Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Mozaffar Firouz

Minister of Labor and Propaganda


To listen to the interview click on the link below:
Audio 1a | Audio 1b

Transcript Text

Transcript 1 of 2

Edited Translation of Persian Transcript

Narrator: Mozaffar Firouz
Date: December 6, 1981
Place: Paris, France
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi

Suggested citation format page

Q. If we could begin by talking, asking you to give us your reflections on the evacuation of Russian troops from Iran and your own role in this important event.

A. Well, you know the question of the evacuation of Russian troops from Iran after the Second World War is a question which, unfortunately, is not very well known by our younger generations because the history of this period has been deliberately -- I repeat -- deliberately falsified in order to fool the people of Iran and to present history under some other color. When Qavam-os-Saltaneh ... after several Iranian governments had come and gone and the Soviets had refused to evacuate, pretending that Iran was a fascist center and was considered a danger.... Finally, at that time I had a newspaper in Iran, and ... a daily newspaper....

I think perhaps it was for the first time in Iran -- there was sort of a referendum organized by a newspaper. I sent about 25,000 small papers asking questions from people in the ministries, from people who had ... who could read and write anyway, and who understood the situation, asking them: "Under the present situation, who, in your opinion, should come over and take over the reins of government, and try to solve this very vital question which threatens our independence and our national integrity?"

Anyway, I sent all these documents and distributed them. Finally, we had about, if I remember correctly, something like 18,000 replies at that time. And I think, roughly speaking, the majority was in the name of Qavam, Qavam-os-Saltaneh, with my own uncle, Dr. Mossadegh, second with about 400 to 500 votes less than Qavam. Of course, Qavam-os-Saltaneh was an old man who, at that time, had a great deal of experience. He had been several times prime minister. And obviously, perhaps for this reason, at that time in Iranian history, the majority of people -- of intellectuals anyway -- preferred a man with more government experience, who at the same time was a patriot, and he had proved it so during his tenure of office.

The name of Qavam came, so we ... in our paper we ... claimed the result of the referendum. And there was about a month and a half or two months left for parliament to....

Q. Adjourn.

A. At that time the parliament gave what the Iranians call tamayol, which of course means their sentiments as to who should be invited to form a government. The Shah, at that time, had not arrived at a position where he nominated who he wanted to. But ... and as the parliament was discussing the question, there was a tremendous amount of intrigues going on to prevent Qavam being elected.

Anyway, the basis of those intrigues at that time, from what we understood, came from the British Embassy, which did not want, in reality, the Russians to leave. Why? Because British policy was based on the old imperialist conception of a division into two spheres of influence -- as they had done in the 1907 agreement with the Tsarist government, and they hoped they would be able to renew the same procedures after the Second World War. In reality, the plan for Iran was what happened in Vietnam and Korea. The north of Iran, the south of Iran, the North Korea, the South Korea, the North Vietnam, the South Vietnam, all north and south -- the north being under the protection and influence of one bloc and the south under the protection and influence of the other bloc.

At that time, American diplomacy in Iran was really playing a very second role following the British line, because they had very little experience. It was just after the Second World War -- a year after, a few years after. It was the beginning of their experience. And, we must say, rather unfortunate experience -- as time has proved since the Second World War -- in their diplomatic relations in all parts of the world, from the very Far East of Chiang Kai-Shek, starting from there to where now we have come to the other countries of the Far East, like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Everywhere they had one objective, and everywhere the contrary to that objective arrived, as events have proved. So, unfortunately, the ... time has shown that nobody seems to appreciate in America that at least one should learn from one's own experience. What is wrong? There must be something wrong -- that this situation is such.

Well, anyway, in ... about two years before the revolution, I wrote a long memorandum to President Carter. And I explained <that> I believed in Carter's personal integrity. I think he meant well. I considered him weak. I considered him to be under the influence of Brzezinski, who was his counselor, who was more Polish than American, and wanted at all costs -- even at the cost of another second ... third world war -- to try to bring about an independent Poland. Whatever happens.

I wrote a long memorandum for Carter, explaining to him the situation in Iran. A very critical memorandum. And told him, explained to him, that the policy they are pursuing ... they're preparing the ground for a very big revolution, which will be inevitable in Iran if they do not change policies, if they do not do away with the system they have of thinking ... under world conditions today. A country such as Iran could be directed with people who are completely pawns in their own hands without any personality, without any nationality, simply obeying -- as the Shah did. That was my conception, which I wrote to Carter.

