Resuming Relations With Britain
A Wise Course Or Political Suicide? (Oct. 1953)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 12, 2019                          

Iran Severs Diplomatic Relations With Britain (Oct. 1952)

On October 22, 1952, the Iranian government formally severed diplomatic relations with Britain. After Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown in August 1953 with the help of the United States and Britain, the restoration of Anglo-Iranian relations was high on their agenda.

Yet complicating matters was an even higher priority: an oil settlement to correct the sin of oil nationalization. The Shah, Premier Zahedi, the Foreign Minister and Minister of Court were adamant that a deal should precede any rapprochement with Britain, fearing negative repercussions should the order be reversed. Amb. Loy Henderson tried to persuade them that the two issues weren’t connected, and that renewed relations would actually strengthen Iran’s hand.

British diplomat Christopher Thomas Gandy (1917-2009) had been privy to the British role in the 1953 coup, and now, the post-coup negotiations. In the following document, Gandy passed on a report summarizing the Oct. 7th discussion, based on a report from an Embassy official.

Iran and Britain, as it turned out, resumed relations on Dec. 5, 1953, eight months prior to the conclusion of the Oil Consortium Agreement on Aug. 5, 1954.

British Foreign Office | Iran Documents (1951-1954)

Iran Oil Consortium | Archive of Documents (1953-1954)


P1051/24. [handwritten over stamp]



Mr. Houghton of the U.S. Embassy [in London] today gave me the following information of talks which Mr. Henderson, U.S. Ambassador in Tehran had had with members of the Persian Government on this subject. [Loy W. Henderson]

2. Learning that General Zahidi [sic—Fazlollah Zahedi] was to lunch with the Shah [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] on October 7, Mr. Henderson saw General Zahidi himself, the Minister for Foreign affairs, [Abdollah Entezam] and Mr. Ala, the Minister of Court [Hossein Ala] and discussed this subject with them.

3. Mr. Henderson told General Zahidi that he knew that the Shah and his Prime Minister thought that the resumption of diplomatic relations should be simultaneous with the settlement of the oil question but he himself was fully convinced that relations should be resumed as soon as possible and that they should not be linked with an oil settlement. Such a resumption would, he considered, strengthen Persia’s position internationally and also internally, since there were influential groups of pro-Western people who would not give the new Government their full confidence and support until it was in relations with H.M.G. [Her Majesty’s Government] If General Zahidi did not resume relations with the H.M.G. his Government would lose some sympathy in the U.K. and in the United States. Finally, Mr. Henderson pointed out there was no logical connexion between diplomatic relations and an oil settlement. He had told General Zahidi that as Persia had broken diplomatic relations with Britain it was for her to resume.

4. General Zahidi replied that he was unprepared to resume diplomatic relations before an oil settlement had been reached or, at least, concrete steps had been taken in that direction. He feared that the British Embassy when re-established without an oil settlement, would be a target for Nationalist attacks which would impair relations between Persia and the U.K. His Government would also appear to be a puppet of the United States and United Kingdom Governments. He entirely agreed that Persian public opinion would need to be prepared before it could accept & resumption of relations, but he did not think this preparation would be difficult or need take much time. [“He” was crossed out and “Mr. Henderson” was written in the left margin]

5. The Minister for Foreign Affairs [Abdollah Entezam] thought it would be suicidal to resume diplomatic relations at this moment and said that the Prime Minister and the Shah were convinced that they should not be resumed until at least some principles for a settlement had been agreed, either in private unofficial conversations or by the use of mediation.

6. Mr. Ala, the Minister of Court, doubted whether the Shah would think it wise to resume diplomatic relations before an oil settlement.

7. Mr. Henderson has also advised the State Department that in his view it would be unwise for Mr. Hoover to talk to the Persian Government about the resumption of diplomatic relations. [special envoy Herbert Hoover, Jr.] He points out that as there is no logical connexion between the two subjects they should not be treated together by Mr. Hoover, who had much better confine his activities to discussion of oil problems.

8. In passing on this information to me Mr. Houghton emphasised that we should regard invocation of advice given by Mr. Henderson to the State Department as being highly confidential.


C. T. Gandy. [Christopher Gandy]

October 13, 1953.

Handwritten, unsigned notes:

Advance copies sent to Sir William Strang and Mr. Allen [George V. Allen?]

DW Greenbull [?]
Once again, Mr. Henderson seems to have spoken on the right lines (para. 3 of Mr. Gandy’s minute). The Persian opinions that he quotes in favour of oil talks before a resumption of relations were /


[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954
Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 


Related links:

Fazlollah Zahedi & Winston Churchill Pledge To Revive Iran-UK Friendship (Sept. 1953)

Pierson Dixon, Henry Byroade Discuss Iranian Oil in Bermuda (Dec. 1953)

Iran Severs Diplomatic Relations With Britain (1952)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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