In the face of the opposition and the split in the Majlis, instead the Prime Minister organised a referendum. This referendum was held in Teheran at the beginning of August 1953, put directly to the people. The result of the referendum was an overwhelming vote of approval for Musaddiq. The opposition deputies declared the referendum illegal and that it had bypassed the Majlis.

On August 12th 1953, Musaddiq announced that in conformity with the referendum he intends to dissolve the Majlis.’1

The opposition deputies took possession of the Majlis. The Shah dismissed Musaddiq. In place of him General Zahedi was appointed as the new Prime Minister, and the Commander-in-Chief of the army. Musaddiq refused to step down, the Teheran mob agitated for a republic, and the Majlis was declared dissolved. The Communist party, or the Tudeh party, in Iran backed Musaddiq and called for a People’s Democratic Republic. At the same time ‘the Russians announced that they would aid Iran.’²

Musaddiq’s allies however became disillusioned and turned against him. In their view:

he held a referendum and won a victory of Soviet proportions, sealing his apparently total dominance. But he was no longer pursuing the policies to which he had devoted his life. Defender of the constitution against the Shah, he was now allied with street mobs to overthrow influence, he was now backed by the Tudeh and their Soviet sponsors.’³

Fear of communist influence in Iran and ‘the Soviet challenge by which both felt themselves threatened, drew Britain and the US closer and closer together’.­4Back in 1952, during an Anglo-American meeting in Washington on 1st February to discuss the oil dispute between Britain and Iran, the crisis in Iran was discussed. It was then agreed that

it was virtually certain that the left-wing Tudeh party would profit from the consequent confusion out of which would evolve a government either infiltrated with Communists or dominated by Communists. It was feared that Musaddiq was soft on communism, that it was highly unlikely that he [Musaddiq] would do anything to check Communism in Persia. This could only be checked by a strong pro-Western government.5

We no longer hope to come to an agreement with Musaddiq, whose replacement has therefore become desirable.6became the view of the Foreign Office. Berthoud, Assistant Under-Secretary of the British Embassy in Teheran, had written back in 1951, in his report to the Foreign Office, ‘There is already enough opposition in the Majlis to unseat Mr Moussadek.’7

No further dealings were possible with Dr. Musaddiq and that future negotiations would have to be conducted with a new Prime Minister; in the meantime we should do what we can to weaken Dr. Musaddiq’s position, 8was the British Government’s view.

Behind the scenes secret activities were at work. British secret agents had reported to London that there were many anti-Musaddiq elements in Iran who, with encouragement, including cash, from Britain, could bring Musaddiq down. Those who turned against Prime Minister Musaddiq were the civil service, the Islamic leaders. Musaddiq ‘was proposing, along lines laid down by the Tudeh party, to nationalise businesses and enfranchise women; both anti-Islamic moves’.9 Among others turning against Musaddiq were the constitutionalists, and as was noted earlier on, the army, landowners, merchants and politicians.

  1.  Ibid, p. 313.
  2.  R. RHODES-JAMES, Anthony Eden, (London: Macmillan, 1986), p. 360.
  3. B. LAPPING, End of Empire, (London: Paladin Grafton Books, 1989), pp. 217-272.
  4. S. STRANGE, op. cit., p. 275.
  5. J. W. YOUNG (Ed. ), The Foreign Policy of Churchills Peacetime Administration 1951-1955, (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1988), p. 165.
  6. PRO, London, FO 371/911462, The General Correspondence of the Foreign Office, by Sir William Strang, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on Persian political situation, 21st August 1951. 
  7. PRO, London, FO 371/911462, The General Correspondence of the Foreign Office, by E.A. Berthoud, Assistant Under-Secretary at the British Embassy in Teheran, Persia, Secret, 19th June 1951.
  8. PRO, London, T 236/3663, Treasury records, Cabinet Persia (Official) Committee, Foreign Office, Secret, 9th April 1952, p. 1.
  9.  B. LAPPING, op. cit., p. 272.

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