761.91/1–1046: Telegram

The Ambassador in Iran (Murray) to the Secretary of State


44. Prime Minister told me yesterday that 2 days previously he had sent further instructions to Iran Ambassador London again authorizing me [him] to submit Iranian dispute for discussion by UNO Assembly. This reverses Hakimi’s earlier action in ordering Taqizadeh to withdraw request (Embtel 17, January 4) and I believe is in; response to strenuous objection expressed by Cabinet to that earlier? step, which was taken under strong British pressure without consultation with other Cabinet Ministers. (I have learned that Ambassador Bullard insisted on having telegram drafted in his presence and himself sent it over British military radio).

British Ambassador has been holding conversations with Minister Foreign Affairs regarding details of proposed tripartite commission but Hakimi said yesterday there is little chance Iran Govt will find [Page 300] it possible declare its acceptance of proposal. Majlis sentiment seems definitely hostile. Criticism has been directed especially at suggestion regarding use of “minority” languages [which] govt objects to because it claims there is no minority problem. Govt has also suggested there should be Iranian members on commission.

Mossadegh26 made impassioned speech in Majlis yesterday bitterly attacking commission idea and thanking Russians for having rejected it. He compared proposal to Anglo-Russian partition agreement of 190727 and ill-famed Anglo-Persian treaty of 1919.28 Asserted it ran counter to independence of Iran. Urged that Azerbaijan difficulties be settled by direct negotiations with dissatisfied elements and if that failed by direct negotiation with Soviets. Said Russians had right to object if Iran Govt sought aid of third powers as intermediaries. Demanded resignation of Hakimi and formation of truly “neutral” govt.

Prime Minister was greatly disturbed by Mossadegh speech, which he regards as indirectly Soviet inspired and as confirmation of fear that Russians would reject or sabotage commission even if Iran Govt agreed to it. He expressed view only thing which would satisfy Soviets would be grant of oil concession northern Iran and that any Govt which refused such grant would be branded as hostile to USSR.

British attitude recently has strengthened my belief they are preparing make tacit deal leaving Soviets free hand in north while they consolidate British position in south (Embtel 1075, Dec 629). British are urging Iranians to accept tripartite commission and refrain from presenting their case to UNO, yet Bullard admits today he thinks there is almost no chance Soviets will agree to formation of commission. These tactics may well be intended to prevent any action at all and to make it possible for whole question to be shelved. British may have decided there is nothing to be gained by engaging in acrimonious public dispute with Russia in cause already lost and that they had better concentrate on making sure of their own sphere of influence in Persian Gulf.

I think it significant that Bullard, in his original note to Bevin suggesting tripartite commission, mentioned Khuzistan as possibly meriting special consideration and that final draft presented to Moscow Conference speaks of Arabic as one of minority languages which might be introduced in schools, etc. This may indicate that British [Page 301] envisage possibility of balancing an autonomous Azerbaijan under Russian domination with an autonomous Khuzistan under British domination. It will be recalled British formerly exercised informal protectorate over [Khuzistan] through late Sheikh Khazal of Mohammerah (now Khorramshahr). They are still active in defending interests Khazal’s family with Iran Govt.

I am especially struck by frantic urgency of British action in trying to persuade Iranians not to raise issue in UNO. It is at least surprising, in view of close Anglo-American collaboration on Iranian question at Moscow and before, that British Govt should have brought such strong pressure to bear on Iran Govt without even advance notice to Dept or this Embassy. Apart from fact this seems almost discourteous I cannot help but wonder whether British have not decided it could be embarrassing to them to have all facts of foreign intervention in Iran aired in UNO. However pure their motives may be, they may realize that to world public their dictatorial actions vis-à-vis Iran Govt and constant intervention in provincial affairs in south could be made to appear virtually as reprehensible as those of Soviet.

Sent to Dept as 44, repeated Moscow 13 and London 7.

  1. Mohammad Mossadegh, Deputy in the Iranian Parliament, 1944–46.
  2. Reference is to the Convention between Great Britain and Russia concerning their interests on the continent of Asia, signed at St. Petersburg on August 31, 1907, Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 1, p. 550. Under the terms of the Convention, Iran was divided into Russian and British spheres of influence with a neutral zone in between.
  3. Signed at Tehran on August 9, 1919, ibid., 1919, vol. ii, p. 703.
  4. Ibid., 1945, vol. viii, p. 479.