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U.S. Recognition of Transjordan

(February 26, 1946)

Memorandum by Mrs. Christina P. Grant of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

[Washington,] February 26, 1946.

A. General Political. Our policy toward Trans-Jordan has been based upon two principles: (1) recognition of the responsibility of Great Britain for the administration of the Palestine mandate, of which Trans-Jordan forms a part, under the terms of the mandate from the League of Nations, to which administration the United States consented in the American-British Palestine Mandate Convention of December 3, 1924; and (2) the specific rights guaranteed the United States in Trans-Jordan, under this same convention of December 3, 1924, and indirectly confirmed by the Anglo-Trans–Jordan Agreement of February 20, 1928.

Trans-Jordan was accorded a special position within the Palestine Mandate after April 1923, when the British Government recognized the existence of an “independent Government” (not however an independent state) in Trans-Jordan. The Government thus created was consented to by the League of Nations, and its independent status was tacitly accepted by the United States when the Convention of 1924 was signed with the British Government. The terms of this Convention applied specifically to Trans-Jordan as well as to Palestine.

Trans-Jordan is a class “A” mandate. When it was established as an “independent Government” in 1923 it was specifically exempted from the provisions of the Palestine Mandate dealing with the Holy Places and the Jewish National Home. Relations between the United Kingdom and Trans-Jordan are governed largely by an agreement signed on February 20, 1928, supplemented on June 2, 1934. This agreement delegates to the Amir of Trans-Jordan the powers of legislation and administration entrusted to Great Britain as the Mandatory Power for Palestine, reserving to British “advice”, or control, certain matters such as foreign relations, financial and fiscal policy, jurisdiction over foreigners and freedom of conscience.

United States rights, as specified in the American-British Convention of December 3, 1924, include guarantees of vested American property rights in Trans-Jordan, the right of United States nationals freely to establish and maintain educational, philanthropic, and religious institutions there, and all the general rights and benefits secured under the terms of the mandate to members of the League of Nations and their nationals. Extradition and consular rights, guaranteed under treaties and conventions between the United States and Great Britain, are likewise extended to Trans-Jordan. Article 7 of this Convention provides that the rights of the United States and its nationals as stated in the Convention shall not be affected by any modification of the terms of the Mandate to which the United States does not give its assent.

A new situation has been created by the declared intention of the British Government to “take steps in the near future” with a view to establishing Trans-Jordan as a fully independent and sovereign state. This decision, welcomed by most Arab States, has been attacked by the Zionists.

The strategic position of Trans-Jordan, as an interior section of the land bridge connecting the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian-Persian Gulf area, gives the United States a definite interest in the political fate of this purely Arab Country. The fact that any future pipe-line connecting oil fields of Saudi Arabia with a Mediterranean port must pass either through or at least close to the territory of Trans-Jordan makes the security and general stability of that country of vital concern to commercial interests in the United States.5

In the past the Government of the United States has taken the position that it is not empowered, under the articles of the American-British Convention of December 3, 1924, to prevent the modification of the terms of any of the mandates. Under their provisions, however, this government can decline to recognize the validity of the application to American interests of any modification of the mandates unless such modification has been assented to by the Government of the United States. Moreover the question arises whether, as a signatory of the United Nations Charter, the United States should take some action with respect to the declared intention of the British Government to establish Trans-Jordan as an independent state.

In formulating the policy of this Government the following considerations have been taken into account:

  1. Trans-Jordan is at present, and de jure, an autonomous and independent part of a class “A” mandate. It was, furthermore, specifically exempted from the provisions of the Palestine Mandate dealing with the Jewish National Home.
  2. There is a basic difference in the categories of mandates under the former League of Nations; the underlying purpose of a class “A” mandate being the ultimate achievement of complete independence, which should not be delayed if it is feasible (Art. 22, sect. 4, of the Covenant of the League of Nations).
  3. Syria and Lebanon, the two Levant States that jointly formed a class “A” mandate after 1920, achieved their independence without recourse to the League of Nations. They were recognized as independent by France during the war when the Council of the League of Nations was inoperative. Their independence was subsequently recognized by the United States.
  4. The United States would be reluctant to take any position which might convey the impression that the United States is opposed to independence for any country or class “A” mandate when such country or mandate should be ready for independence.
  5. The United States could not take any obstructive position with respect to the proposed independence of Trans-Jordan without jeopardizing its relations with the whole Arab world.

The United States would automatically resume the right to exercise the capitulatory privileges formerly conceded by the Ottoman Government, upon termination of the Mandate, under Article 8 thereof. The United States would be extremely reluctant to resume these capitulatory rights, however, since such a retrogressive step would be contrary to the spirit of our present policy.

In view of the above considerations, it is our present policy, subject to the approval of the Secretary, to recognize the independence of Trans-Jordan, as in the case of the Levant States, on securing a satisfactory assurance of the continuation of the rights guaranteed the United States under the American-British Convention of 1924. Formal termination of the mandate with respect to Trans-Jordan would be generally recognized upon the admission of the latter into the United Nations6 as a fully independent country. The United States would, however, view with concern any treaty between the British Government and an independent Trans-Jordanian Government that would accord the British Government or its nationals any special position or privileges in Trans-Jordan.

[The independence of Trans-Jordan was recognized formally by the United Kingdom in a treaty of alliance entered into at London with Amir Abdullah on March 22, 1946 (British Cmd. 6779, Trans-Jordan No. 1 (1946): Treaty of Alliance between … the United Kingdom and … the Amir of Trans-Jordan). On April 9, Senator Francis J. Myers, in a letter to Secretary Byrnes, cited Senate debate of the previous week on Trans-Jordan and requested “all the necessary information as to the steps which the Department has taken or contemplates in connection with Great Britain’s action in Trans-Jordan which, as the consensus of opinion in the Senate debate indicated, is considered to be a violation of the Anglo-American Convention of 1924.” Mr. Byrnes’ reply of April 23 concluded: “After a careful study of the matter, the Department has found nothing which would justify it in taking the position that the recent steps taken by Great Britain with regard to Trans-Jordan violate any treaties existing between [Page 799]Great Britain and the United States, including the Convention of December 3, 1924, or deprive the United States of any rights or interests which the United States may have with respect to Trans-Jordan. The Department considers, however, that it would be premature for this government to take any decision at the present time with respect to the question of its recognition of Trans-Jordan as an independent state.” (741.90i/4–946). The full text of Mr. Byrnes’ reply is printed in Department of State Bulletin, May 5, 1946, page 765. On May 20, the Department authorized the Consul General at Jerusalem (Pinkerton) to attend the ceremonies at Amman on May 25 when Abdullah was to be crowned King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, provided that he made “it clear to all concerned that US Govt has not reached any decision as to recognition of Trans-Jordan.” (890i001/5–1746)

The United States extended de jure recognition to the Government of Trans-Jordan on January 31, 1949.]

Source: Memorandum by Mrs. Christina P. Grant of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The Near East and Africa, Vol. VII.