The Secretary of State to the Iranian Minister (Shayesteh)

Sir: I have the honor to refer to your note no. 817 of July 13, 1943 in which, under instructions from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, you express the feeling of your Government that the existing arrangements for the supply of essential imports to Iran are inadequate. The Department has given the most careful study to this matter, and I should like to take up seriatim the important points which you have raised.

1. It is understood that your Government regards as cumbersome and slow the procedure by which the import requirements of Iran are now handled, that is, through the Middle East Supply Center at Cairo and its affiliate, the Combined Supplies Committee at Tehran. You state that there is a delay of nearly a year between the placing of an import request and the delivery of the goods in Iran.

The Department is aware that delays, unfortunately, do occur in the filling of import requests. This is a condition, however, which is not confined to Iranian supply questions but which is world-wide and is the result primarily of the inevitable necessity in time of war of imposing restrictions upon civilian production and distribution in order that military needs may have precedence. These delays are attributable to many causes, among them the difficulty of procuring [Page 621] goods in the United States and other sources of supply, the slowness of both land and sea transportation under wartime conditions, and the difficulty of reconciling and assessing competing demands from numerous countries for supplies and shipping space which are insufficient to meet the desires of all.

According to the Department’s information, there have also been delays on the part of Iranian merchants and governmental authorities in the clearance of goods through the Iranian custom houses and their onward transportation to centers of distribution. I am advised that there are now some 80,000 tons of merchandise in Iranian port warehouses and that this accumulation is not primarily the result of any lack of internal transportation facilities.

2. You state that during the year 1942 an import quota of 35,000 tons was fixed for Iran by the Middle East Supply Center, of which 20.580 tons was subsequently canceled, leaving a balance of 15,000 tons. You further say that the greater portion of this balance has not yet been shipped.

The Department has been informed that no quota system for imports into the Middle East was put into effect until the latter part of 1942 and that no rigid quota for Iran was established at any time. In any case, as you will recall, the operation of the Middle East Supply Center was not extended to Iran in practice until the middle of the year. During the latter part of 1942 alone, actual shipments to Iran amounted to 33,000 tons of wheat and flour and approximately 12,000 tons of other commodities. Any reduction in the original tentative program prepared for Iran was forced by a general cut in shipping space available for civilian supplies to the Middle East as a whole, a reduction made necessary by United Nations military operations the results of which are now obvious in North Africa and Sicily.

3. Your Government feels that Iran has not received a fair proportion of available supplies and shipping space, taking into consideration Iran’s population, standard of living, and importance in the war effort.

On this point I can only say that the policy of the Middle East Supply Center has been to treat all countries of the Middle East equally. I know you are aware of the deep interest which this Government takes in the welfare of Iran, and this interest has been consistently reflected in the work of American officials both at home and abroad in the economic field. Every possible consideration is being given to Iranian needs, as fast as they can be accurately ascertained. In this connection, it is felt that the work of Dr. Millspaugh in analyzing the supply position in Iran is of great help, both to your Government in presenting its needs and to the American and British Governments in determining their urgency and the best means of satisfying them.

[Page 622]

4. You mention an instance in which the Government of Iran requested the shipment of typhus vaccine from the United States to meet a threatened epidemic, and you suggest that the vaccine in question was not provided because of the intervention of the Middle East Supply Center.

I regret that this incident appears to have been the subject of misunderstanding in various quarters—misunderstanding which was unquestionably due to inaccurate reports with respect to the facts in the case. The Department was intimately connected with every step taken, and I feel that it is well to set the record straight. As you say, an American medical officer on detail in Iran recommended the despatch of a quantity of vaccine to Iran, and a request to this effect was presented by your Government. In as much as typhus vaccine is not generally available, and is in limited supply, this request was referred to the appropriate medical authorities of the United States Army in Washington, who, on the basis of the incomplete information available to them at the time, arranged the shipment by air of 100,000 doses. Following the despatch of the shipment, however, the ranking American Army medical officer in the Middle East, whose headquarters are at Cairo, made a special trip to Tehran to investigate the situation. In the light of his knowledge of conditions throughout the Middle East, he reported that the danger in Iran was not, at that time, greater than in at least two other countries where typhus was prevalent and an epidemic threatened. He further reported that it would be impossible to provide adequate vaccine to protect all of the persons in Iran who might be exposed to the disease, and he, therefore, recommended to the American Army medical authorities in Washington that the greater part of the shipment in question be held as a central pool, under American military control, for use in whatever part of the Middle East might later be found to have the most urgent need of it. In view of the rank and experience of the officer in question, and his broad knowledge of the health situation: in all parts of the Middle East, the War Department authorities accepted his recommendation and instructed him to hold the shipment of vaccine at Cairo. This decision was later endorsed by the American Typhus Commission which has made a special study of the disease in the Middle East.

The point which I should like to emphasize in this matter is that all decisions, from beginning to end, were made by the appropriate American military medical authorities and were made solely upon medical grounds. I am sure you will agree that in a question of this kind scientific medical opinion is the only guide which may properly be followed, and I regard it as unfortunate that any one should have gained the impression that political or economic factors were involved in the decision under reference.

[Page 623]

5. You state that the Middle East Supply Center intends to allocate only 20,000 tons to Iran for 1943, although the minimum necessary is 300,000 tons.

I have consulted the principal American officer of the Middle East Supply Center at Cairo, who reports that the 1943 import program for Iran, as it stands at present, is as follows: a) 22,000 tons of wheat and flour; b) 30,000 tons of sugar; c) 3,400 tons of tea; d) 150 tons of coffee; e) 15,600 tons of material supplies; making a total of 71, 150 tons.

It is obvious, of course, that Iran could profitably import very much greater quantities than those listed above, but it is also too well known to require comment that virtually every country in the world today has import needs vastly greater than it is able to satisfy. I am sure that the American and British officials of the Middle East Supply Center and the Combined Supplies Committee will be very glad to consider any evidence which your Government may present to show that Iran’s minimum essential needs will not be met by the present program.

6. You refer to a “recent easing in the shipping situation” and request that consideration be given to increasing the supplies and shipping space allocated to Iranian needs.

On this point I may confidently assure you that any increase in the tonnage available for the transport of civilian supplies to the Middle East will be reflected immediately in the allocation of space for Iran, as for the other countries of the area.

7. With respect to your request that the procedure of the Combined Supplies Committee at Tehran and the Middle East Supply Center at Cairo be revised with a view to speeding up the supply movement, you may be certain that the officials at Tehran, Cairo, and Washington who are concerned with these problems are constantly endeavoring to improve the method of operation in order to facilitate supply in every way possible.

Accept [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Dean Acheson