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Message to the Prime Minister of Iran Following the Breakdown of Oil Discussions With Great Britain.

July 09, 1951

[Released July 9, 1951. Dated July 8, 1951.]

My dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I am most grateful to Your Excellency for giving me in your recent letter a full and frank account of the developments in the unhappy dispute which has arisen between your government and the British oil interests in Iran. This matter is so full of dangers to the welfare of your own country, of Great Britain and of all the free world, that I have been giving the most earnest thought to the problems involved. I had hoped that the common interests of the two countries directly involved and the common ground which has been developed in your discussions would open the way to a solution of the troublesome and complicated problems which have arisen. You know of our sympathetic interest in this country in Iran's desire to control its natural resources. From this point of view we were happy to see that the British Government has on its part accepted the principle of nationalization.

Since British skill and operating knowledge can contribute so much to the Iranian oil industry I had hoped--and still hope-that ways could be found to recognize the principle of nationalization and British interests to the benefit of both. For these reasons I have watched with concern the breakdown of your discussions and the drift toward a collapse of oil operations with all the attendant losses to Iran and the world. Surely this is a disaster which statesmanship can find a way to avoid.

Recently I have come to believe that the complexity of the problems involved in a broad settlement and the shortness of the time available before the refinery must shut down--if the present situation continues-require a simple and practicable modus vivendi under which operations can continue and under which the interests of neither side will be prejudiced. Various suggestions to this end have failed. The time available is running out.

In this situation a new and important development has occurred. The International Court of Justice, which your Government, the British Government and our own all joined with other nations to establish as the guardian of impartial justice and equity has made a suggestion for a modus vivendi.

Technical considerations aside, I lay great stress on the action of the Court. I know how sincerely your Government and the British Government believe in the positions which you both have taken in your discussions. However, I am sure you believe even more profoundly in the idea of a world controlled by law and justice which has been the hope of the world since the San Francisco Conference. Apart from questions of jurisdiction no one will doubt the impartiality of the World Court, its eminence and the respect due to it by all nations who signed the United Nations treaty.

Therefore, I earnestly commend to you a most careful consideration of its suggestion. I suggest that its utterance be thought of not as a decision which is or is not binding depending on technical legal considerations, but as a suggestion of an impartial body, dedicated to justice and equity and to a peaceful world based upon these great conceptions. A study of its suggestion by your Government and by the British Government will, I am sure, develop methods of implementing it which will carry out its wise and impartial purpose--maintaining the operation of the oil industry and preserving the positions of both Governments. Surely no government loses any element of its sovereignty or the support of its people by treating with all possible consideration and respect the utterance of this great court. Our own government and people believe this profoundly. Should you take such a position I am sure that the stature of Iran would be greatly enhanced in the eyes of the world.

I have a very sincere desire, Mr. Prime Minister, to be as helpful to you as possible in this circumstance. I have discussed this matter at length with Mr. W. Averell Harriman who as you know is one of my closest advisers and one of our most eminent citizens. Should you be willing to receive him I should be happy to have him go to Tehran as my personal representative to talk over with you this immediate and pressing situation.

May I take this opportunity to assure Your Excellency of my highest consideration and to convey to you my confidence in the future well-being and prosperity of Iran.


Note: Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadeq's reply, dated and released July 11, 1951, follows:

Dear Mr. President:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your friendly message of 8th July handed to me by His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States in Teheran just after the government of Iran had taken its decision with regard to the findings of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. I deem it my duty to thank you once again, Mr. President, for the care you have always taken in the welfare of this country.

As I mentioned in my previous letter, the government and people of Iran recognize the government and the people of the United States as the staunch supporters of right and justice and appreciate therefore, with complete sincerity, the interest you are taking in the solution of the economic difficulties of Iran in general and in the oil question in particular.

I am extremely glad to note your reference, Mr. President, to the sympathy and interest of the American Nation in the realization of Iran's national aspirations and the acceptance of the principle of nationalization of the oil industry; for Iran has had and is having no aim other than the acceptance of this principle by virtue of the laws ratified by the two Houses of Parliament, and has always been ready, within the terms of these laws to take any measures for the removal of the present disputes. It is, therefore, a matter of great regret that, insofar as Iran can judge, no proposal or suggestion has been made, up to the present, by the former oil company denoting their acceptance of the principle of nationalization of the oil industry in accordance with the laws ratified by the Parliament laws which the government is duty bound to put into force. On the contrary, in their note of 29th June, the representatives of the former oil company made proposals which were against the provisions of these laws and which resulted in the termination of the discussions.

Provided, of course, that our indisputable national rights are respected in accordance with the laws concerning the nationalization of the oil industry, the government and the people of Iran are ready to enter into immediate discussions with the aim to remove all the disputes so that there may be no stoppage in the production and exploitation of oil-a situation which the government of Iran has always been anxious to avoid and which, as you have mentioned, Mr. president, is causing losses to all concerned.

With reference to your desire, Mr. President, to help our country I must state without hesitation that the Iranian nation and government fully appreciate this high intent in all sincerity and candor, more so when they find that you have shown your readiness, Mr. president, to send to Teheran as your Special Representative Mr. Averell Harriman, one of the most distinguished American citizens, for consultations.

In the light of our knowledge of Mr. Harriman's personality and his vast experiences, and considering the fact that he will act as your representative, the Iranian government welcomes this gesture and hopes to take full advantage of consultations with a man of such high standing. In the meanwhile it would also give him the opportunity to become directly acquainted with our views and to obtain first hand knowledge of our living conditions and requirements.

May I avail myself of this opportunity to offer you, Mr. President, the expressions of my best and most sincere regards.


See also Items 140 [4, 19], 155.

Harry S Truman, Message to the Prime Minister of Iran Following the Breakdown of Oil Discussions With Great Britain. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230334

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