891.24/405: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran ( Dreyfus )

153. Your 295, March 20. Department believes it would be well for you to take first opportunity to have a full and frank discussion with Soviet Ambassador regarding American policy and activities in [Page 352] Iran. There is suggested below a line of approach the substance of which, in your discretion, you are authorized to embody in an aide-mémoire to be left with the Ambassador. It might also be well to give a copy to your British colleague for his information.

(1) Since the entry of the United States into the war, this Government has felt itself bound to take an interest in conditions in Iran because the geographically strategic position of that country gives it an importance to the common war effort of the United Nations out of all proportion to its size, wealth and population. As the Soviet Government doubtless knows, American-Iranian relations during the past few years have been on a very cordial plane, and we have felt that this friendly character of our relations afforded an opportunity to influence the Iranian Government in a way favorable to the United Nations cause. More specifically, we have endeavored to use our influence to restore and maintain political and economic stability in Iran because we are convinced that this is the best means of keeping open the route for the transport of American and British supplies to the Soviet Union via the Persian Gulf. It seems clear to this Government that a collapse of internal order in Iran would entail a very high cost to the United Nations in the form of a diversion of troops and materiel from the fighting fronts and that even if such a diversion were made it might be very difficult to keep the supply route uninterrupted in the face of a hostile population having on its side the formidable distances and natural obstacles of the Iranian terrain.

In addition to these practical considerations, the United States has been motivated in its policy by the conviction, which it knows is shared by the Soviet Government, that the principles to which the United Nations are committed require that they should do everything possible for the welfare of those smaller nations who are affected by United Nations war operations.

2) The Iranian Government, of its own accord, has addressed to the American Government certain requests for assistance in maintaining Iran’s economy and internal organization. In the light of the views set forth above, this Government has felt it in the interest of the United Nations to give these requests such sympathetic consideration as has been possible under war conditions.

Along with requests for material aid in the form of commodities for import, the Iranian Government has asked the assistance of the United States Government in employing American citizens to serve as advisers and technical experts in various fields. In view of the prevailing disorganization in the Iranian governmental machinery, we have believed that the work of competent foreign personnel could not fail to be helpful not only to Iran but also to the tranquility of United Nations operations in Iran. Accordingly, the Department of [Page 353] State has lent its informal assistance in finding and suggesting to the Iranian authorities qualified men for the positions in question. In no case have these men been selected with a view to serving any American, as distinguished from United Nations, interest. This Government is sure that each man has accepted the position offered him with the thought that by so doing he would be contributing to the common drive toward victory over the Axis and with the primary objective in mind of creating conditions in Iran which would permit the free and untroubled movement of essential supplies to the Soviet Union.

3) Further to facilitate the movement of supplies to the Soviet Union, the American Army some months ago acceded to a request made by the British Army that American technical troops should assist in improving communications by undertaking the physical operation of certain Persian Gulf ports and certain railroad and highway routes between the Persian Gulf and Tehran. As the Soviet Government knows, American technical troops are now in Iran in limited numbers for this purpose. This force has no other purpose or interest whatsoever. It includes no combat troops.

As hitherto, the British military forces in Iran have ultimate control over transportation routes in southern Iran and retain responsibility for the maintenance of security. There has been no suggestion or thought that American troops should replace or supplement British troops as a force of occupation. It is understood that the British Minister at Tehran has undertaken to provide full information regarding all technical arrangements in which the Soviet Government may be interested.

4) The United States Government is sure that the aims of the Soviet Union and the United States in Iran are identical, both countries being anxious to create and maintain conditions which will assist in the prosecution of the war and which will lay the foundations for a lasting peace in that country in the postwar period. This Government desires, therefore, to ensure the closest possible coordination between our two nations in our endeavors to achieve this objective. It is for this reason that the American Minister has been instructed at this time to set forth to the Soviet Ambassador clearly and fully the policy of the United States with respect to Iran. The United States will be glad to keep the Soviet authorities currently informed of any developments in American-Iranian relations which might be of interest to the Soviet Government, and this Government will welcome any specific inquiries which the Soviet authorities may care to make from time to time with regard to any matter in this field. It may be that occasional differences of opinion will arise with respect to the exact means to be employed in pursuing our common policy. In such a case, this Government would be most happy to discuss the [Page 354] questions at issue fully and frankly with the appropriate Soviet officials, whether at Tehran, Moscow or Washington.

Please report any action you may take to Department and advise Ambassador Standley.60 Please do not hesitate to advise Department of any counter-suggestions you may have or any modifications you feel should be made in foregoing line of approach.

Repeated to Moscow as No. 184.

  1. Rear Adm. William H. Standley, Ambassador in the Soviet Union.