Kashani’s Threat to Mossadegh
CIA Monitors Scheming Cleric | Sept. 1952

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| December 27, 2017     



The political ramifications of the estrangement of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and Ayatollah Seyed Abolghasem Kashani, an influential Islamic cleric who previously supported him against the British, were of keen interest to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

On Sept. 8th, 1952, CIA Director Allen Dulles requested that the Board of National Estimates assess “the implications of a fight between Mossadeq and Kashani”. Such a project, he was told by the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Loftus E. Becker, had already begun on the 6th. “Kashani’s Threat to Mossadegh”, a memo from the same day, Sept. 8th, was heavy on conjecture, particularly with regard to the Tudeh factor.

The special CIA report "Prospects For Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran", prepared by Sherman Kent in early October, emphasized the potential assumption of power by Kashani, though Kent advised that this portion was “beyond the scope of this paper -- particularly in view of the estimate that Kashani was not likely to seek to overthrow Mossadeq and was not likely to succeed if he did make such an attempt.”

A CIA intelligence bulletin from Sept. 7th indicated that some of their information derived not from spycraft but from what they had read in “a pro-British newspaper in Teheran”. Another report alleged that Kashani’s plot to overthrow the Premier was British-approved.

Despite Kashani’s fierce opposition, the CIA repeatedly concluded that the crafty old mullah was still no match for the strength of Mossadegh.

The other excerpts from September CIA intelligence bulletins presented here will be of special interest to researchers of the 1953 coup in Iran; accomplished, as hoped, with the collusion of Kashani.




7 September 1952

CURRENT INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN
Office of Current Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SECRET


NEAR EAST – AFRICA

5. Mullah Kashani reportedly ready to act against Mossadeq:

Mullah Kashani notified Prime Minister Mossadeq before his departure for Mecca that he will take matters into his own hands if the government does not take measures “to remedy the present situation,” according to [excised] a pro-British newspaper in Tehran [rest of sentence excised] Kashani expects Majlis [Parliamentary] support and will probably also have Tudeh [Communist] cooperation. The timing of the plan is not known but it is believed to call for action shortly after Kashani’s return.

Kashani wishes to become the next prime minister. His ultimate aim is to oust the Shah and become president of an Iranian republic.

Comment: An anti-Mossadeq group in the Majlis, composed of conservatives and followers of Kashani, sought American support in August. Kashani also apparently has the support of several street organizations which, combined with the Tudeh, could have a powerful effect. Kashani’s acceptance of Tudeh cooperation is probable, since he has always maintained that he could easily control the Tudeh once he has used it.

[Section #6, possibly pertaining to Iran, remains completely censored.]


Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on December 3, 2013.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]






CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SECRET


REPORT NO. [redacted]
Country Iran
SUBJECT Kashani’s Threat to Mossadegh
DATE OF INFO. [redacted]
PLACE ACQUIRED [redacted]
DATE DISTR. 8 September 1952
NO. OF PAGES 1

[excised paragraph]

THIS IS UNEVALUATED INFORMATION

[two excised lines]

1. Immediately prior to his departure from Tehran for Mecca on 26 August 1952, Ayatollah Kashani sent a message to Prime Minister Mossadegh through Ahmad Razavi, Deputy President of the Majlis. The message stated in essence that, if the present Government would not take constructive measures to remedy the current situation by the time Kashani returned to Tehran, the Majlis, under his (Kashani’s) direction would have to take matters into its own hands.

2. The Kashani-Mossadegh break has reached serious proportions. Kashani is motivated by a compelling ambition to become the next Prime Minister, with the present Minister of Finance Baqer Seyyed Kazemi as Deputy Prime Minister. [Bagher Kazemi] Kashani’s ultimate aim is to remove the Shah and become the President of an Iranian Republic. In his drive for power Kashani has a de facto agreement with the Tudeh in opposition to Mossadegh.

3. The fall of Mossadegh, followed by the abdication of the Shah, would be accompanied by tribal uprisings and a general state of provincial anarchy.

4. Mossadegh’s policy to date has demoralized the Army to the extent that possibly it now is incapable of suppressing a Tudeh coup attempt.

[excised paragraph]


Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on August 15, 2003.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]






15 September 1952

TOP SECRET SUPPLEMENT
TO THE CURRENT INTELLIGENCE DIGEST
Not for dissemination outside O/CI and O/NE
Office of Current Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY


NEAR EAST – AFRICA

3. Iranian conservatives again plot to remove Mossadeq: Two [excised] have separately reported to Ambassador Henderson [Loy Henderson] that a conservative group is considering a plan to oust Mossadeq. The group apparently intends to enlist the aid of Mullah Kashani and then “discard” him after it is firmly in control. Although it is working without the Shah’s knowledge, it intends to “save him in spite of himself.”

