Secret CIA-Routed Messages Unrevealed for 64 Years
Zahedi & Churchill Get “Friendly”
Pledge To Revive Iran-UK “Centuries Old Friendship”

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 29, 2017                     

“Everything I suffered at British hands is forgotten.”
— Fazlollah Zahedi to Winston Churchill, Sept. 3, 1953

Fazlollah Zahedi and Winston Churchill's Secret Messages After 1953 Coup in Iran

What a difference a coup makes.

General Fazlollah Zahedi was never on great terms with the blue-blooded people. In 1942, during World War II, British forces had him arrested for conspiring with a German plot to launch an offensive against Allied occupation forces in Esfahan, resulting in his internment in Palestine until 1945.1

In 1951, as Minister of the Interior, he endorsed the oil nationalization drive which so outraged England, leading to the Anglo-American plot to oust the “anti-British” Premier Mossadegh, and hopefully, reverse nationalization.

After the U.S./U.K.-assisted overthrow of Dr. Mossadegh, Gen. Zahedi initiated formal communication with the heads of states of the two countries which helped place him in his new position as court-appointed Prime Minister.

The first was President Eisenhower, from whom on Aug. 26th he requested, and promptly received, emergency financial aid. Their messages were not private — they received broad publicity in the newspapers and other media internationally. In the U.S., the Department of State Bulletin published the complete text of their exchange; in Iran, they were broadcast on Radio Tehran.2

Next was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill...but this time it was different. Zahedi’s communiques with Churchill, commenced Sept. 3, 1953, with a reply on Sept.8th, were, as Zahedi wished, top secret.

What followed was a discussion between British and American officials as to how to best interpret, and respond to, Zahedi’s overture. “Any reply would presumably have to be sent through the same channel, but I imagine that the Prime Minister will not in any case wish to send one before Monday”, surmised British diplomat Christopher Gandy. “I submit that before sending a reply, it would be best to ascertain from Mr. Henderson what “friendly gesture” General Zahidi [sic] is hinting at in the penultimate sentence.”3

The U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Loy Henderson, who had met with Zahedi numerous times since the coup, wrote, “I do not believe that General Zahedi’s friendly message was prompted by any motive other than one of general character of letting recipient know he had friendly feelings and was anxious, just as soon atmosphere could be prepared, to establish really friendly relations.”4

Zahedi was clearly fishing for some sort of tangible favor from the British lion.

In June 2017, the State Department’s Office of the Historian released hundreds of previously classified documents, among which was a cable from the CIA’s John Waller to CIA Director Allen Dulles. Dulles learned of them during a Sept. 15th NSC briefing and requested the texts be forwarded to him to examine.

How did Zahedi manage to reach Churchill? Ah, even for this he required America’s helping hand. The CIA, of course, was the intermediary who connnected the two Premiers.

CIA Documents on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup

318. Memorandum From the Chief of the Iran Branch, Near East and Africa Division, Directorate of Plans (Waller) to Director of Central Intelligence Dulles

Washington, September 16, 1953.


Transmittal of Texts of Messages Sent By Prime Minister Zahedi and Prime Minister Churchill

At your request, made during the NSC [National Security Council] briefing given to you 15 September, the texts of Prime Minister Zahedi’s personal message to Prime Minister Churchill, and Prime Minister Churchill’s reply to Prime Minister Zahedi are herein repeated.

Personal and Secret Message Sent By Prime Minister Zahedi to Prime Minister Churchill on 3 September:

“Everything I suffered at British hands is forgotten. The centuries-old friendship between Britain and Iran, which was temporarily broken by mischief-makers, must be restored.

“I want Iran to be one family with Britain and America, to stand firmly hand-in-hand against Soviet Communism. To survive, we must act as one. I pledge my hand.

“Because of Iran’s present condition, she is in need of friendship. She will accept friendly gestures as only proud and dignified people can do, recognizing at the same time the dignity and nobility which prompt friends to give her assistance.

“This is spoken to you from a soldier’s heart, withholding nothing from a greater soldier whom I greatly admire and respect.”

Personal and Secret Reply to Above Sent By Prime Minister Churchill to Prime Minister Zahedi on 8 September:

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill “I am very glad to receive your message and congratulate you on coming to the rescue of your ancient land and preserving its constitutional monarchy. You may be sure that Britain will welcome the revival of our centuries old friendship. We ought to be able to find ways of helping each other and we are certainly willing to play our part. I shall always be very glad to hear from you.”

The above messages were transmitted via CIA channels.

John H. Waller


• Winston Churchill read the messages aloud at a September 8, 1953 Cabinet meeting.

• “Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80R01443R, Box 1, Folder 33, NSC Briefing 17 Sept 53. Top Secret; Security Information.” — U.S. State Department ffice of the Historian

1 “Foreign Office...stated that, in the view of the British military authorities and of the British Minister in Iran, Zahidi [sic] was so deeply and dangerously implicated in the plot organized by German agents that his arrest was considered urgently necessary.” — Dec 12, 1942 telegram from John Gilbert Winant, U.S. Ambassador to England. Cited in Iran Under Allied Occupation In World War II: The Bridge to Victory & A Land of Famine (2016) by Mohammad Gholi Majd.

2 Zahedi Letter Considered Hint Of Oil Settlement — United Press, Sept. 2, 1953

3 MESSAGE FROM GENERAL ZAHIDI, Christopher Gandy, September 5, 1953

4 Loy Henderson to Foreign Office (Sir Roger Makins), September 17, 1953

Norman Darbyshire’s Explosive Interview on 1953 Coup in Iran
The Darbyshire Tapes: Norman Darbyshire's Explosive Interview on the 1953 Coup in Iran (transcript)


Related links:

Estimate of the Political Strength of the Mosadeq Government (May 1951 Document)

CIA Report: Mossadegh “Crazy Like A Fox”, Willing To Deal With U.S. (July 1952)

Gen. Zahedi Another Praiseworthy Retiring Premier (April 1955 editorial)

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

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