From the memoirs of Nosratollah Amini, mayor of Tehran and personal attorney to PM Mossadegh
“The Americans do not have the experience or the psychological insight to understand Persia.”
“If only we keep steady, Dr. Mossadegh will fall. There may be a period of chaos, but ultimately a government with which we can deal will come back.” -Nancy Ann Lambton, advisor to the British government
“I agree with Miss Lambton. She has a remarkable first hand knowledge of Persians & their mentality.” -Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary
Mohammad Mossadegh died in 1967. His government was toppled on August 19, 1953. He lived to be 86 and not once did he apologize or feel remorse for what he had done in defense of his country and his people for he stood by them against all odds.
Mohammad Mossadegh stood for the rule of law and democracy whereas the superpowers did everything to undermine his government. Yes, they were successful in their attempt but as history tells us, he conducted one of the best defense testimonies at The Hague and the United Nations.
Recently declassified information on the Coup tells us that various agencies were involved in this operation. It was not just the Central Intelligence Agency, but elements within the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, and various American, British and Iranian agents.
It is obvious that the toppling of Dr. Mossadegh’s government was in the works since 1951.
Asked what these new document reveal, Mark Gasiorowski, a historian of the Coup and professor at Tulane University, said the following:
“The new FRUS documents add a lot of minor detail to our knowledge about the coup, but no major new revelations – certainly nothing like Kermit Roosevelt’s memoir or Donald Wilber’s history. The new minor details include:
Confirmation that Allen Dulles was a major early proponent of the coup.
The revelation that several early plans for a coup were sketched out by CIA officers and consultants in August and September 1952.
Additional detail on the spring 1953 plot by Court Minister Abolghassem Amini, which was aimed at overthrowing the Pahlavi dynasty.
Some interesting speculation by Roosevelt on how the first coup plot was exposed and broken up on August 15-16.”
And he adds, “Since the FRUS volume came out, two documents have emerged that shed further light on the British approach to the US government in the fall of 1952 about carrying out a coup. These documents are cited but not included in the FRUS volume. See: 1953 Iran Coup: New U.S. Documents Confirm British Approached U.S. in Late 1952 About Ousting Mosaddeq.
More interesting than these new details on the coup itself is what the new FRUS volume says about the CIA’s TPBEDAMN and stay-behind covert operations, which both preceded the coup and fed into it in certain ways.”
On this day, a day that is still fresh in our memory, may I present you with some chapters from the memoirs of my late father who, like many in Iran, was his disciple.
Referring to the military division of the Tudeh Party who had come to him just before the Coup, he told them, and being cautious of the Soviet threat, he said, “I will not arm those who may take up arms against the people and will not hand Iran to the Soviets.”
This long interview (16 tapes) was conducted on May 11, 1984 by the late Zia Sedghi as part of the Oral History Project of Harvard University under the tutelage of Dr. Habib Lajevardi. The entire memoir, including another 14 tapes, compiled and edited by Mohammad Amini, will be published soon.
Below is the translation of a few pages. I must say that the entire interview is so rich and so detailed that it was difficult for me to choose. But here are some important chapters:
NA- “When Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh became Prime Minister, I headed the Office of the Ministry of Justice and it was my duty to keep him informed of matters regarding the councils [electoral councils]. I had been sincerely devoted to him for many years. First, I knew of him through the newspapers and the magazine Ayandeh as well as through his speeches and his position against the Qajar regime before the Constituent assembly. Although a man seeking freedom for the people, he firmly believed that a regime change would be against the country’s national interest, mostly because Sardar Sepah [the future Reza Shah] was determined to become Prime Minister and later the king concentrating all power to himself. It is noteworthy that even though his [Dr. Mossadegh] mother came from the Qajar family, he was not at all in favor of the Qajars and held firm to his belief.
