Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. John D. Jernegan of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. W. Strang, Deputy Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain55
Mr. Murray
Mr. Ailing
Mr. Jernegan

Mr. Murray spoke of the interest of the United States in Iranian affairs, in consequence of that country’s importance to the war effort, and referred to the American program of assistance to Iran in the form of advisers and technical experts. He asked whether the British Government did not agree that some form of outside assistance would be needed to put Iran back on her feet and whether it did not seem desirable that this aid be provided by the United States in order to avoid the difficulties which had arisen in the past when Great Britain and Russia have judged it necessary to intervene in Iran. Mr. Murray recalled that the British Government itself had taken the initiative some time ago in suggesting that the United States furnish a military mission and other advisers. The United States had, in fact, responded to a number of Iranian requests for advisers and believed that it would be advantageous to the common cause to continue and expand this program, since otherwise there might be a collapse of the Iranian Government with a resulting serious drain upon the resources of the Allies in maintaining order and keeping the Russian supply route open.

Mr. Murray then went on to speak of disquieting reports which had recently been received regarding the attitude of the Soviet authorities in Iran. It appeared that the Soviets were increasing their influence in northern Iran and at the same time looking with suspicion upon the efforts of the American advisers to assist the Iranian people. They had complained against the American Consul at Tabriz, whom they obviously wished to get rid of, and they had just expelled from Azerbaijan an American representative56 of the Food and Supply Adviser who had been trying to prevent famine in the province. Further, they had placed obstacles in the way of the operations of General Connolly’s force, which was dedicated to the transportation [Page 350] of supplies to Russia. They had not yet even expressed their assent to the presence in Iran of this force.

(In this latter connection, Mr. Murray remarked that it was unfortunate the British Government had not advised the Soviet Government of the plans to bring in American troops. We felt that since the British were in control of southern Iran, it was their responsibility to clear a matter of this kind with their Ally, instead of which we had been placed in the position of making explanations to the Russians which should never have had to be made. We now understood that the British Minister at Tehran had offered to provide full information to the Soviets, but we did not know whether he had done so. Mr. Strang said he had no information on this.)

The general Russian attitude, Mr. Murray said, was reminiscent of the pre-1914 period, when Morgan Schuster [Shuster]57 was forced out of Iran by Russian pressure. The Department had been thinking, therefore, that it might be advisable for the American and British Governments to open parallel or joint conversations with the Russian representatives in Tehran, with the idea of enlisting active Soviet cooperation in solving Iranian problems.

Mr. Strang commented that it was impossible to talk to the Soviet authorities except at Moscow, and Mr. Murray replied that we realized the Ambassador at Tehran would not be able to make any important decision but we felt it would be well to begin by taking soundings at that point.

Mr. Murray alluded to the question of “disestablishment” of the Allied powers in Iran which would arise at the end of the war. He felt that American influence and activity in Iran would be helpful at that time. In this connection, he felt we should keep in mind the strong personal interest of the President in the general Iranian question, and he referred to the exchange of messages which had taken place between the Shah and the President at the time of the Anglo-Russian occupation.58 The President had taken note of the assurances given by the British and Russian Governments that Iranian independence would be respected.

Mr. Strang asked how much of the foregoing had been sent to London. Mr. Murray replied that we had advised London fully by telegraph of our general attitude toward the Iranian situation and had also been in close touch with the Foreign Office regarding specific problems which had arisen. In addition, we had discussed matters with Mr. Casey on the occasion of his visit to Washington. We had [Page 351] not, however, been in communication with London with respect to the Russian attitude, which had only become alarming in recent weeks, although the matter had been mentioned in passing to Mr. Casey.

In the course of our interchanges with London, we had received the impression that there was a complete meeting of minds between the Foreign Office and the Department, but there seemed to be a hiatus between the views of the Foreign Office and the actions of the British authorities in Iran. There also seemed to be an impression that the American Minister at Tehran was anti-British and was not cooperating with his British colleague. Mr. Murray felt that this was unfortunate, in the first place because he was sure it was not true. He emphasized that the Minister had been in very close touch with the Department throughout the recent difficulties and had been acting in precise accord with the instructions of the Department.

Mr. Strang said that he did not himself deal with Near Eastern affairs and could not comment on Mr. Murray’s remarks. However, he had made careful notes and would report our views to the Foreign Office.

  1. Mr. Strang was in Washington as a member of the party accompanying British Foreign Secretary Eden, who was engaging in a general consultation with the Secretary of State; for correspondence relating to this subject, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  2. Rex Vivian.
  3. W. Morgan Shuster, American economist and financial authority, appointed financial adviser to the Iranian (then Persian) Government in 1911; see Foreign Relations, 1911, pp. 679686.
  4. Messages exchanged August 25 and September 2,1941, ibid., 1941, vol. iii, pp. 419 and 446, respectively; for correspondence relating to the Anglo-Russian military occupation of Iran on August 25, 1941, see ibid., pp. 383 ff.