274. Memorandum From Stanley T. Escudero of the Office of United Nations Political Affairs, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, to Gary Sick of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Iran: US Cooperation with Iranian Exiles

Following our recent conversation I contacted two of the three Iranians whose names I gave you and asked them about leadership among the exiled groups. Both agreed that the exiles have come to an understanding that no government can rule in Iran today without the backing of a military organization. They have agreed that a military commander is required to establish the stability which will be necessary to permit the return of the Western educated technocrats without whom [Page 753] Iran cannot effectively address its economic problems. Once that stability is achieved the question of permanent leadership could be resolved. Therefore the exiles believe that a collegial form of leadership can be made to work in the early stages of a regime which would replace the clerics once they have thoroughly discredited themselves. General Oveissi is the man whom the exiles feel must take the lead in these early stages. Thereafter there could be agreement on the transfer of power to a civilian regime, perhaps headed by someone like Bakhtiar or conceivably a constitutional monarchy as provided by the 1906 constitution.

The problems of collegial leadership in Iran are obvious but there is some recent precedent for this in General Zahedi’s departure for Switzerland after his restoration of the Shah and subsequent Prime Ministership.2 In addition, ancient Persian history reveals the successful conspiracy of seven Persian nobles against the Magian usurper and their agreement that one of them, later Darius the First, should be king after the Magus was slain.

It is not clear to me the extent to which Oveissi’s role is in fact accepted by other exiled leaders. Moreover, they would be ill-advised to take decisive action in Iran until the clerics had produced widespread dissatisfaction through misrule. Other obvious problems which would have to be addressed during the planning stages by the exiles would include the degree of Westernization to be reestablished in a nation recently subjected to a strong dose of Islam; economic programs to promptly and effectively ameliorate the effects of unemployment, shortages of various kinds, and a generally stagnant economy; relations with other countries including assistance programs.

To repeat, I do not suggest that we deal with any of these substantive issues now—only that we consider approaching the exiles to encourage the development of an alternative to the left following the inevitable collapse of the clerics.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 42, Subject File, Iran Papers 5/80–7/80. Confidential.
  2. General Fazlollah Zahedi became Prime Minister following the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. In 1955 he became Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.