152. Editorial Note

On January 18, 1973, President Richard Nixon wrote Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, Shah of Iran, that he was “deeply concerned” over recent reports on the state of negotiations between Iran and the oil Consortium. Nixon stated that Iran’s most recent proposals “could seriously affect the entire area and the whole course of our mutual relationships.” Moreover, given the current involvement in Vietnam, the reorganization of the administration, and preparations for the inauguration, Nixon was unable to “address the substance of the present situation.” He added that, “since a unilateral step which does not meet the legitimate interests of both sides could have serious consequences for the objectives which we are pursuing together, I do want to express the hope that you might defer any unilateral action until I can study the issue and put my considerations before you.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 755, Presidential Correspondence, Iran—M.R. Pahlavi)

British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home sent a similar message to the Shah, stating that if the Shah committed himself to an “irrevocable position with companies in course of speech next week,” there would be “serious effects” on Anglo-Iranian relations. Ambassador [Page 383] Joseph S. Farland reported that the British letter amounted to “not so veiled threats.” (Telegram 355 from Tehran, January 19; ibid., Box 602, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. IV, 1 Sept 71–Apr 73)

In a January 20 response to President Nixon, the Shah pointed out that the oil companies had had ample time to reach an agreement but had not. He was also “convinced that after the announcement of our policies which are the best guarantor of the secure flow of oil supplies through the companies good prices and discounts, there will still be time for the parties concerned to meet our legitimate rights and reasonable demands. I am fully aware of your many preoccupations at this time and the very heavy schedule you have at the moment, but I deemed it necessary to bring this matter to your attention.” The substance of the Shah’s letter was conveyed to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (Telegram 12618 to Tehran, January 22; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 3 OPEC) The Shah’s letter to Nixon is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXVII, Iran; Iraq, 1973–1976.

Iranian Court Minister Assadollah Alam reiterated to Ambassador Farland, January 22, “with considerable coolness and complete absence usual pleasantries” the contents of the Shah’s letter. Alam said President Nixon “had a one-sided briefing (from oil companies)” and “there were other facts and issues of which President should have been aware before communicating with Shah.” Alam also said “leapfrogging” was not a valid argument and that a buyer-seller relationship was the best. He ended by stating that “for us this is now a matter of principle.” (Telegram 416 from Tehran, January 22; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 602, Country Files, Middle East, Iran, Vol. IV, 1 Sept 71–Apr 73)

The New York Times reported that on January 23 the Shah told the Consortium that its contract would not be renewed after it expired in 1979. He warned the companies that they would have to double their present production or sign a new agreement turning over operations to Iran. (“Iran Tells Consortium Pact Will Not Be Renewed,” The New York Times, January 24, 1973, p. 51)