881.00/1286: Telegram

The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier ( Blake ) to the Secretary of State


In the light of information now in the hands of the Department received in telegrams from London, Madrid, and Rome relating to the incorporation of Tangier into the Spanish Zone, it would seem to become more apparent than ever that any expression of a definite opinion on this question by the American Government would be both impolitic and premature until the Spanish Zone as it exists at present has been granted formal recognition by us upon conditions such as those outlined in my telegram of August 18, 3 p.m. Consent by our Government to participate in a conference dealing with this question until the principles underlying our position had been adequately recognized and our preliminary concrete demands fully satisfied would seem to be improper.

By following the procedure outlined we would arrive at a complete settlement of our outstanding account with Spain and would regularize our relations with the Spanish Government in Morocco, [Page 738] as has been done in the case of the French protectorate. This would be done without in any way interfering with our freedom of attitude on the Tangier question, which from our point of view is an independent and distinct issue, inasmuch as our Government has made no commitments respecting the present Tangier regime. Among the powers signatory to the Act of Algeciras our position is unique in that we have recognized neither the Spanish Zone nor the Tangier regime.

The suggested procedure would tend to accomplish several ends: Our material interests would be provided for and our future political problem would be simplified. At the same time our move would constitute a friendly political gesture toward Spain, which it may be desirable to make. If she interprets the political situation rightly Spain will put forward no objection to the logical basis of our position and will realize that thus the road will be opened for future treatment of matters involved in her attainment of Tangier by mandate or otherwise.

If obstruction on the part of Great Britain to the attainment of Spain’s minimum requirements in connection with Tangier cannot be immediately removed by discreet concessions, the only alternative remaining will be an international conference as suggested by Spain, to be held at some central point in Europe.

It is likely that both France and Italy would be opposed to Geneva as a seat for the conference. They do not wish that place to be designated as the center for settlement of the Moroccan question, in view of the fact that it is the home of the League of Nations. It is quite likely that Great Britain will concur in this view. Spain has suggested Geneva in an effort to associate the Tangier question with her aspirations for a permanent seat on the League Council and with the idea of exerting influence on Great Britain. If it is brought to a decision, Britain will concede Spain’s claim on Tangier and in turn Spain will give up her insistence on a permanent seat on the Council of the League.

Underlying the transaction one may believe that France and Great Britain are united in their desire that any discussion of the Moroccan question be not extended beyond the powers who claim to have special interests in Tangier, that is, Great Britain, France and Spain. Any attempt to involve the League of Nations in the discussion would defeat this end, which would also be the result if, as Spain has suggested, the matter were brought before all the powers signatory to the Act of Algeciras. Even if the proposed conference meets, a way out has apparently been left, namely, a grant to Spain by the Sultan of Morocco of such authority as she desires in Tangier. The other powers then would be expected to acquiesce in this generous act on the part of the Sultan.

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Should this procedure be adopted it would mean that the right of foreign intervention in any Moroccan settlement had been undermined by disregarding the Act of Algeciras and it seems very doubtful whether a conference meeting under such circumstances would be successful, for it may be assumed that Italy would not give her consent to any arrangement based on the Act of Algeciras without receiving extensive compensation elsewhere. In this regard it may be noted that it was recently reported to Rome by the Italian Embassy in Washington that, following conversations with the State Department, it took the American attitude with regard to settlement of the Tangier question to be one of continued belief in the Act of Algeciras as the sole line upon which existing Moroccan problems can be solved.

Copies have been mailed to the interested Embassies.