888.2553/11–551: Telegram

No. 121
The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at Paris1

top secret

2704. For the Secy (eyes only Secy, Harriman, Linder). Dept believes position you took with Eden on Iran matter was excellent and hopeful it will have desired effect. We are most concerned re [Page 259] Brit attitude and even if we so desire expect difficulty persuading Mosadeq to remain here for longer than few days. Fol is Dept comment for such use as you care to make of it in further talks with Brit:

While we most anxious not lose opportunity presented by Mosadeq’s presence here to find solution, he is of course head of Govt and internal situation in Iran totally aside from oil dispute such as to make his return essential in very near future. Understand he has given orders from here today authorizing declaration of martial law in city of Tehran in wake recent Commie disorders. It is clear that he cannot remain away from Tehran much longer and we wld be assuming grave responsibilities shld we persuade him to do so.2
We are also concerned at charge of bad faith which Irans might make against us as result our persuading Mosadeq remain here if Brit eventually refuse negotiate with him. Mosadeq is now in negotiating mood and has told us he will stay here as long as we tell him there is “hope”. We trust therefore that Brit Cabinet decision may be made known immed.
US proposal is not hard and fast matter and permits latitude for negot. Question of exclusion of Brit technicians as opposed to company, for instance, is not contained in proposal but was an attempt to interpret his attitude which you will recall Mosadeq expressed at mtg with you.3 Important thing is for us to know in what respects proposals unacceptable to Brit so that we can, if we consider Brit position reasonable and it possible to do so, attempt to obtain modification of Iran position. Substantial delays by Brit in formulating position on proposals or outright rejection without demonstrably good reasons therefore will certainly be interpreted by Mosadeq and in fact by all Irans as evidence Brit policy of refusing to negot with Mosadeq while continuing pressures sufficient to cause his fall and appt Govt more amenable Brit position. This we fear will have opposite effect to that Brit might anticipate, and that Mosadeq’s polit position wld be strengthened, anti-Brit sentiment increased, and present Govt forced to take drastic course which wld seriously jeopardize Western interests. We cannot guarantee that Brit tactics wld not succeed, but in our considered judgment it is probable that they wld fail and the risk is too great to take.
In this connection, while we do not exclude possibility Mosadeq may fall, we do not see how any IranGov whether “reasonable” or not cld conclude any agreement which wld restore Brit operation of Iran oil industry. Mosadeq, furthermore, back in Majlis [Page 260] wld be possibly even stronger force than he is as PriMin and wld be able to dictate legis as he did during short-lived Ala Cabinet last spring.
In event Brit refuse to discuss seriously or reject proposals US will be confronted with fol difficult problems:
US has up to now attempted to persuade US firms which have indicated interest in participating operations Iran oil industry or purchasing Iran oil not to negotiate with Iran Govt during efforts to bring about UK–Iran agreement. As you inferred to Eden, however, continuation this policy may be difficult.
In event breakdown of US efforts Mosadeq wld undoubtedly claim that he endeavored in good will to bring about negots but that Brit refused to consider proposals made by US Govt. Question wld arise as to what we wld say to Mosadeq and to press in explanation that wld minimize reaction against UK and at same time protect US position in matter vis-à-vis Iran and rest of world.
Henderson has been requested take immed action with Brit Chargé on joint appraisal, but we hope UK will not delay decision on our proposal pending receipt of this report. Henderson is also being asked as matter of urgency to give appraisal, from standpoint of effect on satisfactory settlement of oil dispute, of political situation which would result from refusal of Brit to negotiate with Mosadeq while economic pressures continue.4

  1. Drafted by Ferguson and Rountree; cleared by Bonbright, Matthews, and McGhee; and repeated to Tehran and London, eyes only for the Ambassador.
  2. McGhee had seen Mosadeq during the day on Nov. 5 and indicated to him that while the initial reactions of the British were negative, he was awaiting a definitive reply to the U.S. proposal. Mosadeq told him that he was concerned about the situation in Iran, believed that the Top Iranian Communist leaders were in the pay of the AIOC, and felt that the British were delaying in order to put economic pressure on Iran and make it more compliant. (Memorandum of conversation, Nov. 5; 888.2553/11–551)
  3. Secretary Acheson met with Mosadeq on Oct. 24; a memorandum of the conversation is in file 888.2553/10–2451.
  4. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Delegation cabled that Secretary Acheson and Linder had seen Eden and had indicated “very strongly” the concern of the United States “that through inaction their part decision might be made”. Eden replied that he had no desire “to fade out of the negotiations” and indicated that Fergusson and Rowan would arrive on Nov. 7 with a full statement of the British position, presumably approved by the Cabinet. (Telegram 2694 from Paris; 888.2553/11–651)