1. Despatch From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1

No. 679


[Omitted here is a table of contents.]


Nothing could be more interesting, were it possible to do so, than to eavesdrop upon a meeting of the Politburo during a discussion of the Iranian problem as it must appear to the Soviet planners. Here is a land area which they and their grandfathers and even earlier forbears have worked for years to control. They have pulled one trick after another out of the hat with which to cajole, seduce or threaten the Iranians into submission, but the problem still has not been solved.

We can of course only speculate upon what is in the heads of the Soviet planners. It is possible, though, to study the various techniques which have been used here by the Soviets in recent years and to analyze the motives behind those actions. This study has been prepared with that object in mind. While the conclusions drawn therefore will still have to remain within the realm of speculation yet perhaps from the pattern of past events we may be able to discover some indication as to what the future may bring.

Historical Background:

The past is supposed to be the prologue to the future. If history shows anything it is the continuing pressure of the Russians upon the [Page 2] Persians for more than two hundred years. The Russian drive for expansion was first felt under Peter the Great who, in a war with the Persians in 1722, took practically all of the western and southern shores of the Caspian. In 1800 Russia annexed Georgia. Persia was then induced to join Napoleon in his right against the Russians, hoping thereby to recover Georgia. But, when the Russo-Persian War ended in 1813 Persia was only forced to surrender all claim to Georgia but also to cede all Persian territory north of the Araxes River, except two small areas which were lost in a subsequent encounter. Then the Russians concentrated upon obtaining control of Turkestan.

A good part of northern Persia had then become Russian and the border had been moved about a thousand miles nearer to Teheran. Then, economic penetration of the northern area of what was left of Persia was undertaken, helped to a great extent by the Agreement of 1907 under which the Russians and the British outlined their separate spheres of influence. Finally, Russo-Iranian relations went through an entirely new phase in 1921 when the Soviets signed a Treaty of Friendship with the Persians. That Treaty, except for certain provisions bearing upon the Soviet right to introduce troops into Iran, was definitely in the Iranian interest. The Soviets at the same time denounced the Agreement of 1907.

Reza Shah simultaneously appeared on the scene and the Iranian situation become much more stabilized. The period with which this study is concerned began in 1941, when the Soviets and British (and later ourselves) marched into the country, Reza Shah was deposed and for all practical purposes Iran was placed under a three power occupation for the duration of the war. It is interesting to note, as a side-thought, that the Tudeh Party came into existence at just about the same time.

The history of the occupation is replete in examples of the many ways in which the Soviets, contrary to the Tri-Partite Treaty, interfered in the internal affairs of Iran. That interference primarily took place in areas dominated by the Soviet Army. The action of many Soviet commanders in using their military powers to advance the growth of the new Tudeh Party and to convert it to Communist ends is particularly noteworthy. Soviet-led Tudeh demonstrations were held in Tabriz and other cities and the Iranian security forces were physically prevented from putting down the subversive demonstrations. At the same time Soviet agents worked diligently on the Kurds, holding out the promise of an autonomous Kurdistan. Many other evidences of Soviet interference in Iranian affairs are on record. However, from the vantage point of hindsight what appears to be of importance is that even before the Teheran Declaration was signed the Soviets had already started to lay [Page 3] the organization which they undoubtedly hoped would eventually lead to their absorption of the northern areas.

Soviet Objectives:

The pattern of recent Soviet activity with regard to Iran seems to show that the assimilation operation is looked upon by them as two-phased. One gets the impression that Soviet policy would be immediately served through the acquisition of the land area adjacent to Baku. The proximity of the Baku oil fields and their vulnerability to air attack certainly must make it extremely desirable that a protective buffer soon be carried out to the south. Iranian territory, in fact points like a dagger at Baku.

The foregoing theory was borne out several years ago by the statement of a former Soviet Military Attaché. When discussing the “menace” to the Soviet Union inherent in the presence of American Military Missions in Iran, that official remarked that while the Soviets had placed many factories, airplane hangers, et cetera, underground they obviously could not do so with the oil fields or refineries. Consequently, the presence of potentially hostile military personnel adjacent to such an essential operation had to be a continual source of worry.

