The Present Position of Mossadegh
An Evaluation By Amb. Loy Henderson (May 1953)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 14, 2018                     

The following telegram from Amb. Loy Henderson was first released, lightly redacted, in the 1989 FRUS volume on Iran. In 2017, a complete version was released. Those previously missing passages have been highlighted.

U.S. State Department Documents on Iran | 1951-1954
National Security Council (NSC) documents on Iran
British Foreign Office documents on Iran

788.00/5–853: Telegram

203. Telegram From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State [Loy W. Henderson to State Dept.]

Tehran, May 8, 1953, 2 p.m.


Ambassador Loy W. Henderson 4356. 1. In considering various policy problems regarding Iran [the] Department may be interested [in a] brief evaluation by [the] Embassy [on the] present position [of] Mosadeq. Although at present [the] Court appears to be weakening in [its] struggle with Mosadeq and opposition in [the] Majlis [is] unable [to] mobilize its resources effectively against him Mosadeq’s position is certainly weaker than it was before he undertook [his] struggle against [the] Shah last February. [No’he Esfand incident]

2. [The] Appointment [of] Amini [as] Acting Minister of Court as successor [to] Ala [is] generally regarded here as [a] victory for Mosadeq. [Abolghasem Amini replaced Hossein Ala] Since his appointment Amini has been intermediating between Mosadeq and [the] Shah and has been issuing [a] number [of] conciliatory and optimistical though at times conflicting statements regarding progress in achieving understanding between Mosadeq and [the] Court. Doubt exists however that Amini [is] really working in [the] interest [of] either Mosadeq or [the] Shah. [The] Objectives [of the] powerful Kajar–Amini family [are] not (repeat not) entirely clear but [the] activities [of] Amini may eventually serve further to weaken [the] position [of] Mosadeq without strengthening [the] Shah.

3. Although opposition in [the] Majlis has not (repeat not) been able [to] take [an] effective offensive it has not (repeat not) been dispersed and continues through guerrilla tactics to prevent [the] Majlis from having [a] quorum and [the] government from engaging in constructive activities. Even if, as is being optimistically predicted in pro-government circles, [the] Majlis may be able [to] meet within [the] next few days there is justified doubt that it can take action of [a] character which will appreciably strengthen Mosadeq’s position. For instance unless some surprise event should take place [the] government may encounter extreme difficulty in depriving Baqai of Parliamentary immunity. [Majles deputy Mozaffar Baghai] Government failure in this respect will reflect on its strength following [an] official announcement charging Baqai with complicity [in the] murder [of] police chief Afshartus. [Mahmoud Afshartous, killed in April] [The] Government will also face stubborn opposition in attempting [to] obtain unqualified Majlis approval [of the] Committee of Eight report substitute measure limiting [the] Shah’s powers. [The] Fact that General Zahedi is being given in general sympathetic reception by [a] mass [in the] Majlis during his present period of asylum there indicates [a] decline in [the] prestige and authority [of] Mosadeq in [the] Majlis. [Fazlollah Zahedi]

4. During [the] last six months there has been [a] sharp shift in [the] basis [of] Mosadeq[’s] support among political leaders. Most elements [of the] original National movement [are] now (repeat now) in open or tacit opposition. Indications [of] friction [are] appearing between him and [the] Iran Party one of last National movement elements which still supports him. Mosadeq’s support now (repeat now) appears largely to rest on [the] security forces which he tells me he does not (repeat not) trust, government bureaucracy including newly appointed governors[,] [a] general whose loyalty [is] untested, [Mohammad Daftari] government monopoly of radio and [a] variety [of] groups and individuals with widely divergent interests such as [the] Qashqai Khans and some prominent Kajar and merchant families. [Qajar] When it serves [the] party’s interests [the] Tudeh also rallies to his support in times of strain. His most important strength still is his great reputation as [a] Nationalist leader struggling [to] free Iran from foreign control. Also [the] fact that for two years he has been Prime Minister gives him [a] certain prestige among [the] rank and file. Nevertheless his failure [to] solve [the] oil problem by way [of an] economy advantageous [to] Iran, economic deterioration of [the] country, his frequent use of mass demonstrations in order [to] bring pressure on [the] opposition, his inability [to] obtain [the] cooperation [of the] outstanding political leaders [in the] country, and his resort [to] military law [to] maintain order have served [to] weaken his popularity even among [the] masses.

5. Mosadeq [is] still however, [the] outstanding political figure Iran. His opponents thus far have not (repeat not) shown [the] courage and spirit [of] unity necessary seriously to threaten him. [The] Most dangerous threat which we can see at [the] present moment is that coming from [the] Amini group working from within. This group would require exceptional skill however, if it [were] to succeed [to] overthrow Mosadeq either by peaceful methods or by force. Zahedi has to [some] extent retrieved [his] position taking refuge in [the] Majlis and by presenting his case individually to Majlis leaders and [the] press. Zahedi thus far however, has not (repeat not) been able [to] obtain [the] support [of the] Shah which he has considered essential [to] his success. Moazami [is the] only deputy who in [the] past has frequently contrived [to] make himself [a] middle of [the] road compromise candidate for office now being discussed [in] certain circles as [a] possible successor [to] Mosadeq who would be acceptable to [the] National movement as well as various opponents [of that] that movement. [Majles Speaker Abdollah Moazzami] He may eventually become [a] real threat. [The] Shah fears and respects him allegedly because [the] Shah considers him [an] underground agent for [the] British.


• Note: Bracketed text added and abbreviations removed from original for better readability.
[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Iran, 1951–1954 (2017)

“Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/5–853. Secret; Security Information; Priority. Repeated to London. Received at 6:11 p.m. The telegram is printed with redactions in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, pp. 726–727 (Document 325).” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian

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Related links:

Iranian Situation (Henry S. Villard to Paul Nitze) | May 24, 1951

CIA’s Allen Dulles Surveys U.S. Assets In Iran (March 1, 1953)

Oil, Iran, and the Anglo-American Art of Non-Negotiation (1951)

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