Security Council: To Delay Or Not

George McGhee’s First Meeting With Mossadegh

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | October 5, 2021                     

Premier Mohammad Mossadegh and George Crews McGhee

As soon as Premier Mossadegh entered New York Hospital on Oct. 8, 1951, he had a meeting with George McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Ernest Gross, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Vernon Walters was on hand to translate. The following report is from McGhee, but forwarded by Warren Austin, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

U.S. State Department Documents on Iran | 1951-1954

888.2553/10–851: Telegram

No. 108

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Austin) to the Department of State

New York, October 8, 1951—8:37 p.m.


PRIORITY438. From McGhee. Department please relay [to] London and Tehran. Regarding [the] Iranian case. Gross, Walters and I saw Dr. Mosadeq for over an hour.1 [Ernest Gross, interpreter Vernon Walters, and George C. McGhee] [The] Meeting was arranged through Entezam who indicated that [the] Prime Minister appeared eager to talk and that he was in [a] mood for negotiations and desired a delay in Security Council action. [Nasrollah Entezam, Iran’s UN Ambassador] Entezam himself, although he introduced [the] group, did not remain for discussions, presumably because he felt it would inhibit [the] Prime Minister. Mosadeq was in a good mood and apparently not affected by his long trip. After [an] exchange of pleasantries I welcomed him on behalf of [the] President and Secretary and asked when he would prefer [to] come to Washington pointing out that we assumed it would be more convenient after [the] Security Council had taken action.2 [Pres. Harry Truman and Sec. of State Dean Acheson] This question gave rise to [a] statement on his part that he would in fact prefer to avoid Security Council action through prior negotiations. His basic reasoning on this point was that the statement that he felt he must make in [the] Security Council would in fact preclude the possibility of successful negotiations thereafter. He preferred [to] postpone Security Council action with [an] informal recommendation that [the] parties seek [an] agreement directly between themselves.

After he had suggested different periods of delay in resumption of [the] Security Council debate we understood him finally to suggest a delay until Sunday or Monday.3 If no agreement were forthcoming, Security Council could then take action, and he would at that time present [a] “vigorous and sharp” defense. In the ensuing discussion, both Gross and I, without indicating there was any possibility of withdrawing [the] case from [the] Security Council or postponing action, tried to convince Mosadeq that it would be possible for him to make a strong statement in defense of the Iranian position and still keep the door open for acceptance of an impartial Security Council resolution of a constructive nature.

Mosadeq expressed [his] conviction [that the] British were hoping to drag out [the] Security Council proceeding thus playing for time in which economic pressures on Iran would make [the] latter more compliant. We pointed out [that] Security Council action could be both quick and constructive, but this made little dent upon his fixed view that any chance for conciliation would be precluded by the slashing attack he would have to make if the Security Council debate resumed. He tentatively explored [the] idea of [a] Security Council meeting for [the] sole purpose of urging [the] parties to negotiate or of postponing debate in order [that the] parties might negotiate. We explained [that the] Security Council meeting [was] not necessary for [the] latter purpose, which could be accomplished by [the] Security Council President informally polling members. [Trygve Lie] He seemed to prefer [the] latter course.

It was pointed out that there were two questions: (a) The question of jurisdiction; (b) the substance of any proposed resolution.

