VII. APPARENT FAILURE, OVERTHROW OF PREMIER MOSSADEQ OF IRAN (CIA Secret Report)

November 1952-August 1953
VII.  APPARENT FAILURE

 


VII.  APPARENT FAILURE


      At 0545 hours on the morning of 16 August 1953, Radio

Tehran came on the air with a special government communique

covering the so-called abortive coup of the night just end-

ing, and by 0600 hours Mossadeq was meeting with his cabinet

to receive reports on the situation and to take steps to

strengthen the security forces at government buildings and

other vital points.  Again at 0730 hours the communique was

broadcast.

     Station personnel had passed an anxious, sleepless

night in their office.  From the fact that certain actions

provided for in the military plan failed to materialize--

no jeep with radio arrived at the compound, and the tele-

phone system continued to function--it was obvious that

something--or everything--had gone wrong.  At 0500 hours,

as soon as the curfew was lifted, Carroll toured the town

and reported there was a concentration of tanks and troops

around Mossadeq's house, and other security forces on the

move.  Then Colonel [Farzanegan] called the office to say

that things had gone badly, and he, himself, was on

the run toward the Embassy in search of refuge.  At 0600

hours he appeared, gave a summary of the situation, which

was like that of the government communique, and was rushed


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into hiding.  The station was now suddenly faced with the

task of rescuing the operation from total failure, and

decisions of far-reaching effect were quickly taken.  The

first need was to establish contact with Ardeshir Zahedi,

son of General Zahedi.  At 0800 hours he sent word to the

station of his whereabouts, and Roosevelt drove up to

Shimran--the summer resort section north of Tehran--to hear

that Areshir and his father felt that there was still hope

in the situation.  It was immediately decided that a strong

effort must be made to convince the Iranian public that

Zahedi was the legal head of the government and that Mossadeq

was the usurper who had staged a coup.  (It should be noted

that all action taken from this time on corresponded to the

basic estimate of the operational plan that the army would

respond to the Shah if they were forced to a choice between

the ruler and Mossadeq.)  This action was initiated by em-

ploying station communications facilities to relay a message

to the New York Associated Press (AP) office stating that:

"Unofficial reports are current to the effect that leaders

of the plot are armed with two decrees of the Shah, one

dismissing Mossadeq and the other appointing General Zahedi

to replace him."  In order to get an authoritative state-

ment that could be distributed for local consumption, the

station planned to send General McClure, head of the American


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Military Mission, to see the Shah and ask him whether the

alleged firmans were valid.  Later in the day it was learned

that the Shah had fled.

     By 0930 hours the city was calm, with shops opening

and people going about their normal business.  However,

tanks, extra soldiers, and police were stationed at key

points, including the royal palaces which were sealed off

from outside contact.  Rumors began to circulate.  The one

that gained early attention was to the effect that the

alleged coupt had been inspired by the government in order

to give Mossadeq an excuse to move against the Shah.  At

about this time Roosevelt sent General McClure to see General

Riahi, Chief of Staff, to ask whether the US Military Mission

was still accredited to Mossadeq or someone else, as the

Embassy had heard that an imperial firman had been issued

naming Zahedi as Prime Minister.  Riahi denied that the

firman had been "authentically signed" and stated that:

"Iran and its people are more important than the Shah or

any particular government," and that the army was "of the

people and would support the people."  It was not until a

number of hours later that McClure reported to Roosevelt

on this meeting, and from the time of the meeting on, McClure

seemed disposed to go along with Riahi in the hope that Riahi

himself might eventually try to overthrow Mossadeq.


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     It was now well into the morning, after the papers had

been out for some time.  Shojat, the substitute for the

principal Tudeh paper, Besuye Ayandeh, had been predicting

a coup since 13 August.  It now stated that the plans for

the alleged coup had been made after a meeting between the

Shah and General Shwarkkopf on 9 August, but that Mossadeq

had been tipped off on the 14th.  It should be noted that

the Tudeh appeared to be at least as well posted on the coup

plans as the government--how is not known.  The station prin-

cipal agent team of [Djalili and Keyvani] working on their

own and with singular shrewdness, had put out a special

broadsheet with documented the current rumor but twisted it

to read that the alleged coup was arranged to force out the

Shah.  The morning issue of Mellat-i-Ma told this same story,

while a first mention of the firman naming Zahedi was given

on an inner page of the large circulation daily Keyhan.

