861.24/1405a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

2406. As you know, American technical troops have been in Iran for some months and are now operating the Trans-Iranian railroad from Persian Gulf ports to Tehran. They are also engaged in large-scale trucking operations from the Gulf to points in northern Iran. Purpose is to expedite movement of supplies to Soviet Union. This undertaking is result of exchange of messages between President and Prime Minister Churchill in August 194212 and agreement approved by Combined Chiefs of Staff September 23 [22], 1942,13 which provides for American operation of transport routes in southern Iran but retention of over-all control by British Commander of Persia and Iraq Command.

Proposal was mentioned informally to Soviet Commissar Foreign Trade in August and again to Soviet Ambassador Washington September 28, 1942, but so far as we know Soviet Government has never indicated its definite approval. When formal notification was made to Iranian Government on December 6, 1942, Iranians expressed agreement but said that under Anglo-Soviet-Iranian Treaty of Alliance the assent of Great Britain and Russia would be necessary. British Minister immediately declared formal agreement of his Government, whereas Soviet Ambassador had no instructions. Our Ambassador Moscow was informed by Molotov in February that Soviets must have full information regarding Anglo-American agreement, including its effect upon various technical arrangements between British and Russian forces operating in Iran, before any expression [Page 447] of Soviet views could be made. Ambassador Standley was also told at that time that British Minister Tehran had volunteered to request the desired information from his Government.

Please ask Foreign Office whether British have been in touch with Soviets on this matter and whether Russian Government has indicated its willingness to advise Iranian Government of its formal assent to the specified American operations in Iran.

We are concerned about the delay, because Soviet attitude has indicated resentment at neglect of British or Americans to consult Russians formally before putting plan into effect. Soviet Ambassador Tehran has even implied that this neglect is reason for a lack of Soviet cooperation with American commander and American advisers in Iran. Furthermore, there is always possibility that Soviet may claim Anglo-Soviet-Iranian Treaty of Alliance has been violated.

Leaving aside any question of the justice or injustice of Soviet attitude in this case, we are anxious to avoid friction, because we consider it essential to have full understanding and collaboration between American, British and Soviet authorities in Iran. Please point this out to Foreign Office and say we fear question of American transport operations may prove serious barrier to understanding unless clarified soon. You should also point out that our forces entered Iran under British auspices to undertake work in an area of British occupation and that the British regional commander retains general control over transport as well as security. Consequently, Department feels that British authorities should do whatever may be necessary to arrive at a satisfactory adjustment of the matter with Soviets. If not already done, it would seem advisable that British Ambassador Moscow be given instructions to discuss question fully with Soviets and endeavor to allay any doubts they may have.

  1. See Motter, The Middle East Theater, p. 190.
  2. Ibid., p. 192.