The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Iran ( Morris )

No. 23

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The Department realizes that there are difficulties in the way of effecting any sudden change in the opium situation in Iran. It is anxious, however, to do everything possible to persuade the Iranian Government to control the distribution of opium within the country in such manner that none will be available to the American troops now in Iran. The Department is also anxious to have Iran take adequate measures to prevent Iranian opium from entering the illicit traffic and hopes that the Iranian Government will in future prohibit the exportation of opium for other than medicinal and scientific requirements.

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If you have not already done so, it is requested that you personally seek an interview in the near future with the Iranian Foreign Minister45 and forcibly impress upon him the determination of the United States Government and people to urge all opium-producing countries to limit the production of opium to medicinal and scientific requirements until this objective is achieved. For your guidance there is furnished below a review of United States policy and attitude towards the opium situation in Iran, much of which you may wish to repeat to the Foreign Minister.

The United States, as one of the principal victims of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, is vitally interested in the limitation and control of the production of opium throughout the world. It is convinced that drug addiction and the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs should be eliminated as they are destructive of health and injurious socially and economically, and that they can only be successfully combated at their source. The United States has constantly, through its representatives at international conferences, carried on a vigorous campaign looking to the suppression of the abuse of narcotic drugs. Recognizing that production of opium over and above strictly medicinal needs is the fundamental cause of illicit traffic, the United States has been making every effort to persuade the poppy-growing countries of the world to reduce production. For this reason the United States has discouraged the planting of the opium poppy within its territories and possessions for the production of opium or opium products and whenever opportunity has offered has discouraged production in this hemisphere.

The opium situation in Iran during the last twenty years, because of large production and the escape of hundreds of tons into the illicit traffic, has been a menace to the world. This situation should be ameliorated as soon as possible in view of the announcements of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands on November 10, 194346 of their decisions to prohibit the use of smoking opium in their Far Eastern territories when those territories are freed from Japanese occupation and of the statement by the Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs on November 24, 1943,47 that “Since 1940, opium smoking and poppy cultivation are absolutely prohibited in this country and it is the firm intention of the Chinese Government to enforce this prohibition also in all the areas which will be liberated from the Japanese occupation”.

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In the period just prior to the war, Iran gradually increased its sales of opium for use in the manufacture of drugs for legitimate medicinal purposes. In the post-war period it is believed that Iran could obtain a fair share of the world’s legal trade in opium, which, for Iran, would probably amount to about 125,000 kilograms a year. This share could probably be guaranteed by the inclusion of Iran in a sales agreement similar to that which existed between Turkey and Yugoslavia before the war. As Iran’s average annual opium production for the years 1935 to 1941, inclusive, amounted to 758,262 kilograms, it is apparent that production must be considerably reduced before the situation can be regarded as satisfactory. In order to ascertain whether production might be reduced without financial loss to Iran, the United States Government is willing to make available to the Iranian authorities the assistance and guidance of agricultural experts. The United States Government offers to the Iranian Government its cooperation in the solution of the opium problem in Iran.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Dean Acheson
  1. Mohammed Saed.
  2. See footnote 19a, p. 1077. The statements of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were originally communicated to the Department on November 4 and November 6, 1943; see pp. 1077 and 1079, respectively.
  3. Ante, p. 1082.