The second phase of the assimilation operation, the absorption of what remained after the acquisition of the northern area, would be both easy and difficult. The severance of the northern area would leave Teheran stranded more or less in the middle of the desert. Part of its food supply could be cut off or turned on and off at will. A good part of the country’s population, and much of its fertile and productive land would be gone. And the balance of the country could easily be flooded from the Soviet controlled zone with well-tutored Iranians. The difficulty would come in the southwest, when the British began to feel the pinch of events.

There are undoubtedly many other factors in the Iranian problem which must be significant to the Kremlin. Certainly global strategy will receive its due attention, and Soviet control of the northwestern area would have an important effect upon the Turkish position. That, however, is primarily within the realm of the military. Also, Iraq and the countries lying between it and the eastern shores of the Mediterranean would be affected by the penetration of Iran. However, while recognizing possible external effects this study will concern itself only with the internal aspects of the problem.

The Iranians and Communism:

The number of real Communists in Iran is comparatively very small. A good estimate probably would be one person per thousand. The member of Iranians who out of desperation induced by the unsatis[Page 4]factory state of affairs look to or sympathize with the Tudeh Party is, on the other hand, very considerable.

It is difficult for any one familiar with the ruggedly selfish and individualistic nature of the Iranians to imagine any situation in which most of them would subordinate their personal interests for the attainment of an ideal. In fact, the country probably would have been assimilated by the Soviets long before this had they been able to find more than a handful of persons willing to sacrifice themselves for the advancement of Communism. And certainly the Iranians understand only too well that the land on which they live has long been coveted by the Russians. There are factors which must increase the difficulties of communizing the population. Notwithstanding, there are strong factors operating in the Soviet favor.

The Iranian Government as it has existed during recent years has lacked the first requirement of sovereignty, the ability to rule effectively. Further, the loss of faith in Government on the part of the Iranian people has almost become complete. To them Government is simply an oligarchical structure which exists for the purpose of dividing the proceeds of corruption having the chosen few. It is this lack of cohesion in the social body which is driving the great mass of Iranians to search for a “change”, and more and more to feel that if Communism is the only available agency through which their present frustration can be relieved, then Communism will have to be accepted.

As one explores the Iranian mind of today one increasingly encounters the wish that another Reza Shah appear and reduce the present chaos to order. Iranian feelings along these lines are, of course, qualified. Some would settle for an “educated” dictator. Some look for an “honest” one. While the thought is never expressed, what always is implied is that self-rule has failed. And it is this same quest for order, for the reduction of the social system to a basis which will mean something to the individual, which is one of the factors driving people into the Tudeh camp. As an illustration, two Life photographers who recently visited Azerbaijan reported that they encountered certain persons in that area who still spoke of the accomplishments under the so-called “Democratic” regime.2

The average Iranian who becomes a Tudeh sympathizer does so mainly because the Tudeh promises to get rid of a regime which he has learned to despise and which he is certain will do nothing for him. And, the persistent belief that the Moslem religion will serve as a bulwark against the spread of Communism mostly represents wishful thinking, for the Moslem Church in Iran seems to be about as corrupt as the Gov[Page 5]ernment and to be equally ignorant of the problems of the age. The Iranian does not really look to the West because he has now generally adopted the belief that the West is trying to use him for its own ends. And, subconsciously, much of the hatred which is openly expressed toward the British is actually of a much deeper origin. It stems largely from the fact that the West, mostly through the instrumentality of the British who have been here for such a long period, has unalterably affected the former Persian way of life.

It is doubtful if Communism holds any real attraction for but a very limited number of Iranians. On the other hand, the country is in what might be called an embryonic revolutionary state and is groping for the means of doing something which it does not really yet comprehend. Communism does offer a vehicle under which the regime can be assailed and wrongs redressed. Its appeal to the youth seems to be particularly strong. Teheran University, for example, is shot through with Tudeh cells, and a similar situation is rapidly being imposed upon the secondary school system. Other groups, too, such as the railroad workers, are more open in espousing communistic feelings. Most of these groups seem to have one thing in common, the feeling that they are being ignored by the existing social system in terms of income or privilege, and for that reason the cause for the acceptance of communism is often found in depressed standards of living. The answer, however, would in this case seem to be deeper than that. Perhaps it can also be found in the political and social stagnation which characterizes the entire Near East and the resultant slow crumbling of the social organizations therein.

