Mossadegh Not Against Monarchy But Warns Undue Intervention By Shah May Result in ‘Collapse’

Interview with Marguerite Higgins (March 1953)

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | February 21, 2024                      

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

On February 28, 1953, Premier Mohammad Mossadegh narrowly escaped the wrath of a murderous mob which attacked his home. The event, known as No’he Esfand, was based upon the misconception that Mossadegh was the reason that the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was leaving for a trip to Europe. The incident became a kind of template for the events of August 1953, when mobs again assaulted Mossadegh’s residence.

Days after No’he Esfand, Mossadegh was interviewed by Marguerite Higgins (1920-1966), Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Herald Tribune.

In their cabled Q&A, Mossadegh reiterated his position on the institution of the monarchy, namely that the king should reign constitutionally. He also addressed the oil matter, the status of the National Front and the hypothetical question of what he would do if he lost his position.

The CIA mulled the ramifications on Feb. 24th, writing, “A grave situation would be likely to develop if Mossadeq resigns or disappears from the scene.”

March 9, 1953
Relaxed View of Tense Issue

Mossadegh Warns Shah On ‘Undue Intervention’ In Plotting Iran’s Course


Journalist Marguerite Higgins PRIME MINISTER MOHAMMED MOSSADEGH of Iran, in his first interview since the eruption in Tehran of a new crisis, warned that “undue intervention” in the government by the Shah of Iran and his court could cause “a collapse in the present situation.”

Although the Prime Minister had no objection to the institution of the throne as such, Mossadegh made it plain in a cabled reply to questions from this correspondent that he intended to put a halt to such “undue intervention” in the future.

(Premier Mossadegh’s cable reached this reporter Friday night, so it cannot be construed as an answer to the joint British-American communique issued Saturday on the oil dispute between Iran and Britain arising out of the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian oil fields. The communique stated that the British settlement offer made Feb. 20 was final.) [Presented to Mossadegh by Amb. Loy Henderson before noon that day]

IN his cable, the Prime Minister discussed with candor such matters as the cause of the Tehran disturbances and the significance of the stoning of American vehicles.

In discussing the oil dispute he made the point that the principle of compensation had been agreed to by Iran and that the main difference between his country and the British was how this compensation should be figured.

For instance, Great Britain wishes the compensation to be figured not only on the basis of the Anglo-Iranian refineries but also in consideration of the profits that the company might have had if their contract with Iran had been carried out. This would involve profits up to the year 1999 and Iran feels this is an unfair demand.

On Feb. 28, Mossadegh fled his home when pro-Shah mobs stormed his garden gate. The mob undoubtedly was directed by Mossadegh’s arch rival, the religious leader Ayatollah Kashani. They were protesting against the government demand that the Shah leave the country temporarily. [Mossadegh was first against his departure, but later acquiesced. There was no “demand”.]

After a disorderly week-end Mossadegh’s followers rallied and he was back at work and at the helm this week.

The questions and answers follow:

Q. What forces are behind the current disturbances in Tehran?

A. These disturbances have been caused by agents sent by foreign hands (Communists and imperialists) who are paying agitators to stir up the opponents of the national government. Elements opposing my government’s internal reform program are also partly responsible for trouble as are various discharged officials. (Mossadegh was referring here to civil servants fired in the economy moves of his hard-pressed government and to various army officers who have been dismissed because their first loyalties in the Prime Minister’s opinion were to the Shah rather than to the government.)

• • •

Q. What is the cause of the split between yourself and the Shah?

A. Kingship is one of the fundamental factors in our constitutional government. But, according to the constitution, the King is free from direct responsibilities in the affairs of the nation. The upholders of the constitution are concerned that undue intervention by the court in the affairs of the government may so weaken the constitutional regime as to cause a collapse in our present situation.

Q. Is it true that your government wishes to take over the charities formerly run by the Shah? If so, what is the reason for this move?

A. The Shah’s charities which consist of several thousand villages were in the hands of the government until three years ago. At that time they were handed over to the court. This means that the government had no supervision over receipts and expenditures involving these several thousand villages. We feel that something should be done to change this situation.

• • •

Q. What is the truth about the lack of agreement on the latest proposition concerning oil? Is it still a question of on what basis the compensation shall be paid?

A. Agreement has been hampered because there has been a lack of comprehension as to the real meaning of nationalization and also because the national rights of Iran have not been fully recognized. There is no disagreement in principles on the subject of compensating the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. for the Abadan oil refinery, but we differ on the basis and the terms.

Q. Do you believe that the people are behind your National Front government?

A. The Iranian nation has displayed its faith in the National Front movement on many occasions. They have shown their loyalty to my government which is striving to make the National Front program a reality.

• • •

Q. What are the alternatives to the National Front if your government should be forced out of office?

A. I will continue my support of the national movement and with the help of the people will carry it on whether or not I am at the head of the government. (This is significant because it indicates that Mossadegh feels strong enough to go to the people; that is, call out the demonstrators who rallied round him last summer when he was momentarily forced out of office. This in turn signifies that the Iranian Prime Minister feels confident that his supporters could cope with the rival gangs of the bazaars who are directed by Ayatollah Kashani.)

Q. Is the stoning of American cars a symptom of increased anti-American feeling?

A. Such incidents are quite isolated and are not significant of the general feeling of the masses of the people. Being insignificant these events, even when they do occur, must not be permitted to have any effect on the good relations between the two countries.


Related links:

Mossadeq Wants Monarchy To Stay | “SHAH SHOULD REIGN AND NOT RULE” (April 1953)

CIA’s Allen Dulles Surveys U.S. Assets In Iran (March 1, 1953)

We Need a Good Policy in Iran | Dorothy Thompson, August 1, 1952

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

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