801.24/387: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

1334. To Acheson,24 Stettinius25 and Douglas26 from Harriman.27 Leathers28 has informed me of your decision not to press Russians to accept reduction of 7,500 tons in Russian February loading program to [Page 607] Persian Gulf in order to make space for wheat for Persian civil requirements.

The British are seriously concerned about this situation. I understand total Persian civil requirement which has been agreed to by United States and British Ministers in Persia is 30,000 tons. British Army in Persia has already turned over on a loan basis 5,000 tons, and there is now afloat from all sources sufficient to provide Persians with about 5,000 tons each in March and April. In view of recent cut to that area, the British are able to load only 3500 tons of wheat per month from all sources which is scarcely sufficient to cover requirements of British Army and of Arab Sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf and of labor employed by Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

In order to fulfill the commitment to Persians and provide 5,000 tons per month in May, June and July, it will be necessary therefore to load in February, March and April a total of approximately 15,000 tons additional wheat. Furthermore the 5,000 ton loan of British Army must be replaced as early as possible at latest in July. The British have been relying upon February loading from United States in Eussian aid ships as proposed recently to the State Department to cover May requirements. Present decision leaves critical gap in May arrivals. I understand you have already arranged to load 7,500 tons in March on five army vessels from United States.

I understand that it has been suggested in Washington that War Shipping Administration put on additional ship from Australia to carry wheat to Persian Gulf for arrival in May. I do not believe this proposal will help matters any unless one less Russian aid ship is despatched. The bottleneck is, as you know, the capacity of Persian Gulf ports and railroad to Tehran. I understand that British Army in Persia and General Connolly are agreed that by June there will be approximately 122,000 tons of uncleared cargo in port area above normal and that there is now an average of 15 ships awaiting berth. They have jointly recommended the reduction of Russian aid March loadings to Persian Gulf to 110,000 tons because of port congestion. See cable from PAIC29 to British Joint Staff Mission in Washington dated February 15, number P. 45223. The arrival of an additional shipload of wheat will therefore merely delay another ship unloading Russian aid cargo. Furthermore the transportation of wheat for Persian civil use from Persian Gulf to Tehran will also displace an equivalent amount of Russian aid. No matter how the wheat may be shipped its delivery to the Persians must be at the expense of Russian aid.

It therefore seems that a definite decision of high policy must be made between carrying out our commitment to the Persians or to the [Page 608] Russians. We must evidently either face the consequences of further bread riots in Persia or of further straining the Russian supplies. If the decision is to supply the Persians, the most economical method of carrying the wheat would be to take it in Russian aid ships. There is some doubt whether, at this late date, wheat loaded in United States would arrive during May. If this is the case it may be feasible for War Shipping Administration to put on ship in Australia and deduct one ship from Russian aid program. The balance could be loaded in Russian aid ships between now and the end of April if there is no additional space in Army vessels. I understand the Russians were told some months ago when they took wheat out of North Persia for their own requirements that it would be necessary to deduct wheat shipments from Russian aid shipping program. Leathers advises me that the British War Cabinet after full consideration recommend that the joint decision should be to fulfil the Persian commitment even at expense of Russian aid, and I am cabling you at his request. Please advise. [Harriman.]

  1. Dean G. Acheson, Assistant Secretary of State.
  2. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Lend-Lease Administrator.
  3. Lewis W. Douglas, Deputy Administrator, War Shipping Administration.
  4. W. Averell Harriman, Special Representative of the President in the United Kingdom with the rank of Minister, Lend-Lease Expediter in London, and United States Representative in London of the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board.
  5. Lord Leathers, British Minister of War Transport.
  6. Persia and Iraq Command (British).