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The Origins of U.S. Support for an Autocratic Iran

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2009

Habib Ladjevardi
Affiliation:
Harvard University

Extract

At a time when the history of relations between the United States and the former Iranian regime (as well as other autocratic states) is being reconsidered, it is important to recognize that U.S. support for one-man rule in Iran did not commence in 1953 subsequent to the fall of the government of Dr. Mossadegh. A study of the diplomatic records of the U.S. State Department and the British Foreign Office indicates an earlier beginning.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1983

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References

NOTES

1 This revelation adds a new dimension to the impression held by critics of the former monarch who viewed him in the 1940s as weak, ineffective, and pleasure-seeking.Google Scholar

2 Wiley, John C., May 12, and June 23, 1949. Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State, Tehran Embassy, Record Group 84 (hereafter indicated as RG-84), Box 2259, Washington National Records Center (hereafter indicated as WNRC). Suitland, Maryland.Google Scholar

3 For an unpublished statement of this view refer to United States Office of Strategic Services, December 15, 1944. Modern Military Records Division, Record Group 226 (hereafter indicated as RG-226), ID 50737. National Archives Building (hereafter, records in the National Archives Building are indicated as NA). Washington, D.C. For a public, but indirect, statement of this position (support for authoritarian leader rather than opposition to constitutional government) see Lenczowski, George, Iran Under she Pahiavis (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978).Google Scholar

4 Kirkpatrick, Jeane, Commentary, 68. 5 (11 1979). pp. 3445.Google Scholar

5 Abrahamian, Ervand, “Social Bases of Iranian Politics: The Tudeh Party, 1941–53,” Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1968, p. 4.Google Scholar

6 See Allen, George V., May 21. 1946,Google Scholar Diplomatic Branch, Civil Archives Division, Record Group 59 (hereafter indicated as RG-59), Numerical File 891.00/5–2146, NA; and Allen, George V., June 6, 1946, RG-84, Box 2255, WNRC.Google Scholar

7 Dreyfus, Louis G. Jr., to the Secretary of State. December 9, 1942, RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/ 1962. NA.Google Scholar

8 United States Office of Strategic Services, June 30, 1943, RG-226, ID 83820, NA.Google Scholar

9 United States Office of Strategic Services. July 5, 1943, RG-226, ID 30178. NA.Google Scholar

10 Dreyfus, Louis G. Jr., to the Secretary of State, July 23, 1943. RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/2032. NA.Google Scholar

11 United States Tehran Military Attache, August 28, 1943, RG-226, ID 43824, NA.Google Scholar

12 Leland Morris to the Secretary of State, December 6, 1944, RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/12–644, NA.Google Scholar

13 United States Office of Strategic Services, December 15, 1944.Google Scholar

14 James Sommerville to the Secretary of State, December 21, 1948, RG-84. Box 2257. WNRC.Google Scholar

15 See Ladjevardi, Habib. “Politics and Labour in Iran: 1941–1949,” D.Phil., University of Oxford, 1981.Google Scholar

16 Alling, Paul H.. September 4, 1942, RG-59. Numerical File 891.00/ 1914, NA.Google Scholar

17 Tabari, Keivan. “Iran's Policies Toward the United States During the Anglo-Russian Occupation, 1941–1946,” Ph.D. dissertation. Columbia University, 1967, p. 66.Google Scholar For a discussion of the military mission see Ricks, Thomas M.. “US Military Mission to Iran.” Iranian Studies. 3–4 (Summer-Autumn 1979), pp. 163193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18 Colonel H. Norman Schwartzkopf to the United States Ambassador in Tehran, January 1, 1945, RG-84, Box 2243, file 710, WNRC.Google Scholar

