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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 07, 1955

SOVIET MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE OF INFORMATION, 'MEMO ABOUT MOHAMMED REZA PAHLAVIA, THE SHAH AND SUPREME COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF IRAN'

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    This memo includes a brief background about the Shah of Iran, and goes into great depth about the Shah's most recently implemented reforms and policies, as well as his suppression of opposition forces in Iran and Iranian foreign policy that is closely aligned with Western powers. Also discusses Iran's relation with the Soviet Union.
    "Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs Committee of Information, 'Memo About Mohammed Reza Pahlavia, the Shah and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Iran'," October 07, 1955, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI, f. 5, op. 28, d. 347. Department for Relations with Foreign Communist Parties (International Department of the Central Committee), 1953-1957, microfilm, reel 83. Obtained by Roham Alvandi and translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/119709
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[CPSU CC stamp:

37546

7 October 1955

Subject to return to the

CPSU CC General Department]

to Cde. A. A. SMIRNOV

I am sending you a memo about Mohammed Reza PAHLAVI, the Shah and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Iran, prepared by the USSR MFA Committee of Information.

ATTACHMENT: on 14 pages

[signature]

N. SOLODOVNIK

7 October 1955

Nº 1755/s    

 to the archives

Store. Used in

the sector's work.

30 November 1955

[two illegible signatures]

[Attachment] 

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Copy Nº 1

MEMO

about Mohammed Reza PAHLAVI, the Shah and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Iran

Mohammed Reza PAHLAVI was born in Tehran in October 1919. He received an education in the Tehran cadet school (1925-1930), in private Swiss boarding schools (1931-1936), and the Tehran Military Academy (1936-1938). After graduating the Academy he was made an officer and he has a pilot's license.

Mohammed Reza ascended the throne in September 1941 after his father Reza SHAH, the founder of the PAHLAVI dynasty which has ruled since 1925, was forced to abdicate and leave the country in connection with the failure of the pro-fascist policy of the Iranian government.

The Shah of Iran is the largest landowner in the country. He owns 5.5 million hectares of land, that is, about 1/3 of all the cultivated land in Iran, chiefly in the northern provinces of Mazandaran and Khorasan. In February 1955 the value of the Shah's estates was estimated by the American magazine Newsweek at $75 million. Forty-five thousand families live in 1,270 villages on the Shah's lands.

The Shah's annual income from his property is about 200 million rials* (a report of the Iranian newspaper "Bakhtare Emruz" in 1952). The Iranian Shah stores considerable capital in foreign banks, particularly British.

* 100 rials = 5 rubles and 33 kopecks.

The Shah's activity to strengthen his power in the country. According to the Iranian constitution "the person of the padishah is free of responsibility. Government ministers are responsible to both houses for all matters" (Article 44). Thus, formally the Shah of Iran has no right to interfere in the affairs of governing the country, which is entrusted completely to the Majles and Senate. At the same time, according to Article 50 of the constitution, "supreme command over all ground and naval forces belongs to the person of the padishah".

A similar division of prerogatives leads to there being a constant struggle between the Iranian Shah, on the one hand, and the Prime Minister, on the other (only if the Prime Minister is not an outright stooge of the Shah like, for example, the current premier ALA); the Shah strives exert as much influence as possible on the affairs of government administration, and the Prime Minister seeks the right of control over the country's armed forces.

The struggle of the Iranian Shah to expand his authority took on a special intensity in 1949 when the Shah managed to get a Senate created*, half of whose members, according to the constitution, are appointed by the Shah. In the same year the Shah with the aid of his supporters in the Majles managed to get a change made to the constitution according to which the right to disband the Majles and Senate was given to the Shah.

*In violation of the 1906 constitution in effect in Iran; an Iranian Senate had not been created before this.

In 1950 the Shah tried to get a bill through the Iranian Majles which would have given him the right to "veto" decisions made by the Majles and Senate**, and also the right to independently make changes to the Iranian constitution. However, in view of the resistance from an influential group of Majles deputies from the National Front headed by MOSSADEGH, this attempt by the Shah turned out to be unsuccessful.

** According to Article 49 of the constitution "The padishah issues firmans and orders to execute laws, but in no case can he eliminate or delay the execution of these laws".

In recent years the Iranian Shah has managed to considerably strengthen his personal position in the country. Having accused Prime Minister ZAHEDI* of an inability to destroy "corruption" in the government apparatus, the Shah removed him from the post of Prime Minister and appointed his stooge HOSSEIN ALA to this post. The Shah restored the procedure which had existed before MOSSADEGH** in accordance with which the war minister and chief of the general staff are appointed by the Shah and all issues affecting the armed forces are first reported to the Shah, and only then to the Prime Minister.

