811.24591/6–1945: Telegram

No. 631
The Ambassador in Iran ( Murray ) to the Acting Secretary of State


412. Question of accelerated withdrawal American troops from Iran (Deptstel 296, June 15l) has been discussed with General Booth and carefully considered by Embassy.

I judge Dept has two objectives in mind: To encourage early withdrawal British and Soviet forces and to avoid Iranian criticism.

It appears, however, that British are even more anxious than we are to see foreign troops leave. Therefore they need no encouragement from us. But military situation requires that they maintain force in southwestern Iran to protect oil fields and Abadan refinery which are vital to Japanese war.

Similarly we must keep estimated 1,500 men at Abadan airfield so long as that is needed for transit of military aircraft to and from Far East.

Consequently neither British nor ourselves can effect complete evacuation of Iran for some time to come.

So far as Russians are concerned it remains to be seen whether they will insist upon retaining troops in force in Iran. I think it within bounds of possibility they might decide to steal a march on us and having no further military ends to serve here withdraw all troops overnight. This would enable them to gain political credit by pointing out contrast of their action with that of British and [Page 955] Americans. Their political and strategic position is such that they would still be able to exert pressure on Iran whenever desired.

If they do not adopt this policy I think it doubtful any steps on our part short of complete withdrawal British and American forces would influence Soviet action. Gen Booth concurs in this. Russians could argue that quantity of our troops is immaterial, fact of their presence in Iran being important point; and they may be expected to ignore military necessity governing continued stay our troops. Soviet treaty position, of course, is unassailable. Most we could hope for in my opinion is pari passu withdrawal of Soviet troops along with British and American down to point at which Russian forces in north would roughly balance Anglo-American in south. This raises question our detachments guarding fixed installations and movable equipment for which 3,000 men believed required. Both Gen Booth and I agree it would be disastrous to entrust custody of American property to Iranians, whether Army[,] gendarmerie or civilian, who could not be expected to protect it properly and might further use fact of physical possession to reinforce their arguments for gratis delivery of installations. Neither Booth nor I feel Iranians have grounds for insisting on their ability to undertake custodial responsibility in light of their poor record during war in preventing theft of Allied property.

Only way I can see to expedite departure of American custodial detachments is to work for early disposal of all installations and equipment. Negotiations for this are being held up by failure Treasury to reply to Glendinning telegram reported Embstel 343, May 242 regarding text of agreement to be negotiated with Iran Govt on terms of payment. It would be most helpful if Dept would press for quick action. Early decision on quantity and types of railroad equipment to be sold to Iran would also be of great assistance. (Embstel 381, June 62). Another question needing settlement is British desire for certain American camps (Deptstel 294, June 132) regarding which separate telegram2 will be sent.

Certain amount irresponsible Iranian criticism may be inevitable if stay of American troops is prolonged. In view of military needs, however, I fail to see how this can be avoided. Any complaints by Iran Govt can be met both by referring to informal Iranian request that we remain until British and Russians leave (this request was orally reiterated to me by MinFonAff on June 16 when I delivered note contained in Deptstel 293, June 122) and by pointing out that [Page 956] Iran has declared war on Japan and should be willing to make some contribution to the war effort.

Booth and I are agreed it would be inadvisable to seek formal Iranian consent to continuance American troops in Iran. They have been here nearly three years on informal basis which we can always assert to rest upon British treaty rights and it might well weaken our position to give Iranians idea we think it necessary now to obtain renewed consent. In any case I am convinced that however much Iranians may desire continued presence of our troops pending withdrawal of British and Russians it is impossible to believe they would dare put such a request in writing.

In light of foregoing analysis of situation I hardly think it worth while to urge War at this time to accelerate withdrawal. Results to be anticipated do not in my judgment warrant disruption of plans and extra effort involved.

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