No. 1429
Memorandum of Conversation, Prepared in the Department of State1



  • The Status of Kuwait.


  • DNA—Mr. Hamilton
  • L/NEA—Mr. Crowe
  • DRN—Mr. Liebesny
  • AV—Miss Colclaser2
  • Mr. Bogart
  • NEA—Mr. Thayer
  • NE—Mr. Awalt3
  • Mr. Sturgill
[Page 2406]


The increasing importance of American interests in Kuwait and the Department’s concern with the extent of UK jurisdiction over them motivated this discussion. Three separate but related problems brought to the Department’s attention the fact that US and UK interests conflict to a certain degree in Kuwait. These were: (1) a UK complaint that US air operations between Kuwait and London were an interference with British cabotage, thus raising the question of the application of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation,4 (2) conditions for establishing the American Consulate in Kuwait,5 and (3) Aminoil’s concern, expressed in a letter to the Department, about the possible effect on that company’s operations in Kuwait if it were subject to British judicial jurisdiction.

Mr. Crowe reviewed in brief the legal situation in connection with the political status of Kuwait, stating that, while from time to time the British Government has referred to the Sheikhdom of Kuwait as being under the protection of Great Britain, the basic legal documents do not indicate that it is a protectorate in the strict legal sense or even that it is technically under the protection of that country. Still less do these documents make clear the right of the British to exercise complete control over foreigners within the Sheikhdom. Mr. Crowe stated that the action taken by the British to increase their influence and authority in Kuwait, such as the various orders in council, have been primarily taken on a unilateral basis and that it might be possible, on a strict legal basis, to point out that there is no clear authority emanating from the Sheikh to expand the British authority over foreigners within the territory. He said that it might be possible to support American objections to such extension by these legal arguments, among others, to which Mr. Liebesny agreed, as well as with the thought that there should be political determination as to whether this Government wished in the future to resist an extension of British authority in this direction. Mr. Liebesny and Mr. Crowe agreed that it was difficult to pursue legal arguments further until this basic question was decided but that it was felt desirable to point out that the legal position of the British in this regard is not an insuperable obstacle.

It was the consensus of the group that the Department’s position regarding the status of Kuwait is weakened in such respects by engagements already entered into. It was pointed out that with [Page 2407] regard to the British complaint of cabotage, the US is a party to the Chicago Convention which defines the territories to which cabotage is applicable as those, inter alia, “under the protection of” the member states. Article 2 states: “For the purpose of this Convention the territory of a State shall be deemed to be the land areas and territorial waters adjacent thereto under the sovereignty, suzerainty, protection or mandate of such a State.” With regard to the establishment of the American Consulate at Kuwait, it was brought out that the US accepted the issuance of an exequatur by the British King and in so doing recognized a degree of British control of Kuwait foreign affairs. It was agreed that an attempt should be made to overcome the verbiage of Article 2 through an interpretation of the generally understood meaning of cabotage and also of British statements indicating their own view of the extent to which they controlled the internal affairs of Kuwait.

Mr. Thayer said the Department should decide what it wants in Kuwait and then decide how to get it. He said at present we want at least two things: (1) aircraft landing rights and (2) the right to protect American oil companies. Mr. Liebesny suggested the importance of arguing on the basis of the degree of British control in the Sheikhdom and of pointing out to the UK that the rather vague phraseology of the [Chicago] Agreement was not visualized as going so far as the British are presently interpreting it. The UK should be told that we think their interpretation is an undue extension of their authority, he said.

The group seconded this approach, and Mr. Awalt suggested use also could be made of the fact that the UK itself recognized the independence of Kuwait and the fact that the UK flag (a flag being a symbol of control) does not fly in Kuwait. Miss Colclaser cautioned that in questioning the phraseology of the Chicago Agreement, care should be taken not to argue in such a way as to imply that the Department does not want the Convention as such to apply to Kuwait; it does want it to apply. Mr. Liebesny agreed and said our approach in this regard should be from the standpoint of an interpretation of Articles 2 and 7 of the Convention.

It was agreed that Mr. Liebesny and Mr. Crowe would prepare (1) a Departmental position in draft form and (2) a draft telegram to London, in reply to the British objection to certain TWA advertising re Kuwait–UK services, based on the suggestions made during this discussion and that these would be submitted to the group later for its consideration.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was prepared by Sturgill, Crowe, and Liebesny.
  2. H. Alberta Colclaser, Chief, Air Transport Branch, Aviation Policy Staff.
  3. Fred H. Awalt, Officer in Charge, Arabian Peninsula Affairs.
  4. For documentation regarding negotiations leading to the Chicago Agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. II, pp. 355 ff.
  5. For documentation on this topic, see ibid., 1951, vol. V, pp. 998 ff.