740.0011 European War 1939/14326

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

At the conference in the Secretary’s office this morning, the rush telegram no. 106 of August 25, 6 p.m. from Tehran was discussed. This telegram contains the official request of the Iranian Government that “the President of the United States use his good offices with the British and Russian Governments to bring about the immediate cessation of hostilities, looking to an amicable settlement of the present dispute.”

There was a diversity of opinions as to the best procedure to follow in this matter in the realization, as the Secretary put it, that we are [Page 420] handling “a red-hot iron.” I strongly advanced the viewpoint that even at this late hour we should make every endeavor to induce the British to negotiate with the Iranians with a view to obtaining their friendly collaboration and, if possible, to make an alliance with them for the common defense of their territory. I emphasized that it would be far better for the British in a situation of this kind to be surrounded by a friendly, cooperative Iranian people than to have to face dogged opposition, sabotage and, perhaps, guerrilla warfare.

Mr. Welles took what was perhaps the most extreme view, that we should avoid at all costs using our good offices in this matter and that we should confine ourselves to informing the British Government of the present Iranian request, and inquiring of the British Government whether we could be helpful in any way to the British in this matter.

After considerable further discussion it seemed to be agreed that it might be well to do three things,

to reply to the Iranian Government suggesting that they make every effort to come to an amicable settlement with the British Government in this matter, and adding that we on our part would keep in close touch with the British with a view to being as helpful as possible to the Iranians;
to notify the British Government at once without comment in a separate telegram that we have received the present request from the Iranian Government; and
to take up separately with the British Government the larger aspects of this question. In this telegram we would point out that the present Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran has aroused nation-wide attention and discussion in this country; that the situation is a delicate one politically; and that we desire to be informed by the British Government without delay along the following lines:
The Iranian Government has complained bitterly that the British and Soviet demands upon that Government were based entirely on the alleged presence in Iran of subversive German agents. The Iranian Government furthermore maintains that at no time has the British Government approached the Iranian Government with a view to obtaining its friendly collaboration in this matter or to suggest an Anglo-Iranian alliance in the common cause. This Government desires to be informed at once as to the accuracy of the Iranian claims in this matter.
While this Government is informed that the British Government has given the Iranian Government assurances as to the safeguarding of its integrity and sovereignty, we are not informed of the precise measures envisaged by the British Government in order to give effect to these assurances. What guarantees, for instance, are the British preparing to give the Iranians in order to protect Iran against Nazi aggression that may result from the present Anglo-Soviet invasion? What assurances furthermore have been given the Iranians as to indemnification for damages and losses that may be suffered as a result of this occupation?
What are the intentions of the British and Soviet Governments with regard to the extent of occupation of Iranian territory?
What assurances are the British in a position to give the Iranians that in the territory occupied by the Soviets there may not be widespread oppression, persecution and purge of upper-class Iranians, and confiscation of their property?
In case the Iranians show the disposition to meet all the demands of the British and are willing even to negotiate an alliance with Britain, would the British be in a position to take over such occupation of the country as may be necessary for their purposes and to bring about a withdrawal of Soviet forces?

The British will doubtless bear in mind in replying to these questions the importance of our being able to reassure American public opinion as to all phases of the present operation.