* General ZAHEDI, who headed the government of Iran after the military- monarchical coup in August 1953, tried to ensure his influence in the armed forces: he appointed his people to high military posts and ignored individual orders of the Shah affecting the army, etc.

** In the period the National Front was in power (1951-1953) MOSSADEGH managed to confer on himself the right to appoint the war minister and the chief of the general staff, which by tradition had previously belonged to the Shah. In the latter period that he was in power MOSSADEGH even combined the posts of premier and war minister.

In several recent months the Shah has personally led meetings of the council of ministers once a week. The Shah sought the election to the 18th convocation of the Majles of a considerable number of his supporters, through whom he exerts influence on the decision of government issues.

In a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador in Tehran in March 1955 Egyptian Ambassador in Iran LABBAN declared that, "There is no government in Iran in the usual meaning of this word; all important issues are decided by the Shah". Later, in July 1955 in a conversation with the Soviet Ambassador Indian Ambassador TARA CHAND confirmed that "the Shah decides all the main issues of foreign policy and the government is his obedient instrument".

Striving to strengthen the position of the ruling dynasty, raise his personal authority, and not allow a manifestation of mass discontent in the country, the Shah is trying to enact a number of social reforms which, without affecting the foundations of the bourgeois and landowner government, would ensure an improvement of the economic situation of the population by some restrictions on the prosperous strata of Iran. The Shah's statement which he made to members of the Iranian government in April 1955 Is indicative in this regard:

"I want you to make a revolution in the country. I want a revolution. I think that we should make it before others take advantage of the opportunity and make it. If we don't act this way then others will do it for us. If you cannot fulfill the difficult task which I have set you, I will remove you".

The most important reforms which the Shah is seeking to achieve are: the approval of a law about a progressive income tax; the implementation of the law adopted by MOSSADEGH about allocating 20% of landowners' harvests to the peasants; a change in the procedure for the sale and distribution of state lands; the confiscation of land around the ]Karaj] Highway seized by landowners, and others.

The Shah's attempts to implement the planned measures, in spite of support from the ALA government, have not yet turned out to be successful in view of resistance from representatives of the feudal aristocracy, which has a majority in the Majles and Senate. Deputy {DERAHSHESH], speaking in the Majles on 10 July 1955, stated frankly that  "there is resistance from the prosperous classes" to approval of the bills.

On 23 May 1955 the Shah gave the following warning to the presidium of the Senate in connection with the negative position of the Senate with respect to the reforms:

"The position which you have taken with respect to the people and the state, and the obstructions you have placed in the path to approval of the bills drafted in the people's interests are evidence that you are kind of trifling with the interests of the people and the state. I chose 30 of you myself for you to work for the people and the state, and if you won't act in accordance with your responsibilities then I will think about fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to me in such situations by the constitution and the Iranian people (the Shah means his right to disband the Senate - note of the KI [Committee of Information]).

The Shah is first among the largest landowners of Iran to begin selling his lands to peasants (on condition of payment of its price over 25 years) and called upon large landowners to follow his example. According to a report in the February 1955 issue of the American magazine Newsweek the Shah has already sold more than 175,000 acres (one acre = 4,047 m2) to 7,000 peasant families. The Shah intends to sell a total of 4,000,000 acres. It is expected that 250,000 peasant families will get this land.

Acting as the initiator of social reforms, the Shah is striving to show the "unity" of all the Iranian people, the lack of class contradictions in the country, and the possibility of a "peaceful" solution to economic and political differences.

The following statement by the Shah made before a group of merchants in August 1953 is characteristic in this respect:

"The uprising of the people (the Shah means the 19 August 1953 conspiracy against MOSSADEGH - note of the KI) showed that there are no class contradictions in Iran. Everyone, rich and poor, gendarmes and artisans, policemen and workers - all, as one, participated in the uprising in the name of saving the motherland".

The Shah is pursuing vigorous activity at the present time to draw the numerous Iranian tribes and their leaders to his side with the goal of creating broader social support to the dynasty. In January 1954 a "Council to Examine the Situation of Iranian Tribes" was created at the instruction of the Shah, whose mission included helping the tribes raise their cultural level and organize medical care. The Shah periodically holds fancy receptions in honor of various tribal leaders.