And as a matter of fact, I said to him, "I imagine that you ...." I proposed to him two things which he did immediately. I must express my gratification -- which I did by letter to him afterwards. I asked him to do two things. To clear his mind. I said, "Send about 10 or 15 people, of your personal friends, the people who have not been responsible in forming policy in Iran during the last 10, 15 years, but who know the situation of the world. Will you send them there? Tell them to see the dossiers, to see people, to talk, and come back to you to give an objective report of the situation in Iran."

Secondly, I asked Carter to ... I said that I cannot -- I CcanD not -- accuse my own compatriots, Iranians, unfortunately, of being corrupt and of the pillaging their country. But, I said, "You know, relations which existed between Nixon, Kissinger, Helms -- especially -- and the Shah were not the normal relations existing between a chief of state and other chiefs of state in other countries. And I think American interests dictate that a special commission should be formed to investigate how, what these relations were. And, perhaps, some good will come out. We shall clear up certain mysteries. And I think there are many Iranian patriots who would be prepared to present, send people who will witness in such a commission, and help. It's on this basis only of good relations that the future is possible between the people of Iran and the people of the United States."

Well, as far as the reports I had, he sent an aeroplane with about 10 or 15 people to Iran about 10 days afterwards. Without Sullivan even being informed. And I heard (I don't know whether it is true) that Sullivan was surprised. Who were these people who arrived suddenly without his information? Andhe took a plane and went to Washington to see what it's all about. But I think instructions were being given to the CIA to give ... present these people with all the dossiers they needed. And they could meet people they considered useful that they should meet to get an idea of what was going on in Iran. And that's what happened. They stayed, I think, about 10 or 15 days and they gave a long report.

Q. What type of people were these?

A. They were personal friends of his. They were personal friends of Carter, yes. I have not got the names but I know there were between 10 or 12. That was what surprised, apparently....

I sent a copy of my letter to Ambassador Young, whom.... I had never met him. I don't know anything about him. But by his action I saw he understood more of what was happening in the Third World than any of the other diplomats who were in.... He was ambassador to the United Nations. And I knew he was a friend of Carter. In fact I imagined that probably the election of Carter was due to him who helped getting the Black vote in America for Carter at that time. I do know that ... he wrote me a very nice letter. And I do know that Carter ... that he <Young> had been impressed by this document I sent. Because he <Young> wrote me a very warm letter.

But he <Young> started giving interviews, talking about Khomeini being a saint and this sort of thing, you know. And they asked, "What are you talking about? You are an ambassador to the United Nations. This is not your affair." At this point, he had been impressed, I think, and he showed the danger for the United States if the same conditions continued in Iran.

Anyway, the Helms' dossier -- I said to him <Carter>, I said, "Helms -- he already has a dossier for perjury. I request you to send this dossier to ... until the question of his presence in Iran <unclear> can come under consideration." And he sent that immediately. And Helms was convicted for two years -- prison. Of course prison without -- what do they say, what is the exact term, I don't know in English, I forget -- Cta'lighiD, which is, if he commits another crime and is convicted, well, the two years will be added, you see. He was convicted for two years of prison. And the judge, in convicting him, said that, "You are the symbol of shame for America." That was all in the press -- in the documents. It was all <unclear>. All right.

Well ... and I remember that in the documents, which I wrote to Carter, I said to him, I said, "A government must be well-informed. Well, you have what you call the Central Intelligence Agency." I said, "You know, Mr. President, I imagine if historians want one day to write the history of this period of the world in which we are living, they'd find it difficult to write the 'Central Intelligence Agency'. They might be tempted to write 'the Communist Inspired Agency'. Because of the results -- the people judge by results -- the results of the policies, is the results of information given by what you call the CIA. Since the Second World War up to this date, everywhere has shown that you've got the opposite results to what you expected."

"And now," I said, "You are doing exactly the same thing in Iran, preparing the ground for revolution. And the only possible solution of such a revolution," I said, "if you want to stop this, is to finish with the present regime as soon as you can. And to proclaim that the independence of Iran, the national sovereignty of the Iranian people, is a vital American interest. That's the only interest on which real American interest can be preserved in Iran and in the world which we live in today. The question of domination is part of an epoch which is finished. The sooner this is realized the better." That was really the conception of what I wrote to Carter at that time.

