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Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

I had a long talk this morning with Dr. Ali Akbar Daftary,32 The Chargé d’Affaires designate of Iran, regarding the continued absence of any authorization from his Government to present himself officially to the Acting Secretary of State as Counselor of Legation and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Dr. Daftary asserted that he was convinced that he would have received telegraphic instructions authorizing him to reopen the Legation as of January 1 had it not been for the recent unfortunate rupture in Iranian diplomatic relations with France. Since the Shah in his wrath over the French press has taken the unprecedented action of ordering a complete severance of relations with France, Dr. Daftary senses no little nervousness on the part of the Iranian Government to authorize him to enter upon his new duties.

The particular purpose of Dr. Daftary’s visit today was to inform me he had received yesterday morning a telegram from his Government asking whether he could “assure” it that there would be published no further stories derogatory to His Majesty or to Iran in case the Legation here reopened. It should be noted that this inquiry was made despite the information received by the Iranian Government from Dr. Daftary that Mr. Welles had made it a point to speak in confidence to the press representatives at the Department of State asking them to cooperate with the Department in avoiding any unfavorable publicity incident to the forthcoming reopening of the Iranian Legation.

Dr. Daftary’s dilemma is a painful one. He cannot of course give any such assurances as have been requested by his Government. If he did so and any objectionable stories were printed subsequently it would be the end of his career. It may be mentioned at this point that all Iranian representatives abroad are under standing instructions to telegraph instantly the substance of any published stories that might be regarded as offensive by His Majesty.

If the information from Iranian representatives abroad reaches His Majesty subsequent to reports from other quarters it means the end of those representatives’ careers.

I told Dr. Daftary that I was sure his Government could no longer have any doubts as to the entire good-will of this Government toward the Shah and the Iranian people. This was manifest from the results [Page 747]of my recent visit to Iran and my audience with His Majesty. Such being the case I earnestly hoped that it would be possible to persuade His Majesty to have patience in case of the publication, contrary of course to our efforts and desires, of any objectionable material. I at the same time mentioned to Dr. Daftary the recent communiqué issued by the French Government regarding the rupture in Franco-Iranian relations and the reference therein to the part which “an unfriendly Power” was suspected of having had therein. This reference was undoubtedly to Germany.

I then told Dr. Daftary quite frankly that I earnestly hoped his Government would be on the alert to sense any endeavor on the part of third and ill-disposed Powers to disturb the already substantial progress in the reestablishment of confidence and good-will between the United States and Iran. I felt sure that His Majesty would understand that any such outside interference in the progress of our good relations could only work to his detriment in the end.

Dr. Daftary, who has only lately served as First Secretary of the Iranian Legation in Berlin, seemed to be deeply impressed with the logic of the above remarks and said he intended to put his Government on its guard without delay in a telegram he intends to send today. He remarked in this connection that since his arrival in Washington he had become keenly aware of the many advantages to be gained by his Government, not only through a restoration of diplomatic relations but also through closer commercial and economic affiliations. He will also give expression to views along these lines in his telegram of today.

The situation as it is developing is, as I see it, briefly this: With the complete rupture of Franco-Iranian relations now an accomplished fact, Dr. Daftary is anxious to take no step that might serve to worsen rather than to improve Iran’s present relations with the United States. In other words, he fears that if anything should appear in the American press offensive to His Majesty after the restoration of our now half-severed relations, His Majesty might resort to the drastic steps taken in the case of France and sever relations completely with us. If, on the other hand, any objectionable stories were to appear before the formal reestablishment of relations, he believes that royal disfavor might be manifested merely by continued delay in reopening the Legation.

While I appreciate fully Dr. Daftary’s dilemma and concur in his reasoning, I realize at the same time that it offers no immediate solution of the problem.

Under the circumstances there would appear to be nothing else to do for the moment than to await the reaction of the Shah to the communication which Dr. Daftary is sending forward today.

Wallace Murray
  1. Dr. Daftary had arrived in Washington on December 23, 1938.