Draft Memorandum to the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs28

There is transmitted to the Government of Iran a copy of Public Law 400, Seventy-eighth Congress of the United States of America, approved July 1, 1944.29 In compliance therewith, the Government of the United States invites the attention of the Government of Iran to the changes in the world narcotics situation which have recently taken place, and urges that it give consideration to the necessity of immediately limiting the production of opium in Iran to the amount required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes.

[Here follows an account of measures taken by various governments in the past twenty years to combat the abuse of narcotic drugs.]

This Government realizes that the problem of the reduction of the cultivation of the opium poppy in Iran is neither new nor easy of solution. It was given much consideration twenty years ago and a Commission of Inquiry, appointed pursuant to a resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations, went to Iran and made an exhaustive study of the situation. The Commission reported to the Council of the League of Nations in October 1926 (League of Nations document no. C.580.M.219.1926.XI) that it “has arrived at the conclusion that, while difficult of accomplishment, it is possible and practically feasible, and to the economic interest of Persia, to adopt a programme for the gradual diminution of the cultivation of the opium poppy, and, in this connection, is glad to call attention to the formal [Page 1092] letter of the Persian Government addressed to the President of the Commission under date of Teheran, June 1st, 1926, in which it is stated categorically that the Persian Government has the intention of gradually reducing the production of opium to medical needs”. (An extract from this letter dated June 1st, 1926 from the Persian Prime Minister to the President of the Commission reads, “It is our conviction that the production of opium can be curtailed … Nevertheless, the Persian Government will take immediate measures to reduce the production of opium to medicinal requirements and will prosecute these measures as rapidly as circumstances permit. The Government is likewise determined to put a stop to the smoking of opium within the country as rapidly as possible.”) As substitutes for the poppy crop, the Commission recommended the production of cereals, silk, cotton, beet-sugar, and fruits, wool, rice, tea, tobacco, sugar-cane, et cetera.

In its observations on the report of the Commission of Inquiry (League document no. A.S.1927.XI, dated March 28, 1927) the Persian Government stated:

“Neither is it to be expected that the Persian Government and people will continue to support a programme of reduction unless Persia is accorded substantial equality of opportunity with regard to the world’s trade in medicinal opium and unless Persia is enabled to put into effect the reasonable measures which are essential for fiscal and economic readjustments. Among these reasonable measures, the Commission of Enquiry has particularly noted and recommended tariff autonomy. The Persian Government is likewise convinced that the independence and freedom of the Persian Government regarding the establishment of legal Customs tariffs are essential for the protection and encouragement of Persian substitute industries and the promotion of exports.”

Iran’s requests for tariff autonomy and equality of opportunity with regard to the world’s trade in medicinal opium were granted. It is a matter of disappointment, therefore, that the Majliss30 never enacted into law the recommendations mentioned above.

When the new Iranian Cabinet was formed in September 1941, this Government was pleased to note that it presented a program to the Majliss promising to give particular attention to the progress of agriculture, to the amelioration of the condition of the peasants, to the development of irrigation works, to the progressive restriction of the cultivation and use of opium, revision of the laws for the reconstruction of the country and the execution of the agricultural program. In fulfilment of the promise concerning opium a decree was approved by the Iranian Council of Ministers on December 13, 1941, restricting the consumption of opium in Iran. This law authorized [Page 1093] the Ministry of Finance “to make the sale of opium to addicts, in such districts where it deems advisable, subject to the presentation of special permits and to make the issuance of permits to addicts subject to special conditions.” Such action encouraged this Government to hope that further restrictions on both the production and use of opium will be imposed.

This Government was also gratified to receive on April 8, 1943, on the occasion of the signing of a trade agreement with the United States, a note from the Iranian Minister31 stating that Iran is in full accord and sympathy with the international efforts to suppress contraband traffic in opium and declaring its intention to establish at an early date any additional regulations which may be necessary to confine the trade in opium produced in Iran to legitimate international channels.

In order further to strengthen control over the international traffic in opium, this Government offers for the consideration of the Iranian Government the desirability of its ratifying the International Opium Convention of 1912 without reservation as to article 3a which reads, “The Contracting Powers shall take measures: a. to prevent the exportation of raw opium to countries which shall have prohibited the entry thereof”. In as much as the Chinese Government is making vigorous efforts to prevent drug addiction among Chinese in China and other places, it is believed that other Governments should use their best endeavors to prevent opium from entering China and the illicit traffic.

The Government of the United States has a particular interest at this time in the quantity of opium produced in Iran because of the presence in Iran of large numbers of American soldiers and American merchant seamen.32 As a means of protecting the health of these men this Government urges the Iranian Government to give immediate consideration to the problem of surplus opium now existing in Iran with a view to its control or elimination as soon as possible.

[Here follows a discussion of a conference expected to be held after the war for the purpose of drafting a suitable poppy limitation convention, of the provisions the United States suggested should be contained in the proposed convention, and of the observation by the United States that pending the entering into effect of an international poppy limitation convention, “it would be helpful if the Iranian Government would give immediate consideration to the advisability of [Page 1094] announcing at the earliest possible moment that it will hereafter prohibit the production and export of opium for other than strictly medicinal and scientific purposes, and will take effective measures to prevent illicit production of opium in its territories and illicit traffic in opium from its territories.”]

If the Government of Iran will take favorable action on the foregoing suggestions, the Government of the United States, on its part, will undertake to assist the Government of Iran as follows:

By endeavoring at the proposed poppy limitation conference to obtain for Iran its fair share of the international opium market.
By endeavoring at the proposed poppy limitation conference to obtain the adoption of a provision designed to assure the opium producer a fair return.
By making the guidance of agricultural experts available to the Iranian Government in order to facilitate the shift from poppy production to the production of other crops.
By continuing to import Iranian opium as it has done since 1943.
By refraining from producing opium poppies in the United States and using its influence to discourage their production in this hemisphere.

It would be appreciated if the Government of Iran would inform this Government at an early date whether it is prepared to make the suggested announcement concerning the limitation of the production of opium to medicinal and scientific requirements. It would also be appreciated if the Government of Iran would communicate to this Government its observations in regard to the provisions which this Government has suggested be incorporated in the proposed poppy limitation convention.

  1. Transmitted to Tehran in instruction 472, August 19, 1944, not printed. In despatch 121, November 17, 1944, the Ambassador in Tehran stated that the memorandum, unchanged except for elimination of the word “draft” from the title, was sent to the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs on September 20, 1944 (511.4A5/11–1744).
  2. 58 Stat. 674.
  3. The Iranian Parliament.
  4. For texts of trade agreement signed at Washington and of note from the Iranian Minister, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 410, pp. 1, 32, or 58 Stat. (pt. 2) 1322, 1351.
  5. For correspondence on negotiations between the United States and Iran regarding proposed agreement covering the presence of United States troops in Iran, see vol. v, pp. 355 ff.