Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Mr. Berle: There is attached a communication dated January 6, 1942,88 from the Iranian Minister stating that the Minister has been instructed by the Iranian Government to secure the services of an American specialist to assume charge of the organization of the Iranian police force. The Minister requests the Department’s assistance in selecting a suitable man for this work. Reference is made also to [Page 223] Tehran’s telegram no. 5, January 8, 3 p.m.,89 in which Mr. Dreyfus90 states that the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs has approached him in regard to the matter and has requested the Department to assist the Iranian Minister.

It is considered that the appointment of a competent American specialist to direct the Iranian police system would contribute materially to the maintenance of law and order in Iran and thus facilitate the steady transportation of American supplies to Russia. The Department has received reports from various reliable sources that the Kurds and other tribesmen in Iran have secured considerable quantities of arms abandoned by Iranian troops at the time of the British-Russian occupation91 and have resumed their lawless depredations. It may be recalled that these tribes were formerly the scourge of Iran and that one of the principal achievements of former Shah Reza Pahlevi was to bring them under control. No longer under the restraints imposed by the former authoritarian régime, these rearmed tribes are becoming a serious menace to the internal peace and security of the country. It is apparent, therefore, that they should be brought under control again by the constituted authorities to insure the maintenance of law and order essential to the maximum utilization of Iranian transport facilities.

It is assumed also that an American in charge of police would prove to be a valuable source of information to our Legation at Tehran regarding conditions in Iran. Such information would undoubtedly be of great value to this Government in connection with projects undertaken by the Wheeler Mission.92

Iran, which is passing through a serious crisis as a result of the British and Russian occupation, is turning to the United States for assistance in its hour of need. Obviously, in view of the influence already exercised by the British and Russian military authorities, the Iranian Government does not desire to invite British or Russian control of its police forces by obtaining the services of a police specialist of either of those nationalities. In this connection it may be recalled that, at the time of the occupation by British and Russian forces, the President transmitted a telegram93 of reassurance to the former Shah stating that due note had been taken of British and Russian assurances to respect the political independence and territorial integrity of Iran. It is considered, therefore, that it would be entirely consistent [Page 224] with the views expressed by the President in his message to assist the Iranian Government in finding a competent American police specialist.

The action taken by the Department in response to a similar request made by the Turkish Government in 1938 may well serve as a precedent in the present case. At that time the Turkish Ambassador, upon instructions from his Government, requested the Department to assist him in finding several police officers to teach in Turkish police schools. Largely as a result of the exercise of the Department’s good offices, two members of the New York Police Force were selected. Although the Turkish Government later changed its plans and these men did not proceed to Turkey, the cooperation of the Department was productive of Turkish good-will.

It is considered that the direction of the Iranian police should be undertaken by a man with experience as a state trooper rather than as a member of a metropolitan police force. The work in Iran would involve the policing of the entire country, including large rural areas as well as the few urban centers. It probably would present problems in administration and organization of a type which municipal police do not encounter. As is well known, the New York State police force has had considerable experience in patrolling sparsely-populated areas in northern New York, where there are a number of people of French-Canadian origin. It might be possible, therefore, to find a New York State police officer with a knowledge of French, which would prove extremely useful in Iran, where many officials speak French but few are acquainted with English.

It is suggested that you may desire to write Governor Lehman requesting his assistance in finding a qualified State police officer, if possible one with a knowledge of French. If you prefer, I shall be glad to have such a letter drafted in this Division for your signature.

Wallace Murray
  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed.
  3. American Minister in Iran.
  4. For correspondence on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, pp. 383 ff.
  5. Gen. R. A. Wheeler, head of the American Military Mission sent to Iran late in 1941 in regard to supply bases and transport. See bracketed note, ibid., pp. 477478.
  6. Dated September 2, 1941, ibid., p. 446.