The Shah stresses his desire to ensure Iran's independence in every way with the same goal. In an interview given to a correspondent of the French newspaper France Soir in August 1953, the Shah declared:

"We need to be given much aid, but we will not make any concessions to the detriment of our independence in order to receive a loan".

The attitude of the Shah toward the democratic and bourgeois opposition forces of Iran. The Shah favors the vigorous suppression of the democratic movement in the country and the bourgeois opposition. In 1949 the People's Party ("Tudeh") was banned at the Shah's personal order, and its leaders and prominent figures were arrested and imprisoned.

Speaking before Majles deputies in July 1954 the Shah declared, "In the field of domestic policy we should vigorously intensify the struggle against the People's Party…". When he was doing this the Shah noted the "insufficiency" of the repressions which were being employed by government bodies in the fight against the People's Party, and demanded an increase of punitive measures in the country against every who "jeopardizes domestic security by any means and creates conditions to poison public opinion".

Brutal repression was carried out in August and September 1954 at the personal order of the Shah against democratic and anti-imperialist forces with the purpose of not letting any opposition to the conclusion of a treaty between Iran and the International Oil Consortium. Mass arrests were carried out in the army, police, and gendarmerie and officers accused of affiliation with the military organization of the People's Party and a "conspiracy" against the government and the dynasty were shot.

As a result of these punitive measures, as the Shah declared in a conversation with Majles deputies in April 1955, "Communist organizations have evidently been broken up, their leaders arrested, and will be arrested in the future; they have suffered and will suffer punishment…We are continuing this struggle vigorously…"

At the same time at the Shah's order the authorities are waging a struggle against the Iranian national bourgeoisie supporting MOSSADEGH who are opposed and who advocate pursuing a more independent domestic and foreign policy. MOSSADEGH himself and a number of his closest supporters are still in prison; FATEMI, one of the leaders of the National Front, was shot. In August 1954 RAZAVI and SHAYEGAN, supporters of MOSSADEGH, were arrested and sentenced to long terms o imprisonment. Speaking to deputies in April 1955 the Shah pointed out:

"Mossadegh supporters are more dangerous than those of Tudeh since those of the Tudeh are in a camp opposed to the camp of patriots and the goal of the fight against them is clear, but Mossadegh supporters hide in the ranks of fighters for the country's independence and engage in subversive activity. The fight against them needs to be continued…"

The foreign policy views of the Iranian Shah. Numerous official statements by the Shah demonstrate his devotion to cooperation with the Western powers. In a confidential conversation held in 1949 the Shah told his mother that "Iran has nothing in common with the USSR. In a future war Iran has one path, with Britain and the US".

On 6 February 1955, speaking in New York, the Shah said:

"In the face of a possible attack by the Communists Iran will associate with the nations of the Free World.

…Iran resisted Communism with a firmness evoking delight, and put itself in the ranks of the countries of the Free World".

The Shah of Iran has repeatedly advocated pursuing a policy of "from a position of strength". In his speech in Washington in December 1954 he openly declared:

"It has become an axiom to consider a position of strength the only position, reliance on which peaceloving nations can ensure their own security and peace in the entire world…

We in Iran do not want to be led astray and our position is as important for us ourselves as for the Free World. We are fully determined to do everything that is in our power to increase the defense capacity of our army; however, Iran has such great importance for all civilization and global strategy that its physical strength should not be insufficient because of a lack of timely aid".

Supporting the policy pursued by the Western powers the Shah, judging from available information despite the pressure put on him, the Shah has still not made a final decision about Iran's participation in a strategic military bloc, although evidently he is increasingly inclined toward this*.

* The Shah's position has decisive importance for the solution of the problem of Iran's participation in blocs. In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador on 13 July 1955 prominent Iranian Senator DIVANBEGI said the following:

"The position of the government of Iran depends entirely on the position of the Shah. The Shah himself has vacillated for a long time in making a decision on the issue of Iran joining a bloc. The Shah's vacillations were and remain the main reason that Iran has not yet joined a bloc. If the Shah decides that Iran should join the bloc then such a decision will without any doubt be approved by the government, which is subordinate to the will of the Shah. If the Shah had made such a decision earlier, when the Prime Minister was ZAHEDI, then it would have unquestionably been approved by the government and parliament.

ZAHEDI has applied every effort for Iran to join the bloc; however, the Shah has not decided on such a step and has not supported ZAHEDI in this".

