Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Mr. Michael Wright15 came in to see me and I raised with him the question of the Dhahran airfield. I told him that, as he knew, we had had a field in Abadan, in Iran; the British oil interests had purchased oil interests in that field; this gave us reason to believe that eventually the field would be taken over by British interests.16 We then had undertaken to get a concession for a field at Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, across the Gulf, which would serve our purposes as well. Ibn Saud had declined the concession, urging us to consult with the British; we now had information that this had been done at British instance, accompanied by information that the British were unalterably opposed to our having this field. At the same time a British survey party had appeared in Dhahran. I said that, as Mr. Wright knew, we had worn ourselves out here trying to prevent this kind of thing from the very beginning. There was no law in heaven or eirth which entitled anybody to interfere with our building an airfield for legitimate purposes in Saudi Arabia. I pointed out that the top-ranking diplomatic officer who had reported on the incident had characterized it as an “unfriendly act”. He said that, bluntly, this kind of thing could not continue.

Wright said that this was entirely contrary to the whole spirit of the arrangements in respect of the Middle East;17 they were consulting on everything. He could not believe that the facts were as reported. I said I certainly hoped this would prove to be the case. He volunteered to get the facts from his Government and come in and discuss them. I said that my observation had been that statements of policy from Whitehall did not always reflect what happened on the ground, and that the situation certainly ought to be cleared up. I said that he had to remember that all these incidents were being added up here—for instance, the conjunction of this with the attempt to negotiate a four-year meat contract with the Argentine18 was beginning to open a good many questions. For this reason, I hoped a prompt solution could be had.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Counselor of the British Embassy.
  2. For correspondence regarding the Abadan airfield, see pp. 486 ff.
  3. For correspondence regarding arrangements to insure Anglo-American cooperation at all levels in the Middle East, see pp. 6 ff.
  4. See vol. vii , section under Argentina entitled: “Efforts of the United States to enlist the American Republics and the United Kingdom in a common policy toward Argentina.”