     At 1000 hours another communique added a few details

to the earlier one.  By this time the Tudeh party members,

organized in small groups, were making speeches in many

parts of teh city, while smaller groups of pro-Mossadeq

nationalists were also out in the streets.  Then a fresh

rumor made the rounds:  that a plot had existed but that,

when it had failed to materialize, Mossadeq had staged a

fake coup.  At 1100 hours two correspondents of the New


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York Times were taken to Shimran, by station arrangement,

to see Zahedi.  Instead, they say his sone, Ardeshir, who

showed them the original of the imperial firman naming

Zahedi as Prime Minister and gave them photostatic copies.

These photostats had been made by Iranian participants in

the plan.  Following this meeting the station took charge

of the firman, had its own photostats made, and kep the

original locked up in the station safe until final victory.

At noon RAdio Tehran put out a very brief statement signed

by Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq (without his title of Prime Minister

being used) stating that:  "According to the will of the

people, expressed by referendum, the 17th Majlis is dissolved.

Elections for the 18th session will be held soon."  It was

this statement, together with the following violently anti-

Shah remarks of Fatemi and teh undisguised and freely-preached

republican propaganda of the Tudeh Party, that was instru-

mental in persuading the general public that Mossadeq was

on the verge of eliminating the monarchy.

     At 1400 hours Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatemi held

a press conference.  He stated that for some time past the

government had received reports from several sources to the

effect that the Imperial Guards were planning a coup and,

hence, measures were taken to counteract any such coup.  He

then went on to review the incidents of the coup, as already


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stated by teh government communiques.  In reply to a ques-

tion, he said that Abul Ghassem Amini, Acting Minister of

Court, had been arrested since it could not be considered

that the court was not a part of the conspriacy.  He added

that his own views would be found in his editorial in

Bakhtar Emruz:  this editorial, as printed and as read in

full, over Radio Tehran at 1730 hours, was a save, lengthy,

malicious attack upon the Shah and upon Reza Shah--a man

for who the general public still feels a large measure of

respect and awe.  It may be said that this editorial did

a great deal to arouse public resentment against the govern-

ment of Mossadeq.

     During the afternoon the station was at work preparing

a public statement from General Zahedi which was prepared

with the direct advice of Ardeshir Zahedi, the Rashidian

brothers, and Colonel [Farzanegan.] When it was ready the

agents were unable to find a press in town which was not

watched by the government.  Therefore, one of the Rashidians

did ten copies on a Persian typewriter.  These were rushed

to General Zahedi for his signature adn then given out to

the foreign correspondents, to local pressmen and to two

key army officers.  By the time they were distributed, it

was too late to catch the press for the morning of the 17th.

However, station agents, [(Djalili and Keyvani),] although not


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in touch with the station, the Rashidians, or [Farzanegan,]

went ahead on their own.  They composed a fabricated inter-

view with Zahedi and had it printed on the 17th, along with

a copy of the firman.  In this instance, as in a number of

others, the high-level agents of the station demonstrated

a most satisfying ability to go ahead on their own and do

just the right thing.  During the day the station was

securing the persons of key individuals and sending them

to safety.  Some were concealed in the house of a station

clerk in the Embassy compound and some in the houses of US

personnel of the station outside the compound.  Thus,

Ardeshir Sahedi was in station hands from the morning of

the 16th on, General Zahedi from the morning of the 17th

on, the Rashidian brothers from the 16th on with the excep-

tion of a venture out on the 18th, Colonel [Farzanegan] from

the morning of the 16th on, and General [Guilanshah] from the

morning of the 16th.  These people had to be concealed by

the station, both in order to secure them from arrest and

also to have them in places to which Americans could logi-

cally and easily go.