19 Colonel Harold B. Haskins, February 19, 1945, RG-84, Box 2244, WNRC.Google Scholar

20 Roosevelt, F. D., January 12, 1944, RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/3037, NA.Google Scholar

21 Acheson, Dean, January 28, 1944, RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/2844, NA.Google Scholar

22 Morris, Leland, September 15, 1944, RG-84, WNRC.Google Scholar

23 Morris, Leland. September 25, 1944, RG-84, WNRC.Google Scholar

24 Thus, there was just as much reluctance thirty-seven years ago as there is today in 1982 to recognize that the “strong individual” does not limit the use of his unchecked authority for “economic and social reform.” The strong individual, after the initial period of consensus, removes the checks and balances required under constitutional government and suppresses all forms and channels of debate and criticism. Having removed the legal and institutional brakes on arbitrary rule. the strong individual then proceeds with “economic development” projects that mainly benefit and appeal to a small segment of the urban population that is necessary to run his machine. In implementing projects, his administrators invariably indulge in favoritism, mismanagement, and corruption without fear of exposure, punishment, or even criticism.Google Scholar

25 McFarland, Stephen, “A Peripheral View of the Origins of the Cold War: The Crisis in Iran, 1941–47,” Diplomatic Hisiori (Fall 1980), p. 333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

26 Allen, George V., June 6. 1946, RG-84, Box 2255, WNRC. For an example of such invitations of intervention see George V. Allen, October 14, 1946, RG-59, Numerical File 891.00/10–1446, NA.Google Scholar

27 United States Tehran Military Attache, May I, 1947, Modern Military Records Division, Record Group 319, ID 37085, NA.Google Scholar

28 Allen, George V., May 21, 1946.Google Scholar

29 George V. Allen to John D. Jernegan, January 21, 1948, RG-84, Box 2257. File 800. WNRC. This letter was written near the end of Allen's tenure in Iran, summarizing and reflecting upon the major events of the previous two years.Google Scholar

30 George V. Allen, June 6, 1946, RG-84, Box 2255, WNRC.Google Scholar

32 Elwell-Sutton, L. P., Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1955). pp. 113118.Google Scholar

33 Allen, George V., August 6. 1946, RG-84, Box 2255, WNRC.Google Scholar

34 Le Rougetel, John, October 8, 1946, F.O. 371, Registry Number G-575/54/46, Public Record Office, London. (Hereafter, records in the Public Record Office. London are indicated as PRO.)Google Scholar

35 George V. Allen to John D. Jernegan. January 21, 1948.Google Scholar

36 George V. Allen, October 14, 1946.Google Scholar

37 George V. Allen to John D. Jernegan, January 21, 1948.Google Scholar

39 Compare Ambassador Allen's private version of events with that published by the then chief of the Political Section of the United States Embassy in Rossow, Tehran Robert Jr., “The Battle of Azerbaijan, 1946,” The Middle East Journal, 10 (Winter 1956). pp. 2728 in which he states: “At a meeting of Qavam's cabinet at which the issue was discussed in supposed secrecy, four of the nonTudeh members forcefully opposed the granting of concession [Allen mentions only Hajir]. Less than two hours after the conclusion of the meeting, strong men of the Soviet Embassy [The First Secretary of the Soviet embassy] appeared at their residences [only Iraj Iskandari. the leader of the Tudeh party was allegedly visited], berating them and threatening physical violence to their persons and families [Allen reports no such violence] if they continued their opposition.”Google Scholar

40 Allen said nothing about his own source of information about cabinet discussions.Google Scholar

41 Allen was referring to Iskandari, one of the ministers he hoped to remove.Google Scholar

42 On the contrary, Qavam and his party were strong enough to challenge the Tudeh. By mid-September they had removed nearly all Tudeh leaders from the important industrial centers of Khuzistan and Isfahan. In Isfahan, the Tudeh leaders were arrested by the personal orders of Mozzafar Firouz. See Ladjevardi, “Politics and Labour in Iran,” pp. 355 and 415.Google Scholar

