The Minister in Iran ( Dreyfus ) to the Secretary of State 65

No. 517

Sir: I have the honor to offer the following comments on American policy in Iran, comments which were suggested by the statement of [Page 356] policy set forth in a memorandum66 enclosed with the Department’s Instruction No. 202 of March 13, 1943.

I welcome the Department’s statement of policy with regard to Iran as constructive, statesmanlike and especially timely. I hardly need declare that I am in full agreement with the Department’s exposition of our aims and objectives in Iran; the telegrams and despatches of this Legation, I believe, bear evidence of this complete accord. I am happy that the Department has been able to arrive at so clear cut an understanding of the issues involved in our relations with Iran and to crystalize the whole into so simple and straightforward a representation of the American viewpoint. For my part, I will endeavor, as requested by the Department, to suggest from time to time measures which may assist in implementing our stated policy and to report fully on matters which may affect the attainment of our goal.

The Department’s reference to Iran as a proving ground for the Atlantic Charter struck me as particularly timely and interesting. The same thought had occurred to me and was expressed at the end of despatch No. 511 dated April 7, 194367 on the subject of the operation in this country of the Middle East Supply Center. I suggested in that despatch that we go in for some honest introspection to determine whether or not we are living up to the ideals of the Atlantic Charter in our daily actions and long range aims in Iran and I stated the belief that we could indulge in this soul-searching operation without a severe twinge of conscience. I expressed regret, however, that it has been found necessary to associate ourselves in this country with a MESC68 program based on compulsion and monopoly. It seems to me that it would be preferable for us to adopt a purely American approach to the Iranian problem, always bearing in mind, as aptly suggested in the last paragraph of the Department’s instruction, that the safeguarding of legitimate British and Russian interests in this country is a requisite for the success of our mission.

Some of the obstacles in the way of the attainment of our Iranian objectives were discussed in my despatch No. 480, March 9th. They may, it occurs to me, be divided roughly into the four sources from which they may possibly spring—(1) the Soviets (2) the Iranians themselves (3) the British and (4) the Americans. While I have discussed these possible obstacles in various recent despatches and telegrams, it may be useful to recapitulate them briefly in this despatch.

[Page 357]

(1) The Soviets. I have reported in a series of telegrams and despatches in the last month the effort which is being made by the Russians to ensconce themselves securely in Iran, by means of astute propaganda, by socialist indoctrination, by good example of their forces and by a policy consisting of a strange mixture of kindness and strong arm methods. Soviet policy in Iran continues to be, as recorded in the Department’s memorandum, positive and aggressive. Reference is made, for background on this general subject, to my telegrams Nos. 295 dated March 20 and 310 dated March 24 and to the following despatches Nos. 499 of March 27, 504 of April 2, 478 of March 8 and 513 of April 8, 1943.69

An amazingly obvious Soviet bid for Iranian sympathy came to light only the other day when it was officially announced that the Russians are making available at a Caspian Sea port 25,000 tons of Soviet wheat to feed the people of Tehran. The Department is well aware of the background of the Iranian wheat affair, how we have agreed to make up Iran’s wheat deficit, how at great cost to our shipping position 30,000 tons of wheat have been sent, and how the Iranians have complained that the wheat is not forthcoming or in any event will arrive too late to be of great benefit. The Soviets, holding their punch until the last round, now come forth as the saviors of Iran and make wheat available where the British and Americans are popularly believed failed. The Iranians cannot be made, or do not wish, to understand that some 8,000 tons of the wheat from the United States have arrived in Tehran and much more at Persian Gulf ports. In fact, the Soviets have stepped in when the wheat crisis in Iran is virtually over and offered wheat which is not presently needed. One must ask, also, where the Russians will get the grain they are offering to Iran. They do not have it in Azerbaijan for, as I have reported, the authorities in that State are having difficulty in carrying out their contract to deliver 5,000 tons to the Russians. I am under the impression that large quantities of grain are being supplied to Russia from the United States so surely they do not have it to spare in Russia. In any event, it would appear that the gesture will have the intended effect—to increase Soviet prestige in Iran at the expense of the Americans and British just when the Majlis elections are coming up.