As he clearly declared in his speech [before the Assembly], he could not find anyone in the Qajar family suited to rule the country. His opposition to Reza Shah was therefore because he regarded Reza Khan’s coming to absolute power against the best interests of the country. Anyhow, I came to know him through the press and didn’t have the opportunity to meet him in person until he left Ahmad-Abad for Tehran after Shahrivar 1320 [September 1941]. At that time, I was the Prosecutor General of the Registry Office and as soon as he settled in Bagheh Ferdows in Shemiran, I went to visit him and alongside the late Arsalan Khalatbari campaigned for his election, although he did not need us to campaign for his cause.
After the assassination of Razmara, which was decisive, the situation in the country was not normal. Some people talked about Seyed-Zia as a suitable person to be Prime Minister and believed that he would undo the wrongdoings and arrest the criminals. During these talks, Jamal Emami said, though not seriously, why not elect Dr. Mossadegh instead of Seyed-Zia and suddenly the MPs shouted and voted for him and later the senators approved him too. However, Jamal Emami intentionally did not raise the issue for he was not committed to Dr. Mossadegh. Once Mossadegh was elected Prime Minister, people were jubilant, all the more so because he accepted the Premiership only on the condition that the Shah would sign the oil nationalization act which was passed by the Parliament on 29 Esfand of the previous year. The Shah was therefore forced to ratify it and as a result, this act of Parliament became the law of the country. Then, Dr. Mossadegh stayed in the Parliament as long as he could to appoint his cabinet members and have MP’s approval votes for them.
ZS- My next question relates to a different period when Razmara became Prime Minister and people began whispering about the oil nationalization. Do you know that there are some rumors about the assassination of Razmara? Apparently Khalil Tahmasebi, a member of the Fadayan-e Eslam [Devotees of Islam], assassinated him, while some believe that the Shah himself was involved in this act of terror.
NA- As far as I know, the Shah did not disapprove of this act, because Razmara was determined to launch a coup against him. This is clear to me. In fact, during Razmara’s administration, I was in contact and even very friendly with Dr. Mozaffar Baqa’i. At one point when Baqayi who was the Army Chief of Staff, decided to take action against Razmara, he even hid in my house. One day, I came home and saw a suitcase in the hall. When I asked, “To whom does it belong?,” I was told that it belonged to Baqa’i. When I met him, he told me that his house was under surveillance. We went together to Seyyed Mohammad-Sadegh Tabataba’i with whom Baqa’i had maintained good relations. He believed that he could convince the Seyyed to review the Constitution, while the Seyyed himself was drafting regulations of the Constituent Assembly. Later, Baqa’i took refuge in the Parliament and worked against Razmara. One of the people close to Razmara recounted to me that Razmara held secret meetings in his house every Tuesday and on one occasion he described his plan that a bunch of people coming from the poor parts of Tehran should gather outside the Parliament expressing dissatisfaction because of the shortage of grain and bread. Razmara, who had good relations with the Kurds, had already ordered to bring a number of people from the Kurdish region to Tehran and provide them with enough arms to break into the Parliament at the same time, kill or detain some of the MPs and cut the electricity and urban communication. He also planned to detain the Shah with the cooperation of the military police whose chief was one of his relatives. The next day, this guy [who gave me the account] being worried about Baqa’i, intended to give refuge to him in his house for a couple of days until the coup would be over. Passing by a mosque nearby the house of Razmara’s father, he was suddenly informed of Razmara’s assassination through the newspapers. Later, I cut my friendship with Baqa’i over the actions he undertook against Dr. Mossadegh.
After 28 Mordad, when they took Dr. Mossadegh to trial, one of my colleagues called me with the news that he had seen an article in the newspaper Khandaniha by a Mr. Batmanglidj who was now the commander in chief of the army. He had mentioned my name.
