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

3581. Subject: Nasser Afshar “Ghotli”. Ref: A. Tehran 3263; B. Tehran 3286; C. State 98076.2

1. Chargé was summoned to MFA this morning May 23 by Secretariat Director General Nadim, who referred to discussions outlined in Ref A and B regarding Nasser Afshar,3 and then under instructions from him raised question of April/May 1973 issue of Iran Free Press which Shah had just seen. Nadim said Shah was shocked over scurrilous contents of this issue and disturbed that country with which Iran has such close relations could permit publication of this type of yellow journalism which full of libelous, irresponsible and inaccurate statements.

2. In reply Chargé said that he fully agreed with Nadim’s description of this publication with its disgraceful contents, that we have been exploring with Washington for some time whether action could be taken against Iran Free Press, but without success so far, and that Shah’s views as reported by Nadim would be promptly relayed to Washington. He suggested MFA might wish instruct Ambassador Zahedi to make same points to Department to underscore Shah’s concern. Meanwhile we expected momentarily reply to questions regarding Nasser Afshar which MFA had put to us as reported in Ref A and B. (Ref C arrived after this meeting.)

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3. Comment: Sheltered as he is by local conventions and practices from any criticism, Shah has always been sensitive to critical comments directed against him or his regime. As he gains in stature and self-confidence he is increasingly sensitive and finds it more and more difficult to understand democratic practices in countries like US and Germany which he sees as overly permissive and which appear to tolerate and condone anti-Iranian activities and personal attacks on Shah. Relations between Iran and Germany in recent years have several times been strained because of such developments, but during same period we have been spared Imperial unhappiness over occasional anti-Iranian demonstration in US or activities of persons like Nasser Afshar and his Iran Free Press. As suggested in Ref A Shah has apparently decided not to ignore any further anti-Shah elements in US and, given close relations between two countries, he apparently hopes we can do something about people like Afshar before his forthcoming visit to US.

4. In this context Ref C is helpful in answering specific questions about Afshar but we believe we also need more general message which will massage Shah’s sensitivities and put Iran Free Press and Afshar in proper perspective. In responding to MFA queries we will draw on Ref C but we would also like to be able to say that matter has been considered on several occasions at high levels of USG and that USG deeply deplores yellow journalism represented by Iran Free Press and totally disassociates itself from this publication. Further, because of our close relations with Iran and regard for him, we have examined carefully what steps could be taken against Afshar and his publication but under our system of government, traditional freedom accorded press under Constitution and other relevant laws, we have regrettably come to conclusion that there are no legal steps that we can take and in our judgment resort to courts against this publication would not be productive.

5. Unless Department believes there is something we can do about Afshar and his publication Embassy recommends we be authorized to respond to MFA along foregoing lines. It is important that we be able to say we are speaking on behalf of high levels within USG.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number]. Confidential.
  2. In telegram 3263 from Tehran, May 11, the Embassy reported the Iranian Government’s demand for an explanation of why the U.S. Government in 1970 granted a passport to Nasser Afshar, an anti-Shah activist and alleged criminal. (Ibid.) Telegram 3286 from Tehran, May 12, conveyed the Foreign Minister’s question: “How can USG permit U.S. citizen undertake political activities against friendly country like Iran and allow this citizen to establish organizations in U.S. aimed at undermining legally established Government of Iran?” (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 30–2 IRAN) In telegram 98076 to Tehran, May 22, the Department explained that there was no basis under law for denying Afshar a passport. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])
  3. On June 12, the Counselor of the Iranian Embassy, Dr. Hassan Izadi, met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Davies. Observing that the Iran Free Press advocated a republican Iran, insulted Iranian authorities, and printed baseless stories, Izadi expressed his government’s wish that the administration prevent Afshar from publishing the paper. Davies agreed that the paper was scurrilous and noted that the Department had corrected the paper’s version of events for various Congressmen, but regretted that the U.S. Government could not act unless the paper violated Federal law. (Ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 13–3 US) For more information on Nasser Afshar, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–4, Documents on Iran and Iraq, 1969–1972, Documents 179 and 225.
  4. Telegram 103917 to Tehran, May 30, sent the requested authority to respond to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, [no film number])