     That evening about 1930 hours crwods massed in the

Majlis Square to hear speeches, and the proceedings were

rebroadcast over Radio Tehran.  The speakers included pro-

Mossadeq ex-Majlis deputies Mosavi, Dr. Szyyid Ali Shayegan,

Engineer Zirakzadeh, Engineer Razavi, and Foreign Minister


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Fatemi.  All the speakers attacked the Shah and demanded

that he abdicate.  During the course of these speeches,

the public was informed for the first time that the Shah

had fled to Baghdad.  The station had learned several

hours earlier that the Shah had left.  By 1600 hours the

two principal US Embassy political officers had given up

hope, while Roosevelt was insisting there was still a

"slight remaining chance of success" if the Shah would use

the Baghadad radio and if Zahedi took and aggressive stand.

Additional station messages to Headquarters contained the

texts of the type of statements the Shah could make over

Baghdad radio.

     Allowing for the seven hour difference in time, Head-

quarters received the first message from the station on the

non-success of the coup at 0130 hours on the 16th, and a

few hours thereafter was working on the station's request

to get the Shah to broadcast from Baghdad.  As the working

day ended, they had to report to the station that the State

Department was firmly opposed to any American effort to

contact the Shah and suggested the British do it.  At

Nicosia they responded enthusiastically to the station's

suggestion, and the SIS attempted to get permission from

London to have Leavitt and Darbyshire flown to Baghdad by

RAF jet fighter early in the morning of the 17th, for the


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purpose of exerting pressure on the Shah.  Londong refused

permission.

     As the station personnel entered on another day after

a second sleepless night, some real encouragement came from

word that, in breaking up Tudeh groups late the night before,

the soldiers had beaten them with rifle butts and made them

shout, "Long live the Shan."  The station continued to feel

that the "project was not quite dead" since General Zahedi

General [Guilanshah], the Rashidian brothers, and Colonel

[Farzanegan] were still determined to press action.

     Now, on the morning of 17 August, the press was again

on the streets.  Niruye Sevum stated that Schwarzkopf

engineered the plot with the Shah and that "simple-minded

Americans thought the Shah was a trump card." Dad and Shahed

both blamed the so-called coup on the government, and Keyhan

carried the text of an alleged Radio London statement quoting

Zahedi to the effect that he had a firman from the Shah and

that the Shah had left because his life was threatened.

Throughout the morning Iranians with good radios were able

to get word from foreign stations of statements that the

Shah had made in Baghdad.  He said:  "What has taken place

in Iran cannote be considered a coup d'etat in the real sense."

The Shad said he had issued his orders for the dismissal of

Dr. Mossadeq under the prerogatives given to him by the


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constitution, and had appointed General Zahedi in his

place.  He went on to say that he had not abdicated and

that he was confident of the loyalty of the Iranian people

to him.  This line was what the station had in mind, if

less strong than desired; and the Baghdad papers hinted

that painful, bloody events were still to come in Iran.

The station suggested that Imam Khalasi, religious divine

at Baghdad, and the Agha Khan be enlisted to give the Shah

moral backing, while Headquarters, on State Department

instructions, continued to refuse permission for direct

US contact with the Shah.  In the meantime the US Ambassa-

dor to Iraq, Burton Berry, reported on his conversation

with the Shah on the evening of the 16th.  His statements,

made on his own initiative, were quite in line with sugges-

tions reaching him after the event.

     About 1000 hours a considerable body of the troops

that had been dispersed throughout the city were called

back to their barracks, as the government was certain the

situation was well in hand.  At 1030 hours Radio Tehran

called up General Zahedi to surrender to the authorities,

and then began broadcasting lists of those arrested as

having taken part in the abortive coup or having had some

connection with those events.  The separate lists, includ-

ing those of the next day, contained the following names


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(those underlined indicate the individuals who were known to

the station to be engaged in the coup attempt):

