Political Prospects In Iran
CIA Awaits Pending Referendum To Dissolve Majles

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 25, 2017                     

Political Prospects In Iran | CIA paper, July 29, 1953

Premier Mohammad Mossadegh’s proposed referendum to decide whether or not to dissolve the Majles (Parliament) was the focus of the following declassified CIA documents.

Although Prospects In Iran was recently released by the State Department in their trove of new Iran documents, a summary of the CIA report, also dated July 29th, had already been available since 2012. So while this latest release is more detailed, it doesn’t really offer much new.

The document has another sibling, Background Information For Political Prospects In Iran which, along with the summary, has been reunited here for the first time. This document (undated though presumably simultaneous) provided statistics related to the report. In 2000, it was actually released twice in the space of two weeks. The first had only one word redacted. The second, strangely, had seven words from the same sentence blacked out — even though the other six had already been revealed. The concealed sentence referred to an alleged Tudeh initiative to protect Mossadegh from a coup.

Transcripts of all three interrelated documents have been presented below. With the exception of the first, links to facsimiles of the original documents, including both versions of the background paper, are included in the footnotes.

CIA Documents on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup

254. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, July 29, 1953.


Prime Minister Mossadeq’s cabinet decree of 25 July provides for a popular vote on whether or not the present Majlis, the Iranian parliament, is to be dissolved. In his nationwide radio address on 27 July, the prime minister told the people that they must choose between him and the moribund Majlis. According to intelligence reports from Tehran, the referendum is to be held soon, possibly as early as 5 August. [Voting began August 3rd]

In taking this proposed action, which is illegal since only the shah [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] has the constitutional right to dissolve the Majlis, the prime minister will have the full support of the Iranian Communists, the Tudeh party, and its apparatus. The Tudeh has campaigned against the present Majlis and accuses it of being a tool of the imperialistic West. Thus, the prime minister is assured of its support on this issue.

By conducting the nonsecret ballot provided for in Mossadeq’s decree, his henchmen, supported by the security forces, will be in a position to exert direct influence on the voters. Accordingly, there is little doubt that such a referendum will approve the dissolution of the present Majlis.

What may be expected thereafter? Since Mossadeq is currently operating under virtual dictatorial powers voted him by the Majlis last spring—powers which will not expire until January 1954—he is in a position to rule alone. He has, however, so far apparently been sufficiently unsure of himself to desire that the Majlis share the responsibility for his decisions. New elections can accordingly be anticipated.

Rigged elections are traditionally standard practice in Iran, and normally several months are needed to conduct the actual balloting. During the last elections for Majlis seats, the Mossadeq government used both legal and illegal means to ensure the election of its candidates.

The present situation offers unique angles, however, and Mossadeq may not be able to secure a new Majlis which will be more amenable than the present one. While the Communists will support him in the referendum, in a Majlis election it will probably put up its own candidates. In view of the overwhelming Tudeh demonstration in Tehran on 21 July, some of its candidates would be successful there. In other cities, such as Isfahan, it might also be successful. Tudeh candidates would probably represent Communist-front groups; they might even be disguised and run under Mossadeq’s banner. In districts where Tudeh strength is weak, its support would be thrown directly to Mossadeq in order to defeat his opposition.

The prime minister also faces considerable moderate and rightist opposition grouped loosely around the shah and the royal court. Tribal chiefs, army officers, the landed gentry, and religious fanatics under the control of Mullah Kashani might, if they were united, defeat Mossadeq. [Ayatollah Seyed Abolghassem Kashani] In the rural districts they can hardly be denied, and their candidates can only be defeated through wholesale terrorism.

Under any circumstances, several months will elapse before a Majlis can be returned to office. During this time the prime minister must carry on alone.

The next Majlis, if and when it is ultimately assembled, gives no promise of solving Mossadeq’s problems. He may manipulate a somewhat larger group, but will have difficulty in eliminating his conservative and rightist opposition. He will probably find a compact and determined Tudeh bloc facing him, ready to support his anti-Western policies, prodding him on to more extremist action, and awaiting the day when they can take over. Tudeh representation in a Mossadeq cabinet is not an impossibility.

Mossadeq has been recently reported as undecided and extremely nervous, but, on another occasion, as convinced that the people will support him fully. Mossadeq’s personal appeal and his almost miraculous ability to recoup should not be overlooked; on the other hand, Tudeh is the only political party in Iran which has a sense of purpose and a clear doctrine to offer. [What happened to Mossadegh’s doctrine?]

An ominous note is sounded by Mossadeq’s off-the-record statement to New York Times correspondent Richard Love. [sic—Kennett Love] In commenting on the 21 July Tudeh demonstrations, the prime minister stated: “You cannot crush the will of the people—look at what happened in China.” [So Kennett Love leaked an “off-the-record” quote to the CIA?]