(2) The Iranians themselves are perhaps the greatest possible source of danger to our position in Iran. …

As indicated in my telegram No. 355 dated April 6,70 there is evidence of a concerted and deeprooted campaign against our advisers. This springs undoubtedly from corrupt and selfish political elements [Page 358] in the Majlis who stand to lose personally with the institution of the kind of a regime our advisers contemplate. This campaign may well be, as is commonly thought here, abetted by the Russians. I have suggested to the Department the necessity of adopting a strong line in dealing with the Iranians in this matter. Unless we can require that our advisers be supported and given powers, their efforts will fail and the whole program will fall to the ground. The result of such failure would be not only to let down the Iranians but as well to cripple our own prestige. Our policy should be firm but kind, forceful but friendly, insistent but considerate. The Prime Minister, a few days ago in a conversation concerning the delay in granting Millspaugh’s powers, remarked smilingly that foreigners are apt to forget that Iran is an oriental country and that things here are not done in a day. This is a statement of fact which is too often overlooked by foreigners who think of Iranians as westerners simply because they have adopted western clothing and strive to emulate us in things material.

(3) The British. There is no evidence that the British have offered any great degree of obstruction to our adviser program or the development of our influence in Iran. On the contrary, they have encouraged and sometimes suggested the appointment of Americans. However, at the risk of seeming to be an alarmist who sees a burglar behind every tree, I venture the opinion that the British have had two factors in mind in supporting our program—first, that if given enough rope we might hang ourselves in Iran by making a failure of the adviser program and second, to use us, as do the Iranians, as a buffer to counter the growing menace of Soviet domination of the country. I have not the slightest doubt that British enthusiasm for our program will wane if the Russians withdraw or if their influence becomes sufficiently reduced.

(4) The Americans. We must, finally, be sure that our own house is in order. We should, first, select competent and well balanced advisers and, second give them the advice and support they require. On the whole, as I have reported in a series of despatches dealing with the work of the various missions, our choices have been good. The Millspaugh, Ridley and Schwarzkopf missions are composed of able and sensible men. …

An ever present source of friction is the presence of American troops on Iranian soil. While from our viewpoint our forces have been reasonably well behaved, the Iranians complain that their conduct is bad. The American military authorities are endeavoring to keep them out of Tehran as much as possible by building barracks on the outskirts of the town. There are naturally incidents which have unfavorable repercussions on our relations with the Iranians and we [Page 359] must expect the increasing criticism these must inevitably bring. It appears evident that the Iranians, basing their ideas of Americans on the few missionaries and government officials they have known, are surprised at the poor conduct of some of the members of the American forces in Iran. Perhaps, having tended to look on us in recent years in an idealistic light, they are shocked to find we are human beings. Part of our military men, I am afraid, have adopted the typical and unfortunate attitude of the casual foreign observer that the Iranians are a corrupt and backward race not worthy of help. Most of them feel, too, that they are here to do a job of war work involving moving the maximum amount of war supplies to Russia and that the needs of the Iranian civil population must not be allowed to interfere with their program. As incidents involving American troops, such as shooting of Iranians by American sentries, alleged acts of mistreatment of Iranians, traffic accidents and misunderstandings increase, a growing note of asperity creeps into communications from the Foreign Office. For example, a Foreign Office note of April 6,71 complaining about the removal of fire bricks from the Keredj foundry by American forces, used the following severe language: “If the American Government and officials sent here consider themselves within their rights to be able to seize and take away property belonging to the Iranian Government, it is requested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be advised, to the end that the Ministry may inform the Imperial Government of this undesirable attitude of American officials and the necessary decision be taken.” In this case, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a capable and friendly, although nervous and precipitate, individual, went off “half-cocked” since the investigation revealed that the bricks were moved by the Americans on the written request of competent Iranian authorities. The Foreign Minister made amends by calling me to the Foreign Office to express regret that he had acted without investigation. However, the incident serves to show the increasing tendency of Iranian officials to be critically conscious of the activities of our forces.

In conclusion, it seems to me imperative that we should continue on our way with patience and balance, with our objective ever in view. We must not be discouraged. The Iranians oscillate politically between dictatorship, democracy and chaos in almost perfect keeping with Plato’s theory. They have remarkable resiliency, powers of recovery and ability to throw off foreign invasion, conditions which are apt to keep them going when States considered stronger and more modern have succumbed.

Respectfully yours,

Louis G. Dreyfus, Jr.
  1. In a memorandum of May 5 the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray) forwarded this despatch, with a summary of its contents, to Messrs. Acheson and Berle, Assistant Secretaries of State, to Under Secretary Welles, and to the Secretary.
  2. Memorandum by Mr. John D. Jernegan of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, January 23, p. 331.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Middle East Supply Center.
  5. For despatch No. 504, April 2, see p. 634; other despatches not printed.
  6. Post, p. 519.
  7. Post, p. 488.