    [Acting Minister of Court Abul Ghassem Amini
     Colonel Novzari, Commander of 2nd Armored Brigade
     Colonel Zand-Karimi, Chief of Staff of 2nd Mountain
          Brigade
     Commander Poulad Daj of the Police
     Colonel Nematollah Nasiri, Commander of Imperial
          Guards
     Lt. Colonel Azamudeh, Reg. CO 1st Mountain Brigade
     Colonel Parvaresh, head of the Officers' Club
     1st Lieutenant Niahi
     Mr. Perron, Swiss subject
     General Nadr Batmangelich, retired
     Colonel Hadi Karayi, Commander of Imperial Guards
          at Namsar
     General Shaybani, retired
     Rahim Hirad, Chief of Shah's private secretariat
     Soleiman Behbudi, Chief of Shah's household
     Lt. Colonel Hamidi, Asst. Director of Police visa section
     Colonel Mansurpur, Squadron Leader (cavalry)
     Colonel Rowhani, Chief of Staff of 3rd Mountain Brigade
     Captain Baladi
     1st Lieutenant Naraghi
     Captain Shaghaghi
     Captain Salimi
     1st Lieutenant Eskandari
     1st Lieutenant Jafarbey
     Mr. Ashtari
     Mr. Mohammed Jehandari
     1st Lieutenant Rauhani
     Dr. Mozaffar Baqai]

     Rumors circulated to the effect that the arrested

officers were to be hanged on 20 August, and throughout

the unit commands of the Tehran garrison, the police, and

the gendarmerie, officers met to discuss the situation.

Several of them resolved to risk all to attempt to rescue

their friends.


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     The station devoted a great deal of effort during

the day to circulating photostatic copies of the firman--

particularly among the army--and in trying to arrange

for more and more press coverage.  It was now obvious

that public knowledge of the existence of the firmans

was having an effect.  Everyone was asking questions:

"Was it true that the Shah had issued the firmans?  If so,

why was Mossodeq lying about it?  Wasn't that a most

reprehensible thing to do?"

     At 1325 hours Fatemi held a press conference at

which he dealt with the flight of the Shah to Iraq, read

the abjectly pleading letter from arrested Acting Minister

of Court Armini, and stated that 14 officers had been arrested.

His more detailed views on the current situation were ex-

pressed in an editorial in Bakhtar Emruz and were in the

main a repetition of his previous scurrilou attacks against

the Shah.  He wrote such words as, "O traitor Shah, you

shameless person, you have completed the criminal history

of the Pahlevi reign.  The people...want to drag you from

behind your desk to the gallows."

     EArly in the afternoon, Ambassador Henderson arrived

in Tehran from Beirut.  On the way out to the airport to

meet him, members of the Embassy passed the site of the

bronze statue of Reza Shah at the end of the avenue of


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that name.   Only the boots of teh figure remained on the

pedestal.  A passing truck was dragging behind it the horse

from the equestrian statue of the same ruler that had stood

in Sepah Square.  In the crowds engaged in this activity,

the Tudeh were obviously in the majority.

     On behalf of the government, Henderson was welcomed

by Dr. Gholam Hosein Mossadeq, son of the Prime Minister,

and by Dr. Alemi, Minister of Labor.  At 1630 hours the

station sent off a cable giving a general survey of the

local situation which, although it foresaw Mossadeq's

position strengthened for the next few weeks, did insist

that a policy of opposition to him be continued.  Near the

end of the afternoon, the government used the voice of a

religious leader, Sadr Balaghi, to attack the Shah over

Radio Tehran.

     The evening was a most active and trying time for the

station.  Principal agents [Keyvani and Djalili] were reached

and given instructions.  Within the Embassy compound,

Roosevelt and Carroll held a prolonged council of war with

the heads of their team:  General Zahedi and Ardeshir

Zahedi, General [Guilanshah,] the three Rashidian brothers,

and Colonel [Farzanegan].  These teammates were, when re-

quired, smuggled in and out of the compound in the bottom

of cars and in closed jeeps.  A few hundred yards away


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Ambassador Henderson and General McClure were out in the

garden in front of the residency, and Roosevelt wore a

path back and forth to reassure them that no Persians were

hidden out in the compound, so that they could in all hon-

esty so inform Mossadeq if the question were asked.  The

council of war went on for about four hours, and in the

end it was decided that some action would be taken on

Wednesday the 19th.  As preparation for this effort, several

specific activities were to be undertaken.  In the field of

political action, it was planned to send the Tehran cleric

[Ayatollah Behbehani] to Qum to try to persuade the supreme

cleric, Ayatollah Borujerdi, to issue a fatwa (religious

decree) calling for a holy war against Communism, and also

to build up a great demonstration on Wednesday on the theme

that it was time for loyal army officers and soldiers and

the people to rally to the support of religion and the

throne.  In the field of military action, support from

outside of Tehran seemed essential.  Colonel [Farzanegan]

