The Chargé in Iran (Merriam) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 10—6 p.m.]
33. On May 6 I called on Soheily since previous discussions regarding special mission had been with him. I left two aide-mémoires the drafting of which was extremely delicate, one containing merely the substance of the Department’s No. 22 April 30, 7 p.m., the other adding a quotation of the pertinent portion of the Constitution, explaining that it had been in force for nearly 150 years, the indispensable role played by a free press under our system, the procedure of amendment and that an amendment restricting freedom of the press was not a practical possibility. It went on to describe Department’s hard work in securing correction as evidence both of its good will and as further proof that our Government had no control over the press adding that its action could not be considered a precedent. Both documents asked him to bring contents to the attention of his Minister. I explained that the first covered my instructions but that I would leave the second, if he thought it preferable, for presentation to higher authority.
Soheily was deeply disappointed that the mission would not be sent and vented his feeling on Kazemi whose suggestion to Hornibrook he thought was an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs [Page 362] of another country. He himself would have refused to discuss such a request had it been made of him and for this reason he believed there must have been a misunderstanding. He asked whether this consideration was the real reason for the Department’s decision or a pretext.
I replied that I did not think the Department had been particularly disturbed by that phase of it. I thought the Department argued that if Kazemi who had some years in the United States knew so little of our Government and institutions, it would be a hopeless task for a special envoy, who would be regarded as a special pleader, to convince the Iranian Government of the facts. As to a pretext I said the aide-mémoire contained the sole reason given by the Department for rejecting the idea of a special mission and it was impossible to say whether, independently of Kazemi’s remark, the Department would have arrived at the same decision or not.
The Under Secretary was extremely loath to accept any aide-mémoire on the ground that the suggestion had come from us and not from the Iranian Foreign Office. On my explaining that I was carrying out instructions and that I thought the Secretary wished to show that he had given the idea of a special mission serious and careful consideration and desired a written record of the fact in the Iranian archives he consented to keep them for further study. He seemed painfully afraid that the rejection of the idea of a mission might be thought a rebuff to Iran and I had to emphasize that it was solely the Legation’s idea that was being turned down and that the aide-Mémoire so stated.
He asked to see the interpreter this afternoon and returned both documents saying that the Foreign Minister agreed that as the special envoy had not been solicited by Iran there was no occasion to have anything in writing. He said he had found a note of Kazemi that the United States Government should take steps to protect foreign sovereigns from the press and he felt sure Kazemi had gone no further than that. He seemed very discouraged that the idea of the mission had been rejected.
In my opinion the plan was attractive to the Foreign Office, which has not been in the good graces of the Shah recently, because it could say to His Majesty that it had arranged for a great power like ourselves to go to this length to request the restoration of Iranian representation. The Foreign Office would therefore tend to encourage the sending of a mission whatever the chances of success. Nevertheless I believe Soheily is sincere in expressing the informal opinion that a special mission offers the best method of righting the present situation.
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I believe it would be both wise and useful to explain the Department’s rejection of a special mission on the basis of a partial misunderstanding [Page 363] of Kazemi’s suggestion and to keep the question open with the idea that an envoy will be sent if and when we have reasonable assurance that he can succeed.
Copies of aide-mémoires are being forwarded.