The Ambassador in Great Britain (Houghton) to the Secretary of State

No. 1861

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 1701, of March 14, 1927,71 relating to the re-draft of the proposed Iraq Convention,72 and, in this connection, to forward copy of an informal Foreign Office Note stating that this question is now under consideration by the Iraq Government and setting forth certain considerations regarding the status of American citizens pending the coming into force of the Convention after ratification.

At the time this question was discussed at the Foreign Office, Mr. Oliphant pointed out to a member of the Embassy staff that the original memorandum from the Colonial Office to His Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this subject expressed the hope, on behalf of the British Authorities, that the Department of State, in the event of American citizens being implicated in disputes or legal proceedings, pending the coming into force of the proposed treaty, would accept this status quo. Mr. Oliphant, however, added that he hesitated to do more than inform the Embassy of the Colonial Office statement.

I have [etc.]

For the Ambassador:
F. A. Sterling

Counsellor of Embassy

The Head of the Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office (Oliphant) to the First Secretary of the American Embassy (Atherton)

No. E 1954/136/65. Private

My Dear Atherton: At our talk to-day about the proposed convention between the United States, this country and Iraq, you asked for a written note on the subject. Let me then explain that this question is now under consideration by the Iraq Government, whose views we hope to receive at an early date. His Majesty’s Government fully realize the importance of concluding the convention in the near future, and are trying to secure the consent of the Iraq Government without delay.

[Page 809]

Some time must, however, elapse before the position of United States citizens in Iraq can be finally regulated, since the present state of uncertainty will not terminate with the signature of the convention, but only with its coming into force after exchange of ratifications. During recent months, there has been a considerable increase in the number of United States citizens resident in Iraq, and the High Commissioner in Iraq has drawn the attention of His Majesty’s Government to certain difficulties which may arise in the interim period, prior to the entry into force of the convention, in the event of United States citizens being implicated in disputes or legal proceedings.

Under the laws of Iraq, with the operation of which His Majesty’s Government have no power of interference, the Iraq police are obliged, for example, in the case of any disturbance of the peace, to arrest the offender and bring him to trial before an Iraq Criminal Court; and the only privilege which a “foreign” offender can claim is that of standing his trial before a British magistrate in accordance with the Anglo-Iraq Judicial Agreement of 1924.73 Were a case unfortunately to arise in which a United States citizen was brought before the Iraq Courts, His Majesty’s High Commissioner at Bagdad would have no power to stay the operations of the Iraq law, even at the request of the United States Consul, who might feel bound to claim the privileges of the Turkish capitulations on behalf of the offender; the British Government would have no treaty right to intervene; the Iraq Government would have no legal power to prevent the trial of the offender in the Iraq Courts, and the High Commissioner could not advise them to act illegally. A complete deadlock might thus arise.

My reason for explaining the present position thus frankly is not, of course, due to any desire to retard or interfere with the negotiations for the conclusion of a convention, nor because we know of any such case being likely to arise—we do not—but solely with a view to eliminating any possible future cause of misunderstanding.

Yours v. sincerely,

Lancelot Oliphant
  1. Not printed.
  2. See ante, pp. 783 ff.
  3. Signed Mar. 25, 1924; Great Britain, Cmd. 2370, Treaty Series No. 17 (1925), p. 34.