Gross made clear that substantive debate on [the] resolution would have to take place before [the] council could consider [the] question of jurisdiction being a formal one, this substantive debate would occur in connection with debate on [the] resolution. It was pointed out to [the] Prime Minister that [the] resolution itself would be of [a] constructive nature looking toward [the] future and particularly toward resumption of negotiations leading to an agreement. It would in all probability not seek to cast blame on either party and would not require [a] defense of [the] type that [the] Prime Minister apparently envisaged involving [the] whole question of British oil concessions in Iran. We pointed out that he was among friends and that the various members of the council including the US would see to it that an impartial resolution was adopted and one looking toward constructive action and a settlement rather than toward recriminations. He maintained, however, that it was absolutely necessary for him to make a strong defense of the Iranian position vis-à-vis Britain and British oil interests. It was inevitable that by the very nature of his presentation the British would be “humiliated” and the door would be closed. It was pointed out that the US and indeed other members of the council would expect a vigorous defense of the Iranian position, but that such debate could be objective in nature and could conclude with [a] statement that his government was always ready to undertake negotiations which would lead to [a] satisfactory solution of [the] problem. The Prime Minister reiterated that this was impossible. This subject being exhausted for [the] moment, [the] question of [the] Prime Minister’s proposed resumption in negotiations was then discussed. An effort was made to determine whether or not [the] Prime Minister really had in mind a new basis of negotiations. It was pointed out that at [the] time discussions broke down in Iran [the] positions of [the] British and Iranians were far apart and that although we had never desired [to] define [the] precise terms under which [an] agreement be reached, nevertheless Harriman had clearly stated to [the] Prime Minister that he felt there must be [a] more realistic attitude on [the] part of Iranians if a satisfactory agreement was to be concluded. [Averell Harriman] I asked [the] Prime Minister, for example, whether or not his position had changed on the point on which negotiations broke down in Tehran, namely, [the] creation of [a] suitable executive with sufficient authority to run [the] oil industry subject to the policy control of the NIOC. [National Iranian Oil Company] I pointed out that from our long experience, we knew that business operation of [a] size required to run [the] Iranian oil industry could not be satisfactorily operated by a board of directors, but that there must be under [the] board a single executive with executive powers over subsidiary depts and technicians. I also pointed out that it was the experience of our oil industry that Iranian operation would need continuous access to modern technology in many fields of specialization required if [the] Iranian petroleum industry was to be kept abreast of competitors. [The] Prime Minister replied that he was prepared to accept an executive with proper authority and that this had been embodied in his recent proposals to [the] British. He also appeared to understand the problem of access to technology.

The conversations were, however, interrupted at this point by [the] Prime Minister’s attending physician, although Dr. Mosadeq was eager to continue.4 [Dr. Claude Forkner] At Dr. Mosadeq’s insistence it was planned that further discussions be held at 11:45 tomorrow.5

[Warren Austin, via George McGhee]

• Note: Bracketed text added and abbreviations removed from original for better readability. [Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Iran, 1951–1954, Volume X (1989)

Footnotes below from the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian:

1 “Mosadeq arrived in New York on Oct. 8 accompanied by his son and daughter; Alayar Saleh, the President of the Joint Oil Committee; and three other members of the committee; Karim Sanjabi, Minister of Education; Javad Busheri, Minister of Roads; the editors of three Iranian newspapers; two translators; Mozafar Baghai; a National Front Deputy; the Iranian Director of Press and Propaganda; the Iranian Ambassador to the Netherlands; and a photographer.” [sic—Allahyar Saleh, Mozaffar Baghai]

2 “On Oct. 5, Ambassador Henderson asked Mosadeq whether he intended to visit Washington while he was in the United States and strongly recommended to the Department that the Prime Minister be invited. (Telegram 1292 from Tehran; 788.13/10–551) On the same day the Department of State cabled Henderson that he should tender an invitation from President Truman to Mosadeq to visit Washington. (Telegram 735 to Tehran; 788.13/10–551) On Oct. 6 Ambassador Gifford cabled that he thought it would be a serious mistake to invite Mosadeq to Washington, but his advice was disregarded. (Telegram 1704 from London; 788.13/10–651)” [Loy Henderson and Walter Gifford]

3 “Discussion of the Anglo-Iranian oil case at the Security Council was subsequently postponed until Oct. 15.”

4 “A memorandum of conversation on this meeting is in file 888.2553/10–851.”

5 “See the memorandum of conversation, infra.”

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952


Related links:

Meeting With Dr. Mossadegh at New York Hospital (Oct. 11, 1951)

Ernest Gross Advises British To Revise Approach on Iran | Oct. 2, 1951

Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and Dr. Mossadegh Talk at Blair House (Oct. 23, 1951)

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

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