Not Just A Dispute—But A Situation

Warren Austin at the UNSC | Oct. 1, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | May 18, 2023                    

U.S. State Department | IRAN 1951-1980

The Department of State Bulletin
Vol. XXV, No. 642 • Publication 4386
October 15, 1951

Right of U.N. To Consider Anglo-Iranian Dispute

Statement by Ambassador Warren R. Austin
U.S. Representative to the Security Council

Warren R. Austin (1877-1962) The representative of the Soviet Union [Semyon K. Tsarapkin] has objected to the adoption of the provisional agenda of the Security Council, and he has been supported in that objection by the representative of Yugoslavia. [Aleš Bebler] Thus far, all the discussion I have listened to has been in favor of adoption of the agenda, and I must say that I agree in the reasoning of all of those who have spoken in favor of the agenda.

The point, as I understand it, made by the representative of the Soviet Union against this provisional agenda is item 2. reading “Complaint of failure by the Iranian Government to comply with provisional measures indicated by the International Court of Justice in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Case.” Therefore, if the purpose of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia is to raise the question of whether the matter is essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of Iran, it depends upon consideration of the very substance of this item.

Now, the United Nations does deny itself the right to interfere with essentially domestic concerns. However, this denial follows adoption of the agenda in consideration of the point raised, it does not precede it unless there are no opposing inferences. It cannot at once make a decision on that constitutional question unless there are no opposing inferences over the subject matter being essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of a state.

Well, now, here the situation is just the contrary, here the weight of opinion already expressed shows that far more members of the Security Council consider that this is not a matter essentially within the domestic jurisdiction. Certainly, it appears that there is a prima facie case to be presented to the Security Council and if the Security Council is going to deny to the United Nations the right to consider this item on the Agenda, it must be only after studying the item and coming to a decision upon thorough and reasonable consideration. That does not, of course, as has been repeatedly stated here decide the merits of the case, but here we have a complaint by the United Kingdom of the failure by the Government of Iran to take certain specified action. Clearly, it is one aspect of a dispute of the nature mentioned in the Charter, that is, a dispute the continuance of which might lead to international disturbance. Moreover, this question is singularly important and within the purview of the Security Council because it is also the subject of litigation in the International Court of Justice. That at once gives the Security Council a reason for not accepting the objection that this is essentially a matter within the domestic jurisdiction of Iran.

This becomes a matter of great public interest because it involves peace, and we are for peace, and that is why we want this matter considered here.

By putting this item on its agenda, the Security Council gives the United Nations its right to pass upon the matter in a reasonable manner and to make a decision after looking into the general character of the situation. This is not only a dispute—this is also a situation—both of which justify putting this item on the agenda.

Another reason is that where international peace is threatened by a situation like this, where it is alleged to be under test and strain, it is highly important for the Security Council if the subject matter is brought to its attention to put the dispute at res pendentes in the Security Council so as to bring to bear upon the parties those restraints, those self-disciplines also, which have also been regarded as appropriate and necessary to justice while the dispute is in res pendentes. [remain pending]

For these reasons, and without at all committing my Government upon the merits, the substantive questions here, and dealing only with this question related to the agenda, my Government will vote for the provisional agenda.

I ought to say, because I believe it, that my Government has no doubt about the competence of the Security Council to consider the dispute on its merits between the United Kingdom and Iran. I need simply recall that it is the Security Council which has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. And the first step, the very first step toward the exercise of that duty, performance of that responsibility, is to consider any dispute or situation which may affect the maintenance of international peace and security. In this case, the United Kingdom is a member of the Security Council and the Government of Iran is not a member of the Security Council, though it is a member of the United Nations. Presumably, Iran will be invited to sit at our table after the adoption of the agenda. Therefore, it seems to my Government that a decision on competence should come after the Government of Iran has been invited to the table.

1 Made before the Security Council on Oct. 1 and released to the press by the U.S. mission to the U.N. on the same date.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s 1951 Man of the Year


Related links:

George McGhee’s First Meeting With Dr. Mossadegh (Oct. 8, 1951)

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

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

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

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