General Patrick J. Hurley, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt, to the President 77

Unnumbered. Before going to Iran and since my return I have conferred at length with the Rt. Hon. Richard G. Casey British Minister of State for the Middle East on conditions in Iran. In Iran I conferred with our Minister, Mr. Dreyfus, and members of his staff, with the Commander of the United States Military Forces, Major General Donald H. Connolly and members of his staff, with [Page 364] the British Minister Sir R. Bullard and members of his staff. I then conferred with the American advisers Dr. A. C. Millspaugh (economics), Mr. Joseph P. Sheridan (food), Colonel Norman Schwartzkopf (national police), Mr. Timmerman (Municipal police), Major General Clarence S. Ridley (Iranian Army), with Mr. D. Stansby and other officials of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation and with Mr. Erik Eriksen of the United States Commercial Corporation. After these meetings I conferred with the Shah Mohammad Reza, the Prime Minister, Ali Soheily, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Saed Mareghei, and other Iranians. The situation in Iran is serious. The conditions and the methods employed by the British and the Russians in the military occupation of Iran have rendered the Iranian Government impotent. The aspirations of the British and the Russians in Iran are in conflict. The Iranians distrust the motives of both the British and the Russians and believe that the future existence of Iran as an independent nation is threatened. American prestige in Iran is being injured by the fact that Americans are in positions of responsibility without adequate authority. In conversations which I had with the Shah, the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, matters both far reaching and specific were discussed. Chief among the subjects were (1) food, (2) transportation, (3) inflation, (4) possibility of an Iranian declaration of war against the Axis as a member of the United Nations and (5) future relationships between Iran, Britain, Russia and the United States. The Russians have occupied the northern portion of Iran constituting roughly one third of the country’s area and a majority of its population. This portion of Iran is richest in production of food and in all natural resources except developed oil resources. The British occupy the less populous but larger geographical area of the south. The portion occupied by the British extends to the Persian Gulf and contains all of the developed oil areas of the country. For the most part the attitude of the Iranian officials and indeed of all the Iranian people who are in a position to appraise conditions, is one of intense bitterness toward Great Britain. This bitterness toward Britain is so emotional that it has almost completely wiped out the memory of four hundred years of uninterrupted Britain-Persian friendship. Toward Russia there is less bitterness but in my opinion there is a deep fear of the eventual objectives of Russia. However Russian administration of their zone of occupation is more acceptable to the Iranians than that of the British. The Iranians translate their bitterness toward the British and to a lesser extent toward the Russians in a series of specific charges against the policies of these two powers in Iran. Even under the most considerate planning by the occupation forces Iranian [Page 365] capacity to feed her own people would be severely strained by the presence of British, Russian and American troops and their minimum requirements of local foods. Iranian spokesman complain however that neither the British nor the Russians have displayed any considerate planning. The Iranians charge that in the south the British bought up great quantities of foodstuffs not only for their own consumption but for export. They charge that in the more abundant north the Russians have followed to some extent a like policy. The Iranians charge that the British forced inflation upon the country by insisting upon repeated Government issuances of currency to be used to pay British forces of occupation and American supervised labor on the railroad track lines and road building projects. High wages paid by the British and Americans have contributed to the inflationary trend. Contributing to the inflation also it must be added is the weakness of the Iranian Government itself and the consequent lack of confidence in the national currency.78 By reason of its disorganized conditions the Government was unable to stabilize prices or to prevent speculation and hoarding. The combination of inflated food prices and actual food scarcity has led to deaths by starvation. The Iranians charge that even when starvation became widespread in the south the British delayed taking steps to import grain. The Iranians and the British charge also that the Russians refused to permit shipments of foodstuffs to that portion of the country where there was a shortage. This food crisis was intensified the Iranians allege by the fact that the British deprived the country of effective use of its own transport system through commandeering or hiring at high prices great numbers of Iranian motor trucks and by taking over full control of the Iranian State Railroad. Additional Iranian trucks were pressed into Russian service in the north. Most of this transportation was of course used for the purpose of transporting American Lend Lease materials to Russia. But the fact remains that lack of use of its own transportation facilities did prevent Iran from transporting food and thereby was an additional cause of food shortage. Iranian spokesmen accuse the British of deliberately bringing about food shortages and consequent bread riots in Tehran to provide an excuse for the British military occupation of the city. The British occupation of Tehran the Russians and Iranians allege was in violation of the tripartite agreement between Iran, Russia, and Great Britain. The Iranians make further grave accusation that the British attempted at the time of the food crisis to force concessions from the Iranian Government in return for wheat. They allege that the British Minister [Page 366] submitted various conditions to