Under the surface
Palace-Premier's negotiations over oil
January 12, 2003
Just a few days ago a very kind internet friend whom I may yet have the pleasure
of meeting sent me the transcript of a telegram addressed to the private office of
Mohamad Reza Shah on 27th October 1949, by Prime Minister Mohamad Saed Maraghehie,
who had been dispatched to London by the Shah under the pretext of medical treatment.
On the surface, this telegram may look insignificant, but to a professional eye each
word conveys quite a lot:
The Royal Office ó Teheran
Following the telegram of 21st October instant, having met the Chancellor on the
25th and the Foreign Secretary on 26th instant I asked for the result of their deliberations.
The Foreign Secretary gave a written reply to our aide-mémoire and
explained that after a detailed study they cannot agree to the Iranian Government's
request as the recent agreement with the Company had addressed all such matters and
guaranteed the rights of Iran. I reiterated our position with specific emphasis on
the fact it was only after the publication of Company accounts it became known that
British Government had charged the Company the sum of 28 million pounds in income
tax, a sum which is twice under the new (contract) and a third under the old contract
of what the Iranian Government would have earned.
The above fact has caused enormous public resentment in Iran, increasing the opposition
to the new contract and it would have been right for Iran who has not received any
compensation or assistance from the Allied Powers and its only source of revenue
is oil, a large portion of which is paid as tax to the British Government, Iran has
to get at least twenty per cent back. The Foreign Secretary repeated their objections
to our request and finally added that he has been in contact with the Americans to
discuss aid for the Middle East and Iran.
I humbly request your informing His Majesty accordingly.
1. On 17th July 1949, the Iranian Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company
had come up with a supplemental contract amending the 1933 contract which had replaced
the 1901 D'Arcy concession. This additional contract was never ratified by Iran.
A: This was not an isolated correspondence. Mr. Saed refers to earlier telegrams
he had sent about the same subject.
B: It shows that it is part of a lengthy ongoing process between the Representatives
of our country in England and the relevant British authorities to make the British
Government reconsider their mean position towards the revenue of the Iranian Government
and British Petroleum or Anglo Iranian Oil Company as it was known then. Her Majesty's
government had a nasty habit of deferring everything to the 'Company' as and when
it suited. Yet they would get fully involved whenever their interests were in danger.
C: The Shah had delegated the Prime Minister to finalize the lengthy hard discussion
for the following reasons: It is not customary for any Ambassador or head of a delegation
to take up such a delicate matter with the local authorities. Mr. Saed must have
received adequate instruction from the Shah to bring the ongoing yet fruitless dialogue
with the British Government to a conclusion.
D: The Iranian Embassies all over the world had received specific orders that they
were not authorized to discuss oil matters. They had to refer any such matter directly
to Tehran. Only Mr. Saed as Prime Minister had the authority to talk direct to the
British Authorities in this instance.
E: The telegram is addressed to the Private Office of the Shah, rather than as was
customary to the Foreign Ministry. This indicates that nobody was aware of the contact
with the British authorities, probably, including the Foreign Minister.
E: The Shah by sending his prime minister under the pretext of medical treatment
was using a safe and subtle way to convince the British that the treatment that Iranian
government gets from the British authorities was unfair and unjustified to the Iranian
G: Mr. Saed does not name the British authorities referring to them by their job
titles. At that time, Britain was governed by Labour Party with Clement Attlee as
Prime Minister, Ernest Bevin as Foreign Secretary and Sir Christopher Cripps as Chancellor
of Exchequer (equivalent of Treasurer and Finance Minister).
H: Upon his return to Tehran the Iranian journalists pressed the Prime Minister to
explain what he was up to while in England? Mr. Saed refrained to answer. One of
them even put the question to Mr. Saed in Azarbayjani Dialect. Even that didn't work.
document indicates to the constant effort of the Pahlavi Regime to snatch more revenue
for our oil from the British. Since the time Reza Shah opened one of the oil valves
for oil to pour into the sea for a few seconds at the consternation of the British
Petroleum (BP). Officials in 1933, protesting that the amount of oil wasted means
millions of pounds loss to the BP.
It is necessary to remember the lengthy discussion in our Majles Shoraye Meli
in those days. Mr. Taghi-Zadeh who was elected to Parliament in January 1949, in
reply to the accusations of another M.P. Mr. Abbas Eskandri, said, "Cancellation
and renegotiation of oil concession was part of the ongoing program by the late Reza
Shah to dispose of all the concessions of Iranian natural recourses to foreigners."
Until the last days of the Pahlavi dynasty, they never ceased their struggle to safe
guard our interests.
I leave the rest to the history.
I have the original Telegram. Any historian who is willing to study the original
I shall gladly cooperate.
Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell
me to fix it.