And, well, events proved that what I wrote to him two years before ... exactly that happened as far as Iran was concerned. So, unfortunately, we are now in front of.... I've said this, which is not part of your question about Azarbaijan, but I think it was necessary to say that.

To go back to the Azarbaijan question and the evacuation of the Russian troops. Even at that time, the British were against the election of Qavam. It was with great difficulty, and certain manipulations with deputies, this, that and the other -- which only Qavam himself knows, and perhaps I know, I'm in the secret at that time -- that we managed, in spite of all the intrigues, for Qavam to get the majority in the parliament by two votes. So the Shah was obliged to call for Qavam.

It was at that moment that Qavam-os-Saltaneh asked me whether I'd like to collaborate with him. I said it would be an honor for me, but that I had certain conditions which I thought were necessary for accepting responsibilities and participating. He said, "What are those conditions?" I said, "We must show that we are in Iran. We -- and you -- are in favor of profound social reforms. And what has been completely neglected during all these years and that ... the basis of that is that a Ministry of Labor, with a minimum salary for Iranian workers, should be put into operation by us in spite of the crisis, in spite of all the situation, to show that we mean business. As soon as possible." He said, "All right, fine." And he asked me to become vice prime minister, and at the same time to form the new ministry, Ministry of Labor and Propaganda. Which I accepted.

Well, before we formed the government, he asked me, he said, " I want to ask you a particular service." He said, " I want you, in person, to discuss with the Soviets the conditions of their retreating from Iran, and evacuating the soil of Iran from all their troops and these arms which they have actually in place, and which ... under our agreement made during the war, they should have left when the Americans and English, left under the same agreement." I said, "All right. " But," he said, " this must be completely secret. Nobody should know, not even in the Council of Ministers. The question must not be discussed. And, when everything is finished, then we will present the case, but not before, and nobody should be in the secret." I said, "All right."

He said, "The only thing I ask you is to ... if possible ... to leave, send a card for the Russian representative here." I said, "I'm afraid I can't." "Oh," he said, "You're always awkward like this. You're like this. But we're under their bayonets, their occupying ... their troops." "But" I said "it's a better reason to be able to preserve our dignity. We have nothing but dignity to preserve. We have no independence. We are under foreign occupation. At least we are sure that we are capable of preserving our dignity. I have no objection. But under the protocol it's he who should come and leave a card for me. It's he who has affairs with me. It's he who is accredited to our government. When he gives the card, with great pleasure I will of course return with my card."

So he saw that it was useless and so he sent one of the ...a person who he knew was closely perhaps connected with those people, asking them to send a card for me -- which they immediately did. It was part of their protocol. But he <Qavam> wanted to be particularly nice ... to say "the person wants to discuss <unclear> ..." <but> for reasons of protocol and dignity I didn't accept.

And they left their card and I returned the card. And that was where the ... relations started between me and the Russian representative there at that time, who started discussions with me. Well, we had discussions. I always met them and had long talks -- secret talks. <unclear> And the talks continued. After about 10 or 15 days, our representative ... becuase the Iranian question was the first question which was before the Security Council of the United Nations, which had, of course after the war been newly formed in New York. And our representative there was <Hossein> Ala, an old Anglophile and a courtesan, as you might call him, an old courtier, but which provoked an incident.

I was talking in Tehran, directly expressing our friendship with the Soviet Union: "We have 2,500 kilometers of frontiers, which condemns us -- and you -- to live on mutually good relations, friendly relations. But these mutual relations must be based on the respect, mutual respect, for our dignity, our security and our independence. And for this reason, we want you to retire your troops because it is very difficult for this government to accept, to continue if we remain under foreign occupation." At this moment when I was talking on this basis of friendship and so on, which was the reality of the situation, and my own personal political beliefs: we must have the good relations and the ... keep the balance between the two great powers. They exist in order to preserve our independence.

Well, at this moment, suddenly there was a violent incident in New York. Ala ... I don't know ... in a rather offensive and critical way spoke against the Soviet Union's representative, who was Gromyko, as a matter of fact, at that time. And he got up from the table, clacked on the table with his fist, went out and clacked the door.