Finally, it would be a mistake to think that because it has no basic appeal outside of its ability to offer a change, Communism cannot sweep over Iran. An Iranian life is really one of expediency and should the choice ever be forced upon the masses it is likely that they would accept Communism with the feeling that their lot thereunder would not be worse than it is at present. From our point of view such a development would be a sorry one for while the Iranians undoubtedly would eventually adopt Communism to their own character yet certain basically needed social changes undoubtedly would occur and in the final summing up the Soviets and not the West would get credit for affecting those changes.

Methods Used in Recent Years by the Soviets in Their Attempts To Assimilate Iranian Territory:

It should be interesting to consider, in as chronological order as possible, the various methods used by the Soviets during recent years in their endeavors to assimilate Iranian territory. The end of World War II furnishes a good starting point, as it was then that the Soviets appar[Page 6]ently believed that the stage had been set for the incorporation of Azerbaijan.

(a) Establishment of Puppet State—

The Soviets showed no inclination to withdraw their troops from Iran under the terms of the Tri-Partite Treaty. Instead, they remained behind and protected the formation of the Azerbaijan puppet state. The old and wily Qavam went to Moscow to discuss the troop withdrawal question, but apparently returned empty handed. Later, talks were undertaken by him with the Soviet Ambassador in Teheran, and those talks led to the initialing of an agreement covering the creation of a joint Iran-Soviet company to exploit the northern oil. The Soviet troops were then withdrawn and the Iranian forces entered Azerbaijan and put down the insurrection. Many months later, however, the Soviets found that they did not even have the northern oil concession when the Majlis refused to give the necessary ratification.

It is difficult to explain the Soviet failure in these two instances. With regard to the collapse of the puppet state, some say that the Communist elements left there had been insufficiently trained and inspired while at the same time the Soviets did not expect that the Iranian Army would immediately enter the area. With regard to the oil deal one can still find two stories prevalent in Teheran: (a) that Qavam tricked the Soviets and (b) that Qavam intended to give them the northern oil concession but was frustrated by the Majlis.

There also were other forces bearing upon the Azerbaijan incident. There was United Nations pressure accompanied by great international sympathy for “little” Iran which was standing up to the Russian giant. Regardless of the reasons for the defeat of the Soviets one thing stands out and that is that their plans, had they carried successfully, would have given them real control of the northwestern area.

(b) Reliance upon Tudeh Activity—

With both their troops and the puppet state gone, the Soviets were more or less forced to rely upon the use of Iranians in their efforts at subversion. That primarily meant the Tudeh Party. Besides being the best means available, the Soviets seem to have placed more immediate faith in the party than subsequent events showed to be warranted.

The Tudeh Party is a difficult subject to discuss, because of the clandestine nature of its operations and also because, like so many other things in Iran what was planted as an oak seems to have come out resembling a melon vine, growing in all directions. The Tudeh was at the outset an Iranian organization. But the Soviets were apparently quick in recognizing the party to be an excellent catalyst which could be used to draw together the discontented groups and through which the energies thus liberated could be turned toward Soviet objectives.

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It seems that the Soviets gradually lost some of the hope which they initially placed in the organized power of the Iranian laboring classes. They evidently found that many of the Tudeh members or sympathizers were undependable as far as true communist activity was concerned. Also, there eventually developed some rebellion against increased interference from Moscow and in 1948 a seccessionist movement took place. A segment of the Tudeh then broke away and formed the Iranian Tudeh Socialist Society. That organization did not live long, and there is some suspicion that the schism might have been inspired by Moscow. On the other hand, intensified Soviet efforts to take over completely the Tudeh must also have been, to some degree, responsible.

