888.2553/7–2151: Telegram

No. 48
The Special Assistant to the President (Harriman) to the Department of State

top secret

314. From Harriman for the President and Secretary (no distribution except as directed by the Secretary’s office). I have urged British Ambassador to ask his government to postpone for at least few days any debate on Monday and any announcement of phased withdrawal of personnel. I pointed out that things were moving here in the direction of re-establishing discussions with British, that I felt the Iranian Government was trying to find way which would not create difficulties for them within Iran, and that if British take positive action now, it would undoubtedly make it far more difficult if not impossible for the Iranians as it wld look then as if they were acting under British pressure.

I explained that Mossadeq was showing signs of accepting the visit of British Cabinet Minister without prior conditions but only with clarification that the British Government had accepted the principle of nationalization; that Hasibi admitted the Mixed Oil Commission had been shaken by Levy’s and my talks; also in meeting with Levy Friday evening,1 Hasibi said that the Iranian Government would consider seriously proposal from the British involving an arrangement which the two discussed and which in fact was [Page 103] along the lines of the proposal Jackson was prepared to negotiate.2 The importance of this is that Hasibi is Mossadeq’s most intimate adviser on oil matters and has been most rigid in his prior talks with Levy. Another indication of progress which I told the British Ambassador was that Busheri this morning (Saturday) asked Levy for an outline of the terms of the Venezuelan arrangement and said that he has been with Mossadeq until 1 o’clock last night and was proceeding this morning to meeting with the Shah. Busheri also is Mossadeq intimate.

The British Ambassador agreed to telegraph his government outlining the above and recommending that the debate be postponed for few days or, if that was impossible, that Morrison state clearly the British stood ready at any time to renew negotiations. I maintained that the former was the only sensible course, and pointed out the dangerous probability that some member of the House would make rash statements which wld have most unfavorable effect here. He agreed and mentioned previous statements made in the House by member to the effect that Iran shld be divided between Russia and Britain.

I cannot express too strongly my recommendation that you ask Franks to urge his govt to postpone the debate and any announcement of phased withdrawal for the time being pending developments. I told the British Ambassador here that I had no objection to Morrison, if he felt it necessary giving as an explanation for the postponement that some progress was being made here.3

I frankly feel that if the British Government does not cooperate it will make the success of my mission extremely doubtful if not impossible. I am sure you understand that I cannot give any assurances of favorable outcome but I do believe progress is being made in only the few days I have been here.

  1. Levy and Hassibi had their second conversation on July 18 and their third on July 20. Memoranda of these two conversations, largely concerned with the technical and economic aspects of the oil industry, are in file 888.2553/10–1051.
  2. See Document 29.
  3. This telegram was received in the Department at 11:59 a.m. At 1 p.m. the Department cabled Gifford and, after reviewing the progress that Harriman seemed to be making, instructed the Ambassador to tell Morrison that it would be “unfortunate” if the British took any action or made any public statements during the next few days. On July 22, Gifford told Strang who had received a similar report from Ambassador Franks and who had been able to see Morrison late on the night of July 21. Both Strang and Morrison felt it would be difficult to withhold an announcement of the evacuation unless Iran did something to relieve the threat to the British staff in the oil fields. They sent a cable to Ambassador Shepherd instructing him to consult with Harriman on the possibility of prevailing on the Iranians to relax the tension in the oil fields. The matter then would be taken up by the Cabinet on July 23. (Telegrams 490 to London, July 21, and 423 from London, July 22; 888.2553/7–2151 and 7–2251)