In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador in March 1955 the Shah avoided a reply to a direct question about Iran's attitude toward the bloc being formed in the Near and Middle East by Britain and the US, limiting himself to the statement that, "Iran will not allow itself to be turned into a military bridgehead against the strong northern neighbor". In 1954-1955, with the Shah's permission, a number of Iranian government figures widely published statements that Iran, in their words, "is an independent country and has a right according to the UN Charter to independently decide the issue of its participation in a bloc".

According to unofficial information, while in London in February 1955 during meetings with EDEN the Shah supposedly agreed in principle to Iran joining the Turkish-Iraqi pact. In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador on 8 July 1955 TARA CHAND, the Indian Ambassador in Iran, declared that the after returning from the US the Shah, "began to be inclined in favor of Iran joining the Turkish-Iraqi pact". Unofficial information dating from July 1955 that the Shah had turned to the Turkish and Iraq governments with a suggestion to hold secret military talks between Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran "at a high level" about the issue of a joint defense deserves special attention.

The Shah's attitude toward Britain. On [his] first years on the throne the Shah was completely under the influence of the closest advisers of his father, Generals RAZMARA, BAHARMAST, and SHAFAI, who sympathized with fascist Germany.

According to unofficial information, in 1943-1944 British intelligence was able to recruit such people from the Shah's circle as RAZMARA, BAHARMAST, FARDUST, and others. At the end of 1944 a new British Ambassador, BULLARD, arrived in Iran, who struck up close ties with the Shah and the Shah's court.

Since this period the British have managed to establish their influence on the Shah and his associates. In doing so they used the fact that the large savings of his father REZA SHAH continued to be held in British banks. A number of prominent political figures of Iran close to the Shah who have influence on the country's policy have been connected to Britain for many years. In addition, the British, who have a broad agent network among the tribes which inhabit the oil-bearing regions of the country, were constantly able to threaten the Shah with tribal uprisings against the central government. As a result the Shah was forced to not resist the strengthening of British positions in Iran.

The Shah's dependence on the British was especially manifested in his position during the Anglo-Iranian conflict on the oil issue. In May 1951, under pressure of the demands of broad levels of the Iranian public, the Shah signed the law about the nationalization of the oil industry of Iran which had been adopted by the Majles. However, as much unofficial information shows, during the entire period of the Anglo-Iranian conflict (1951-1954) the Shah held to positions of concessions to the British and demanded a compromise settlement of the conflict from the National Front government headed by MOSSADEGH.

This caused a sharp aggravation of relations between the government and the Shah, who in July 1952 tried to put QAVAM es-SALTANE, known for his sympathies to the US and Britain, at the head of the government (under pressure of mass demonstrations several days later the Shah was forced to return MOSSADEGH to power and publicly support the law nationalizing the Iranian oil industry). At the beginning of August 1953 the Shah went abroad in connection with the sharp increase of anti-Shah sentiments in the country and returned to Iran only after the military-monarchical coup of 19 August 1953 carried out with US and British aid, as a result of which MOSSADEGH and his supporters were arrested.

On the Shah's recommendation the new government of ZAHEDI made serious concessions to the British on the issue of Iranian oil which essentially meant the abandonment of the law on the nationalization of the oil industry. As is well known, in October 1954 an agreement was signed between Iran and the International Oil Consortium according to which the US and Britain received the opportunity to place the production, refining, and sale of Iranian oil under their control.

According to available information, the British exert a certain influence on the Shah's court to the present time. As [SAIYAKH], the former Iranian Ambassador in Moscow, said in a conversation with the Soviet ambassador in Tehran in December 1954, "Pro-British sympathies are stronger in the court. The Americans are not so loved there, but they are taken into consideration in view of the aid received from the US".

The Shah's attitude toward the US. In the postwar years the Shah has had closer relations with the Americans and has personally promoted a strengthening of American influence in Iran. These actions of the Shah were chiefly dictated by his desire to strengthen the position of the dynasty that ruled then due to American economic and military aid. Beginning in October 1947, with the Shah's agreement American weapons were delivered to Iran, and the Iranian army was trained by American advisers. Iran has received economic aid from the US for eight years. A treaty of ["]friendship, economic, and consular relations" between the US and Iran was signed on 15 August 1955 with the direct participation and support of the Shah.

The Shah visited the US in 1949 and 1954. Both during the first, as well as the second trip the Shah held talks with the President, the Secretary of State, and other political and military leaders of the US regarding an increase of American aid to Iran and an increase of the influx of American capital to develop the natural resources of Iran. When in Washington in 1954 the Shah also sought for the US to rely not on the ZAHEDI government but on the Shah and the Shah's court in its policy in Iran.

