124.91/55: Telegram

The Chargé in Iran (Merriam) to the Secretary of State

4. I venture to suggest that the Department consider at this time the appointment of a Minister at Teheran.

In view of past experience it seems entirely possible that American publications, in providing color and background for articles on the finally accepted concessions3 will make statements which will be resented here and thus jeopardize the contract. Request for agrément prior to arrival of clippings would tend to offset them and to safeguard the concessions. That the Shah is as sensitive as ever to the printed word is evidenced by the recent recall of the Iranian Minister at Paris as a protest against certain French press articles. On the other hand, His Majesty is influenced by diplomatic “front”. The large and relatively unworked staff of the British Legation forms in itself a splendid safeguard for British interests and relations against the occasioned [occasional?] serious lapses of the English press.
Iranians generally are surprised and delighted at the signing of the concessions and hope this means restoration of normal relations. Their granting constitutes in fact a remarkable gesture when the present status of the diplomatic relations is considered and the moment seems opportune to consolidate and enlarge the situation. Soheily4 intimated on the 19th that he felt at a loss how to commence and we are perhaps in somewhat the same position. Our request for agrément would afford additional proof of the friendliness of our Government and people of which the President’s message of sympathy5 and the remarks of the Secretary of State to the Iranian Minister at Buenos Aires are recent examples. It would be exceptional gesture coming immediately after the President’s re-inauguration and in view of the present lack of any Iranian representative to our Government, which we could hope would be followed by the restoration of normal relations. Moreover, while we realize that the concessions are purely a business arrangement between the Iranian Government and private [Page 720] American interests, we are not unmindful of the confidence thereby implied in Americans and American methods. These considerations could be made clear to the Foreign Office when the agrément is requested.
It would be advisable to request agrément as soon as possible, well before arrival of clippings, and not to await ratification of the concessions which might conceivably be delayed. If the Shah should be incensed, ratification would hardly prevent him from nullifying concessions in some way or from worsening diplomatic relations unless the shock is cushioned in advance.
Legation has leaned backwards to an extent that has been painful at times to Hart6 in order to make it crystal clear to the Iranian Government that the concessionaires are entirely unconnected with and independent of the United States Government which is not backing them in any way. Soheily has informed me of his own accord that he quite understood this. I have not, of course, mentioned subject of this telegram to the Foreign Office or to Hart and doubt if the latter is fully aware of the effects which the press may have upon his projects.
  1. For correspondence concerning the Amiranian oil concessions, see pp. 734 ff.
  2. A. Soheily, Iranian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Regarding floods and earthquakes in northern Iran; see telegram No. 34, August 8, 1936, noon, to The Chargé in Iran, Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. iii, p. 373.
  4. Charles C. Hart, representative of the Amiranian Oil Company in Iran.