Eisenhower’s Last Reply To Mossadegh

Denies Request For Aid Once More | June 29, 1953

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | June 26, 2011                      

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower In literary and theatrical spheres — particularly in the tragedy genre — “dramatic irony” is a plot device wherein the audience has specific knowledge of which certain characters on the page or stage are unaware. With the benefit of time, dramatic irony emerges in historical frameworks frequently as well.

In the fourth and final act of the Shakespearean tragedy The Eisenhower - Mossadegh Cables, our protagonist, the popular Iranian Prime Minister, is seeking a sympathetic response from the American President, unaware that he is actually plotting to destroy him. Though the President conveys a spirit of friendship for their two nations, he has deliberately delayed his reply as a stalling tactic, and could not care whether or not the Iranian Premier is jailed, torn to shreds by mobs or executed by firing squad — he just wants him gone.

On May 28, 1953, Premier Mossadegh sent a final message to President Eisenhower, directly requesting U.S. financial assistance.

Eisenhower’s reply one month later began by explaining that he needed to consult Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Ambassador Loy Henderson before responding. In convoluted language, he expressed concern over Iran’s dispute with Britain, urging Iran to resolve the matter quickly to “prevent a further deterioration” of the situation.

Eisenhower added that the U.S. was “not in a position” to assist Iran either with additional financial aid or as a buyer of her oil “so long as Iran could have access to funds derived from the sale of its oil...”, also assuming the disapproval of American citizens were that to occur.

The circular logic was no accident. The Eisenhower administration had already committed itself to the overthrow of Dr. Mossadegh, defying any claim of a sincere U.S. interest in seeing an agreement materialize between England and Iran •

218. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Jernegan) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews)

Washington, June 15, 1953.

SUBJECT: Need for Certain Policy Decisions on the Iranian Problem

There is some urgency that the Department’s position be clarified on several matters concerning Iran. . . . . . Meetings will be set up of all interested persons after Ambassador Henderson arrives in Washington, but it is suggested that some preliminary thinking be done on the subjects listed below prior to his arrival:

(A) What reply, if any, is to be given Dr. Mosadeq’s request that President Eisenhower act as an arbitrator in the oil dispute?

It is GTI’s recommendation that no reply be given Dr. Mosadeq on this matter, unless he raises the question again.
[State Dept. Historian: “To the left of this recommendation in the margin is the handwritten word “no.”]

• Note: This is only a small excerpt of the memo from John Jernegan to H. Freeman Matthews. GTI = Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs.

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

President Eisenhower’s Final Reply To Premier Mossadegh
June 29, 1953

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I have received your letter of May 28 in which you described the present difficult situation in Iran and expressed the hope that the United States might be able to assist Iran in overcoming some of its difficulties. In writing my reply which has been delayed until I could have an opportunity to consult with Mr. Dulles and Ambassador Henderson, I am motivated by the same spirit of friendly frankness as that which I find reflected in your letter. [Sec. of State John Foster Dulles and U.S. Ambassador to Iran Loy W. Henderson]

The Government and people of the United States historically have cherished and still have deep feelings of friendliness for Iran and the Iranian people. They sincerely hope that Iran will be able to maintain its independence and that the Iranian people will be successful in realizing their national aspirations and in developing a contented and free nation which will contribute to world prosperity and peace.

It was primarily because of that hope that the United States Government during the last two years has made earnest efforts to assist in eliminating certain differences between Iran and the United Kingdom which have arisen as a result of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. It has been the belief of the United States that the reaching of an agreement in the matter of compensation would strengthen confidence throughout the world in the determination of Iran fully to adhere to the principles which render possible a harmonious community of free nations; that it would contribute to the strengthening of the international credit standing of Iran; and that it would lead to the solution of some of the financial and economic problems at present facing Iran.

The failure of Iran and of the United Kingdom to reach an agreement with regard to compensation has handicapped the Government of the United States in its efforts to help Iran. There is a strong feeling in the United States, even among American citizens most sympathetic to Iran and friendly to the Iranian people, that it would not be fair to the American taxpayers for the United States Government to extend any considerable amount of economic aid to Iran so long as Iran could have access to funds derived from the sale of its oil and oil products if a reasonable agreement were reached with regard to compensation whereby the large-scale marketing of Iranian oil would be resumed. Similarly, many American citizens would be deeply opposed to the purchase by the United States Government of Iranian oil in the absence of an oil settlement.

There is also considerable sentiment in the United States to the effect that a settlement based on the payment of compensation merely for losses of the physical assets of a firm which has been nationalized would not be what might be called a reasonable settlement and that an agreement to such a settlement might tend to weaken mutual trust between free nations engaged in friendly economic intercourse. Furthermore, many of my countrymen who have kept themselves informed regarding developments in this unfortunate dispute believe that, in view of the emotions which have been aroused both in Iran and the United Kingdom, efforts to determine by direct negotiation the amount of compensation due are more likely to increase friction than to promote understanding. They continue to adhere to the opinion that the most practicable and the fairest means of settling the question of compensation would be for that question to be referred to some neutral international body which could consider on the basis of merit all claims and counter-claims.

I fully understand that the Government of Iran must determine for itself which foreign and domestic policies are likely to be most advantageous to Iran and to the Iranian people. In what I have written, I am not trying to advise the Iranian Government on its best interests. I am merely trying to explain why, in the circumstances, the Government of the United States is not presently in a position to extend more aid to Iran or to purchase Iranian oil.

In case Iran should so desire, the United States Government hopes to be able to continue to extend technical assistance and military aid on a basis comparable to that given during the past year.

I note the concern reflected in your letter at the present dangerous situation in Iran and sincerely hope that before it is too late, the Government of Iran will take such steps as are in its power to prevent a further deterioration of that situation.

Please accept, Mr. Prime Minister, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.


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Related links:

Shah Demands More U.S. Aid To Preserve World Peace | Eisenhower - Shah Letters (1956)

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