassy had no evidence of such an alliance. What evidence it did have pointed to a relatively small group of fanatics motivated by religious and perhaps other factors. (Ibid., Central Files, POL 15–1 IRAN)