Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

The Minister of Iran91 called to see me today at his request. The Minister read to me textually a long telegram he had received from his Prime Minister of which he informed me he had already communicated the contents to Mr. Murray92 and to Mr. Alling.93

In brief the telegram reported upon the unwillingness of the Majlis to agree to the request of the Prime Minister to sanction the rupture of diplomatic relations with Japan upon the alleged ground that the Russian armies in Iran were operating in an uncontrolled and intolerable manner and that the policy of the Soviet Government in Iran was altogether counter to the agreements reached between the Soviet and Iranian Governments, and likewise because of the allegation [Page 331] that the British had complied with none of the commitments which the British Government had made covering the furnishing of matériel, et cetera, et cetera.

The Iranian Prime Minister appeared to be very much concerned by the statement made to him by the American Minister that unless the Iranian Government agreed to break relations with Japan, it would be impossible for the Government of the United States to go ahead with its program of assistance of various characters to the Iranian Government. The Minister in a very long and involved statement—which lasted over an hour—urged that this Government adopt a more sympathetic and comprehending attitude and an attitude which would offer more support to the Iranian Prime Minister in the very difficult position in which the latter found himself.

I stated to the Minister that it was the desire of the United States to maintain the most friendly and closest relations with the Iranian Government. I said that this Government had nothing to seek for itself in Iran and that the Iranian Government had nothing to seek for itself in the United States. I said, however, that because of the world situation close relations between our two countries were in the interest of both nations and that close and understanding relations with the United States must obviously be regarded by the Iranian Government as of great value to them.

I stated that the request which this Government had made of Iran for the rupture of relations with Japan was made as much in the interest of Iran itself as in the interest of the United States. I said it certainly must be clear to the Prime Minister, if not to the deputies, that it was the hope of Germany and Japan that their military and naval forces would obtain a juncture in that part of the world. I said that the ability of the nations which were allied with Iran and the ability of the United States, which desired to see the maintenance of the independence and integrity of Iran, to render assistance to the latter nation would be gravely jeopardized, should a serious crisis develop, if Japanese subversive agents had been able in the meantime to promote internal dissension and to undertake Axis sabotage, et cetera, in Iranian territory. I said it was hardly conceivable that the Iranian Government should not of its own volition have broken relations a long time ago.

With regard to the sins of the Soviet and Great Britain, I said I could not see that this question had the slightest connection with the break of relations with Japan. I said that as a friend of Iran this Government would certainly do everything it appropriately could to persuade the Russians not to pursue an unwarranted policy in Iran and that we would likewise do everything we could to facilitate the carrying out by Great Britain of the assurances that country had given Iran, but I could not accept the implication that the errors [Page 332] of omission or of commission on the part of the Soviet Union and of Great Britain had any relation to the continuance of Japanese subversive agents in Iran. The question I thought was really one of vital interest to Iran and, of course, likewise of vital interest to the military and naval interests of the United Nations.

The Minister then said that it would be far easier for the Prime Minister to persuade the Majlis if he could tell them that the United States were going to offer them something. I told the Minister that he was fully familiar, as was his Government, of the desire of the United States to assist Iran, and that the details of the way in which we could be helpful were matters which I would ask Mr. Murray to talk over with him. I said this Government, of course, would be glad to give all assistance it could, but that he must understand that this assistance could not be given so long as Iran was jeopardizing our own national interests by her refusal to break relations with Japan and was likewise endangering in a similar fashion her own ability to defend herself.

I said that this Government’s sympathetic comprehension of Iran’s difficulties was very real and would continue, but that in order for this Government to be able to translate that sympathetic comprehension into practical assistance, Iran must simultaneously take the steps which we considered essential in our interest and in hers.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Mohammed Schayesteh.
  2. Wallace Murray, Adviser on Political Relations.
  3. Paul H. Alling, Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.