According to information of the Soviet embassy in Tehran, after returning from the US the Shah became a more consistent supporter of an orientation toward the US than he was previously. In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador on 8 July 1955 Indian Ambassador in Iran TARA CHAND pointed out that "the Shah is first oriented to the US, and listens to the voice of American leaders".

The Shah's attitude toward the Soviet Union. A certain factor in the Shah's position with respect to the Soviet Union is his (the Shah's) fear of an increase of Soviet influence in Iran in the event that closer economic, political, and cultural ties are established between the two countries. According to unofficial information dating to March 1949 the attempt on the Shah in February 1949 which, as the Shah is certain, was organized "by members of the People's Party at the order of Soviet representatives*", exerted a negative effect on the Shah's attitude toward the Soviet Union.

* The attempt on the Shah was made by a member of a chauvinistic Iranian religious organization, Fada'iyan-e Islam.

The position of the Shah with respect to the USSR is determined to a considerable degree by the fact that the Iranian authorities are creating obstacles to the normal work of Soviet institutions in Iran. For example, in April 1955 Professor NAFISI, the acting Chairman of the Iranian Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR, was arrested and "was advised" to stop work through this Society under threat of further repression.

At the same time the Shah has recently facilitated a settlement of Soviet-Iranian differences concerning financial and border issues. In a number of statements made in conversations with Soviet representatives the Shah has asserted that he personally favors the establishment and maintenance of good-neighborly relations between the USSR and Iran. In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador in Tehran in October 1953 the Shah expressed in general terms Iran's readiness to expand trade and also cultural relations with the Soviet Union.

It ought to be noted that the Iranian Shah has repeatedly made slanderous statement about the Soviet Union; these statements mainly concerned Soviet-Iranian relations in the period of the events in Iranian Azerbaijan (1946) and the time the National Front government of MOSSADEGH (1951-1953) was in power in Iran.

In July 1950 in an interview with the American Associated Press agency the Iranian Shah declared that the 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty, particularly article 6 "has lost validity in the current situation". The Shah asserted that the USSR does not have the right to send its troops into Iran on the basis of this article of the treaty even in the event that the activity of foreigners threatens the Soviet Union inasmuch as article 6 means only the activity of the White Guards who had fled from Russia, not foreigners in general.

The Shah's personal qualities. The Shah of Iran is distinguished by ambition and a desire for unlimited power. As indicated in the American reference book Current Biography for 1950 "the atmosphere of despotic luxury" in which the future monarch was raised and also "fear and admiration of his powerful father" have had an effect on the formation of the Shah's character.

The Shah strives to win popularity among the broad masses of the population. He makes trips throughout the country, spends money for the needs of schools and hospitals, and establishes hours of reception for personal problems. Recently at the Shah's order the Shah's benevolent associations, "The Shahinshah's Social Services Organization", "Soraya", and others have stepped up their activity for these same purposes. The "Soraya" Society, for example, has organized dining facilities in the southern part of Tehran where dinners are offered for the indigent population at relatively low prices.

Film, radio, and the Iranian press extol the personal qualities of the Shah, calling him a "wise" ruler, a "worthy" son of Iran. TELEGANI, an official commentator of the Iranian government, speaking at a press conference on 20 June 1955 declared that "In the 14 years of his rule the Shah has accumulated great experience in general government matters…He gives instructions on general issues".

At the same time in their statements about the Shah dating even to a recent period (1953-1955) a number of eminent Iranian and foreign leaders point out that the Shah does not have the life and political experience needed to rule the country. According to unofficial information, in March 1954 HENDERSON the American former ambassador in Tehran, stated in a private conversation, "The Shah is still young, he does not have the life and political experience needed for a government figure". In a conversation with the Soviet ambassador in Tehran in July 1955 [HANTZ], the Swiss envoy in Tehran noted that "the Shah does not have the necessary governmental experience in managing the state affairs of the country".

Morally the Shah is changeable, he has lovers. The Shah has been married twice: in 1939 and in 1951. The Shah divorced the first wife, FAWZIA, the sister of the former King of Egypt FAROUK, in 1948. The second, Soraya, the current wife of the Shah, is the daughter of a German woman and an important khan from the Bakhtiari tribe, Esfendiari BAKHTIARI. The Shah has no direct heirs.

The Iranian Shah enjoys skiing, and loves soccer and tennis. He is the honorary chairman of a number of sports clubs of Iran.

[signature]

I. BAKULIN

7 October 1955

Attachment to Nº 1755/s

Nº 9763

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