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

No. 3388

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch No. 3245, December 12, 1928,2 relating to the proposed convention between the United States, Great Britain and Iraq, and to enclose a copy, in triplicate, of the Foreign Office reply to the Embassy’s note3 transmitted with the despatch first above mentioned.

I have [etc.]

For the Ambassador:
Ray Atherton

Counselor of Embassy

The Head of the Eastern Department, British Foreign Office (Monteagle), to the Counselor of the American Embassy (Atherton)

No. E 751/245/93

My Dear Atherton: We had hoped to be able to answer before now Mr. Houghton’s note No. 2133 of December 12th last, regarding the proposed Convention between the United States, the United Kingdom and Iraq, and to make arrangements for the signature of the Convention and of the assurances set forth in the memorandum enclosed in that note. Unfortunately since that date the Iraqi Cabinet has resigned, in consequence of certain difficulties which arose over the negotiation of the new Military and Financial Agreements referred to in Articles 12 and 13 of the new and as yet unratified Anglo-Iraqi treaty of December 14th, 19274—a copy of which was sent to you two days later; and as a new Cabinet has not yet been [Page 292] formed, and the Ministers who resigned are at present only carrying on current business, it has proved impossible to obtain their agreement to the final settling up of this matter. We understand that they do not consider that in their present position they possess authority to conclude treaties with foreign Powers. Their present unwillingness to proceed to signature arises therefore out of constitutional scruples and, as they have explained, is not to be ascribed to any wish to withdraw from their previous acceptance of individual clauses of the Convention or of the assurances which will accompany it. We hope that there may be no further delay in getting the Convention signed when a new Cabinet is formed at Bagdad.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State wishes me to let you know confidentially, before any public announcement is made on the subject, that His Majesty’s Government have recently had under consideration the various anomalies and difficulties created by the existing Anglo-Iraqi Judicial Agreement of March 25th, 1924,5 and have come to the conclusion that it is desirable to take preliminary steps with a view to the eventual abolition of that Agreement, and the institution in its place of an uniform system of justice for all in Iraq. Sir Austen6 is going to bring this matter before the Council of the League of Nations at their next meeting early in March; and I enclose herein for your information a copy of a memorandum which is about to be circulated to the members of the Council,7 setting forth the motives and intentions of His Majesty’s Government in making this proposal. You will see from the last paragraph of the memorandum that all we are doing at present is to invite the Council to approve in principle the proposal to abrogate the Agreement, and to authorise the preparation of detailed proposals for submission to the Council at a later session. This process is bound to take a considerable time, and meanwhile the existing Judicial Agreement will continue to have full force and effect. It is, moreover, clearly understood here that in view of the terms of Article 6 of the proposed Convention with the United States, no modification (such as the abolition of the Judicial Agreement) in the existing “special relations” between Great Britain and Iraq can make any change in the rights of the United States under the Convention, before the assent of the United States Government has been obtained. The position of the United States as regards any eventual change of this kind in the “special relations” is, in fact, exactly similar to that as regards the other contemplated changes in those relations (i. e. the treaty of December 14th, 1927) of which we informed you at that time—namely that in the event of any such change being made, the rights of the United States and its citizens [Page 293] in Iraq would be fully protected by Article 6 of the draft Convention. In these circumstances, and having regard to the considerable time which must elapse before anything in the nature of abolishing the Judicial Agreement can be negotiated and brought into force, your Government will no doubt agree that we should proceed to sign the Convention in its present form as soon as the consent of the new Iraqi Cabinet has been obtained.

As regards the treaty of 1927, the present position is that until the new Military and Financial Agreements have been concluded, it is impossible to take any steps to obtain the approval of the treaty by the Iraqi Parliament and the League Council, which must be secured before it can be brought into force. We will of course see to it that your Government are informed as soon as steps to this end are contemplated.

Yours sincerely

  1. Not printed.
  2. Note No. 2133, December 12, 1928. based on instruction No. 1616, November 30, 1928, from the Secretary of State, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. ii, p. 955.
  3. Great Britain, Cmd. 2998, Iraq, Treaty between the United Kingdom and Iraq.
  4. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. xxxv, p. 131.
  5. Sir Austen Chamberlain, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  6. See League of Nations, Official Journal, 10th year, No. 4 (April 1929), p. 777.