The Minister in Iran ( Dreyfus ) to the Commanding General, Persian Gulf Service Command ( Connolly )

My Dear General Connolly: I regret the necessity, at this time when I know you are burdened with many important problems, of bringing to your attention once more the question of the conduct of American forces in Iran.

The general subject of the reaction of Iranians to the conduct of American forces in Iran, a question which preoccupied me for several [Page 501] weeks past, was brought forcibly to my mind by receipt of a letter from an Iranian girl complaining of the conduct of two Indian soldiers. While the letter does not pertain to the conduct of American forces, it does, I feel, typify the attitude and feelings of a large part of the Iranian community toward American as well as British soldiers. …

You are already aware of the large and increasing number of complaints being received from the Foreign Office regarding incidents involving American forces. While many of the cases are exaggerated or are found on investigation not to involve Americans, their number is alarming both to me and to the Foreign Office. More important, however, than these cases is the strong and growing undercurrent of feeling among Iranians that the conduct of Americans in Iran leaves much to be desired. … I regret to state that I hear reports from all sides of drunkenness, disorderly conduct and molestation of women by American officers and men. It is reported, and widely believed, that the recent ban on dancing was put into effect because of the poor conduct of American officers and men in the various cafes and cabarets in Tehran. Many of these reports are, I am sure, exaggerated or untrue but their volume and the almost unanimous degree to which they are believed by the Iranian public, is truly alarming.

It might be useful here, in considering this general question, to consider very briefly the American position in Iran. Direct American interest in Iranian political affairs is a new departure and arises primarily out of Iran’s strategic location in relation to the Russian supply line. It is, however, also based on a deep-seated and traditional American desire to help less fortunate nations which turn to us for assistance. We were peculiarly well placed to serve as a friend and benefactor to Iran when this country turned to us for help after the invasion of August, 1941, because we had already won a high place in the esteem of Iranians and an enviable reputation among all Iranian classes. This reputation was based on a century of good deeds in Iran. It was born of numerous unselfish acts such as the foundation and operation of schools and hospitals and unstinted relief in times of famine or emergency. Consequently, when Iran turned to the United States for help and guidance in an hour of need, we could not, for both strategic and sentimental reasons, refuse. We have now committed ourselves to giving Iran all the economic assistance possible within the limits imposed by our shortage of materials and shipping space. We have further, on direct Iranian request, agreed to provide American advisers in various branches of government, to enable the Iranians to regain a sound economy and rebuild their shattered political structure. In this we are inspired by no selfish motives but [Page 502] are merely endeavoring to help an unfortunate people who have turned to us in time of need.

Iranian good will is the very keystone of American endeavor in Iran. It is because the poor conduct of our forces in Iran may jeopardize this good will, and hence neutralize our efforts, that I am thus stating the case somewhat at length.

There are many Americans here who will say that the Iranians do not deserve help because they do not help themselves. Others will remark that we have no obligations toward Iran. Still others declare that the Iranians are a corrupt people unworthy of assistance. It is common to hear American officers say that the Americans are here only to transport war supplies to Russia and hence have no interest in the welfare of the Iranians. These views are not in keeping with the traditional American spirit nor do they correspond with the policy of the United States Government as I understand it. American officials in Washington are coming increasingly to believe that Iran offers an ideal testing ground for the Atlantic Charter,79 since in perhaps no other place in the world is there such clearcut conflict of interests and temptation for nations to give precedence to their own selfish interests in preference to the ideals expressed in this great document. It would seem essential, at least to convince ourselves of our own good faith, that these high principles be put into effect now rather than at the end of the war.

I hope you will not feel that the above remarks are intended as criticism nor yet in the nature of a sermon. I have expressed my views frankly and explained the background rather fully because I know how anxious you will be to help once the American position is made clear to you. Americans are justly proud of the high international reputation of their country and are, I believe, beginning to realize that America can put this reputation to constructive use in taking effective leadership in the post-war world. But our general reputation in Iran can be no higher than the sum total of the reputations of our individual citizens here. In the ultimate analysis, our reputation here and in the world at large will depend upon the everyday acts and attitudes of our citizens everywhere. That is why I urge you to do all you can to bring about an improvement in the present unsatisfactory situation. I am confident of your support, since I have noticed in your letters in reply to Foreign Office complaints a very friendly, fair and conciliatory tone and an evident desire to reduce the number of incidents to a bare minimum. Would it not be possible to begin a concerted and sustained campaign among the officers and men to impress upon them the fact that every citizen is an emissary of his Government and has, therefore, a personal responsibility. You, being more experienced in these [Page 503] matters of military discipline, will have undoubtedly additional methods of dealing with the matter. I should, in any event, appreciate receiving a frank expression of your views on the subject.

Sincerely yours,

Louis G. Dreyfus, Jr.
  1. Joint Declaration by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.