The plotters favor constitutional action against Mossadeq, but one stated that “special measures” might be necessary. [Excised] said that the attempt might take place in about three weeks. [sentence excised]

Comment: There is no indication that the opposition is strong enough to carry out a coup or defeat Mossadeq in parliament. Kashani’s support by some of the more violent nationalists, his willingness to accept Communist aid, and his lack of scruples suggest that he or the Tudeh might be the eventual victor if such an attempt succeeded.

Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on January 15, 2004.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]






23 September 1952

TOP SECRET SUPPLEMENT
TO THE CURRENT INTELLIGENCE DIGEST
Not for dissemination outside O/CI and O/NE
Office of Current Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY


NEAR EAST – AFRICA

3. Mossadeq retains position despite Kashani challenge: Mossadeq is still the strongest political leader in Iran, according to Ambassador Henderson. Kashani, however, has a more effective political organization and Mossadeq’s recognition of his growing prestige is indicated by the personal call he made on Kashani after the latter returned from Mecca. The Ambassador states that this is the first time that Mossadeq has called on anyone except the Shah in the last year. [sentence excised]

Comment: Kashani’s political strength has increased materially since mid-July, when Mossadeq returned to power. There is no evidence, however, that he is strong enough to displace the Prime Minister.

Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on December 16, 2004.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]






29 September 1952

CURRENT INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN
Office of Current Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SECRET


NEAR EAST – AFRICA

20. Kashani reportedly plans to overthrow Mossadeq: [sentence excised] Mullah Kashani has plans to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadeq in the near future. Kashani is said to have lined up both National Front and conservative support in the Majlis. He also has support in the army and police and among the clergy.

Plans call for the ousting of Mossadeq by the Majlis and the installation as Prime Minister of retired General Zahedi as a front for Kashani. [Fazlollah Zahedi] If Mossadeq is not ousted by parliamentary means, a military coup will be attempted. Kashani has reportedly indicated that he will not adopt a hostile attitude toward the Shah, and has left the impression with opposition leaders that he will be easier to deal with than Mossadeq. A key figure involved in the plot has allegedly stated that the British approve of Kashani’s plan. [sentence excised]

Comment: Previous reports have stated that the conservatives, including two of the Shah’s brothers and certain high army officers, were considering enlisting the cooperation of Kashani in a plot to oust Mossadeq. Kashani has become increasingly critical of the Prime Minister and he is reported to have warned Mossadeq that he would take matters in his own hands if “conditions” did not improve.

[paragraph excised]

Kashani’s growing power in the Majlis, his control of the extremist elements in the National Front, and his willingness to accept Tudeh support might make such an attempt by him successful. There is no evidence, however, that Mossadeq has yet lost his majority in the Majlis. How the army would react to a Kashani-inspired coup is not known. Recent army changes made by Mossadeq as a result of his suspicion of a plot appear to lessen the chances of a successful military coup.

Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on May 20, 2002.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]






30 September 1952

CURRENT INTELLIGENCE DIGEST
Office of Current Intelligence
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY


NEAR EAST – AFRICA

17. Tudeh reportedly agrees to support Kashani for Prime Minister: The Tudeh promised Mullah Kashani on 27 September that it would support him fully in his effort to unseat Mossadeq by parliamentary means, according to current reports. If Kashani becomes Prime Minister, he will expel the American Army missions, close the American consulates, and restrict American activities, at least in northern Iran.

An Arab diplomat told Ambassador Henderson that Kashani had strongly defended the Tudeh as a loyal Moslem organization. Kashani maintained that he would not be happy until Iran and other Moslem countries in the Middle East were free of Westerners. He added that he could obtain the aid of 30,000,000 Moslems in the Soviet Union. (S Tehran 1309, 28 Sept 52)

Comment: The strong statement on Tudeh collaboration is in line with Kashani’s well-known attitude toward the Communists, and it underscores his basically hostile attitude toward the West. There is no evidence that he could exert any significant influence on the Moslems inside the Soviet Union.

Declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on September 6, 2001.





The assassination of Iranian Premier Ali Razmara — March 1951
After Razmara’s Death, CIA Probes “The Current Crisis In Iran”




Related links:

MOSSADEGH, Islam and Ayatollahs: the rise of fundamentalism in Iran

Stability of Shah’s Regime Questioned | National Security Council, April 5, 1960

Iranian Situation Termed ‘Desperate’ | Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Aug. 13, 1952



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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