888.2553/10–351: Telegram

No. 102
The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Department of State


405. Re Iran. Jebb, accompanied by Coulson, Middleton and Campbell, called on Gross, accompanied by Ross and Rountree this afternoon for discussion of SC res on Iranian case.

Gross initiated conversation by indicating we fully understood Dept had committed itself, but with great reluctance and against its better judgment, to support a clause calling upon Govt of Iran to suspend expulsion order pending outcome of negotiations. Speaking not for Dept but for US reps to SC, Gross indicated we felt a res containing this clause would be a grievously mistaken course. It went without saying that we would fully honor our commitment if we could not persuade UK through Jebb to again reconsider its position on this point.

Jebb inquired why we regarded this clause to be dangerous and misguided, whether we were concerned that a res with such a clause included would not get the necessary number of votes.

Gross replied that it was not question of validity of a particular SC judgment but whether an SC judgment adverse to one party should be made at this stage. He felt that such clause would solidify Iranian Govt, strengthen Mosadeq’s position and if not definitely preclude then certainly interfere with resumption of negotiations. There were two theories by which this matter might be approached: First, theory that our objective is resumption of negotiations. We felt resumption of negotiations was in British interest as well as ours. Other theory was the “brick wall” theory which virtually assured that there would be no resumption of negotiations. [Page 197] This theory was reflected in clause under discussion and this clause has the acid that would make whole res corrosive.

Jebb asked our estimate as to whether res with this clause included would get seven votes. He read to us from a telegram reporting formal reaction of Turkish Govt. This indicated that Turkish rep would be instructed to collaborate with and support his UK colleague. The suggestion was made that it was impractical to request compliance with the court order. This was not intended to imply any reservation but was to be taken merely as a suggestion. The Turkish Govt indicated it was in favor of suspension of expulsion order. Jebb added that his govt was in a very tough mood and thought they might wish to press ahead with a tough res even if seven favorable votes were not in sight.

Gross indicated that we had informed Rau, Lacoste and Luns of our earlier views; that we had informed Lacoste and we would inform Rau and Luns that we had now committed ourselves to support inclusion of clause along lines indicated above. He stressed that we would honor our commitment and vote for such a clause. If, however, British should find they do not have seven votes in sight, he urged that they be flexible and reconsider their position.

Indicating that the optimum as we saw it in terms of achieving resumption of negotiations would be a res accepted by both parties, Gross said that we felt a clause calling upon Iran to comply with court order would guarantee rejection of res by Iran and prevent resumption of negotiations.

Coulson questioned whether our para did not imply Iranian Govt would have the right to maintain expulsion order if negotiations should fail.

Gross pointed out that our formulation was an effort to come as close as possible to language of original UK draft and at same time make it possible for Mosadeq to accept resumption of negotiations. Gross then raised question of what practical effect UK sought in a clause calling upon Iran to suspend expulsion order in light of fact that personnel had already been withdrawn. In other words, was the question one of practical significance or was it a matter of maintaining a moral and political position.

Response by Middleton indicated that British did not envisage much practical result if a certain number of British personnel were permitted to return to Abadan unless agreement were reached on the more fundamental factors. He felt the return of personnel would substantiate the legal position for the company (its claim of ownership) and would permit a minimum maintenance of facilities.

Gross said that he was not questioning the moral and political effect which might result from return of personnel, but the continuity of residence of personnel having been broken he wondered [Page 198] whether it might not be possible to find language which would achieve the moral and political effect desired without making compliance by Iran impossible. He wondered whether language for this purpose might not be included in the preamble rather than in operative part of res.

Gross then gave to Jebb copy of draft res we had prepared in line with Dept’s instruction and commitment to British (alternative A in next following tel, USUN’s 406, Oct 31) indicating that we were, of course, fully prepared to support a call upon Iran to suspend expulsion order pending outcome of negotiations, Gross explained that we had drafted para 3 of our draft to take account (a) of language in operative para 1 of British draft, and (b) fact that personnel will have been withdrawn by British.

Jebb, noting that our draft had a weaker (Gross suggested neutral) preamble, that it called upon both parties to negotiate and refrain from action which might aggravate the situation, stressed that our draft apparently omitted any reference to compliance by Govt of Iran with ICJ order. He asked if we attached more importance to omission of a clause calling upon Iran to comply with a court order than we did to clause relating to expulsion order. In his mind it was hard to distinguish between two. Saying he had emphasized in SC statement2 importance of adhering to rule of law, Jebb thought that we might just as well be hung for a sheep as well as a lamb and wondered whether, if we were to call upon the Govt of Iran to suspend the expulsion order, we might not also call upon them to comply with the court order.

Jebb observed he did not feel his govt attached much importance to continued residence of the personnel but that it attached primary importance to compliance with the court order. The question of continued residence was tied up with the court order. Middleton observed that to call upon Iran to suspend the expulsion order without calling upon them to comply with the court order amounted to all tail and no dog and Jebb agreed. At later point in discussion Jebb indicated that whether or not AIOC personnel went back to Abadan was not of much significance; the important thing was to decide whether we were going to call upon Iran or not to comply with the court order. Jebb then wondered whether it would not be possible to call upon the Govt of Iran to act in accordance with the spirit (or principles) laid down by the court and to establish a [Page 199] modus vivendi based upon these principles which would permit the flow of oil pending resumption of definitive negotiations.

Rountree, in course of discussion of this approach, indicated that he felt it would be difficult to differentiate between negotiations for modus vivendi and for more permanent arrangement and that the injection of the concept of modus vivendi based upon principles of the court would weaken prospects of successful outcome of definitive negotiations.

Further discussion of the relative importance of the court order and the expulsion order led to development of an alternative draft (transmitted as alternative B in next following tel, USUN’s 406). The heart of res is of course operative para 1 which in our view gives the UK point of view weight of principle of ICJ findings without actually nailing the Iranians to them. Iran might be induced to accept such a res, thus making it virtually impossible for Soviet to veto. Para three of preamble is based on UKDel suggestion and marches toward their “rule of law” argument.

Jebb said that he would send both alternatives to London with request for urgent instructions. For reasons set forth above, Gross, when offering alternative B, said that if agreement could be reached with UK on basis of this draft, he would recommend that we give UK full diplomatic support. He made clear, however, that he was not in position to commit Dept to such support. Austin thinks alternative B excellent, holding promise for the future.

It was our impression that Jebb favored alternative B.

In course of discussion we clarified apparent misunderstanding; Franks was under impression that Dept had given commitment to support all of operative para 1 of original UK draft, with drafting changes to be worked out.

It was made clear throughout Gross and Jebb were negotiating ad referendum and that US as always would honor commitment.

  1. Infra.
  2. Presumably a reference to Jebb’s speech on Oct. 1 to the Security Council; for extracts, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1951, pp. 531–539. For the full text of the speech, see Security Council, Sixth Year, 559th Meeting, 1 October 1951, pp. 11 ff.