891.00/1927: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt ( Kirk ) to the Secretary of State

1872. Department’s 1272, October 19, 10 p.m.54 Following from feed Winant.

“The British Middle East authorities in Cairo have included me in their deliberations regarding the present crisis in Iran. Their present attitude is reported below and will, I believe, in general conform with the viewpoint of the Department as expressed in telegram under reference. The telegram incidentally was not mentioned by me, although I did inform the Ministry of State that I would telegraph to the Department a report of our discussion.

British authorities here felt that there were three possible solutions to the problem: (a) Application of force, (b) assurance of financial assistance, (c) assurance of material assistance.

In the discussion regarding the application of force, I expressed aversion in principle to the use of force in such instances and pointed out objection to any action that might precipitate fall of the present Government. This viewpoint was generally held by those present and for this and other reasons the resort to force was not recommended.
There appears to be an opinion that by assuring the Iranians of financial assistance the present difficulty could be resolved. However, as this opinion was not generally held, the use of this method of solution was accepted only to the following extent: That a currency commission be established for dealing with future note issues and that the general monetary situation be further explored. The situation in this regard has been temporarily eased by the action of the Iranian Government in agreeing to pass a note issue sufficient in size to provide the necessary rials to cover the next 2 weeks’ requirements.
There was a general agreement that the most practical method of solving the present difficulty was by assurance of material assistance; that is, the protection of the cereal requirements.

On the subject of Persian wheat the British authorities here feel strongly that there is needed a realistic substantiation of the true situation regarding supply. They cannot reconcile an acute shortage of wheat in Tehran, based on any lack of wheat in the country, with the fact that the current harvest has just been gathered. They believe that the difficulty is the direct result of unsatisfactory mechanics of Iranian distribution; that is, inability of the Iranian civil authorities to prevent large scale hoarding, inadequacy of the motor transport [Page 168] system and ineffective administrative organization for internal distribution.

The British authorities therefore insist on receiving more accurate information on the present supply and an adequate control for the handling of wheat supplies in the future. To this end there is proposed the establishment of a joint Anglo-American-Russian-Persian food board.

It is contemplated that there will be a board of five and consisting of the Iranian Minister of Supply, probably as chairman; Sheridan, the American adviser; and a representative from each British, United States and Soviet Governments. The board would be governed by a majority.

The Iranian Government will be asked to agree to abide by the findings of the board, expressed by its majority vote, in all matters affecting the supply of cereals, and to put into effective execution all instructions concerning wheat and such correlated subjects as motor transport, bread rationing, bread adulteration, hoarding.

Upon the guaranteed compliance of the Iranian Government to these requirements of the proposed food board, the British authorities propose a declaration, or a notification to the Iranian Government on the part of the three respective Allied Governments to the effect that:

If the joint food board determines that there is not sufficient quantities of cereals to avert famine and this notwithstanding the measures advocated by the board and acted upon in good faith by the Iranian Government then one or more of the contracting governments will undertake to provide for sale to the Iranian Government wheat in sufficient quantities to avert the threatened famine.

The British are fully aware of the importance of avoiding unrest and disorders in a country used as a supply route to Russia. It is in the interest of maintaining supplies to the Russian front that the British authorities are loath to import for delivery in Tehran a commodity such as wheat which will necessarily displace the hauling of an equal amount of war munitions.

It is hoped that by closer cooperation with the Russians there may result a better system for handling the Persian cereal situation. For instance instead of importing wheat to Basra for hauling over the railroad to Tehran it might prove better for the war effort to draw on some of the wheat stocks in the Russian zone.

Any further discussions occurring here which might bear on the Iranian situation will be promptly reported to the Department.”

Not repeated to Tehran.

  1. See footnote 52, p. 158.