Q. This was Gromyko?

A. Gromyko. This incident.... Suddenly this news came when I was talking with the Soviet representative on this basis.

Q. Did Ala do this on his own, or did he have instructions?

A. It was the Shah's hand and the British intrigue.... He had no.... I'll show you a copy of a telegram. It's interesting for you. Anyway, of course it mad a fool of us. We were talking in this way with the Russian representative. The fellow came.... I was furious. The fellow came to see me. And he said, "What is this game? Is it a game you're playing with us?" I said, "No." I said, "You are perfectly justified. You are perfectly right. He's our representative. But he had no instructions from us to even open his mouth, because we are talking with you here. And I will see what can be done."

Of course, I was in favor of immediately kicking him <Ala> out, you see. Because the question was of vital interest for Iran. I talked to Qavam, I said, "Look here. We must...." Qavam was rather indecisive ... but a little conservative, and he said, "Well, it's difficult now to kick him out exactly because he's done it without...." But he said, "Prepare...." I said, "Well, we'll send ... a very, very strong telegram." He said, "All right. Prepare it. Write it, show it to me and I'll see ... small things I'll make and we will send a strong telegram." I said, "All right."

I prepared the telegram, and I showed it to Qavam, and he changed it a little bit -- made it a little milder than what I'd.... But it was still very, very strong. Anybody with any respect for his own honor would himself have resigned at that moment, you see.

Well, a telegram was sent. And I gave instructions on the radio. Officially it was said that this incident was absolutely without any instructions from the government. Ala has made these ... certain statements and he has been called to order ... for this reason, you see. I have the text of the telegram which Qavam in his own handwriting ... he copied and he made certain things. And I have that telegram, which is very interesting. It's a historical document -- moment. Well, the Russians of course got to know, with what was said on the radios and so on, that we were not playing a double game with them. But still, of course, the negotiations dragged on.

Till finally, after another 10 or 15 days, I finally summoned the Soviet representative to come and see me. And I said to him, I said, "Look here, you know, we are talking for weeks. I've shown the best of my good will -- good will of the Iranian people towards you. I have not seen the same reciprocity. And I've asked you to come tonight <it was ten o'clock that I asked him to come> "to send a telegram of what I want to tell you tonight, direct to Generalissimo Stalin." When I mentioned the word Stalin, he jumped from his seat because he was surprised. But he said, "No, Molotov is...." I said, "Yes, but what I'm going to say is very grave, and I would prefer it would go direct to Stalin."

Anyway, he said, "All right, what is it?" I said, "Well, look here, we've shown our goodwill, we can't do more. We've not got the means to act in a military way against a great power like you. And we don't want to insult our interest and we can't do it. <unclear> Everything a government which respects itself ... can do. If it's not possible for it to carry out what it hoped to be able to carry out -- with very good will towards your great country -- then it will resign. And that's what we have decided to do. That's the reason why I wanted you to telegram to General Stalin that if, within a very short time Russian troops still remain in Tehran, in Iran, and the north of Iran, well, the government will have to resign. But, as I told you, our policy is based on friendship towards you. And is respecting the same principle which I have told you during our conversations, that I want to tell you now, that when we resign we have to give a proclamation to the people. Or they will wonder why we resigned. Well, I must tell you, as a respect ... with the respect and the friendship we have talked to you about, and which is sincere, to prove the sincerity of this friendship, we shall be obliged to explain the reason. And that reason will be that our experience shows that the Soviet policy today no longer respects the Leninist conception of the respect for independence and the national sovereignty of other peoples.

So on this basis, we are obliged to resign. We can do nothing else. By conscience we cannot continue to keep the country in this state."

He took notes and he went. Well,two nights afterwards, he telephoned me: "Can I see you?" I said, "Of course." And -- it was about the same time -- he came, and he said, "Telegram from Generalissimo Stalin." And he sat down -- very quietly, very tranquilly. I was very pleased. He said, "Well, we have received a telegram. I'm instructed to come and tell you that after 25 days <something like that, roughly 25 days> there will not be one Soviet soldier with arms in Iran."

Q. This was before Qavam's trip to Moscow?

A. No, he'd gone and come back. It was about a month and a half afterwards.

Q. I see.

A. Oh, yes. Moscow had done nothing at all, you see, about the.... No, no. It was ... a month and a half, two months afterwards, this affair. After all these negotiations, the Ala incident, and all that, you see.

