London Embassy files, lot 59 F 59, 523.1 Middle East

No. 101
The Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford)

official formal

Dear Walter: Let me give you the history of the past few days here as it affects the suggestion that I go to London.

We have been very concerned that the British attitude on the fundamentals of the relationship with Iran made any reasonable resolution of the problem impossible. It seems to us that there are three basic things which have to be done. These were set forth in our wire, 1740,1 to you. The most difficult of these for the British of course, is the one about the AIOC. If they would agree that AIOC must be removed from the picture in Iran, the other two did not seem to us to present insuperable obstacles and probably could be worked out. Averell feels particularly strongly about the AIOC problem, and is convinced that no progress can be made until the AIOC problem is properly taken care of. We, of course, recognize the difficulties for the British in this matter. We feel, however, that they must face the realities and move in this direction because if they do not, the alternatives are pretty bad.

On top of this came the decision of the UK to bring the Iranian matter before the Security Council. We were very disturbed about this for three reasons. First, that we doubted the wisdom of bringing up the matter in the Security Council as it would require the Iranians to air their side of the controversy which would publicly [Page 194] harden further their attitude towards the UK. Secondly, because the Resolution which the British suggested was directed wholly to the Iranian Government. On this latter point, I don’t think there is a case on record where any action by the UN directed to the internal policies of a country has done anything but stiffen the country’s position. Spain is the prize example2 and, of course, there are others. Thirdly, is of course the opening which it gave to the Soviets for propaganda and perhaps for getting the Iranians into their orbit.

Oliver Franks explained the domestic political motivation for this action and we think we understand that. But it does seem to us that their action, particularly making public their draft Resolution, was unwise from the point of view of accomplishing the basic objective of a satisfactory settlement.

Another of our difficulties was of course the fact that although they kept stating that they were not currently proposing to use force to maintain their personnel in Abadan, they always reserved the right to do so. There was never any clear indication that they would not do so until they informed us of the withdrawal order on Monday.3

It was in the face of these circumstances that Paul Nitze and the Secretary talked last Sunday. They felt that it was important to see if we couldn’t reach agreement with the UK on the basic premises. They felt that it was perhaps desirable that someone go to London to afford another opportunity to explain to the British what we here in Washington felt, and why. They concluded that if anyone was to go I was the logical candidate. We spent a considerable amount of time Monday and Tuesday morning discussing the suggestion. The net result was that Averell, Jim Webb and George McGhee all agreed that it was desirable for me to get over as quickly as possible. It was recognized, however, that the situation might be as you described it over the telephone this morning and that was the reason for the wire.4 While we were delighted to hear that you felt progress was being made on the basic issues, the absence of the Ministers from London at this time is very disturbing. We are convinced that something will have to be done in the very [Page 195] next few days if the situation is not to deteriorate irreparably. I think that if the British can agree on something soon, we can get together on tactics as to how to bring about a settlement, which still seems to us to be possible.

To return to the Security Council problem, we here were all reluctant to take issue with the British on their Resolution, but we felt that the effects, should it be adopted, on the possibilities of a settlement were so great that we could not accept it as proposed. It seemed to us that it was bound to harden the attitude in Iran, and, in fact, the publication of it there, as you know, did enable Mossadeq to secure a quorum of the Majlis which he had been unable to do for some time. All of this made us feel, coming on top of the very abrupt rejection of the latest Iranian proposals, that the British were courting disaster and were making it practically impossible for a situation to develop in which the Iranians would or could enter into any arrangement that would be in any way satisfactory to the British point of view and to our interest in international business arrangements.

We have a breather of perhaps a week while the proposal is dormant in the Security Council. This is the period in which we should make every effort to see that the proceedings in the Security Council are turned to constructive purposes. This is not going to be easy to do. What seems to be necessary is some advance in negotiations between the UK and Iran which could perhaps be reported to the Security Council. This might make it possible to further postpone Security Council action to give time for the negotiations to proceed. With the situation that exists in the UK this presents a hard problem, but it seems to us to be essential.

Now a word about my own feelings in the matter. I think I have been the least enthusiastic about my proposed visit of anyone here. It was hard for me to separate out how much of that was due to the fact that I don’t like flying the Atlantic and how much was due to the fact that I don’t think I could add much to what you were doing in London. But these feelings of mine were overcome by the thought that perhaps a fresh face in the picture gave another opportunity for a review of the situation which might be helpful. Oliver Franks seemed to feel too that, by some miracle, I could help in reconciling the different premises as to the real situation in Iran from which we have both been proceeding.…

I am, of course, ready to come to London at any time if it would in any way be helpful, so don’t hesitate to let me know. I will keep my bag figuratively packed, at least.5

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Our real worry, of course, is that with the situation in the Security Council and the situation in Iran, lack of constructive action by the UK at this time may be fatal.

One last word of explanation. The reason we didn’t communicate with you sooner is that we had not really cleared our minds here about my going until we sent the wire to you yesterday afternoon.

My best as ever.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Document 96.
  2. For documentation on the Spanish case at the United Nations, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. v, pp. 1023 ff.
  3. Oct. 1.
  4. In telegram 1778 to London, Oct. 2, Perkins told Gifford that it was the general feeling in the Department of State that it might be useful for him to make a quick trip to London to explain the U.S. position on Iran. (888.2553/10–251) The telephone conversation referred to in this sentence has not been identified further, but since telegram 1778 asked Gifford for a phone call or message before 9:30 a.m., it is probable that the Ambassador called the Department and that his call is the one under reference.
  5. There is no record in Department of State files to indicate that Perkins went to London for the purpose outlined in this letter.