891.00/2031: Telegram

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

751. British here are alarmed at Iranian security situation and appear to be considering remedial action. British Minister in approaching me rather formally on subject stressed the disastrous defeat in which the Iranian Army garrison of more than a thousand men was eliminated as a military unit by tribesmen82 at Samshum in Fars at end of June (see despatch 616, July 1683 which reported this incident and discussed general tribal situation). He alleged that German parachutists have been dropped near Qum and have not been apprehended. He summed up by expressing opinion that there is almost total lack of security in Iran and that country verges on anarchy. Since he attributes this condition to great extent to weakness and incompetence of Soheily Government he asked my support and that of Soviet Chargé in bringing about fall of present Government and installing Ali Mansur84 as Prime Minister. I replied that while I hold no brief for Soheily but rather incline to British view of him and while I consider Mansur to be one of most suitable candidates for Prime Minister I could hardly go so far as to assist in engineering fall of Government in view of policy of my Government not to interfere in internal Iranian political affairs. Although Soviet Charge has promised to consult Moscow it is very unlikely that Russians would offer their cooperation because they appear to be well satisfied with Soheily and in view of their reluctance to join other Allies in any action in Iran affecting their mutual interests. Russians appear to be getting on well with Mansur at Meshed although he has been criticized by some Russians as having been willing tool of ex-Shah.

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General Pownall’s85 current visit to Iran is closely connected with this subject. Pownall takes serious view of situation and feels that some action must be taken to bring about improvement. He told Schwarzkopf in strictest confidence that he is considering recruiting a special Iranian force to be officered by British to use as striking force against tribes and to maintain security supply lines. Force would apparently be similar to South Persia Rifles of last war. However in a conversation with General Ridley, Pownall made no mention of this idea.

British seem to be making conscious endeavor to build up picture of Iranian insecurity. Foreign Minister remarked to me yesterday with some bitterness that British are permitting or encouraging press in England to paint picture of Iran as insecure, chaotic and bordering on anarchy. I am not sure to what extent his British view of Iranian security situation is due to (1) sincere belief that situation is getting out of hand and that British as Allied Government responsible for Iranian security must take effective action or (2) desire to use situation as excuse to get rid of Soheily Government.

I shall report developments.

  1. The Kashkais, a tribe of southern Iran; the most important and the most troublesome tribal unit of the Fars Area, from the point of view of the central Government at Tehran.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ali Mansur, former Prime Minister of Iran (1940–41).
  4. Lt. Gen. Sir Henry R. Pownall, British Commander in Chief, Persia-Iraq Command.