Q. I see. So this is in April 1946, just before the proclamation, the Qavam-Sadchivkov proclamation?

A. Yes, yes, exactly. Anyway, ... the proclamation, when it came ... and we had news, of course, we had news. And it's here which I want to express the gratitude, which really represents the gratitude of the Iranian people, towards Trygve Lie, who was the first Secretary General of the United Nations, who was sending messages for us. He was doing his best there to arrange this conflict. And, of course, he could see, who.... He saw Ala. And he sent messages. And he said to us, "I am sending messages and I hope these messages are getting through" -- through an ambassador, a foreign ambassador, who arrived, as a matter of fact, in Tehran. He said, "Tell Qavam that I'm sending messages through Ala. I hope they're all received." Well, we had no messages from Ala.... We had no messages from Ala.

So, finally, when he <Trygve Lie> resigned and went and wrote a book, CIn The Service of PeaceD, which I've quoted in my book, he talks about Ala. He said, "I had told this man I am sending messages, which were secret, to send to his government. I don't know whether he sent them or not, but what I do know is that the same day that I spoke to him secretly, afterward he was in the Department of State telling them exactly what I had been talking about." That was the concrete result of this man's, the first Secretary General of the United Nations ... who was really sincere in trying to find a pacific solution to this, you see.

And, anyway, when the Russians came and they gave this ... I asked them would they confirm it by writing the next day. But I didn't wait because we had information that the British at that time had brought troops to Basra. And they were waiting; they wanted to come in with troops, saying, "The Russians are there, so we've come in." It would have been de facto, automatically the division of Iran. Because if the British came, they <the Russians> wouldn't have gone. Nobody would say anything. They would have just stayed there, that's all. As the French say, "Je suis <unclear>" "Nobody would leave. They are all there." Exactly the same thing as in Korea, as in Vietnam -- this sort of thing happened, with the same policy and the same plan at that time.

Well, that was as far as the thing.... They left. I must say that the Russians, after the 25th, 26th day, the final limit of their thing, there was ... scrupulously observed their commitment. And it was the only country which they left by their own will. They stayed ... after the war they stayed in Austria for 14 years, before they arranged a treaty there -- of neutrality and so on -- before they withdrew all their troops.

Q. What was the role of the so-called Truman ultimatum?

A. It was a lot of talk. The Russians didn't care a damn about the Truman ultimatum. It had absolutely no importance. But Truman ... it wasn't an ultimatum, you see. <He> was speaking: "Why don't they leave?" It was just to keep some of the Americans, as I told you at the beginning of this talk, in reality, the U.S. again was absolutely ... to follow the British line. And the British line was -- and we have further reasons and further proofs of that -- is that they were preparing -- they had their troops in Basra. They wanted to come in, as I told you. And they had started to make intrigues in the south of Iran, where ... with the Bakhtiari tribes -- the Bakhtiari and the Ghashghaie, but particularly the Bakhtiaris -- they wanted to proclaim in Esfahan an independence, just like Azarbaijan, you see, in the south.

It was the same game. So, when the Russians came, I didn't wait for their ... I saw it was a question of hours. It would have been in fact the division of Iran, you see. I gave instructions that the radio should ... and the news should be distributed everywhere that the Russians have come, and they've ... and they are leaving. The affair is settled and so on. It would have been received the next morning, anyway. But before we received it, the news had been given out that the affair had been settled. And they scrupulously observed and respected their obligation.

That was as far as the withdrawal of the Russian troops. But the Azarbaijan affair and the question of the southern rising against the government, to prepare them there also ... was also of great interest at that time because.... With my own personal idea -- and Qavam approved it -- I nominated, with Qavam's approval, for the Bakhtiari tribe, two Bakhtiari people, you see. One was the son of Morteza-Gholi Khan, who was the ... (I can't think of his name now) the older son of Morteza-Gholi Khan, and another Bakhtiari, who was Abolghasem Khan.

I sent for them. And they came. Jahanshah -- Jahanshah was the son of Morteza-Gholi Khan. And Abolghasem. And I talked to them. I said, "Look here, I want the Bakhtiari to nominate two of you Bakhtiari as governor of the Bakhtiari tribe." It was the first time something happened like that in Iran. I said, "Up to now, you've always been running around foreigners, thinking you preserve your dignity, your good ... this that and the other. But whatever you want, you must want from your own government. Why ask foreigners?" They were very pleased. Jahanshah said, "Of course." I said, "You will have your relations there, all right. You have ... the British consul is in Esfahan. You can have the ordinary and normal relations, if there's any question of anything you ... normal relations. But ... you have nothing to run after him about. Concerning Bakhtiari affairs, you're representing now the government. I'm giving you dignity." When I said that, Jahanshah said, "But, oh, you know, if I get hold of this man, I'll cut his neck." I said, "We don't want that either."

