891.77/740: Telegram

The Chargé in Iran (Ford) to the Secretary of State

350. We have had frank and full discussion of question raised in Department’s 264 April 28 with General Connolly, Colonel Stetson, and other ranking officers of Persian Gulf Command. As result of this exchange of ideas, both PGC and Legation have revised previous opinion and now feel disadvantages of being signatory to agreement probably outweigh advantages. Following points pro and con, were brought out and are submitted for consideration by Department and War Department:

American adherence would place us in better position to prevent unfair Soviet or British exploitation of railroads to detriment of Iran, if our Government should wish to take a strong line in this regard. (Soviets have twice tried to force inequitable terms upon Iranian Government in connection with railway operations.)
American adherence would give us stronger basis for ultimate assertion of our rights and claims with respect to supplies and rolling stock furnished railroad and improvements made with our assistance.
On other hand, both foregoing points really concern long-range policy unconnected with war effort. (In any case, point No. 2 is probably adequately covered by Lend-Lease agreement52 and fact title to United States Army goods has never been relinquished.) So far as immediate war effort is concerned, PGC does not believe agreement would facilitate American task in moving goods to USSR.
British and Iranians are parties who really stand to gain by agreement, since they are both interested in ensuring that Soviets bear their proper share of financial burden of railroad operations, which they are not doing at present. Position of our War Department, as PGC understands it, is that British must pay all aid to Russia, expenses not paid by Russians; therefore British are anxious to pin responsibility definitely on Russians to pay their fair share. Iranians of course have same interest.
If we are to be party to agreement, logic and fairness will require us during the negotiations to support principle of Soviet payment and afterwards to insist that Russians live up to obligations assumed. If we are not party, onus of bringing Russians into line and keeping them in line will fall on British, which seems proper in view of fact that United States has never assumed any financial responsibility.
Importance of good relations with USSR in Iran and in overall prosecution of war that we should hesitate to place ourselves in position which will invite conflict with or in any way jeopardize our present or future relations with Soviets unless there are strong reasons for doing so.
Both Iranians and British would undoubtedly like to have us participate, if only as buffer against Russians, but in view of our lack of financial responsibility, it would seem we have good grounds for declining to join in a purely financial agreement.

In summary, only forceful argument which has occurred to us in support of our participation is that it would make it easier for us to protect Iranians against foreign exploitation. On other side, participation would probably involve us in prolonged and possibly unsuccessful negotiations with Russians from which United States itself would have little or nothing to gain and might lose much in Soviet confidence and goodwill. (I wish to emphasize again that circumstances would probably bring us into alignment with British, inevitably giving impression that we were presenting “United Front” to Russians.)

I have thought it best to communicate these views to Department before saying anything to British or Russians.

Foregoing shown to General Connolly, who concurs.54

  1. Proposed in 1943; negotiations in 1944 and 1945 were terminated by the ending of the war, and no agreement was concluded.
  2. The appropriate War Department official was informed of the substance of this telegram on May 20 by Harold B. Minor of the Division of Middle Eastern Affairs.