888.2553/7–2251: Telegram

No. 49
The Special Assistant to the President (Harriman) to the Department of State

top secret

321. From Harriman for the President and Secretary (no distribution except as directed by Secretary’s office). I saw British Ambassador again last evening (Saturday1). He said that although Iranian Government had informed him Seddon would be permitted to remain in Iran, London would be much exercised over the accusations against Seddon. Foreign Minister had told British Counsellor that Seddon had gone to Abadan incognito and met with questionable characters there and inferred possible involvement in recent tragic public demonstration in Tehran.2 British Ambassador had reported this and he felt sure Morrison would be incensed. I cannot understand why Shepherd has not gone to Foreign Minister himself and insisted on retraction of extreme charges rather than simply reporting incident which he knows will create trouble.

I told him in general of my talks with oil commission. He feels it would be better for first talks to be on government-to-government basis. I agree, providing responsible British Minister visits Tehran. He also said that the British Government would insist on return to status quo before any talks could be agreed to. I said this would be impossible and asked him to explain his reasoning. He then said that at least the government instigated anti-British propaganda and the indignities to British personnel must stop. To this I agreed and said I would take this up with the Iranian officials when it seemed propitious.

British Ambassador expressed regret at Abdullah assassination3—particularly at this moment when Jordan Ambassador was delivering message from him to Shah and Mossadeq urging them to settle oil dispute with British. I am sure that this message will not only do no good but will cause resentment. The Iranians will receive message simply as another indication of British pressure.

During the discussion I expressed the opinion that Mossadeq was in fact afraid of the fanatical religious leaders and also the extreme nationalist groups. Shepherd agreed.…

[Page 105]

I am fearful that Shepherd’s expectations may be shared in part at least by London, whereas it seems clear that British must adjust themselves to the realities of the situation that exists in this country, if they are to save their oil business and prevent the development of serious political consequences here.

  1. July 21.
  2. Presumably a reference to the riots in Tehran on July 15 during which several people were killed and scores arrested.
  3. King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated on July 20.