Q. Which man?

A. The consul, the British consul.

Q. Trott?

A. Not Trott. No. He was in Ahwaz at that time.

Q. Gault?

A. Gault, Gault, yes. Gault -- he was in Esfahan at that time, yes. I said, "We don't want that either. No question of cutting throats. I am asking you to respect your dignity, your country's dignity, when you're carrying out a duty which falls part of the government. That's why I'm giving you this. We want to encourage you to change your ways, the Bakhtiaris."

Anyway, they went. And from the very first week, the meetings started between them. And I even have letters of Gault, written in Persian -- he spoke Persian -- <unclear> which he sent to these people. "We have to have a meeting," he wrote, this, that and the other. That sort of documentary evidence.

Q. To the Bakhtiaris?

A. The Bakhtiaris, yes. And the Rashidian people at that time, as well.

Q. Asadollah Rashidian?

A. Asadollah. Asadollah and Seifollah. But the father was, the old ... the old fox there was the father, you see, who had based the whole relations, and so on. And it's very amusing about the father. And the investigations... Anyway ... when this was going on we got the reports. Abolghasem sent us regularly all reports. He was in there and he was sincere towards me. We got all the reports -- exactly what's happening. Any documents he could find, he would send, and he was himself in the meetings. And Qavam said, "This is your affair, you must go to Esfahan."

Q. This is in September 1946?

A. '46. You know all the dates better than even me.

Q. Well, I've worked on these....

A. Anyway, I had formed, as you know, with Qavam, the Iranian Democratic Party, at that time, with a progressive program of reform which was to be, in my opinion, a solid party -- a national party of reform, you see. To ... not to give, leave the space ... any opening to other people -- to put their foot in it. We have a party, we want to make reforms. And, as a pretext, to open the section of the Iranian Democratic Party in Esfahan, I said to Qavam, "All right, I will go to Esfahan to see what can be done.

Anyway, I had ... there was a colonel in the gendarmerie who had my confidence. I wrote out a special order, in an envelope, sealed it, and gave it to him. I said, "You go to Esfahan. When I come, when my plane arrives, you come to the aerodrome. You'll open this document after my arrival in the aerodrome. And you'll carry out the instructions in it. You see. You have no right to open it before." "All right." He went.

Well, we went.... The Iranian Democratic Party representatives were there, all the dignitaries were there. The general, the head of the army there, the ... was there also. General Mo'tazedi, who had very good relations with my family. His father everybody would know very well. I informed him, "I'm coming to see ... I'll come in to your house."

I didn't want to go to the governor's house. The governor was an old Anglophile who I knew very well. But when I was very ... at six or seven years old, I went to England -- I was at Harrow and Cambridge, you know. And he was there. Nice fellow, as a matter of fact. But he was governor. Nader Arasteh. He was an old Anglophile; I knew that. I wanted to ... I knew there would be probably some troubles and so on, so I wanted to go ... to the general's.

They were all there, of course, at the aerodrome, when I arrived, including Jahanshah, who I saw there with about 20 or 30 Bakhtiari horsemen, you know, a couple of hundred yards the other way -- waiting. They had come, I think, with Jahanshah to the aerodrome. They all got down. I said.... Everybody very nice, and so on. Jahanshah -- everybody came along, and we got down, and Mo'tazedi was there, General Mo'tazedi, and I was accompanied by all these people to the car, which I wanted to get into and go to Mo'tazedi's house. And ... well ...the colonel, who'd got there ... he was there of course. And he ... by a sign, he said he knew ... he had opened and knew what it was about. So when I was saying goodbye to everybody, I said to Jahanshah, "Well you have perhaps a little discussion with the colonel," and so on, and so on. "I'll see everybody later," and so on. I got into Mo'tazedi's car and went.

And when I left, the gendarmerie colonel put Jahanshah in the jeep and took him to prison -- immediately. And it remained his father, Morteza-Gholi Khan. Now Morteza-Gholi Khan was so connected -- all those years, of course, with the British and so on -- that even Reza Khan didn't dare touch him. During all the period of "Reza Khan the Great" as they called him in Iran, he didn't dare touch Morteza-Gholi Khan. Well, they gave me two guides, and I sent a few gendarmes up 2,500 meters into the mountains, and they arrested him at midnight and they brought him to Esfahan -- Morteza-Gholi Khan.

