The Norwegians Go Sightseeing

A negotiating team from one of the Norwegian oil companies had come to Tehran for a week to negotiate a Service Agreement, known as a “Buyback”, with the National Iranian Oil Company. They were staying in the Homa Hotel in the centre of Tehran, which prior to the Revolution had been the Sheraton.

For unexplained reasons the negotiations were put back, first one day, then a second, then a third. This is a not uncommon pattern in these parts, and especially if NIOC know (as they can easily find out) that you are only there for five days.

By the fourth day the Norwegians were bored and frustrated, so they decided to go for a walk and take in the sights, sounds and smells of Tehran. Half a mile north of the Homa they came across a huge compound with a big perimeter fence, miles of razor wire, and two massive wooden watchtowers either side of the main entrance manned by uniformed guards with machine guns. The main gate was emblazoned with pictures of the Ayatollah Khomeini and slogans in Farsi that the Norwegians could not read.

One of the Norwegians took out his camera and took a picture of the main entrance and watchtowers. This was a mistake. The guards started to shout and in short order the Norwegians were arrested and escorted into the compound by armed guards. The camera was smashed to pieces with a rifle butt.

The compound was the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard. They are trained to be on the lookout for American spies, and who else would be taking pictures of their headquarters?

The Norwegians were held in a jail overnight, until the Oil Ministry became aware of their plight and quickly secured their release.

The Norwegian negotiators could not leave Iran fast enough and never returned. That particular Buyback project was secured by a different company altogether.


See also:  Jogging in Tehran /  Saudi Logic 

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.