Meeting With the U.S. Oil Kings

Honchos Air Iran Oil Concerns With State Dept.

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | October 16, 2021                     

While Premier Mossadegh was in New York, the heads of five major U.S. oil companies requested a meeting to discuss their views on the Iranian oil situation and its implications for their industry. They were met by none other than U.S. Sec. of State Dean Acheson and diplomat George McGhee, who had simultaneously been conducting his own meetings with Dr. Mossadegh.

Afterwards, either Acheson or McGhee (there is no signature) summarized their opinions in the following dispatch. Though short, it remains an instructive record of corporate influence on U.S. foreign policy.

U.S. State Department Documents | IRAN 1951-1980


Memorandum of Conversation

DATE: October 10, 1951

SUBJECT: Iranian Oil Problem

PARTICIPANTS: Secretary of State, Dean Acheson
                                Assistant Secretary NEA, George C. McGhee

Mr. Eugene Holman, President, Standard Oil of N.J.
Mr. R. G. Follis, Chairman of the Board, Standard Oil of Calif.
Mr. Sidney A. Swensrud, President, Gulf Oil
Mr. Brewster B. Jennings, President, Socony-Vacuum Oil Co.
Mr. W.S.S. Rodgers, Chairman, Texas Company

COPIES TO: PED [Petroleum Policy Staff, Office of International Materials Policy]
                        S/S [Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs]
                        GTI [Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs]
                        NEA [Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs] (Mr. Funkhouser) [Petroleum Adviser Richard Funkhouser]

The above group representing the United States oil companies in the Middle East called at their own request. I opened the meeting by explaining something of the background of the Iranian oil problem, pointing out the shortsightedness of the AIOC which had resulted in their getting into their present difficulties. [Anglo-Iranian Oil Company] I pointed out the complexity of the situation which was posed to the Department, particularly in view of our relations with the British. I stated that we have at all times sought to keep in mind both the importance of maintaining the continued independence of Iran and the impact of any action we might take on the U.S. oil interests in the Middle East which were represented by the group present, as well as on oil and business interests elsewhere.

Representatives of the group emphasized the very grave consequences of giving the Iranians terms more favorable than those received by other countries. They expressed the opinion that if this were done the entire international oil industry would be seriously threatened. The opinion was offered that even the loss of Iran would be preferable to the instability which would be created by making too favorable an agreement with Iran. Other representatives pointed out that not just the oil industry was involved but indeed all American investment overseas and the concept of the sanctity of contractual relations.

I advised the group that we would keep in mind the points they brought forth although we must, of course, give consideration at the same time to the other factors involved in the situation, including the consequence of the loss of Iran to the free world.


[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Source: Harry S. Truman Library (Memorandum of Conversation with Assistant Secretary of State George C. McGhee and Representatives of United States Oil Companies)

• Note that although the memo was unsigned, Acheson headed the Department and hence was more likely to have led the meeting than McGhee.

Dean Acheson, George McGhee and U.S. Oil Chiefs (Oct. 10, 1951)

Truman and Mossadegh’s First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)
President Truman and Premier Mossadegh's First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)


Related links:

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

George McGhee’s Solo Meeting With Premier Mossadegh (NYC, Oct. 9, 1951)

Oil Expert Max Thornburg Talks Iran With Dean Acheson, William Rountree (July 1951)

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

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