And I immediately proclaimed military government in Esfahan. And I proclaimed General Mo'tazedi as the military governor. I had to do that -- anything could happen, you see. Everything had been prepared. We had to act immediately. Of course, in my absence, intrigues were going on in Tehran, and some one or two of the ministers in the cabinet.... When I gave this proclamation that "we order the proclamation of the military rule in -- martial law -- in Esfahan. And I proclaimed General Mo'tazedi as the governor-general. Anyway, it was proclaimed, it was executed immediately, and everything calmed down.

At midnight they brought him there. And I wanted to send him to Tehran. He sent me a message, not to send him by plane because of his heart and so on ... to send him by car, if possible -- to Tehran. I said, "All right, well, tell him we'll send him Thursday." You see -- three days later. I gave instructions that he be sent the next morning. Because I thought if we wait until Thursday they might send some Bakhtiaris on the road or something. Anyway, they took him to Tehran.

And the interesting part of all this is that the whole conception of course fell through. But the next morning I was working in the office at the military governor's house. They came and said that Fadakar wants to see me. Fadakar was a deputy of Esfahan -- a Tudeh deputy. And ... I was working, so I said, "What does he want?" They said he had something really urgent and he wanted to see me. So I said, "All right. Tell him to come in." And he came in, and he said, "What is all this business about the martial law about, anyway?" I said, "Who the hell are you talking to? This doesn't concern you. What you are talking about?" He said, "Well, we can't support this." I said, "Well, get out." I said, "Either get out immediately and shut your mouth, or you follow the others who I've sent to prison. Get out," I said. And he went. I've never heard any more about him. Another incident happened about Fadakar....

Q. There were some rumors that he had been storing arms or something in Esfahan, sort of a rebellion. Is that true?

A. Well, but, you know, many of the Tudeh people ... it was quite normal. Because when a <unclear> party which begins a progressive program, always the contrary party tries to infiltrate to find out what's happening. My uncle, Dr. Mossadegh, was so convinced about this, that in the Tudeh party there were many sincere ideological people -- I knew them -- who believed ideologically that everybody has his opinion -- which should be respected. But there were also lots of humbugs in there, you see, who were there on missions. And that's what I always told the Tudeh people in Tehran. I told them, I said, "Do you think you're talking ... in your committee, central committee, you talk there and so on and so on ... and nobody knows what's going on?"

I said, "But you have British agents there amongst you." "Oh, who? Tell us the names." And so on. I said, "I can't tell you the names. But there are British agents amongst you. But I can give you a receipt, a diagnostic, with which you will find out who they are." I said, "Whoever, when you get together in your committee, speaks against me is a British agent. Now go and find out yourself who it is. I don't know."

Q. Well, do you think they were actually preparing an armed uprising?

A. Well, if there were British agents.... I don't know, you see, because the Tudeh people, no.

Q. Did you find any arms?

A. No, I'll tell you exactly what happened, as a matter of fact. After this happened, and I kicked him out there, I stayed again and went back to Tehran, of course.

In Tehran, there was quite a scene in the Council of Ministers. The Tudeh were in there. And they said, "But why has this been done without a decree of the Council of Ministers?" You see. He wanted to.... Qavam, everybody ... was sitting. And I said to the Tudeh people, I said, "When I have a responsibility, my belief and conviction is that nothing else but the national interest of the country counts. If it gets ... at such a moment ... for some bureaucratic reason, some act of vital importance should be delayed, I will not wait for that bureaucratic preparation, because I know that can be prepared immediately, and I know that everybody, and the person, the government that I represent, is favorable. That's the reply to your question." Qavam said, "What he's done, he's done on my behalf." Because I signed: "on behalf of the prime minister: Firouz." You see. This incident, also <unclear>.... And that was the, how the....

Q. Because Fadakar's son, Iraj, has said that at that time his father and a group had stored some arms at the Nour factory, that they had thrown them in the river when you came, before you came, or after you came, something like that. I wanted to know if this was true.