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Approved for release September 12, 2000

• “Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80R01443R, Box 1, Folder 28, NSC Briefing 30 July 53. Secret; Security Information. This paper was apparently prepared for DCI Dulles’ briefing of the NSC on July 30. In the top right-hand corner of the paper is a handwritten note that reads: “used.” The minutes of the July 30 NSC meeting record that the DCI briefed the NSC on significant world developments, including “developments in Iran.” (National Archives, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Minutes 1947–1961, Box 29, 157th Meeting—Section 1) The memorandum of discussion at the July 30 NSC meeting, prepared by Deputy Executive Secretary Gleason, notes that “Mr. Dulles stated that in Iran another crisis was approaching. A plebiscite was due to be held on August 5 to give Mossadegh the right to get rid of Parliament. The Shah had locked himself in his palace, and the Tudeh Party was supporting Mossadegh. Recent statements by the Secretary of State had caused a rise in U.S. stock in Iran, but the situation remained serious.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Series, Box 4, 157th Meeting of the National Security Council)” — State Dept. Office of the Historian


29 July 1953


I. Mossadeq decrees nationwide referendum:

A. Decree issued on 25 July.

B. Referendum will decide if present Majlis should be abolished.

C. May be held as early as 5 August.

II. Referendum expected to dissolve Majlis:

A. Proposed referendum actually illegal; only shah can dissolve Majlis.

B. Tudeh will support Mossadeq.

C. Nonsecret ballot makes it possible for Mossadeq’s supporters to influence the voters.

D. Referendum will probably approve dissolution of the Majlis.

III. Mossadeq can rule as dictator until new elections:

A. Full powers previously granted Mossadeq are valid until January 1954.

B. He has previously made the Majlis share responsibilities.

C. Therefore, new elections are expected.

IV. Communists will probably gain from new elections:

A. Tudeh party will probably run its candidates under front organizations, or even under Mossadeq’s banner.

B. Probably can elect some of its candidates in Tehran.

C. Other cities, such as Isfahan, might also return Communist deputies.

D. In districts where Tudeh is too weak, it will probably support Mossadeq.

V. Opposition expected to elect some deputies:

A. Mossadeq faces considerable moderate and rightist opposition grouped around shah.

B. A united opposition including tribal chiefs, army officers, landlords, and Kashani’s religious fanatics might defeat Mossadeq.

C. At any rate, in rural districts the opposition will probably have some success since only wholesale terrorism could completely defeat them.

VI. New Majlis no solution to Mossadeq’s probems:

A. Mossadeq will rule alone for several months before new elections can be held.

B. In new Majlis, Mossadeq may control a larger group.

C. He will still face an opposition bloc.

D. Tudeh will be urging Mossadeq to more extreme policies while waiting for a chance to take over.

E. Possibility of Tudeh members in Mossadeq’s cabinet.

VII. Mossadeq vacillates:

A. He is reportedly undecided and extremely nervous.

B. However, he claims that people will support him.

C. Mossadeq has an almost miraculous ability to recoup.

D. Only Tudeh, however, has a sense of purpose and a clear doctrine.

VIII. Mossadeq’s statement ████████████████████████████

A. “You cannot crush the will of the people—look at what happened in China.”

Click here for a .pdf of the original CIA document, declassified and approved for release September 12, 2012


I. Estimated Tudeh strength in Iran:

A. July 1953 -- 20,000 to 35,000, with an estimated hard core of 1,000.

(1) Tudeh sympathizers number several times this figure.

B. April 1953 — Tudeh strength in armed forces estimated at 1,000; about 20 percent of military school students believed members.

II. 19 June Tehran demonstrations:

A. Government sponsored -- 3,000

B. Tudeh demonstrators (marching in other parts of city) – 12,000

III. 21 July 1953 Tehran demonstrations:

A. Government sponsored — 10,000 to 20,000.

B. Government-sanctioned Communist demonstrations -- 50,000 to 100,000.

IV. Legal status of Tudeh in Iran:

A. 1949 -- declared illegal by ministerial action and approved by Majlis.

B. 19 March 1953 — Ministry of Justice reportedly exonerated top Tudeh leaders who had been sentenced to death “in absentia.”

(1) Ruled that the Tehran military court lacked jurisdiction .

C. No firm indication that Mossadeq will legalize Tudeh.

V. Tudeh support of Mossadeq:

A. 4 April 1953 — Tudeh member told ███ that the party had instructed its members to “protect” Mossadeq’s government against a possible coup.

VI Mossadeq’s proposed administration of referendum:

A. Two persons in each constituency to be nominated to supervise referendum committee in charge of polls.

B. In each polling center, two boxes will be installed, one for votes in favor and the other for votes opposed to dissolution of the Majlis.

C. Referendum in Tehran and suburbs in one day, to be held in entire country within seven days.

D. As soon as all votes are collected, they will be forwarded to the Ministry of Interior and final results will be announced.

Click here for a .pdf of the document as approved for release August 29, 2000. Click here for a .pdf of the document as approved for release September 12, 2000.

After Razmara’s Death, CIA Probes “The Current Crisis In Iran”
The assassination of Iranian Premier Ali Razmara — March 1951

Search MohammadMossadegh.com

Related links:

A Study of Electoral Methods in Iran (CIA Report, Nov. 1953)

Iran’s “Election” | The Times Record, August 5, 1953

Assessment of the Iranian Situation (August 17, 1953 CIA Report)

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

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