888.2553/9–2651: Telegram

No. 89
The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Tehran1


655. Re immed fol tel,2 fol is msg dated 25 Sept from Attlee to Pres:

“You will recall that on Aug 23rd I sent you personal msg3 expressing grave concern of HMG over situation in Persia and urging in our common interests USGov shld make it plain they fully supported attitude which HMG had been compelled to adopt. I was greatly encouraged by discussions which took place between Morrison and Acheson on this matter on Sept 11th [10th]4 and by firm reply which Harriman sent Musaddiq when he recently threatened an ultimatum involving withdrawal of Residence Permits of Brit staff.5

Unfortunately since then there has been further deterioration in situation in Persia which has now culminated in announcement by Persian Govt so far unaccompanied by any notification to HMG [Page 168] that they propose on Sept 27th to give remaining Brit staff at Abadan one week within which to quit Persia.6
This step if implemented wld constitute final flouting by Persian Govt of interim decision of ICJ under which status quo in regard to oil industry and AIOC in Persia was in effect to be maintained pending Court’s final decision. Issue of announcement faces HMG with choice between withdrawing whole of Brit staff or of intervening in Persia in order to secure their maintenance in Abadan. Hitherto under considerable provocation we have kept situation open for settlement. We are now faced with action by Persian Govt which may be irreparable.
To submit to eviction of Brit staff wld in view of HMG have gravest consequences not only for UK interests in Persia but for US as well as UK interests throughout the Middle East. Further it wld represent blow to Brit and I believe to Western influence and prestige in area which as we have both recognized is weak spot in our containment wall. Finally it wld leave vacuum in Persia which Russia by logic of events wld be bound to try to fill. In meantime it wld render far more remote chances of solution of oil dispute and eventual econ collapse of Persia cld only be averted by large-scale external assistance.
On other hand for HMG to seek to maintain Brit staff in Abadan by armed intervention wld clearly run serious risks quite apart from its legal aspect. You will appreciate however that public opinion in this country will find it difficult to understand why decision of ICJ cannot be enforced and its violation by Persian Govt prevented.
I believe ur advisers share view strongly held by mine that Shah alone if only he will act with sufficient resolution has power to remedy situation both as regards eviction of Brit staff and replacement of Musaddiq by govt with which we can negotiate on reasonable basis. I am accordingly instructing HM Amb at Tehran to see him as soon as possible and urge on him in strongest terms necessity of taking immed action to prevent Persian Govt from proceeding with present intention in order avoid most serious situation arising between his country and UK.
I am convinced in this matter interests of UK and US march together. I earnestly hope therefore that you will agree that in this situation US stand firmly with us in opposition to this procedure by ultimatum and that ur rep at Tehran will be instructed to associate himself with representation which Shepherd is making. I am [Page 169] sure only chance of preventing grave damage to interests both our countries and to long term interests of Persia itself lies in our taking firm joint action and letting world know that we are doing so.”7
  1. Repeated to London.
  2. Telegram 656, infra.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Minutes of this meeting, U.S.-U.K. MIN–1, are in Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 90.
  5. See Document 86.
  6. For text of the telegram, Sept. 25, from Mosadeq to the Oil Board announcing the expulsion of British technicians from Iran, see Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1951, p. 519.
  7. At 9 p.m. on Sept. 26 in telegram 1698, drafted by McGhee, Rountree, and Perkins and bearing McGhee’s initials over the typed clearances of Secretary Acheson and President Truman, the Embassy in London was instructed to deliver President Truman’s initial reactions to Attlee’s message. The Embassy was to indicate that Ambassador Henderson was being instructed to support Ambassador Shepherd in his representations about the seriousness of the proposed Iranian action, that President Truman was pleased to see the British recognized the consequences of using force at Abadan, and that the President felt the British should come forward with some suggestion which would provide a basis for the Iranians assuming a more amenable attitude. (888.2553/9–2651)