43 George V. Allen to John D. Jernegan, January 21, 1948.Google Scholar

44 Ibid. Mozzafar Firouz denied and ridiculed the allegation that he leaked cabinet discussions to the Soviets. While unaware of the role played by George Allen in the fall of the coalition cabinet, Firouz knew that he was intensely disliked by the American ambassador. After giving Firouz the unexpected news that he had resigned, Qavam “like a child put his hand in his pocket and said ‘but I have got another order to form a new cabinet.’” In discussing a post outside the country for Firouz, Qavam asked: “What have you done to these Americans?” Firouz was just as puzzled. He said that he had only implemented the government's policies: “It is not only in our national interest but it is to the interest of the Americans to have Azarbaijan freed, to have the Russians no longer in the country.” Yet he refused to follow Qavam's suggestion that he should discuss his differences with Allen over a private dinner. See Firouz, Mozzafar, in an interview recorded by Habib Ladjevardi. December 6, 1981, Paris, Iranian Oral History Project, Center For Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.Google Scholar

45 The Majlis on October 23. 1947 voted to consider the Qavam-Sadchivkov agreement of April 1946 regarding the oil concession as null and void.Google Scholar

46 Le Rougetel, John, December 8, 1947, F.O. 371, E-I200/40/34, PRO.Google Scholar

47 Princess Ashraf played a critical role in organizing the anti-Qavam vote in the Majlis. See Pahlavi, Ashraf, Faces in a Mirror (Englewood, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980). p. 90.Google Scholar Also on the same subject. but from the point of view of a Majlis deputy, see Mohammad Ebrahim Amirteymour(Kalali), in an interview recorded by Ladjevardi, Habib. January 25. 1982, Tape II. La Jolla, California, Iranian Oral History Project.Google Scholar

48 United Kingdom. Tehran Embassy. Report for the Quarter Ended 31 December, 1947, F.O. 371, E-293/25/34, PRO.Google Scholar

49 United Kingdom. Political Situation in Iran, November 13, 1947, F.O. 371, E-1069/40/34, PRO.Google Scholar

50 George V. Allen to John D. Jernegan, January 21, 1948.Google Scholar

51 United Kingdom, Tehran Embassy. Report for the Quarter Ended 31 December 1947.Google Scholar

52 It is therefore somewhat incredulous to be told thirty years later—after the fall of the monarchy in 1979—that the Western diplomats were unaware of the consequences of the shah's mode of governance.Google Scholar

53 United Kingdom, Tehran Embassy, Report for the Quarter Ended 31 December 1947.Google Scholar

54 Jernegan, John D., December 4, 1947, RG-59, Numerical File 89 1.00/ 12–447, NA.Google Scholar

56 Allen, George V., December 26, 1947, RG-59, Numerical File 89 1.00/ 12–2647, NA.Google Scholar

57 United Kingdom. Political Situation in Iran, November 13, 1947.Google Scholar

58 Le Rougetel, John. January 6, 1948, F.O. 371, PRO.Google Scholar

59 Although the would-be assassin. Nasser Fakhr-Arai, had closer ties with an Islamic religious group than with the Tudeh party, General Razmara and others decided to place the total blame for the assassination attempt on the Tudeh in order to deal a final blow to it. This tactical move was strongly supported by the U.S. Embassy. For more details see Ladjevardi, “Politics and Labour in Iran,” pp. 223–225.Google Scholar

60 Wiley, John C., May 12, 1949. Wiley succeeded Allen as ambassador in the winter of 1948.Google Scholar

62 Wiley, John C.. June 23. 1949.Google Scholar

63 Subsequent to the increase in the power of the shah, he was thereafter referred to as “His Imperial Majesty” in the embassy dispatches rather than the “shah.”Google Scholar

64 Wiley, John C., September 17, 1949, RG-84, Box 2259, WNRC. Illiteracy of the masses was a convenient excuse for many of the repressive measures adopted by the government. The shah also cited illiteracy when preventing the formation of political parties.Google Scholar

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