In any event history was hastened when, in February 1948, the attempt upon the Shah’s life occurred. It is, parenthetically, still a moot point whether the Tudeh really was responsible for that incident. Yet that occurrence did result in the Tudeh being driven underground and many of its leaders being imprisoned. Since then and until several months ago the Government pursued a very strong anti-Tudeh policy, and little was obvious in the way of subversive activity except the occasional distribution of Communist literature. It is generally believed that the Tudeh lost ground during this period. In fact, it was only a year ago that Komissarov, who had formerly been an officer in the Soviet Embassy in Teheran, returned here for the reported purpose of cutting away from the Tudeh the many diverse elements which had attached themselves to it and were hindering its real movements. That move in itself seemed to indicate that the Soviets realized that to be effective the Tudeh needed a pruning and general overhauling.

(c) Direct Threats—

The Iranian-Soviet Treaty of 1921, which provided the legal basis for the entry of Soviet troops in 1941, was also resorted to by the Soviets. The pertinent clauses of that Treaty follow:

“Clause V:

Both the High Contracting Parties bind themselves:

1. Not to permit the formation, or existence on their territory of organizations or groups, under whatever name, or of separate individuals, who have made it their object to struggle against Persia or Russia, and also against states allied with the latter, and similarly not to permit on their territory the recruiting or mobilization of persons for the armies or armed forces of such organizations.

2. To forbid those states or organizations, under whatever name, which make it their object to struggle against the other High Contracting Party, to bring into the territory or to take through the territory of each of the High Contracting Parties anything that may be used against the other High Contracting Party.

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3. By all means at their disposal to prohibit the existence on their territory of the troops or armed forces of any third state whatsoever, the presence of which would constitute a threat to the frontiers, interests, or security of the other High Contracting Party.

“Clause VI:

Both the High Contracting Parties are agreed that in case on part of third countries there should be attempts by means of armed intervention to realize a rapacious policy on the territory of Persia or to turn the territory of Persia into a base for military action against the R.S.F.S.R., and if thereby danger should threaten the frontiers of the R.S.F.S.R. or those of Powers allied to it, and if the Persian Government after warning on the part of the Government of the R.S.F.S.R. should prove to be itself not strong enough to prevent this danger, the Government of the R.S.F.S.R. shall have the right to take its troops into Persian territory in order to take necessary military measures in the interests of self defense. When the danger has been removed the Government of the R.S.F.S.R. promises immediately to withdraw its troops beyond the frontiers of Persia.

The technique used was one of intimidation, of holding over the heads of the Iranians the threat to invoke the Treaty and occupy the northern area. The cause for the threatened action was found in the presence of the two American Military Missions, which allegedly were engaged in turning Iran into a base for operations against the Soviet Union and so constituted a danger to the security of that country. Very strong notes were sent to the Foreign Office in Teheran, but those notes were vigorously answered by Teheran. A state of tension was created but the Iranians stood up well under the pressure. Perhaps the Iranian rebuttal should have put on record the true fact that Clauses Five (V) and Six (VI) of the Treaty had been drafted with an entirely different set of conditions in mind and, as those conditions would no longer exist, the articles mentioned obviously were inapplicable. In other words, perhaps the Soviets did accomplish something through this maneuver to the extent that they created the belief that they had the right to invade the country should a situation which might menace their security develop. Plainly, however, the technique did not accomplish the desired purpose, for the Iranians retained both Military Missions while no Soviet occupation occurred.

[Omitted here is information about Iranian-Soviet commercial and consular activities.]

(f) Reversion to Technique of Friendship and Commerce

The latest Soviet move was made but several months ago. They then apparently became worried by the implication inherent in our plans to assist the country economically and seem to have decided to meet that challenge through a reversion to peaceful techniques, antici[Page 9]pating our move by entering the field of economics themselves. Also, their timing was very good, for they took advantage of the fear psychology generated in Teheran by the Korean episode, than in its early stages. They offered the Iranians the hope for the release of tension which would come from the restoration of friendlier relations, and did so at a time when foreign publications were asking “Is Iran next”? They released several Iranian soldiers who had been held as hostages and gained considerable good will from that inexpensive gesture. The trade discussions were attended by considerable publicity, and the feeling was generated among the populace that now was the time for work for friendlier relations with the Soviets and thus try to avoid what had happened in other countries.