was sent off in a car driven by a station agent (US national

Gerald Towne) to [Kermanshah, a distance of 400 miles,] to

persuade Colonel [Timur Bakhtiar,] commanding officer of the

[Kermanshah] garrison, to declare for the Shah.  Zahedi, with

Carroll, was sent to Brigadier General [Zargham] at [Isfahan]

with a similar request.  Through station facilities these


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messengers were provided with identification papers and

travel papers which stood up under inspection.  All those

leaving the compound were also given station-prepared

curfew passes.

     Throughout the long hours of 17 August, there seemed

little that Headquarters could do to ease the pangs of

despair.  A wire sent to the station in the afternoon

expressed the strong feeling that Roosevelt, in the interest

of safety, should leave at the earliest moment, and it went

on to express distress over the bad luck.  At about the

same time, an operational immediate cable went out to

Ambassador Beery in Baghdad with guidance concerning his

future meetings with the Shah.  Propaganda guidance was

sent to the stations in Karachi, New Delhi, Cairo, Damascus,

Istanbul, and Beirut to the effect that the Zahedi govern-

ment was the only legal one.  Just after midnight Headquarters

urged a Paris Station officer in southern France to get in

touch with the Agha Khan at once, in order to urge the latter

to send a wire to the Shah expressing his strongest moral

support.  Much later, Headquarters learned that contact

had been established, but there was not the hoped-for outcome.

The Agha Khan had at once stated that a ruler who left his

throne and country would never return, and after his state-

ment no effort was made to sell him on the idea of backing


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the Shah.  Of course, he was later delighted to hear that

the Shah did get his throne back after all.

     At Nicosia the SIS refused to give up hope, and bucked

against their own office in London and against the Foreign

Office.  Darbyshire continued to try to get permission to

got to Baghdad.  While the persistence and apparent faith

shown by the SIS station at Nicosia was altogether admira-

ble, it should be remembered that they had nothing to lose

if the cause had been pressed to ultimate failure and dis-

closure.

     The 18th was to be the most trying day for every person

in every country who was aware of the project.  At 0730 hours

that morning the Shah left Baghdad for Rome on a regular BOAC

commercial flight.  It would be some hours before this news

reched Tehran.  In Tehran the day opened with small bands

roaming the streets.  The Tudeh managed to ransack the Pan-

Iranist Party headquarters ([Keyvani/Djalili] claim credit

for this incident) located near the Majlis Square, and then

there were minor clashes between gangs of the Tudeh and the

Third Force (a Marxist, non-Tudeh opposition group).

     Morning papers appeared about as usual, although very

few opposition sheets were available since secret police

were posted in all printing shops.  Those papers supporting

Mossadeq announced that the Pahlevi dynasty had come an


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end, while [Ettelaat (despite assurances from its publisher

to support the station's line)] wrote that the nation ex-

pressed its violent disapproval of the coup which was in

foreign interests.  [Dad continued its really remarkable

efforts by reprinting the firman and an interview with

Zahedi.] Shahed ran a copy of the firman, and Keyhan ran

two brief notes on Zahedi's claims.  Shojat, replacement

for Besuye Ayandeh and, hence, the leading organ of the

Tudeh Party, printed a statement by the Central Committee

of the Tudeh Party--the first such statement to appear for

some weeks.  In this statement the party blamed the recent

events on Anglo-American intrigue, and added that the watch-

word for the day must be:  "...Down with the Monarchy!  Long

live the democratic republic!"  During the morning the AP

correspondent wired out a story, destined to get consider-

able play abroad, which included Zahedi's statement to the

officers of the Iranian Army:  "Be ready for sacrifice and

loss of your lives for the maintenance of independence and

of the monarchy of Iran and of the holy religion of Islam

which is now being threatened by infidel Communists."

