Mossadegh’s Strength “Derives From the Spirit Of Nationalism”

U.S. Embassy In Tehran To CIA (May 6, 1951)

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | May 6, 2021                     

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh In May of 1951 the United States diplomatic corps began sizing up the new Iranian Prime Minister and developing a policy toward his government.

The following document was sent to the CIA from the Embassy in Tehran at the end of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s first week in office.

It’s unsigned, but was likely authored by John Stutesman and Anthony Cuomo of the Embassy. A couple days earlier, they wrote the lengthier and more polished Estimate of the Political Strength of the Mosadeq Government, which was cabled to the State Department.

With one name and almost three lines redacted, it’s an interesting record of the vacillation that would soon define the U.S.-Iran dynamic. It hypothesized a range of options, from ‘directly supporting’ Dr. Mossadegh to ‘attempting to replace’ him altogether. We know how that turned out.

U.S. State Department Documents | IRAN

24. Telegram From the Station in Iran to the Central Intelligence Agency 1

Tehran, May 6, 1951.

IN 39208. Re: WASHINGTON 40240 (OUT 99765). [“not found”]

1. Following is [a] joint OSO–OPC interim reply [Office of Special Operations / Office of Policy Coordination] [to] reference telegram submitted without reference [to] Grady [Henry Grady] or consultation with [less than 1 line not declassified] who [is] presently absent [in] Tehran.

2. TEHRAN 12132 Part 1 (IN 38800) gave [a] general estimate [of the] situation [as of] 1 May 51. Reassessment [of the] situation in light [of] events [of the] past five days indicate somewhat more clearly [the] following points:

     a. Mosadeq [is] personally receiving more popular support both from within and outside [the] National Front than has been accorded other recent governments. [Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh]

     b. His choice of cabinet while somewhat disappointing has not yet evoked much opposition.

     c. As [a] popular nationalist leader Mosadeq’s strength derives from [the] spirit of nationalism which presently is [the] dominant political force [in] Iran.

     d. In this position he appears to be opposing both UK and USSR influence [in] Iran, but seems relatively well disposed to [the] US Government which represents [a] third force with no vested interest. (We are informed by [name not declassified] and Grady that Mosadeq believes [the] US Government[’s] “benevolent neutrality” re oil negotiation was [a] great aid to [the] National Front.

     e. Although other opposition forces can be expected to develop (TEHRAN 121, part 1, para 2), [the] only organized and vocal opposition that appears to be emerging at this time is Communist (Tudeh).

     f. US Government policy objective [for] Iran probably can best be implemented by encouraging legitimate indigenous liberal progressive movements which detract from or supplant [the] Tudeh.

     g. Oil nationalization and [the] 9 point Mosadeq proposal3 is a fact which cannot be reversed without major upheaval or long festering wounds, reasonable moderation of implementation probably is [the] best that can be hoped for.

     h. US Government probably is [the] only outside power capable [of] exerting [a] moderating influence on [the] present government.

3. Field plans for concrete long range operation by TEHRAN are submitted under TEHRAN 121, part 2, para 2. Re more direct concrete action following alternative course now appears open to us:

     a. Continue watchful-waiting until course [of] present government [is] better determined.

     b. Support Mosadeq directly, or through his key appointees, by [a] direct approach.

     c. Attempt [to] replace [the] Mosadeq government.

4. Of [the] above alternatives we seriously doubt [the] feasibility and wisdom [of] our attempt [to] replace this government. In [the] first place we do not have [a] machine smoothly to effect change. Secondly, of the opposition leaders presently in sight (Seyyid Zia, Qavam, Zahedi), each have disadvantage outweighing their advantages, and we doubt if any are capable of mustering Mosadeq’s strength or receive the broad popular support which is being accorded him. [Seyed Zia Tabatabai], Ahmad Ghavam, Fazlollah Zahedi] Moreover, it now appears doubtful whether any rightist opposition can be expected to weaken [the] Tudeh to [the] extent Mosadeq and [the] National Front possibly can do. Tentatively, therefore, we are inclined to [the] view that [the] wisest course may be to support Mosadeq, however, [the] risks of this course, including effects possible [in] UK and other reaction, must yet be fully weighed.

5. Although we are not yet in position [to] estimate this aspect [of the] situation clearly, we believe Mosadeq probably would be receptive to [a] direct approach.

6. [1 paragraph (2 lines) not declassified]

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

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

1 “Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 79–01228A, Box 11, Folder 14, Iran 1951–1953. Secret. No telegram number appears on the source text.” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian

2 Document 22. [Telegram From the Station in Iran to the Central Intelligence Agency, May 3, 1951]

3 “The “9-Point Law,” promulgated by the Shah on May 1, implemented the oil nationalization bill. See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. X, Iran, 1951–1954, p. 44 (Document 15). — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian. [Document reproduced below]

No. 15
Editorial Note

“On April 26 the Special Oil Commission unanimously adopted a nine-point resolution implementing the oil nationalization law and calling for the eviction of the AIOC and the establishment of a joint Senate–Majlis committee to run the oil industry. The “9-Point Law” was passed unanimously by the Majlis and the Senate on April 28 and 30, respectively, and promulgated by the Shah on May 1. On the day that the law was promulgated Foreign Secretary Morrison expressed in the House of Commons the willingness of the United Kingdom to settle the dispute by negotiation but stated that the British could not accept unilateral cancellation of a contract by the Iranian Government. On the following day, in a message to Ambassador Shepherd for delivery to Mosadeq, the newly-appointed Prime Minister, Morrison proposed arbitration of the dispute. This proposal was rejected by Iran on May 8.

For the texts of the “9-Point Law,” an extract from the statement by Morrison in the House of Commons, the message to Shepherd, and the Iranian rejection, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1951, pages 480–485; with the exception of the extract from Morrison’s statement, texts of these documents are also in British Cmd. 8425, pages 29–33.” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian


Related links:

“Mossadeq likely to control things for some time” | CIA, 1953

Meeting With Premier Mossadegh at New York Hospital (Oct. 11, 1951)

Amb. Henry F. Grady on Mossadegh’s Cabinet, Oil Committee Prospects (May 7, 1951)

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

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