At the same time, there was the gradual adoption of what might be termed a “soft” policy toward the Soviet Union on the part of the Iranians. That new policy seems to have resulted from several things: (a) the Iranian desire to demonstrate friendship, while keeping their fingers crossed at the same time, (b) the decision of the Razmara Government to restore a “balance” between the great powers interested in Iran (which carried with it the apparent desire of Razmara to be the first Premier within recent years able to deal with the Soviets), (c) possibly, according to political rumors, the existence of a secret understanding between Razmara and the Soviet Ambassador providing for greater freedom to Soviet “democratic” propaganda, the suppression of anti-Soviet propaganda and the release of some of the Tudeh leaders.

This latest technique has, so far, paid dividends greater than any of those previously used. That is not to say that the method alone was responsible for the result, for undoubtedly other pressures upon the Prime Minister caused him to seek a strengthening of his own position through some wooing of the Soviets. However, the course of internal and international events has led to the present position in which Soviet influence in Iran has considerably increased as Iranian policy has turned from one of orientation toward the West to that of “neutrality”.

This brings us up-to-date. As the Soviet fortunes have waxed, so have ours waned. The wheel of events turns quickly in Iran, however, and what is true today might be false tomorrow. On the other hand, having taken the initiative the Soviets can be expected to follow up that initiative. It might therefore be useful to speculate upon the courses of action which might be used by them in the future.

Methods Which Might in Future Be Used by the Soviets in the Attempt To Assimilate Iranian Territory:

The following appear to be the principal channels available to the Soviets for use in an attempt to assimilate Iranian territory:

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(a) To Use Commercial Relations as a Means of Political Infiltration—

It would be naive to think that the restoration of trade relations by the Soviets was undertaken with only commercial ends in view. The ends must also be political. Now that trade relations have been restored, even though on a restricted basis, there undoubtedly will be many occasions for the Soviets to pervert those dealings to political ends. There are, in fact, rumors in Teheran that the Soviets have already started to subsidize important merchants in return for the latter’s exertion of internal political activity in the Soviet interest. Further, undoubtedly the Soviets hope that the resumption of trade will primarily benefit the northern areas, where surpluses have been accumulating during the past years for lack of a market, and that the result will be to make those areas more amenable to Soviet overtures.

In this move, as in others, one can again fine reasons for believing that the basic objective of the Soviets must be aimed at the political influencing of the important northern areas. Perhaps their endeavors will be expedited by the Iranian inability to form Government-controlled trading companies in Azerbaijan, with the result that trade will eventually be reduced to a buyer-seller basis. And it probably would not take very much in the way of tangible achievement to convince many of the Azerbaijanis that they stood to gain more under a Communist-led autonomous government than under the state of affairs which now exists.

(b) To Establish a Situation Under Which Occupation of the Northern Areas Could be Accomplished Under the Treaty of 1921—

The Soviets are still in the position of being able to stimulate unrest among the Azerbaijanis and Kurds (and possibly introducing extraneous groups as well), and of them sending their troops into the area under the allegation that the security of the Soviet Union is thereby being threatened. That development, should it occur, would certainly be quickly brought to the attention of the United Nations. However, the determination of the legal points at issue probably would take considerable time, during which the Soviets would be enabled to lay the groundwork for whatever eventuality might be anticipated. Also, it might be wise for us to ascertain definitely just what position the British would take in the United Nations under such circumstances, especially as there were indications several years ago that the British interpretation of the pertinent articles of the Treaty did not then entirely agree with our own.

It seems likely from the information available that the population of Azerbaijan would not actively resist a Soviet occupation. Some undoubtedly would even welcome the move.

(c) To Endeavor to Reach an Agreement with the British Under Which Separate Spheres of Influence Would be Established in Iran—

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The Shah is reported to fear that out of the present international situation there might emerge an alignment of nations along the following plans: (1) a Soviet-led bloc, (2) an appeasement bloc, led by the British, and (3) a resistance bloc, led by the United States. He reportedly further fears that such a development might bring with it an understanding between the British and the Soviets whereunder, among other things, Soviet control of Azerbaijan might be exchanged for British control of the Khazistan-Abadan area. The Shah is supported in this belief by others, some of whom point to the fact that in 1946 the British were prepared to throw the Qashqais into revolt and thereby curve out their own puppet state around the oil fields and refineries when it appeared as though Azerbaijan might be lost.

