891.6363 Amiranian/26

The Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs ( Murray ) to Mr. Cornelius Van H. Engert 30

Dear Mr. Engert: I presume you will have arrived in Teheran by the time this letter reaches you. In the light of your experience in the Near East it may not be surprising to you to be confronted, so soon after your arrival, with questions with which you were so actively occupied in Teheran upon your previous assignments there.

I refer to the Khoshtaria oil concessions on which subject I am enclosing for your confidential information a memorandum31 which [Page 748] has been prepared recently in the Division incident to the granting of the Amiranian oil concession.

It would be appreciated if, at your early convenience and without encroaching upon the current work of the Legation, you would let me have your general and particular observations on this memorandum. Among the questions concerning which the Division desires, in particular, to be informed are the following:

To what extent, if any, does the Amiranian oil concession trespass upon the Khoshtaria concessions? On the basis of the information available to us the only conflict would appear to be in the extreme northwestern portion of the area included in the former which appears to be inclusive of the eastern part of the province of Astrabad. This province, you will recall, was included in the area granted Khoshtaria by the Iranian Government on March 9, 1916.
If the Amiranian concession does conflict in part with the Khoshtaria concessions has any protest been made by the British Legation or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company on the grounds of its infringement of proprietary rights of the North Persia Oils, Limited?
If no protest has been made is the absence of such a protest to be interpreted as an abandonment by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company of the claim of validity previously maintained on behalf of the Khoshtaria concessions acquired by the North Persia Oils, Limited?
Have any representations been made to the Iranian Government by the Soviet Embassy incident to the granting of the Amiranian oil concession and, if so, on what basis?

It may perhaps be well for me to enter into a brief explanation of the two last-mentioned questions in order to afford you some guidance in your replies to them.

You will observe that the statement is made in the concluding paragraph of the enclosed memorandum that as late as July, 1934, the validity of the Khoshtaria concessions was being maintained by the British interests concerned. It seems reasonable to suppose that the statement, which I understand to have been made in answer to an inquiry in casual conversation, represents a more or less perfunctory expression of opinion advanced in order to keep the record clear. I do not consider that it need be interpreted as implying that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company would at this date, in the light of all that has occurred in its relations with the Iranian Government in these last years, be disposed to contest actively the granting of any concession for the northern provinces on the ground that such concession was in violation of existing rights acquired from Khoshtaria by the North Persia Oils, Limited.

Concerning Question 4 reference is made to the Legation’s telegram of March 26, 1937,32 that the “Russian Government is maintaining [Page 749] before the Foreign Office the validity of the Khoshtaria concession as a matter of principle”. I am wondering whether this is an accurate expression of the view of the Soviet Embassy. In this connection you will note the observation of the enclosed memorandum33 on page 21 that if the Khoshtaria rights were originally valid “they had been transferred prior to the signature of the Soviet-Persian Treaty34 to a British company and could not, therefore, be said to have been affected by that Treaty unless the Soviet Government might maintain that the Khoshtaria concessions had reverted to the Persian Government by the declaration, previously quoted, of Bravine of June 19, 1918,35 to the Persian Government or that the notice of the Persian Minister of Public Works of July 24, 1918,36 had made invalid any transfer of the Khoshtaria concessions to the British company”. It seems to me that if the Soviet Embassy has made any recent observations to the Iranian Government on the subject of oil concessions in the northern provinces they have probably had to do with such considerations as those mentioned, taken in conjunction with the provisions of Articles 12 and 13 of the Soviet-Persian Treaty of February 26, 1921.

In any case I would appreciate any further enlightenment you may be able to offer on this subject as well as on the specific questions I have raised, including any other observations on the memorandum which may appear to you to be pertinent.

It is, of course, entirely possible that you may consider it inadvisable to pursue at this time inquiries of the nature of those outlined which, however discreetly made, might be misinterpreted. I fully recognize the possible obstacles in the way of obtaining much, if not all, of the specific information requested. Accordingly, if in your judgment it appears wiser to defer a complete reply until the necessary investigations can be made without any possible misconstruction of the motives actuating your inquiries I shall fully appreciate the reasons contributing to the delay. In such a case a preliminary reply might be made [Page 750] on the basis of the accumulated knowledge of the Legation, while leaving for subsequent discussion the information to be gained from such discreet casual conversations as may be found possible in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Wallace Murray
  1. Formerly Minister Resident in Ethiopia, en route to Teheran to assume new assignment as Counselor of Legation in Iran.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram No. 14, March 26, 10 a.m., from the Chargé in Iran, p. 741.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Signed February 26, 1921; for text, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. ix, p. 383.
  6. A published statement to the Persian Foreign Office by the Soviet Diplomatic Agent in Teheran (Bravine) stated, in translation: “The Ministry is hereafter at liberty to consider all former concessions which the late Russian régime obtained for itself in Persia, including mineral, fishing, and transportation concessions (secured through the use of the bayonet or powerful men of Persia) as no longer under the protection of the Russian Republic.”
  7. This notice declared all concessions void which had been obtained from the Persian Government “in the absence of the Majlis or by duress and force” and also that owners of concessions had no right to establish corporations or to transfer their concessions to foreigners or Persian subjects without permission of the Persian Government. See also decree of July 27, 1918, Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. ii, p. 646, and despatch No. 758, November 16, 1921, from the Chargé in Persia, Ibid., p. 647.