     Military communiques read over Radio Tehran indicated

that continuing efforts were being made by the government to

firm up its control.  One announcement offered a reward of

100,000 rials for information as the whereabouts of


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General Zahedi, [a second demanded that retired officer

Colonel Abat Farzanegan appear before the military govern-

ment] and a third was a reminder that all demonstrations

were forbidden by the government.  At 1030 hours General

Riahi, Chief of Staff, met with the high ranking officers

of the army in the lecture hall of the Military School and

read them the riot act, stressing that they must be faith-

ful to the government.

     Personnel at the Tehran Station, while continuing to

make every effort to carry out its decision of the 16th,

were also planning for eventualities.  One message to

Headquarters asked that the means for a clandestine evacu-

ation of up to 15 people from Iran be prepared.  Another

cited local military opinion that officers would carry out

instructions broadcast by the Shah, and then went on to

put it up to Headquarters as to whether the station should

continue with TPAJAX or withdraw.  Nicosia commiserated

over the initial failure and stated that they, personally,

were continuing to do all they could to induce London to

continue to support station efforts.  This message was

followed by a report on the Shah's statements at Baghdad,

and by still another to the effect that SIS Nicosia was

asking London's assent to urge the Shah's return on pil-

grimage to the holy shrines in Iraq where he would be in


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direct contact with Iranian divines resident there.

     During the afternoon most of the news was not of

action but of statements from various sources.  At his

press conference Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatemi

asserted that there had been serious anti-Shah riots in

Baghdad--a complete lie.  At 1500 hours the Shah arrived

in Rome, where he was to make statements to the press which

followed a middle ground.  These statements did not dash

the hopes of his supporters, but neither were they a call

to action.  Also, in the afternoon, Radio Moscow carried

the text of the appeal of the Central Committee of the

Tudeh Party as it had been printed that morning in Shojat.

     In the evening, violence flared in the streets of

Tehran. Just what was the major motivating force is impos-

sible to say, but it is possible to isolate the factors

behind the distrubances.  First, the flight of the Shah

brought home to the populace in a dramatic way how far

Mossadeq had gone, and galvanized the people into an irate

pro-Shah force.  Second, it seems clear that the Tudey

Party overestimated its strength in the situation.  This

fault may have been that of the Soviet liaison people, of

of the leaders of the Tudeh party, or of the rank and file.

During the day the Party not only had defiled statues of

the monarchy, but also had erected their own flags at

certain points.  Party members had also torn down street

signs in which the Pahlevi dynasty was mentioned or which

commemorated events in the reign of Reza Shah, and had

replaced them with "popular" names.  The party seemed

ready for an all-out effort to bring in a peoples' democ-

racy, believing either that Mossadeq would not challenge

them or that they could outfight him in the streets.

Third, the Mossadeq government was at last beginning to

feel very uneasy about is alliance with the Tudeh Party.

The Pan-Iranists were infuriated and the Third Force was

most unhappy about the situation.  Fourth, the climax was

now approaching of the [Keyvani/Djalili] campaign of alleged

Tudeh terrorism.  (Details of this campaign have been given

on earlier pages.)  On this evening [Keyvani/Djalili] had

gangs of alleged Tudehites on the streets with orders to

loot and smash shops on Lalezar and Amirieh streets when-

ever possible, and to make it clear that this was the Tudeh

in action.

     During the evening all these factors came together in

ferment.  Security forces were given orders to clear the

streets and serious fighting resulted.  Friends of Colonel

[Hamidi] in the Police Department exceeded instructions in

preventing Tudeh vandalism by beating up Tudehites and

shouting for the Shah.


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     The Tudeh did seem to take rapid cognizance of the

facts that a covert action was being staged, and that

their members were not strong enough to fight the police.

They brought people out who tried to argue demonstrators

into going home.

     Headquarters spend a day featured by depression and

despair.  The immediate direction of the project moved

from the Branch and Division to the highest level.  At the

end of the morning a handful of people worked on the

draft of a message which was to call off the operation.

As the message was finally sent, in the evening, it was

based on the Department of State's tentative stand:

"that the operation has been tried and failed," the posi-

tion of the United Kingdom that:  "we must regret that

we cannot consider going on fighting" and Headquarters'

positon that, in the absence of strong recommendations to

the contrary from Roosevelt and Henderson, operations

against Mossadeq should be discontinued.