891.00/1922: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)52

5155. Tehran’s telegram no. 327, October 17 reports crisis has arisen as result of severe wheat shortage and British Government’s refusal to furnish wheat. Situation is complicated by need for issuance of large additional supply of currency. (Bill has been presented to Iranian Legislature calling for issuance of 2 billion additional rials).

Iranian Government contends its recent harvest will fall far short of meeting domestic requirements for wheat and insists that Allies make up deficit. J. P. Sheridan, newly arrived American food and supply adviser to Iranian Government, has made public statement that Iran must help itself to maximum extent of its resources but that if those resources prove insufficient, Britain and America will extend “a sympathetic and helping hand”. British authorities Middle East have taken exception to Sheridan’s statement. Minister of State Casey offered Iranians 5,000 tons of wheat in exchange for 25,000 rifles. Iranians refused and Casey is reported to have informed them Britain would furnish them no wheat, adding “I know more about the shipping situation than Mr. Sheridan”.

Iranian Cabinet and Legislature unwilling to make sacrifices for Allies in view of refusal to furnish wheat and other urgently needed articles, and Prime Minister Qavam threatens to resign. Legislature does not wish to authorize proposed currency increase. Shah and Prime Minister have cabled King and Churchill requesting benevolent cooperation in present acute situation.

Wheat supply appears to be crux of situation and present shortage appears largely due to hoarding by growers, shortage of transportation material, and inefficient organization for internal distribution. Both British and American Governments have urged Iranian Government [Page 159] to take strong measures to deal with hoarders before requesting supplies of foreign wheat. It is hoped that Sheridan will be able to deal with this situation and to improve transportation and distribution. It is further expected that he will be able to provide exact information regarding available domestic supplies of wheat and whether or not imports will be necessary. Accordingly, our Minister recommends, and Department agrees, that no final decision regarding imports should be taken until Sheridan has had time to survey the situation and make a report. He is fully occupied at present in maintaining the day to day supply of wheat in Tehran.

Minister Dreyfus believes, however, that there will be a real shortage within a few months and that Iranians must be given some assurance from the Allies with regard to meeting their future needs before further cooperation may be expected of them. He points out that if present Cabinet resigns, currency increase bill will be tabled and Allied military forces will find themselves unable to obtain Iranian currency to carry on operations. In addition, Department feels that frequent Cabinet changes are undesirable from point of view of United Nations, since they tend to increase existing Iranian confusion and to foster discontent with regime sponsored by Allies.

Please inform Foreign Office urgently that this Government believes it advisable to give Iranian Government an immediate assurance with respect to future wheat supplies if and when it is determined such supplies are necessary. Therefore, we propose that the British and American Ministers at Tehran be instructed to advise Iranian Prime Minister that if Sheridan in due course reports domestic wheat supplies are insufficient to meet minimum requirements for current year, Britain and United States will see to it that within the full limit of their ability wheat from other sources is furnished to make up the deficit.

In support of this proposal you may inform Foreign Office that this Government feels it is essential to the proper functioning of the supply route to Russia through Iran that the Iranian people should be adequately fed. A starving and rebellious population would, we feel, be an extremely serious obstacle. The United States Government is especially concerned on this account because of the recent arrangement whereby the American Army is to take entire charge of the transportation of supplies to Russia through Iran. As an instance of the difficulties created by the food shortage, you may mention that Colonel Shingler, present head of the American military mission in Iran and Iraq was recently forced to make a special trip to Tehran to urge that bread be provided for the Iranian workers in Persian Gulf ports in order that work on the transshipment of Russian supplies should not be interrupted.

  1. Repeated to the Minister in Egypt for Mr. Frederick Winant as No. 1272 with the following instruction: “In your discretion you may discuss this matter with British authorities and endeavor to obtain their agreement with Department’s viewpoint. Please report immediately any action you may take.”