I asked someone to buy the paper for me. It was entitled, “My First and Last Meeting with Mossadegh.” The article was full of lies. He had said that on 31 Tir, when he was hospitalized in the same place in Saltanat Abad where Dr. Mossadegh was on trial, a few hooligans had destroyed Shapur Gholamreza’s (the Shah’s brother) car. Mr. Batmanglidj claimed that had gotten upset so he sent a note to Mossadegh and told him that this was not right and to send someone he could trust that he could talk to. Nosratollah Amini came as his envoy. Through him. I sent a message to Dr. Mossadegh that he should protect the Monarchy and that the Shah represented the nation and that the army is protecting the country. That Kashani was respected and praised by the people as the religious leader of the country and that he should compromise with him. Amini, according to Batmanglidj, went to deliver the message but never brought me a reply from Mossadegh.
The fact was that this very meeting took place not on Tuesday 31 Tir, but on Friday, 3 Mordad. It was not late in the afternoon but early in the morning!
My recollection of the events is clear. I sent a message to Mr. Batmanglidj that your rendering of the meeting [before the Coup] which took place between us was incorrect. I am known to have an excellent memory. I can even tell you the exact time, date and the discussion we had.
Here is how the story went. Upon the suggestion of Dr. Mossadegh who had received a letter from Mr. Batmanglidj, who at the time was in charge of ammunition in the army, I went to see Mr. Batmanglidj. The “secret letter” in his own handwriting was all in praise, begging Dr. Mossadegh to send someone he trusted to meet with him. Obviously, Dr. Mossadegh wanted me to go so I went to see Mr. Batmanglidj. He was trying to manipulate me. He was a feeble person in my opinion and he started badmouthing his brother who was a businessman. He told me “Don’t confuse me with my brother. He is no good.” Actually his brother was a pretty decent and self-made guy. He told me, “I have nothing much and pointing to the photo of the Shah on the wall, he told me go tell Dr. Mossadegh if he made me the head of the army, I will get rid of this man in one week! He is the emblem of corruption in this country.” He actually used foul language which I shall not repeat.
Dr. Mossadegh’s reply was, “I have no intention of making him the head of the army. Tell him to go find another job. There are plenty of jobs around. Since you are now sick, why don’t you go abroad for treatment. When you come back, we can find you a job.” Mr. Batmanglidj went abroad for treatment and when he came back, he was appointed as the head of the Ministry of Physical Education.
During the events of 9 Esfand (when the mob ransacked Dr. Mossadegh’s house), it was he who went there and broke down the doors of Dr. Mossadegh’s house [on Kakh street]. It was Nader Batmanglidj.
ZS- Mr. Amini, is it true that Dr. Mossadegh was acting during the trial? If you recall he would lock his briefcase with a safety pin and sometimes he would be lying down on the bench pretending that he was asleep. Why did he do it?
NA- Because he was mocking the trial. He was mocking the whole thing. If you recall sometimes he would refer to Azmoudeh as Timsar Khajeh Nouri. He knew who he was but was making fun of him. Kahajeh Nouri was helping Azmoudeh.
ZS- Who were the most trusted people around Dr. Mossadegh? For example, when on the 25th of Mordad, General Nassiri took the abdication order to him, who did he confide in?
NA- On that awful consequential night, a person by the name of Ezam-e- dowleh Ashtiani was on Karaj Boulevard. He called Dr. Mossadegh. It was late at night and usually Dr. Mossadegh didn’t sleep early at night. He said that there were tanks and armaments here and something was going on. He said that he thought there was a plan. Dr. Mossadegh asked the security guards to safeguard the house more carefully. Two officers who were trusted by Dr. Mossadegh, Colonel Momtaz and Colonel Parsa, were called in to the house.
Two other people who were part of the security apparatus were Mr. Mehran and Mr. Davarpanah. Mr. Mehran was the son-in-law of Allahyar Saleh. When Nassiri came to present the order, Mr. Parsa and Mr. Momtaz arrested him. The rest of the events is well-known.
