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  • Iran's Oil Nationalization:Musaddiq at the United Nations and His Negotiations with George McGhee
  • Kamrouz Pirouz (bio)

Faced with Iran's oil nationalization and takeover of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), the British resorted to legal maneuvering through international organizations. The company's first move was to appeal to the International Court of Justice. On 26 May 1951, the British government instituted legal proceedings against Iran. This application asked the court to consider the merits of the U.K.'s case against Iran on behalf of the AIOC. Iran rejected the court's jurisdiction on 28 May.1

After the breakdown of negotiations between Iran and the AIOC, the British government sought to halt Iran's takeover operations through a court injunction. The application was filed on 22 June, pending the final judgment of the court on the merits of the case.2 On 5 July 1951, the court granted the British request for an "interim measure of protection." It ordered both parties to take no action that might: 1) prejudice the carrying out of a subsequent decision by the Court on the merits, 2) aggravate or extend the dispute, 3) hinder the operations of the AIOC, which should continue under its management as constituted before 1 May 1951. It also ordered the two countries to establish by agreement a Board of Supervision to ensure that the AIOC's operations were carried out according to the order of the court.3 The court's dissenting opinion was delivered by the Egyptian and Polish judges, Abdel Hamid Badawi Pasha and Bogden Winiarski, who indicated, "if there is no jurisdiction as to the merits, there can be no jurisdiction to indicate interim measures of protection." According the dissenting view, measures of this kind were exceptional in international law, and they might easily be considered scarcely tolerable interference in the affairs of a sovereign state.4

Iran rejected the court's order principally on the same grounds that it had rejected the court's jurisdiction of 28 May. Iran felt that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case, and it did not even participate in the hearings, which led to the order. On 9 July, Iran informed the Secretary General of the United Nations that it rejected the court's decision and would not abide by its order of compulsory jurisdiction.

In its second attempt to use an international organization, on 28 September 1951 Britain wrote to the president of the Security Council and the Secretary General to place on the council's agenda its "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." On 1 October 1951, when the Security Council began its debate on the British draft resolution, Semyon Tsarapkin of USSR objected to even considering the case because the question of nationalization in Iranian territory was wholly within Iran's domestic jurisdiction, and the United Nations was not authorized to intervene. Ting-fu Tsiang of Nationalist China joined in opposition, questioning why Britain considered the matter "a question of peace and security" when indeed the dispute was a matter of "property." The Security Council, however, placed the resolution on the agenda by nine votes to two, the two being the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.5

Sir Gladwyn Jebb, the British representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council during its first meeting on 1 October 1951 that resort to the Security Council was the only recourse open to Britain at the time. Jebb stated that Iran had shut down the AIOC's operations, "the proper functioning of which is of benefit not only to the United Kingdom and Iran but also to the whole free world...unless this process is promptly checked, the whole of the free world will be much poorer and weaker."6

In reply, Aliquli Ardalan, Iran's representative to the United Nations, expressed surprise at this complaint because of the British government's recognition of the principle of nationalization (the Harriman formula). He restated Iran's rejection of both the court's jurisdiction and its order and expressed his opinion that neither the World...


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