888.2553/7–2351: Telegram

No. 51
The Special Assistant to the President (Harriman) to the Department of State1

top secret

324. From Harriman for the President and Secretary. No distribution except as directed by Secretary’s office. I met (Sunday afternoon2) with representatives of Mixed Oil Commission and Ministers of Finance and Roads. They had just come from meeting with Prime Minister and handed me draft of statement indicating conditions under which talks with British would be held. Draft, after amendments made during course of our meeting, said that on the assumption British Government recognizes nationalization of oil industry in Iran, Iranian Government wld be disposed start talks with delegates of British Government acting on behalf former AIOC, and to discuss other matters of mutual interest between two governments.

I pointed out while I believed British Government would be willing to accept principle of nationalization, as I had previously said, proposed statement would appear require them to go considerably beyond that and might be interpreted as meaning British had accepted Iranian nationalization laws. Iran representatives said this was not intention but that while they could not include wording which implied they were repudiating nine-point law, they were not asking British to accept it. In their earlier discussions with their colleagues and the Prime Minister, however, it was the view that stating “the principle of nationalization” might be interpreted as [Page 108] “some form of nationalization”. This they maintained public opinion would not permit them to accept.

As they could suggest no alternative wording which would meet Iranians’ objective and at same time give promise of British acceptance, I stood on the position I had taken yesterday, namely “the principle of nationalization”. Iranian representatives agreed to discuss the matter with their colleagues and let me know their decision tomorrow afternoon.

My impression based upon private remarks by several members is that the group did not in fact expect that statement as drafted would be considered by me acceptable to British, but that it was presented for trial purposes to placate more rigid elements in commission. I am hopeful that matter will now be decided along lines which I think should be acceptable.

. . . . . . .

In discussion Iranians agreed that first subject for discussion with British should be agreement on modus vivendi to get oil moving and to accomplish this they recognized that they would have to deal with the operating organization.

I raised question of relieving tension and improving morale of British personnel. After discussion they felt best way was to come to quick conclusion on inviting talks with British and then they could discuss with British Ambassador practical steps to relieve tension.3

  1. Repeated to London eyes only for the Ambassador.
  2. July 22.
  3. Harriman’s message was received in the Department of State at 9:32 a.m. on July 23. At 7 p.m. the Department of State cabled Gifford, stating that the talks in Tehran had reached the crucial stage and that it was essential that the British take no action which might aggravate the situation. Gifford was instructed to approach the Foreign Office along these lines, if he felt it was necessary, and persuade the British to delay further the announcement of the withdrawal of the technicians. (Telegram 531 to London; 888.2553/7–2351)