Arrest and imprisonment
It is obvious that after the coup on 28 Mordad 1332, Dr. Mossadegh and some of his close friends who were in his house cautiously left for a neighboring house, a building provided for the Point Four Program. First, the late Vejdani, the Supreme Court prosecutor, who sold the house to Dr. Moazami, owned this building. Dr. Mossadegh and Dr. Shayeghan along with others took shelter in this building in the aftermath of the coup. Some of the Mossadegh’s cabinet ministers were among them. Seyfollah Moazami, the Minister for Posts and Telegraph, and his wife, Parivash Saleh (Allahyar Saleh’s brother) called Sharif Emami by phone, but not revealing where exactly they were. Sharif Emami had certain contacts with powerful people in the regime and was very close to chief administrator of the Point Four Program. Dr. Mossadegh thought it better for him and those around him to surrender themselves to the regime rather than to be arrested by Zahedi’s men in a humiliating way. Sharif Emami assured them that no danger would threaten Dr. Mossadegh and his friends. Therefore, it was agreed that a car would be sent for them to take them all to Bashghah-e Afsaran [Officers’ Club] where Zahedi had established his headquarters. When Dr. Mossadegh arrived there and came out of the car, a rogue person by the name of Sepehr (not to be confused with the famous historian, Movarekh o-Dowla ye Sepehr) insulted him and spat on him. However, Zahedi received him well, treated him respectfully, and even expressed regrets for what had happened to him. He ordered to provide a suitable place for Dr. Mossadegh, Dr. Shayeghan and Seyfollah Moazami to rest. After a few days, Dr. Mossadegh decided not to stay there anymore. Thus, he and his friends were moved to a garrison house, Lashkar-e dovvom-e zerehi, and it was there that they were carried to a prison.
NA– One day at noon, Dr. Mehdi Mojtahedi came to my house and told me that my friend, or better to say, my leader, Dr. Mossadegh, was a lucky man. I asked him what he meant by that. He said that he was about to write an index of all the famous people of Azerbaijan in Tarikh-e rejal-e Azarbaijan. Therefore, he had gone to Taqizadeh to interview him about his life story. In the meantime, the bell rang and two people, Jamal Emami and Ahmad Faramarzi, walked through the door. They requested a private conversation with Taqizadeh, there was something so secret that Mojtahedi could not be trusted to hear. Then, Mojtahedi stood up to leave the room, but Taqizadeh asked me to stay. Those people said that they concluded that they could not oppose Dr. Mossadegh in the Parliament and had decided to gather a group of people to put him under pressure from outside. They needed a leader and all the opponents believed that Taqizadeh was the right person, so they expected that Taqizadeh would accept this responsibility. Taqizadeh responded that he would not accept such task. They insisted that Dr. Mossadegh was the one who abolished the Senate and dismissed him, forced him to stay home, addressed him as the most treacherous person the world had ever known. However, Taqizadeh, who had a lot of respect for Dr. Mossadegh, firmly repeated his refusal to join them in taking action against him. He continued that Mossadegh had served the country and was the only person who stood firm against the court corruption.
Taqizadeh believed that all the governments since Shahrivar 1320 (September 1941) until Mossadegh’s time were unworthy except that of Hakim el-Molk whom he considered an honest man.
NA– One day when I was at the head of the inspection service, I was told that Navvab Safavi was interested in meeting me. I was also curious to see him and knew about his ideas and who he really was. I hesitated to respond and waited until I got Dr. Mossadegh’s confirmation. Nevertheless, he warned me that I should be careful not to fall in some sort of trap. Along with my brother, Ali Sadr, I went to the address given to me. I left my brother outside the house and asked him to stand on the street corner and look out for anything unusual. When I met Navvab Safavi and began speaking to him, I was charmed by his conversation and engaging manner. It was probably because of his charm that people like Abd-e Khoda’i and Khalil Tahmasebi became his devotees. Kashani was even associated with Tahmasebi for a time. Anyhow, they were people who devoted their life to a purpose. A lot of stuff was written about this group in the newspapers of the time, although thorough research must clarify their cause and remove doubts about them.