Certainly there is reason to share the Shah’s reported fears that the continued growth in British circles of the desire to avoid entanglements which might lead to war might carry with it the hope of reaching some working agreement (even if temporary) with the Soviets. Such a division of interest would, again, seem to serve the primary interests of the Soviets and might easily be looked upon as a worthy expedient by the British inasmuch as they could then bring in troops to defend Abadan.

(d) To Continue to Use the Psychological Factors Inherent in the Present State of World Affairs as a Weakening Agent Against the Iranian Government and People—

The will of the Iranian Government and people to resist the Soviets has lessened considerably during the past year. The Iranians have been frightened by the Communist show of strength in Korea and, contrasting that strength with what they think is the global military weakness of the West, have concluded that their hope for survival lies in becoming “neutral” and in dropping their previous Western coloration. With this policy of neutrality and good neighborliness there has also developed the lessening of Government control over Communist activity. In fact, the authorities have become reluctant even to take any drastic measures against the Tudeh Party.

The Iranian is much more at home in the field of intrigue than he is on the field of battle. Consequently, he is very responsive to any evidence of real outside strength which might be directed against him. The Soviets might very well keep the Iranians in the present state of hopeful suspense, while at the same time preparing the ground for the installation of a new order and being helped in that connection by the uneasiness and consequently softness of the Iranians.

(e) Endeavor to Initiate Civil War in Azerbaijan—

Our Consulate in Tabriz has reported the presence in Azerbaijan of a number of officials of the former “Democratic” regime. Also, several newspapermen who recently toured through the area have reported that they found the population in general to be dissatisfied, to feel ne[Page 12]glected by the Central Government, and to be lacking in any real anti-Communist feelings. The Soviets undoubtedly could, if they wished, send into the area the Barzanis (greatly strengthened with Soviet nationals), together with groups which could be labeled refugees from the “Democratic” government. If at the same time the Kurds and the Azerbaijanis could be incited to rebel, a situation which might lead to a civil war can easily be imagined.

The foregoing possibility should not be confused with that set forth under paragraph (b). The situation envisaged here is one in which a prolonged civil war, with the insurgents receiving supplies across the border, might be developed. Such a move, if successful, could easily drain all of the country’s military energy and lead to a situation in which resistance to Soviet pressure would eventually be effectively destroyed unless, of course, outside strength should be added to that available to the Central Government.

(f) At the Propitious Moment, to Renew Their Demand for the Northern Oil Concession—

The Soviets certainly have not forgotten how they were tricked out of the northern oil concession. It is possible that they might eventually decide to renew their demands for that concession, perhaps selecting a moment for action in which Iranian fears have become really excited. A flood of Russian “technicians” into the area would make it fairly easy for the Soviets to obtain political control of the region, and possibly even to elect Majlis deputies who could carry the Communist line into the Majlis.

(g) At the Propitious Moment, to Renew Their Demands for the Dismissal of the Two American Military Missions—

The presence of the American Military Missions with the Iranian Army and Iranian Gendarmérie serves, from our point of view, much more of a political than military purpose. Their presence also is none [more?] proof, to the Iranians who see them every day, of American interest in the maintenance of the integrity of Iran.

It is possible that the Soviets might again be led to demand their dismissal, thinking that through such a move the Iranians might be made to feel a greater abandonment by the West. It is not unlikely, should such a maneuver be successful and given the continued weakening of the Iranian will to resist, that the Soviets might then endeavor to impose their own military missions upon the country.

(h) Increased Tudeh Activity—

There has been, within the past several months, a considerable increase in Tudeh activities. That increase is not as apparent in terms of visible demonstration as in terms of indications. Yet, there are outward signs, as in the case of inspired disturbances in the secondary school [Page 13] system. CAS Teheran has also received information to the effect that the cellular organization of the Tudeh Youth is to be broadened. Of greatest importance is the evidence, already mentioned, that the Government has abandoned the strong measures formerly used to keep the Tudeh in check.