the Iranian Government which he specifically stated must be accepted before the British Government would make any concession in regard to food, bearing on this accusation a message from the American Minister at Tehran to the Secretary of State Washington D. C. dated February 24, 1943 and copy of the dispatch addressed to the Foreign Office in London repeated to Kuibyshev and Washington dated November 6, 194279 and signed Bullard. The end of the food crisis seems to be in sight. Russia has agreed to furnish the Iranians 25,000 tons of wheat. The Americans and British have agreed to furnish a total of 32,500 tons of wheat and barley part of which has been delivered. There are prospects for a good crop if the American advisers Dr. Millspaugh (economics) and Mr. Sheridan (food) are able to procure the funds for the purchase of the wheat crop and the transportation to get it to the centers of population, the most immediate cause of Iranian unrest would be removed. At another time of crisis the Iranians charge that typhus serum was ordered from the United States and that it was shipped but was impounded by the British at Cairo. The Iranians assert that if this serum had been delivered it would have prevented many deaths from typhus. Wherever the fault lies the fact is that the serum was not delivered and many Iranians died during the subsequent epidemic. The Iranians charge that the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, a British Government institution, which entered Iran for the purpose of preclusive purchasing of war materials has forced itself into a position of a complete monopoly of all Iranian foreign trade. The Iranian officials complain bitterly that after having stripped the Iranian Government of nearly all of its actual powers and having rendered that Government helpless in this period of crisis, the British now openly blame the Iranian Government for not taking strong action to procure proper transportation facilities to prevent inflation, to fix prices, and to prevent starvation of the population. There are other counts in the indictment but I think I have given you enough to create the impression that the British are not popular in Iran. The Iranians openly charge and believe that Britain has been guilty in Iran of conduct akin to that of the Nazis in Europe. If the Iranians had to decide today between the British and the Russians they would in my opinion unquestionably choose the Russians. American troops in Iran are in a peculiar position. In conversation with Russian Army officers and Iranian officials they have at times referred to the United States as an instrumentality of Great Britain. I have learned that this assertion is based on the allegation that American troops [Page 367] entered Iran on the invitation and under the direction of the British alone. It is alleged that neither the Iranians nor the Russians were consulted in advance of the arrival of American troops. The Russians still assert that they have not been officially apprised throughout the intervening months of the presence or the purposes of American troops in Iran.80 This argument on the part of the Russians seems weak in face of the fact that American troops entered Iran for the sole purpose of operating the state railway and military supply lines to transport American lend lease materials to Russia. The American troops in Iran are not combat troops. They are service troops. It does appear to be true however that the Iranian Government was not notified of the coming of American troops or the purpose that the troops were to serve. American advisers to the Iranian Government are charged with the responsibility of guaranteeing civilian food supplies, providing transportation, fixing prices, supervising national and municipal police forces, supervising the reorganization of the Iranian Army, preventing inflation, stabilizing the currency, providing funds for the ordinary needs of Government, and in general restoring security and order to Iran. Up to the time I left Iran no adequate authority had been given to any of the American advisers to enable them to accomplish the tasks assigned. This left the American advisers among whom there are men of the highest character and ability in positions of responsibility without authority. More and more the American advisers are being criticized for not having brought order out of chaos when in fact they have been supplied with neither the means nor the authority that would enable them to achieve the purposes of their mission. The buck is usually passed from the British and Russians to the Iranians and by all three to the American advisers. The State Department is endeavoring to correct these situations by (1) procuring an agreement with the Iranian Government recognizing the presence of American troops (2) procuring from Russian officials recognition of the presence of the units of the United States Army in their true status and (3) procuring from the Iranian Government adequate and proper authority for the American advisers. The ambitions of Russia and Great Britain are in conflict in Iran. In my opinion Britain and Russia aspire to control Iran after the war, not jointly but separately. Britain’s control would be for the purpose of keeping the monopoly of the oil resources which her nationals now own and of establishing a trade monopoly. Russia’s control would serve to secure her long desired access to a warm water port. At the peace table I believe Russia will insist on either a corridor to the Persian Gulf or to the Indian Ocean or as an alternative freedom of the straits [Page 368] from the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. In the light of these conflicting ambitions it appears rather certain that if Germany were totally defeated today and Japan were still in the field there would be open conflict in the Middle East between the forces of the United Nations. As if to aggravate the relations between Russia and Britain in Iran there is a rumor being encouraged in Iran to the effect that the British in Washington are endeavoring to prevent further Lend Lease assistance from the United States to Russia. It is alleged that the British contend that American supplies are giving Russia