Suppressing Iranian Communists

Roosevelt On CIA’s Anti-Tudeh Measures (1951)

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | October 17, 2021                    

William Leonard Langer (1896-1977) In advance of a National Security Council meeting, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. reviewed CIA subversion techniques against communists in Iran. These included psychological warfare, black propaganda, and “stay-behind activities”.

The paper was attached to a separate memo addressed to colleague Frank Wisner. Due to the sensitivity of the information, about 12 lines remain excised.

CIA Documents on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup

48. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, October 9, 1951.


1. CIA is unable to affect the immediate political crisis in Iran, which can only be resolved by diplomatic means. Our primary mission has been to counter Tudeh Communist activities and awaken Iranian authorities to Communism’s dangers. Activities in these directions met with conspicuous operational success in August. In September, when the Tudeh was itself largely inactive, our agents concentrated upon planning expanded operations and upon the acquisition of intelligence on Tudeh plans and capabilities. Provided the immediate crisis is resolved, we can continue to harass and ultimately nullify Communist activities in Iran. Within the framework of our primary mission, our activities are:

a. [5 lines not declassified] These officials are cooperating with our agents who, in turn, through penetration of the Tudeh, inform the police of Tudeh plans. We have succeeded in discrediting the Communist among the labor elements at the important Tehran tobacco factory, and have broken Tudeh’s hold on Isfahan labor. As was demonstrated by our operations during Ramadan, the Iranian clergy is a major anti-Communist instrument. Accordingly, religious leaders have been mobilized to direct feeling against the Tudeh during the holy month of Muharram (October). Moreover, a “black” propaganda book (purporting to be a Soviet attack against Islam) has been written, published, and is being disseminated. Steps were also taken to meet expected Tudeh demonstrations in October by counter-demonstrations.

b. Our expanded psychological warfare program calls for expenditure of [less than 1 line not declassified] to purchase printing presses and set up a printing establishment [3 lines not declassified].

c. Progress was made in organizing stay-behind activities. Preliminary discussions took place with the British in the field in Escape and Evasion planning, demolition, and general stay-behind activities. Field surveys by air and road on E&E have been undertaken. We have been in contact with leaders of the influential Qashqai tribe of southwestern Iran, who gave us formal assurances that in the event of war they would cooperate in collecting and transmitting intelligence, in E&E operations, sabotage, and the formation of resistance groups. We are now attempting to install US personnel in this tribal area.

d. [1 paragraph (3 lines) not declassified]

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

• “Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 33R00601A, Box 17, Folder 4, National Security Council 107 Series. Top Secret. Drafted by Roosevelt and concurred in by [name not declassified] on behalf of Wisner. The memorandum is attached to a memorandum from Roosevelt to Wisner, October 9, that reads: “There is attached herewith for the Director’s use in connection with the NSC meeting tomorrow on Iran a memorandum setting forth the recent developments in OPC operations in Iran.” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian

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Related links:

CIA Drafts Official U.S. Statement For After 1953 Coup In Iran

After Razmara’s Assassination, CIA Probes “The Current Crisis In Iran” (March 1951)

The Communist Danger in Persia | Britain’s 1952 Report to U.S.

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