It seems logical to suppose that the Soviets will endeavor to use the Tudeh to the limits of its capabilities. Those capabilities, however, are not too obvious, for a regrowth of the Party which was whittled down by Komissarov last year will undoubtedly bring with it the absorption of many undependable elements. The most informed opinion still holds that the Tudeh, acting solely by itself, is not strong enough to change materially the course of events. The Soviets certainly are also aware of this fact and in their planning must undoubtedly seek to coordinate Tudeh activities with some movement of greater strength.

(i) To Endeavor to Reach an Agreement with an Iranian Prime Minister Under Which the Country Would be Delivered into the Soviet Bloc—

The foregoing possibility exists, especially as it embodies a technique used by the Soviets in other areas. The development envisaged is, for evident reasons, most difficult to anticipate.

In this connection, some thought might be given to the relations between Prime Minister Razmara and the Soviets. While no evidence has yet been produced that Razmara is really pro-Soviet, yet the fact remains that he is the first Premier within recent years to lead the Iranians down the path of closer and consequently more dangerous relations with the Soviets. Also, CAS Teheran received a report on a recent Tudeh Youth meeting during which those present were informed that Razmara is actually working in the interests of the Soviets. While that report is difficult to evaluate, yet it also seems noteworthy that the Soviets have been very sparing in their criticism of Razmara. Even in the case of the recent Iranian action in voting to name the Chinese Communists as aggressors in Korea, the inspired leftist press in Teheran has placed the blame therefor mainly upon Entezum and not upon Razmara.

The Possible Shape of Things to Come:

If one assumes that the Soviets are ready for a world war, then there is little sense in trying to estimate on the basis of past developments what the future may bring. Under that circumstance the country could be quickly over-run, with probably little resistance from the Iranian Army, and incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Our thinking must therefor be based upon the supposition that the present ideological struggle (probably with armed conflicts arising from time to time on the borders dividing the Soviet and Free blocs) will continue for some period to come. Accepting that hypothesis, the [Page 14] study of the pattern of Soviet activity in Iran during recent years indicates that that activity has been primarily directed to the acquisition of the northern, particularly northwestern, areas of the country. It would seem logical to conclude therefrom that immediate Russian policy could be satisfied through the acquisition of political and military control over the Iranian land area south of Baku. The ultimate objective would, of course, remain the assimilation of the entire country, although perhaps that operation might not be attempted until the Soviets are ready to run the risks which would attend their entry into the Persian Gulf oil basin.

It is difficult to anticipate what the next Soviet move will be. Some of the techniques available for their use have been described. Yet, the Soviets are probably as dedicated to the rule of expediency as are the Iranians and will suit method and timing to the conditions which confront them.

The Soviet position in Iran can best be understood if the following thoughts are given the consideration which they deserve:

(1) The primary Soviet objective must be land and not, as is commonly believed, oil. While the “Heartland” doctrine of MacKinder has been found to be somewhat inapplicable today yet it is interesting to note that the Soviets now control all of the so-called Heartlands except the territories of Iran and Afghanistan, (Tibet being the last acquisition in that respect). Iranian oil must, of course, enter into Soviet planning but their objective certainly would remain unchanged even if tomorrow the oil under Iranian soil should suddenly disappear.

(2) Iran, the country being acted upon by the Soviets, is for all practical purposes but a geographical expression which has so far been maintained intact solely by the will of the West. Further, the course of events in Iran promises to be such as to lead eventually to a situation which will play directly into Soviet hands. The Iranian social system represents an anachronism which ultimately will be either changed or destroyed, and there is little reason to hope that the necessary changes will be brought about in proper time by those in power.

Finally, the situation which probably will ultimately develop in Iran was more or less predicted by Sumner Welles in 1946 in his book “Where are We Heading”. That situation is envisaged as a direct conflict between basic British and Russian interests in the country. While we would be primarily concerned with the international aspects of the collision of interests, the British might very easily be tempted to resort to a “realistic” settlement of the conflict. This would seem to be the time for us to decide the role which we would assume should such a state of affairs eventuate.

Joseph J. Wagner
Second Secretary of Embassy
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, Tehran Embassy Files, 1950–1952, classified general records, Box 27. Secret. Prepared by Joseph J. Wagner, Second Secretary of the Embassy. Sent by air pouch to the Department.
  2. Reference is presumably to the provincial government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party during the Iran crisis of 1946.