such strength as to make Russia a menace to the peace of the world after the capitulation of Germany. Owing to the gravity of the situation and to the complexity of international relationships I think it essential that you understand that in Iran both diplomatic officials and military officers of the United States appear to be giving the weight of their influences to Russia as opposed to Britain. As evidence that this is true I refer to (1) the diplomatic correspondence between the United States Legation in Tehran and the State Department and (2) the fact that the United States Military Commander in Tehran has recently dispensed with G–2 services on the ground that the United States Army intelligence operations in that area while favored by the British were objectionable to Russia. The foregoing statement should not be considered as a charge or as an implication against the character, the ability or the patriotism of the American officials in Iran but as an indication that the situation there demands an immediate clarification of the policies of the United States. Russia and the United States are traditionally friends and at the peace table they must have and must be entitled to the confidence of each other. The achievement of the purposes of the Atlantic Charter and the peace and prosperity of the world depend in great measure on the unity of the English speaking people. If our present policy is continued in Iran it must ultimately alienate from the United States either the British or the Russians. What is taking place at the present time in Iran promotes and, unless corrected, ensures disunity among the three greatest forces of the United Nations. During the past one-fourth of a century the Middle East has been recognized as a British Sphere of Influence. Britain was the dominant power in that area notwithstanding the operations of the French in the Lebanon and Syria and certain definite penetrations in the entire area by the Germans. Great Britain no longer possesses within herself the essentials of power needed to maintain her traditional role as the dominant influence in the Middle East area. The position of Britain in the Middle East was waning even before the outbreak of the present war. The antipathy for Great Britain in the Middle East has caused a growth first of pro-Nazi and now of pro-Soviet [Page 369] sentiment. Unless it is the carefully considered intention of the United States to play a strong independent role in the Middle East a policy which has not thus far been indicated our course should be toward a reconciliation and integration of the British-American influences in Iran. Such joint action by Britain and the United States should be directed toward developing strong enlightened native governments not only in Iran but in other nations of the Middle East with Russia sharing in a United Nations trusteeship for these local governments. At present American Army and civilian personnel in Iran are being frustrated by lack of positive directions from our Government as to whether they should support conquest and imperialism or the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms81 or as to what should be their attitude in the conflict between Russia and Britain. American prestige is decreasing without any parallel benefit to British prestige. There is a growing feeling among the British officials in the field that the United States has ambitions to become a colonial power. There is extensive Axis propaganda to the effect that the Americans intend to take over the British Empire. In my opinion the United States Government is so constituted that it could not become a colonial administrator without denying the fundamental principle of its own existence. In addition to that I am certain that the United States has no desire to become an imperialistic or colonial power. If you should move into the situation in the Middle East, however, with the precision and the force that conditions demand and you may be accused at home of committing the United States to imperialism, exploitation, violation of the fundamental principles of our own Government, and opposition to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. In the face of all these negatives I am convinced that strong action by you in this situation would be justified as a war emergency and a step toward unity between Russia, Britain and the United States and toward the ultimate establishment of the principles of the Atlantic Charter. The proper results in Iran cannot be achieved by your support of British leadership alone. All of this leads to the conclusion that integration of the British-American policies in Iran and maintenance of proper relations with the Russians there must have your leadership rather than British leadership. I believe you must assume at least that degree of leadership that will justify the confidence of the officials and the people of Iran in America’s capacity to uphold the principles of the Atlantic Charter and to assure the continued existence of Iran as a free nation under your leadership; there must be found also a solution of the Russian-British conflict. I recommend initially (1) that Iran be assured that America insists that the principles of the Atlantic Charter do apply to Iran (2) [Page 370] that Iran be permitted to join the United Nations in a declaration of war against the Axis (3) that the American and British Legations be raised immediately to the status of Embassies and (4) that American and British Ambassadors compatible to each other and able to understand and promote British-American-Russian cooperation be appointed to Iran. I have discussed in a general way my conclusions with the Rt. Hon. Richard G. Casey.

  1. Copy of telegram obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y.
  2. For correspondence regarding interest of the United States in Iranian finances, see pp. 561 ff.
  3. See telegram No. 361, November 6, 1942, from the Minister in Iran, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, p. 179.
  4. For correspondence regarding this subject, see pp. 453 ff.
  5. Enunciated by President Roosevelt in his State of the Union Message, January 6, 1941, Congressional Record, vol. 87, pt. 1, pp. 44, 46.