890.0145/6–1848: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Iran

secret   us urgent

566. In discussion with Brit re plan for division of subsea rights in Persian Gulf (Deptel 469, May 241) question has arisen whether approach should be made to Iran at same time as other riparian states. [Page 21]Brit have taken position that no approach to Iran should be made until agreement has been reached among other Govts and public announcement made. Brit fear Iran would block agreement because of claims to Bahrein and Kuwait.

At meeting with Brit Emb Reps here June 15 [16?]2 we argued that this course might seriously jeopardize US and Brit relations with Iran. Iran Govt would probably learn of preliminary negotiations and even if matter could be kept secret sudden announcement of agreement among all Arab States concerned would still more provoke Iranian resentment. Since it would be obvious that US and Brit had taken leading role in matter, resentment would be directed against us as well as against Arab States. This resentment would undoubtedly be fanned by Soviet propaganda and Soviet agents in Iran who would argue that our action showed Iranian reliance on American and Brit friendship was unjustified.

Brit were told we thought preferable procedure would be for you to approach Shah informally and explain importance to Iran of having Iranian rights to subsea oil amicably determined in accordance logical principles and request Shah’s assistance in presenting matter most effectively to Iran Govt. We would hope that if matter presented in right light Iran Govt might agree not to raise Bahrein-Kuwait issue in this connection or at least formula could be found which would permit agreement on delimitation of subsea rights without prejudicing Iranian claims to those two territories. Brit Reps agreed this suggestion worth consideration and have referred it to London. We would appreciate your views re this suggested procedure.

Since Bahrein issue is particularly thorny point in connection Persian Gulf oil rights and appears likely to be recurring source of trouble at inopportune moments, we are wondering if it would not be well attempt settle it once and for all by early reference International Court of Justice. Such reference would enable Iran Govt to satisfy domestic public opinion by pointing out it was taking logical steps through established international channels to assert Iranian claim. [Page 22]At same time this claim appears so ill-founded that there would seem little doubt Court would rule in favor Brit position and provide Brit and Bahreinis with conclusive settlement removing this controversial issue from Middle East picture. If you agree, we propose make this suggestion to Brit Govt.

Since we hear Ibn Saud may take some action re subsea oil within week, we would like urgent reply.3

Sent Tehran 566 rpted London 2299.

  1. Not printed; it advised that the request of the Superior Oil Company and the Central Mining Company for a concession on the submerged lands of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf was “contrary to a request of the Department to the Superior Oil Company that it withhold such application for a concession until the countries concerned could determine upon a division of the submerged lands” (890.0145/5–2448).
  2. Department officers met on June 16 with Messrs. Bromley and Jones of the British Embassy. Mr. Sanger’s memorandum of conversation states that “Mr. Boggs produced copies of a map on which he had worked out a tentative median line in the Persian Gulf and described the principles on which this line had been drawn. He pointed out that in most cases the line was equally distant from both shores of the Gulf but that in some cases islands had been considered as parts of the mainland.” Mr. Bromley promised to send the map to London (890.0145/6–1648). At a meeting with the same British officials on June 30, Mr. Boggs was said to have “presented a new map which he had prepared showing the division of the submerged area among the riparian states, with the central median line drawn primarily through points equidistant from the shore rather than, as previously, from island points near the shore. It was agreed that this map be forwarded to London as an amendment to the one previously submitted.” (Mr. Sanger’s memorandum of conversation, 890.0145/6–3048). Neither map is found attached to the memoranda. Samuel W. Boggs was Special Adviser on Geography.
  3. Ambassador Wiley replied on June 19, giving his “entire agreement” with telegram 566. He noted also that “there is at the moment no government with which to work. I am dubious about accomplishing anything through Shah at this disturbed moment.” (telegram 683 from Tehran, 890.0145/6–1948)