888.2553/6–2651: Telegram

No. 31
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State

top secret

6827. Further to Embtel 6785 June 25,1 I had a long conversation this morning with Morrison on Iran sitn. I informed him of our concern about sitn and of our desire to do what we can to help UK meet it. I told him that we had no specific suggestions to put forward at this time, but that we were anxious to get an indication of how Brit are thinking. I expressed our concern at possibility Iran collapse in event technicians withdrawn and oil exports cease and attempted to draw Morrison out with respect UK’s ideas re possibility productive negots in future.

Morrison expressed appreciation for our desire to be of assistance. He said quite frankly that he had been somewhat disappointed in US attitude in past. He knew that we had tried very hard to be helpful and we had been in many ways, but he was disappointed that we had not been able to go further in supporting UK position publicly in face unjustifiable Iran attitude. He mentioned personal msg which he had sent to Secy thru Brit Emb Wash and which was delivered by Steel.2 He was grateful for Secy’s indication of his desire to be helpful, but he understood that meanwhile Dept had recd msg from Grady indicating that he did not believe that there was anything that we cld do to retrieve sitn.3

Morrison then went on to emphasize great patience and forbearance which UK has observed. He referred to US attitude toward use of force and again indicated that govt does not intend to use it for purposes other than evacuation personnel in event necessity. He spoke of frustration current sitn has engendered in govt circles here in trying to deal reasonably with a govt which is willing to bring about the destruction of its country. The fear of violence is all prevailing in Iran and probably Shah himself is even afraid for his life if he attempts to stem current course of events. Proposed anti-sabotage law is further evidence of Iran willingness resort to intimidation and he was most apprehensive re effect this law will [Page 70] have on willingness of staff to remain.4 Whole sitn in Abadan and oil fields is fraught with danger. In face extreme provocation by Irans, he was hesitant to tell technicians they wld have to stay when it appears that it will be at peril their lives. He emphasized danger of mob violence, admitting that aside from one or two isolated instances this had not materialized as yet. However, all Brit personnel in Iran at present time living on edge of violence. He referred to necessity for Drake leaving country (Embtel 6803 June 255) because of sitn in which he found himself. Perhaps Drake wld yet return, he did not know, but incident emphasizes fact that none of personnel in area can feel secure in view growing number of steps being taken against them by Iran Govt. Irans do not seem to realize what consequence their actions will be. Operation and even shutting down of refineries is extremely delicate operation and if Irans persist in interfering, there is always attendant danger of explosions with peril to both Brit and Iran personnel.

Morrison went on to emphasize difficult Parliamentary sitn which he faces on this question. Tories are consistently pressing him to use force and it was sometimes tempting to tell Mossadeq that “either he stops or we’ll come after him.” Such a course wld be effective way of dealing with sitn, but present govt realizes it can’t resort to this course of action for purposes other than evacuation.

It was apparent from what Morrison had to say that Brit have no long range plans as to how matter may be settled. Morrison expressed view that Shah shld dismiss Mossadeq and dissolve Majlis, but felt that Shah has not courage to do so. Shepherd has talked to Shah on several occasions, but Shah either unwilling or unable to intervene effectively in present sitn. Morrison felt Shah lacked courage to do so. If he did, Brit estimate is that army wld [support him?] fully, altho Morrison observed there may be some Tudeh influence in lower ranks.

Morrison saw no prospect for productive negots with present govt. UK had attempted explore every avenue. It had accepted principle of nationalization and had put forward fair and reasonable proposals. But every time, Irans fell back on letter of nationalization law and made it plain that UK must accept it.

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75–25 demand impossible of acceptance.

Morrison asked me if US had any naval forces in area. When I told him that we had small naval force in Persian Gulf, he said he wished they wld show flag to Irans more often and expressed hope we might show willingness protect American tankers. He did not develop this idea further, nor did he indicate that he expected any answer.

In concluding, Morrison said he cld not see any way of keeping oil flowing unless Irans changed their mind and take more reasonable attitude. This wld be great pity, since oil is badly needed. He was moreover, very much disturbed about effect Iran sitn on other concessions in NE.

I shld like correct impression in Embtel 6785 June 25. Statement which necessitated Morrison’s presence in Commons yesterday was on Malik’s Korean peace proposal6 not Iran.

Morrison did not raise question Eximbank loan, nor did I. However lower levels in FonOff have informally asked us what position is since despatch Embtel 6785 and we are therefore still anxious to know results further consideration this question (Deptel 6097 June 257). We think this loan matter of great importance in spite of fact Morrison did not mention it.

  1. In telegram 6785 Gifford reported that Morrison was unable to see him until June 26. (888.2553/6–2551)
  2. Not further identified.
  3. On June 25 Grady cabled that there was nothing the United States could do to persuade the Iranians to change their present course. The United States had made every effort but it “was of no avail.” (Telegram 3436 from Tehran; 888.2553 AIOC/6–2251)
  4. The antisabotage bill, presented to the Majlis on June 21, provided that any person engaging “treacherously or with ill-intent in activities in connexion with the operation of Persia’s oil industry … shall be condemned to penalties ranging from temporary imprisonment with hard labour to execution.” For the full text of the law, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1951, pp. 495–496.
  5. Telegram 6803 reported that Eric Drake, AIOC Manager at Abadan, had been flown to Basra, Iraq, after being accused of sabotage. Alick Mason, an AIOC representative at Abadan took his place. (888.2553 AIOC/6–2551)
  6. Regarding Malik’s Korean peace proposal, given in a radio braodcast on June 23, see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vii, Part 1, p. 546.
  7. In telegram 6097 Gifford was informed that the question of the Export-Import Bank loan was currently under discussion and that no definite policy could be conveyed to Morrison at that time. (888.2553/6–2551)