Resuming Relations: A Non-Starter?
Winthrop Aldrich on Meeting With British (1953)

The Mossadegh Project | May 16, 2022                      

Winthrop Williams Aldrich (1885-1974)

The U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Winthrop W. Aldrich (1885-1974), sent this memo to the State Dept. after meeting with British government and AIOC officials to discuss the way forward on the Iranian oil issue. It was also copied to the Embassy in Tehran.

Aldrich, a Republican who had supported Eisenhower for President, had previously been a highly successful lawyer and banker. His four year diplomatic career lasted from 1953 to 1957.

U.S. State Department | Iran Documents (1951-1954)
Iran Oil Consortium | Archive of Documents (1953-1954)

888.2553/11–553: Telegram

No. 379

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Aldrich) to the Department of State [Winthrop W. Aldrich to State Dept.]

London, November 5, 1953.


1945. Hoover arrived [in] London from Tehran [the] morning [of] November 4 and reviewed [the] Iranian oil problem with [the] Ambassador and Embassy staff. [Herbert Hoover, Jr.] At [the] invitation [of the] Foreign Office, Hoover and Embassy officials attended [an] afternoon meeting with Pierson Dixon, Chairman and R. Allen, [of the] Foreign Office, also Maude [sic] and Butler [of the] Ministry [of] Fuel and Power; Rowan and Armstrong [of the] Treasury; Fraser, Jackson and Gass [of] AIOC.1

[John Redcliffe-Maud and Victor S. Butler; Leslie Rowan and William Armstrong; William Fraser, Basil Jackson and Neville Gass of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company]

Hoover’s statement summarizing [his] experience [in] Tehran stressed [the] continued complexity [of the] situation and Persian confusion regarding [the] appropriate course [of] action. He warned against expecting rapid progress on determining useful specific proposals. [The] Basic point of emphasis was [the] intensity of Iranian feeling against AIOC which Hoover said precluded, in his and Ambassador Henderson’s judgment, [a] solution providing for re-entry [of] AIOC into [the] Iranian oil industry except as [a] minority member of [a] consortium. [Amb. Loy Henderson] On [the] positive side was [the] fact [that the] Persian desire for settlement [is] strong and they have [a] great appreciation [of the] seriousness [of] their position.

After [an] introduction on [the] foregoing lines, [a] paraphrase [of] Tehran’s 1022 November 2 [was] distributed. Reaction thereto [is] obviously preliminary but one of general disappointment. More considered views [are] expected [at the] meeting [of] November 5. [The] Gist of [the] British comment was on [the] inconclusive and confused nature of [the] paper. They strongly restated their position [that] diplomatic relations should be established [at the] soonest and prior to any negotiations. In this connection they expressed pleasure [with the] Secretary’s statement2 and Hoover emphasized Ambassador Henderson’s efforts [in] this regard. [John Foster Dulles] Dixon said [a] simultaneous agreement on “principles” and [a] resumption [of] relations as in [the] memorandum [were] not in accord [with] British views. [They] Had in mind going back and then seeing what could be done [to] get [the] company back. Fraser said [a] consideration of [a] solution starting from [the] premise [that] AIOC must be removed or reduced to [a] minority position because of unproved charges [of] misconduct set [a] bad precedent for elsewhere [in the] Middle East. He too had thought [the] correct approach was for Britain and Iran [to] be friends again and then talk about [the] oil matter which [was] responsible for [the] disturbed relations.

Hoover explained that [the] Iranian paper [was] only [a] starting point and could be substantially changed in many respects. In his opinion what was required at [the] outset was some kind of general statement regarding principles from both governments. Details [on] compensation, management, price, off-take, etc., [are] to be left to technical negotiators.

[The] British wondered whether [the] statement [was] sufficiently indefinite to be acceptable and yet leave open questions of [whether the] consortium, practical management by foreigners, etc., would be possible.

Hoover [is] meeting Eden at lunch today and will resume meeting with [the] government and AIOC this afternoon with smaller meetings contemplated thereafter. [Anthony Eden]


• Bracketed text added for better readability. [Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

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

1 “The record copy of the minutes of this meeting is in a folder entitled “Minutes of Meetings at Foreign Office on Iranian Oil”. (888.2553/4–554)” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian

2 “On Nov. 3 the Department informed the Embassy that at a press conference that day, the Secretary stated that Hoover had encouraging conversations in Tehran with the leaders of the Iranian Government; that there was evidence of renewed friendliness between the Iranian and British Governments; and that the United States hoped that this new atmosphere would lead to the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two nations. (Telegram 1117; 888.2553/11–353)” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian

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


Related links:

John D. Jernegan on Iranian Oil Consortium Talks | May 15, 1954

House of Lords | Persian Oil Nationalisation (British Recognition) | Nov. 25, 1953

Charge D’Affaires George Middleton’s Letter to Foreign Office on Iran (Oct. 1952)

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

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