888.2553/8–851: Telegram

No. 66
The Special Assistant to the President (Harriman) to the Department of State 1

top secret

531. From Harriman for President and Secretary. No distribution except as directed by the Secretary’s office. Following his arrival on Saturday, August 4, Stokes called on Mosadeq Sunday morning and had lunch with Shah. Mosadeq returned his call in the evening and dined with him. Stokes had his first meeting Monday afternoon with the group of Mixed Oil Commission and Ministers of Finance, Education and Communications.

I talked with Mosadeq after his second meeting with Stokes and he was in exceptionally good spirits. He said that he was pleased [Page 131] with the choice of Stokes to head British mission and liked him personally. I believe all Iranians with whom he has talked are favorably impressed with him.

In their first talk, Mosadeq agreed with Stokes’ suggestion that latter go to Abadan to get first hand information on situation there. Stokes was particularly anxious to make trip because of effect upon morale of British employees there. He asked me to accompany him and a representative of Iran Govt on trip Tuesday. For obvious political reasons we went in our own respective planes, Iran Govt representative travelling with me. I returned Tuesday afternoon, and Stokes party stayed over-night.

Iranians turned out substantial numbers of military personnel lining road from airport, with several truck loads accompanying party. Upon Makki’s insistence Stokes and I were taken on tour of all classes of housing facilities at Abadan, with emphasis on slum area. Although slums are typical of Middle East they are shocking for housing of employees of large Western oil company. Refineries are completely shut down but all employees are still kept on payroll with little to do except for new construction work.

British have made very large investment in new power plant and modern refineries, some of which just completed, doubling capacity since my visit nine years ago. We had lunch with Makki, civilian Governor General and Commanding General [in] Khuzistan, Military Governor of Abadan and provisional administrator oil council. Altogether I spent several hours with Makki. He is fanatically obsessed with evils of British and oil company and has demagogic appeal to people. There were no demonstrations during visit. Makki told me the people had wanted to arrange a demonstration welcoming me, but he had thought it best to deny permission for any kind of demonstration. People in areas visited appeared entirely friendly.

British Consul General had evidently made provocative statement in presence of press the day before we arrived and this may cause unfortunate repercussions.2 Four British destroyers which had just arrived were much in evidence lying across the river from Abadan.

Before leaving I talked with senior oil company officials at the refinery manager’s house. Although morale of these men themselves [Page 132] appeared good, that of the junior staff is said to be at a low point.3

Stokes’ talks up to now have been of general nature and he has not yet put forward specific proposals. His second meeting with Mixed Oil Commission group and selected Ministers is scheduled for this afternoon.

  1. Repeated to London eyes only for the Ambassador.
  2. Later in the day Grady reported that the local press had printed an interview with Maj. Francis Capper, British Consul General, in which he reportedly said:

    “One of conditions for reopening conversations with Iranian Govt is that Makki and Mazda who constitute two dangerous elements must leave Khuzistan and that provisional board directors must not intervene in petroleum affairs and lastly that goods confiscated from AIOC—houses, automobiles and so forth—be returned.” (Telegram 536 from Tehran, Aug. 8, 5 p.m.; 888.2553/8–851)

  3. For a different view of the visit to Abadan, see Norman Kemp, Abadan: A Firsthand Account of the Persian Oil Crisis (London, 1953), pp. 192–197.