888.2553/5–3151

No. 25
President Truman to Prime Minister Attlee1

secret

I express to you the serious concern of the Government of the United States, which I am sure you share, at the present situation [Page 60]in Iran. I realize the great importance to Great Britain of a satisfactory solution to the controversy with the Iranian Government concerning operations of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

I am also acutely aware that it is essential to maintain the independence of Iran and the flow of Iranian oil into the economy of the free world.

Recent information which has reached me has led me to believe that the Iranian Government is willing and even anxious to work out an arrangement with His Majesty’s Government which would safeguard basic British interests and which could satisfy the desires of the Iranian people for nationalization of their petroleum resources.

The United States Government has expressed to His Majesty’s Government in recent days its firm conviction that an opportunity is now presented by the Iranian Government for negotiations which should be entered into at once. We earnestly hope that His Majesty’s Government can despatch to Tehran without delay qualified negotiators possessed of full powers to reach a settlement with the Government of Iran, and who are prepared to put forward in an appropriate way a specific proposal consistent with the principle of nationalization, acceptance of which was indicated by Mr. Morrison in his remarks on May 29 before the House of Commons.2 I understand that, while the Iranian Government’s invitation for representatives to negotiate3 was addressed to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the Iranian Government has indicated that it would have no objections if such company negotiators were also officials of His Majesty’s Government.

I know that you are fully aware of the serious implications of this explosive situation. I am sure you can understand my deep [Page 61]concern that no action should be taken in connection with this dispute which would result in disagreement between Iran and the free world. I am confident that a solution acceptable both to Great Britain and Iran can be found. I sincerely hope that every effort will be made to accomplish this objective.

  1. On May 30 Assistant Secretary McGhee transmitted to Secretary Acheson, under a covering memorandum, a draft message from President Truman to Prime Minister Attlee and a memorandum for the President reviewing the Iranian situation. McGhee explained that a personal message to Attlee along the lines of the draft would “be of great value in persuading the British to pursue a course of action which we feel has a good chance for success.” In the covering memorandum, drafted by Rountree, McGhee noted that the draft message was cleared by Matthews, S/P, and BNA and advanced arguments similar to those in the memorandum for the President concerning the efficacy of sending the message to Attlee. According to Battle’s handwritten notation on another copy of the covering memorandum, the “memo and enclosure telegraphed to Pres on Wed evening. Reply (with changes in the message) sent to us following morning [May 31].” The revised message to Attlee, printed here, which is the same as the May 30 draft except for minor changes, was transmitted to London in telegram 5565 (signed by Acheson and repeated to Tehran) at 10 a.m., May 31, and delivered to 10 Downing Street on the evening of May 31. (Telegram 6296 from London, May 31; 888.2553 AIOC/5–1351) Copies of the covering memorandum with the attached draft telegram and memorandum for the President and with Battle’s handwritten notation are in files 888.2553 AIOC/5–3051 and 788.00/5–3051, respectively.
  2. For text of Morrison’s statement, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 488, cols. 40–42.
  3. On May 20 and 24, Ali Varasteh, Iranian Minister of Finance, addressed letters to Seddon asking that the AIOC nominate representatives for discussions on the implementation of the oil nationalization law. On May 27, Seddon transmitted a reply from Fraser to Varasteh, stating that the company could not accept the Iranian view of the oil dispute, that it was asking the International Court of Justice to appoint an arbitrator, and that Seddon would meet with Iranian officials but only to listen to what they had to say and report it to the AIOC in London. For the texts of these three messages, see British Cmd. 8425, pp. 36–38.