136. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Acting Secretary of State 1


  • Proposals for New Oil Pipeline Through Iraq and Turkey


On August 1 the Department informed our Embassies at Baghdad, Ankara, Tehran, Damascus and Beirut2 that it had been informed by Standard Oil of New Jersey that, in the event the Suez Canal is not brought under international control and oil companies are unable to depend upon proper operation, expansion of facilities and reasonable tolls, the company considers it must, in its own interest, proceed immediately to build a pipeline through Iraq and Turkey to Iskanderun. The company stated that agreement with Shell, Anglo-Persian, Gulf and Socony was necessary and, if the U.S. Government concurred, it was prepared to consult with them. The company indicated [Page 317] this project had been under study for some time and has certain purely economic attractions, The pipeline would be 36 or 40 inches and would handle 850,000 barrels daily. In conveying this information to the field, the Department requested an evaluation of probable Iraqi and Turkish Government reaction as well as comment from the other posts in which pipelines are operating at the present time.

The replies indicate the following evaluations and probable reactions:

  • Iraq: 3 The Embassy reports IPC has been thinking along similar lines for some time. It believes the proposed pipeline would be welcomed by the Iraqi Government as a means of increasing oil revenues. However, some public protest may be expected from Arab nationalists who still resent Turkish annexation of Alexandretta (Iskanderun). The Embassy believes there would be merit in considering the possibility of undertaking the project under the auspices of the Baghdad Pact Organization. The Embassy further thinks that it would be inadvisable to broach this matter now with the Iraqi Government. Until the Suez matter is settled, such a proposal intending to minimize reliance upon the Canal would be highly objectionable to Arabs generally and it could hardly be expected that the Government of Iraq would publicly support it.
  • Turkey: 4 The Embassy believes the Turkish Government would enthusiastically welcome the pipeline project. The Turks would benefit economically and would enjoy a considerable enhancement of prestige. The increased importance of the Iskanderun area would, in their opinion, make the U.S. more conscious of the need for stability and security in Cyprus. The Embassy emphasizes the importance of presenting the project in a manner which does not link it with Suez Canal developments and pipeline difficulties in Lebanon and Syria, but rather with expanding production of Middle East oil fields.
  • Iran: 5 The Embassy reports a conversation between the Ambassador and the Shah in which the Shah raised the question of such a pipeline which would transverse Iranian and Turkish territory. The Shah considers such a route, while probably more difficult from an engineering standpoint, a more reliable one than a route passing through any one of the Arab countries. It is probable that the Iranian Government would adopt a strong position in favor of construction of a pipeline by-passing Arab territory or at least for an appreciable distance running through Iranian territory.
  • Syria: 6 The Embassy doubts that Syria’s attitude towards arrangements with the present pipeline companies would be improved by the early announcement of plans for the proposed pipeline through Iraq and Turkey. The Embassy further states that such an announcement would probably produce hostile reactions in Syria, where memories of Turkish annexation of Alexandretta are still fresh, and should be postponed for the time being.
  • Lebanon: 7 The Embassy believes the announcement of the plans for a Turkish pipeline would tend to induce among Lebanese leaders a greater realization of the dangers of their present policy directed against IPC and Tapline.


That no final decision on the Department’s position regarding the proposed pipeline be taken until the London conference is concluded, but that in the meantime we explore further with Mr. Page the feasibility and implications of the Turkish pipeline and other means of ensuring our access to Middle East oil (e.g., a pipeline across Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba, new tanker construction, etc.).8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 880.2553/8–2056. Secret. Drafted by A. David Fritzlan of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs on August 16. Sent through the Executive Secretariat.
  2. Reference is to telegram 132 to Baghdad, August 1, also sent to Ankara, Damascus, and Beirut. (Ibid., 880.2553/8–156)
  3. Telegram 164 from Baghdad, August 7. (Ibid., 880.2553/8–756)
  4. Telegram 358 from Ankara, August 11. (Ibid., 880.2553/8–1156)
  5. See Document 362.
  6. Telegram 327 from Damascus, August 8. (Department of State, Central Files, 880.2553/8–856)
  7. Telegram 285 from Beirut, August 7. (Ibid., 880.2553/8–756)
  8. There is no indication on the source text of Hoover’s approval or disapproval of the recommendation.

    A handwritten note by George Allen at the bottom of the last page reads: “I am enthusiastic about this project and would like to see the pipeline extended some day to Europe.”