217. Telegram 4789 From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1 2


  • Continuing Terrorist Activities in Iran


  • Tehran’s A–077 of May 15, 1972: Tehran 3312

Summary: Terrorist activities in Iran seem to be increasing instead of usual summer subsidence due to vacation for students, perhaps indicating better organization and broadening of appeal to non-student groups. Vigorous anti-guerrilla campaign on part of Iranian security organizations is netting numbers of individuals but harsh GOI policy apparently unable bring guerrillas under control and may in fact be hardening attitudes of guerrillas and their sympathizers. While terrorist groups not yet threat to regime, GOI unlikely succeed in halting their activities without first addressing basic question of political, social and administrative reforms.

End summary

Despite continuing large-scale campaign on part of GOI security organs, urban guerrillas are maintaining rate of activity. During past four month period there have been 28 confirmed explosions (11 of which directed against US presence), ten shootouts and several other incidents including unsuccessful attempt to kidnap daughter of Court Minister Alam, and plot to sabotage Isfahan steel mill. Other unconfirmed incidents reported on almost daily basis.
Iranian security organs, including [garble—SAVAK,?] Gendarmerie and local police, reacting vigorously and with heavy hand. During same period at least 16 guerrillas killed in confrontations with authorities, 13 others announced executed, ten sentenced to death but reprieved and sentenced to life in prison, nine others given life, and 39 convicted and given sentences ranging from 3 to 15 years. All of above tried by military tribunals, and Majles has recently passed law providing specifically that all those engaging in acts of sabotage will be tried by military courts with possible sentences ranging from one year to death. GOI has committed considerable resources to so far unsuccessful attempt to control terrorists—for example, two of officers normally detailed to work with BNDD agents on narcotics matters have been reassigned to guerrilla problem.
It is widely believed in Tehran that urban guerrilla activity is increasing and it is certain that a greater number of incidents are being reported in the controlled local media. But increased rapportage, which may result as much from reputed pressure from local pressmen on GOI as from continuing government desire to exploit less savory aspects of guerrilla operations does not cover all incidents independently confirmed by Embassy let alone the many guerrilla activity which are rumored but not confirmed. Moreover frequency of unconfirmed incidents has increased by a factor at least as great as that of those given media coverage, leading to presumption that stepped up terrorist activity is a reality and not a result of inspired publicity. Perhaps more significant than increased guerrilla activity is fact that high level of incidents has continued into summer when students, who have in past provided bulk of recruits for guerrillas, dispersed for vacations. This may mean that underground movements are becoming better organized and are catching on with non-student groups, which if true, would heighten difficulty of penetrating and controlling guerrilla groups.
Despite GOI apparent inability to suppress guerrillas, Embassy continues to believe that terrorists at present constitue an irritant and emrarrassment but pose no threat to regime. However, it is apparent to us, again very tentatively, that GOI tactics of harsh repression against guerrillas are not working very well and may provoke snowball effect of action and reaction part of SAVAK and [Page 3] terrorists, leading to broadening resentment among populace against SAVAK pervasiveness and tactics. Eventually regime will have to implement programs responsive to at least some of the political, economic and social complaints which form bases of guerrilla dissatisfaction. We do not enumerate these complaints here, partially because they are not completely formed and defined in our own minds or even, perhaps in the minds of the terrorists themselves. Moreover, terrorist movement is not ideologically or organizationally unified and nature of their complaints varies from group to group. We shall be examining further and reporting on these and other aspects of the guerrilla movement. Meanwhile, without sounding any alarm bells, this message is intended to alert the Department that the urban guerrilla movement in Iran continues to be a fact of local political life which bears continuing scrutiny.
The U.S. presence in Iran, while targeted by the terrorists, is not their primary target and some sort of incentive such as President Nixon’s May visit (see reftel) or the January SAVAK TV show which preceded last spring’s show trials has been necessary to bring on bombings at American installations. We are continuing all reasonable security precautions.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 IRAN. Confidential.
  2. Ambassador Farland reported that despite a government crack-down, the pace of terrorist activities in Iran had quickened, and that the government was unlikely to halt such activities without first addressing the basic question of political, social, and administrative reforms.