Come Nowruz that same year [1332/1953] Dr. Mossadegh went to Ahmad-Abad, shut the door upon himself, and refused to see anyone. He didn’t even attend the Salam [greeting] courtly ceremony. One time I needed to see him, I sent him a note and he set a time to meet. I told him that the people were anxious to see him. He responded that there was a plan underway to kill him. Anthony Eden recounts exactly the same thing in his book, which was translated into Persian by Kaveh Dehghan. Later we witnessed how Kashani left Mossadegh’s side. The Shah himself wanted to get rid of Mossadegh, approached everyone close to him, said that they were equal to him and could even take his place. One of them was Dr. Fatemi who dared to relate everything to Dr. Mossadegh. The latter then urged him to leave for a trip for a while, because his life would be in a serious danger by having revealed the Shah’s plan.
The Shah played with people and always made sure he played one side against another.
NA- One day I went to Ali Akbar Dehkhoda’s house along with Colonel Bozorgmehr [Dr. Mossadegh’s trial attorney]. As usual, Dehkhoda sat on his knees on a mattress. When he saw me with an army colonel, he thought that the man was from the military and that he had come to arrest him. A few days prior, they had come to his house and ransacked everything from top to bottom. As usual when I entered his house, I took off my shoes. Colonel Bozorgmehr also did the same but since he had shoe laces, he had to bend down. I went towards Dehkhoda, his wife and step-daughter. They looked visibly upset. I said, “There are still friends among God’s enemies.” This is Colonel Bozorgmehr, I told him. He is Dr. Mossadegh’s lawyer at the trial. Mr. Dehkhoda who was still sitting down, suddenly got up, came towards Bozorgmehr, took his hands and kissed them. “These are the hands that have touched the hands of my mentor!”
ZS- Mr. Amini, what was the relationship between the Tudeh Party and Dr. Mossadegh? What did he personally think of the Tudeh?
NA- He used to call them Tudeh Nafti [referring those who were connected somehow to oil, here meaning to the British]. Dr. Mossadegh firmly believed in freedom and he also believed that all parties should be free. Even when Tudeh newspapers such as Beh suye Ayandeh, Sogand and Mardom would write rants against Dr. Mossadegh and even insult him, he would say, let them write and speak. That is the meaning of freedom. He believed that part of the Tudeh were indirectly helping the British and of course the rest were lackeys of a foreign government, [meaning the Soviet Union].
ZS- Mr. Amini, how was Dr. Mossadegh firm on his ideas? What were his strong points?
NA-The complete sovereignty of Iran and that it should not be influenced by foreign powers. He also believed firmly that the Shah must reign and not rule. In this regard, he was absolutely resolute. It was because of this belief that he lived and in fact lost his premiership.
ZS- Mr. Amini, when you think of Dr. Mossadegh, what strikes you most about him? Not as a politician but as a human being?
NA- The most important thing I remember about him is his humanity. He was so correct, in fact to the point of being obsessively correct. He was correct in his financial affairs, his patriotism. He was very humble. You know that he came from nobility, his mother Najmieh Saltaneh, being the sister of Farmanfarma. His father was the deputy minister of Mr. Hedayatollah. He had grown up in luxury, beginning with a silk-upholstered cradle. But he lived all his life in simplicity. Both him and his beloved wife [a grand daughter of Nasser-i-din Shah] led a simple life until the very end.
*It is noteworthy that even if the Tudeh Party was a megaphone for the Soviet Union, many members of the Tudeh Party were real patriots who were also nationalists. They lived and died for their homeland regardless of their ideology.
*I want to give a special thanks to a friend, M.M., who helped me translate parts of this interview and who wishes to remain anonymous.
Cover Photo: Dr. Mossadegh in Ahmad Abad in exile. Personal collection of Fariba Amini