A. No. That ... you know, I'll tell yu something. Amongst the Tudeh people, there were some who really believed in the ideology. And amongst them also those who ... with a certain amount of nationalist leanings as well, in spite of their ideology, which is international. But there were others. And for me, all those who were, as we say, more Catholic than the Pope, you see, on certain questions, were agents who had infiltrated. However, that was my own experience. Those were very, very, sort of more Catholic than the Pope and trying to push along those things which they knew would probably provoke incidents and difficulties and so on, well, it was done on the basis of a program. The whole trouble was that: that it was an organization which had been well organized, and they had clean people in it -- ideologically clean people -- and they believed what they did.

And my own opinion, was, well, Iran should be a democracy. We have 2,500 kilometers of frontier with the Soviet Union. It's a communist country. If we want to have coexistence with those people, we can't pretend to be a democracy and to sort of shut the mouths of a very small minority of people who want to express their beliefs, these beliefs. On the contrary, if we want to shut the mouths, it will make them more influential, you see. And, the best way is to get them in, get them to come, and everyone should know exactly who stands for what. It's as simple as that. And I think that was the best policy that was pursued at that time. At that moment, you know, the entry of communist ministers in a Middle Eastern government was almost unthinkable.

Q. How was that decided -- to bring these people in?

A. Well, when Qavam ... when we discussed with Qavam this question about the reforms and this sort of thing, that trouble should not be made from the part of the Tudeh people, Qavam said, "In my opinion, if we bring a couple of these people in, and give them a sense of responsibility, they can't do anything. They're there. That will open their hands, anyway. If it's empty people will see. If it's full, then people will see what's in them. People will see. We must be psychological in this. In shutting mouths, and being brutal, and this and that, it's not policy, especially when we want to live on relations of mutual respect and independence with...."

Q. Was there any Russian pressure to bring these people into the cabinet?

A. No, they didn't even know. One of the Russian people came....

Q. Because I think Dr. <Fereidoun> Keshavarz has said that....

A. Keshavarz is one of those I'm talking about -- these agents -- he's one of those, who was amongst those agents. Do you understand what I mean? But, I'll tell you. It's my own personal opinion ... was that, because Keshavarz ... we brought him in and he came in. All right. But, even <Dr.> Radmanesh in later years, he was ... to me he said, "Why didn't you bring me along in?" He was clean. He was clean, clean, clean. <Dr.> Radmanesh was one of those clean people, you know. He believed in.... "I don't know," I said, "I don't know. I wanted two or three of the Tudeh people in there and didn't really mind who it was, and you are, perhaps, justified in what you say. I should perhaps have brought you in because you had more experience than the others, and I knew certainly that you were at least clean -- you understand what I mean -- as far as your beliefs go."

Anybody who is clean in his beliefs and is not hypocrite or playing Cdouble jeuD, as we call it, or "the double game" -- all right. And if the destiny of the world has to be the other way, all right, the destiny is that, but the only way to preserve national independence will be to have these 2,500 kilometers. I always said to Qavam, I said, "Look here, if the Russians bring two corps d'armee to the frontier, and not give it military orders, but just tell them to start urinating, what's going to happen in Iran? There's going to be ... inundations everywhere in Iran." I said, "We must exactly see where we stand, what we can do, and do that under the best possible auspices, in the preservation of our own independence."

And I got the justification of this in Azarbaijan. Why? Because -- and nobody knows this, you see, very few people know it, of course. Of course there were people who were present there -- they knew. In Azarbaijan, when I'd been there two or three days speaking with these people, suddenly ... Pishevari started talking about ... he wanted Zanjan, as far as ..., in Azarbaijan. I said, "What the hell are you talking about? What are you talking about?" I said, "This is the document we've prepared. It's this or nothing. Sign here or nothing." You see. All right.

I got very angry and I got up. I took with me General Hedayat -- of Tabriz -- I took Moghaddam with me, who I had nominated as governor-general, military governor, of Azarbaijan before I left Tabriz. I gave him the order. And a number of people with me, in my suite. And they were all sitting there, you see. I got up, I said to Pishevari, "I can't say ... I refuse to listen to this nonsense any longer. Do you want me to give instructions immediately here and now to have you arrested?" I had nothing. What did we have on him? He suddenly lost his color -- Pishevari. I got up and said, "Go to hell, all of you."

I went back to the place where it had been prepared for me. I telephoned to <the> Russian consul to come and see me immediately. He came. He spoke Persian almost as well as you and I.


Copyright 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University)
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi
Iranian Oral History Project
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Harvard University
1430 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
617.495.4232 (tel)