888.2553/9–2551: Telegram

No. 88
The Chargé in Iran (Richards) to the Department of State

top secret

1163. When AmbHenderson called on Min Foreign Affairs Kazemi this morning latter suggested Amb pay informal call on PriMin soonest. Amb reminded Min Foreign Affairs that he had not yet called on Shah to present credentials but was assured Iran Govt wld consider informal call quite proper and arrangement wld be made for AmbHenderson to see PriMinMossadeq 6 p.m., Sept 25.

Therefore, Amb, accompanied by Stutesman as interpreter, met PriMin at latter’s residence 6 p.m. After exchange courtesies PriMin spoke of depth of national feeling re oil dispute and public discontent with Brit policy which he said was inextricably mixed with ex–AIOC conduct in Iran. He described again his fears that [Page 165] the center mass of patriotic Persians wld turn to Leftist revolution if “cause” against Brit intervention internal affairs not won.

At this point he referred to today’s instructions sent provisional three directors NIOC that all Brit oil technicians must leave Iran by Oct 4th. (Embtel 1159, Sept 25.1) Amb said that he wld appreciate understanding background this move and PriMin’s explanation what he hoped to gain thereby. PriMin replied that if Brit technicians remained no non-Brit foreign technicians or oil purchasers wld dare open dealings with Iran. Amb asked if he properly understood Iran Govt intention was to burn bridges so that world wld know Iran-Brit negots forever broken. PriMin quickly replied he did not want to drive Brit out but situation required this action. He explained Brit technique was exert econ pressure while preventing operation oil industry in hopes Brit conditions cld be imposed on Iran when country thoroughly impoverished. He said Iran Govt cld exist 4 months more on funds on hand and national loan now being commenced.

Amb said he wanted to help in anyway possible. He said:

He agreed it wld be tragedy for Iran, Brit and world if concession reestablished Iran which wld give Brit undue pol power within Iran;
Altho neither oil expert nor experienced industrial manager, he believed advice oil experts in whom he had confidence that large oil industry cld not be run satisfactorily by employment individual inexperienced technicians from different countries and serious econ troubles wld face Iran for a long time if industry unproductive. Amb continued that only solution apparent to him was understanding between Brit and Iranians which wld allow Brit tech direction oil industry while removing possibility their improper interference in Iran’s internal affairs.

PriMin gave vigorous assent these statements and said door not entirely closed. He described his govt’s attempt keep discussions going on basis four point proposal submitted Brit Amb by Min Court Ala last week. (Embtel 1091, Sept 20). He produced copy these proposals and copy Brit AmbShepherd’s ltr in reply Ala (Embtel 1143, Sept 24). PriMin said Brit reply indicated Harriman had agreed with Brit rejection and in fact ltr to Ala indicated Harriman ltr Sept 15 gave rejection new proposals and Brit Govt entirely in agreement.2 Implication obviously drawn by Mossadeq who appeared indignant at Brit reply was that Harriman after consultation with Brit agreed to reject new proposals.

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PriMin said if Brit mission dispatched Tehran by Oct 4th or Brit Amb Tehran instructed open negots basis four point proposal originally outlined to Brit by Ala ltr dispute cld still be settled by negot. He laid down further condition that these negots must be successful within 15 day period starting Sept 27th. He further added that this conversation wld have to be kept entirely secret by the three participants. AmbHenderson cld however, approach Brit with suggestion that they send such mission or instructions. Amb cld then negotiate with Irans with view obtain agreement enter negots. In any case, PriMin insisted four point proposal contained in Ala memo wld be basis discussions.

Amb said he cld not argue on behalf Brit; nevertheless he felt it necessary in order approach Brit that he have some sweetening four point proposal to allow Brit save face in opening negots after having rejected same proposal previously. Amb asked if he cld assure that technical director might be Brit national. PriMin replied “absolutely no” as an assurance of this kind cld only be given through Majlis. Amb asked if possible Iran mission go to London. PriMin replied this wld be impossible. Amb asked if discussions wld be carried out within framework four point proposal or if Brit wld have to accept it completely before coming out.

PriMin replied no new proposals cld be made but that within framework four point proposal minor changes cld be worked out in discussions; for example, he referred Stokes request Brit purchase 10 million tons oil and said quantity cld be augmented if Brit desired.

The Amb inquired if there had been any discussions methods determining Iran counterclaims oil dispute and PriMin said Iranians wld fix Brit debt to them on basis past accounts but he said “on my word of honor I assure you we want to finish this affair quickly”.

PriMin made two definite points during course conversations:

In next few days all countries of world wld be asked to offer send technicians and buy oil and every offer from no matter what country wld receive consideration;
Brit cannot participate on profit sharing basis oil revenues after just claims have been paid.

Two hour conversation ended in friendly atmosphere with PriMin understanding Amb wld await instructions.

Dept may wish in its discretion communicate this to Emb London. However, AmbHenderson strongly feels his effectiveness here will be seriously harmed if British learn of this top secret conversation with PriMin.

Dept will observe Amb gave no undertaking re his course action. He and I inclined believe it wld be useless endeavor persuade Brit [Page 167] Amb here recommend his govt open negots on basis Ala memo. On other hand in our opinion if Brit continue remain aloof and make no move to renew negots Brit technicians likely be expelled by Oct 4.

Even if Mossadeq shld, in meantime, be overthrown, successor govt wld find it extremely difficult withdraw expulsion order unless Brit shld change present attitude. We hope therefore Dept can persuade Brit either send someone Iran immediately to enter discussions with Ala memo as starting point, or instruct AmbShepherd to negot. We doubt AmbShepherd in present frame mind cld negotiate effectively unless he in receipt fresh and specific instructions. In any event seems important Brit take steps to prevail on Mossadeq not slam door by carrying out expulsion orders. Mossadeq apparently feels he has yielded to Brit insistence that he take next step and that he has been snubbed.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Neither telegram cited in this paragraph is printed. Regarding the Iranian four-point proposal of Sept. 19, Ambassador Shepherd’s reply of Sept. 23, and Harriman’s letter of Sept. 15, see Document 86.