Preparing to Negotiate
Amb. Gifford’s Telegram on Britain and Iran

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 10, 2020                               

Walter Sherman Gifford, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1950-1953) After meeting with Premier Mossadegh, the U.S. Ambassador Henry Grady cabled the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Walter Gifford. About an hour later, Gifford replied that he would give the messsage to Averell Harriman, who was in England at the time and about to meet with Premier Attlee.

The traffic is confusing, but it appears the telegram was then repeated to William Rountree, Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs, and finally Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson.

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

888.2553/7–2951: Telegram

No. 62

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Embassy in Iran1 [Walter Gifford to Henry Grady, Dean Acheson]

London, July 29, 1951—2 p.m.




34. Eyes only for Grady. [Henry F. Grady] From Rountree. [William Rountree] I am taking URTEL 90, [your telegram] repeated to Washington as 424 immediately to Amb. [sic] Harriman at Chequers where he is lunching with [the] Prime Minister. [Averell Harriman, a diplomat but not an ambassador, and Clement Attlee at the Premier’s country residence] In [the] meantime [the] following comments relate to Mossadeq’s statements regarding British acceptance of three points of [the] Cabinet minute:

As indicated in Harriman’s telegram [of] July 24 from Tehran to Washington and London2 setting forth [the] Iran proposal, he was authorized by [the] Iranian Government to do the following:

(A) Advise [the] British Government of [the] Iranian Government’s formula for arranging [a] meeting as quoted in [the] first paragraph [of] that telegram;

(B) Inform [the] British Government of [the] Cabinet minute which, because of [the] manner in which it was being transmitted, would in no (repeat no) sense bind [the] British should they agree to make [a] statement [regarding the] principle of nationalization on behalf of AIOC; [referring to Iranian “Cabinet”]

(C) Advise [the] British that “[the] Iranian Government is prepared to negotiate [the] manner in which [the] law will be carried out insofar as it affects British interests”.

In accordance this understanding [the] British have been informed of [the] Iranian Government minute and position, but have been told that minute is not binding upon them in relation to [the] exact meaning of [the] recognition of [the] principle of nationalization. They also have been told [the] Iranian Government [is] prepared to negotiate [the] manner in which [the] law of March 20 will be carried out insofar as British interests [are] affected. [Oil Nationalization Law]

Foregoing for use as needed pending Mr. Harriman’s reply which will be telegraphed [at the] soonest.3


NOTE: Read by Mr. Ferguson (GTI) 12:25 p.m., 7/29/51. EMB. [Vaughan C. Ferguson, Officer in Charge of Iranian Affairs, Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs]

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

Footnotes 1-3 below from the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian:

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

1 “Repeated to the Department as 582 eyes only for Secretary Acheson; the source text is the copy in the Department of State files.”

2Document 52

3 “At 5 p.m. on July 29 Harriman cabled Grady that he fully agreed with the substance of this telegram and that he could not agree to any change in the understanding between himself and the Iranian Government as outlined by Rountree. Subsequently, at 2 a.m. on July 30, after receiving the text of the Iranian draft reply (footnote 5, supra) Harriman again cabled Grady stating that he did not feel he could transmit the Iranian reply to the British since it was not responsive to the cordial reply proposed by the British, and informed Grady that he was returning to Tehran on July 31 to discuss the matter with the Iranians. (Telegrams 35 and 36 (repeated to Washington as 583 and 584) from London to Tehran; 888.2553/7–2951 and 7–3051)”

Amb. Walter Gifford's Telegram on Iran | July 29, 1951

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


Related links:

Amb. Henry Grady Meets New Premier Mossadegh: May 2, 1951

Henry S. Villard on Iran’s Oil Nationalization Status | May 24, 1951

The Communist Danger in Persia | Britain’s 1952 Report to U.S.

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

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