84. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in United Kingdom1

95492. Subject: Persian Gulf—Talk with British.

Assistant Secretary Sisco raised subject of Abu Musa and Tunbs islands with British Embassy Minister Millard June 16. He said we are very concerned for sake of British and US interests that no canker sore be left after British withdrawal from Gulf in 1971 which could be exploited by radical Arabs. We were gratified London has decided to press sheikhs to seek rapid agreement with Iran over islands. We have asked Ambassador MacArthur to counsel restraint on Iranians on this issue and urge cooperation on arrangements. We have impression Shah willing to be quite flexible and ready to fuzz sovereignty question.2
Sisco stressed view that if this issue to be resolved it absolutely essential for British to put forward concrete proposals. US attaches great importance to UK taking such initiative.
Millard said UK also considers this most serious matter and wants to use three-month breathing period we now have to work toward agreement between sheikhs over conflicting concessionary problem and also agreement between Iran and sheikhs over status of islands. He said UK, including British Ambassador Tehran, does not believe it wise to go to Shah with proposal until it has something specific and agreed to with sheikhs.3 He noted UK’s dilemma is that it must not appear to be selling out Arabs to Iran on eve of British departure. Sisco thought Shah’s willingness to fuzz sovereignty issue important. He thought it conceivable rulers could take position with other Arabs that rulers themselves reached agreement with Iran over details of use of islands and exploitation of resources on them or in surrounding territorial waters while maintaining islands continue to be theirs. Under such circumstances did not believe Iraqis or other radicals could make much of an issue of the arrangement.
For Ambassador Annenberg from Sisco: Request you weigh in with Foreign Office at high level emphasizing seriousness with which we regard this matter and our earnest belief that it essential for UK to put forward concrete proposals to sheikhs to get settlement moving. You may say that we will of course exercise our influence with Iranians in trying to bring about a satisfactory agreement with sheikhs.4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33 PERSIAN GULF. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Walter B. Smith II (NEA/IAI) and Miklos; cleared in EUR and NEA/ARP; and approved by Sisco. It was repeated to Tehran, Jidda, Kuwait, and Dhahran.
  2. Zahedi’s explanation of the Shah’s willingness to “fuzz” the sovereignty issue is in telegram 2318 from Tehran, June 1. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 2571 from Tehran, June 16, MacArthur reported that, according to British Ambassador Wright, the UK was probing the Sheikhs of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah on the principles that could be embodied in agreements between the sheikhdoms and Iran. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 601, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. II)
  4. Annenberg had such a meeting on June 10, prior to receipt of instructions. (Telegram 4778 from London; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33 PERSIAN GULF)