391.1164/173a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran ( Dreyfus )

126. Anticipating the probable inability of the Iranian Government in its present impaired financial position to make further instalment payments to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in compensation for the school properties which that Government has taken over, the Department recently inquired of the Board whether it would consider a resumption of its educational work in Iran as a means of meeting the situation which would arise in the likely event of nonpayment.

In making this inquiry the Department was actuated primarily by the belief that a resumption of this work and the presence of American teachers in the Russian-occupied zone, in addition to the hospital workers now in Tabriz, would exert a restraining influence upon Russian attempts to Sovietize that area. Such attempts have been evidenced by Soviet activities which are inconsistent with Russian assurances to respect the political independence and territorial integrity of Iran. You will recall that those assurances were noted by this Government and referred to by the President in his message of reassurance to the Shah (Department’s 80, September 2, 6 p.m.56). As a measure likely to contribute to the preservation of Iranian customs and institutions during the Russian occupation, it was considered that a suggestion contemplating a return of the properties to the Board might be welcomed by the Iranian Government and regarded as a manifestation of American friendship. However, in order to accomplish the ends in view, it may be necessary to consider a temporary arrangement whereby the Mission would operate under the ostensible control of the Iranian Government so that the Russians will not be provided with an excuse to open their own schools in the occupied area.

Responding favorably to the Department’s suggestion, the Board decided to investigate the possibilities of re-establishing its schools [Page 379] under its control and of repossessing its educational properties in Iran. With this in view the Board sent the following cable to its Iranian Mission:

“Inquire Government attitude toward reopening schools on Christian basis under Mission control. Suggest adjustment whereby payments made be available for operating schools over defined period thus conserving Mission appropriations and ensuring smaller enrolments, more effective work. If conditions favorable and Mission approves authorize negotiations. If conditions or judgment unfavorable cable advice future payments (and security property).”

The project under consideration by the Board has been discussed by the Department with the Iranian Minister in Washington who has telegraphed his Government regarding it.

You should assist and cooperate closely with the Board’s representatives and in this connection familiarize yourself thoroughly with the history of the taking over of the Board’s properties and with the Department’s instructions to the Legation in regard thereto. In assisting the Board’s representatives by discussions with Iranian officials you should indicate clearly to the latter that the proposal of the Board meets with the approval of your Government, but you should be careful to point out that the Board’s proposal is made in order to assist Iran during a difficult period rather than from any desire on the part of the Board or this Government to take advantage of the present situation in order to further American interests.

Although the Board has informed the Department that it assumes that a change in the operation of the schools would not be contemplated before the beginning of the next academic year, it is the opinion of the Department that time is of the essence of the undertaking and that the change should occur as soon as practicable. In order that no unnecessary time may be lost in the process of negotiations you should follow the matter closely and exercise your good offices in assisting to formulate a plan acceptable to both the Board and the Iranian Government which will accomplish effectively the purposes contemplated by the Board and the Department.

The matter referred to in your 190, October 15, 11 a.m., bears a close relation to the Board’s proposal and that which the Department has in mind. Dr. Monroe is endeavoring to obtain personnel for a commission of the type suggested by the Minister of Education but he has indicated to the Department that it is unlikely that such a commission can depart for Iran before spring.

Please keep the Department fully informed of developments regarding matters referred to in this telegram.

  1. Post, p. 447.