Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran (1941)

U.S. Department of State (June 23, 1941)

862.20291/14a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran

Washington, June 23, 1941 — 5 p.m.


The Department has received information from a reliable source that the Germans have established a skeleton General Staff in the German Legation at Tehran with branches located in German business firms throughout Iran. Please endeavor to ascertain the authenticity of this report.



U.S. Department of State (June 28, 1941)

862.20291/14a: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, June 28, 1941 — 11 a.m.
[Received 10:36 p.m.]


Neither this nor British Legation has been able to obtain reliable information concerning internal setup of German fifth column organization. It is known, as frequently reported to Department, that the organization is large, strategically placed, and well-prepared and it is said that 500 tough and well-armed men can be placed on the streets of Tehran within a few hours. While it is possible that a skeleton general staff exists in the German Legation it is more likely that the organization is the routine Nazi fifth column type with agents and branches in important German business concerns throughout the country. Its activities have increased since the beginning of the German-Russian war particularly among White Russians, Americans, and disaffected elements in the north. While Iranian police have been fully aware of fifth column activities and have placed agents under surveillance and restricted movements their police action has been too desultory and weak to prevent the building up of an efficient organization which is ready to strike at the proper moment. It is considered not unlikely that this moment will arrive when German forces penetrate into Caucasus.




I have a question you might not know but I’ve never been able to figure out: did Stalin have a red line with the Germans in the middle east, a time and place where he’d declare war on them for advancing too much? People, who don’t seem to have anything more but their not-so-informed views of realpolitik, that if the Germans got to Iraq and either forced Iran into the Axis or got military access to drive to India, Stalin would declare war because Iran is a Soviet Sphere of interest.

Based on what actually happened, I tend to think the Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran in 1941 would have become the German-Soviet occupation of Iran, and I also believe that Stalin would not have been upset at the Germans invading Turkey either, certainly not if there were concessions like Soviet military bases in some combination of the Dardenelles and Ismir and possibly territorial concessions on Western Armenia (not Wilsonian Armenia). And Hitler would be cool with that cause those bases would be easily overrun and who cares about Western Armenia?

But if you have any sources from the period on Soviet strategic thinking about the middle east, I’d be grateful if you could provide.


U.S. Department of State (July 24, 1941)

862.20291/14a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran

Washington, July 24, 1941 — 7 p.m.


With reference to the Department’s telegram No. 46 of June 23, 5 p.m. and your No. 67 of June 28, 11 a.m. the Department desires that you continue your endeavors to obtain authoritative, definite and specific information regarding the character and extent of alleged German fifth column activities in Iran and what measures if any the Iranian Government is adopting to combat them.



U.S. Department of State (July 29, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13497: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Iraq to the Secretary of State

Baghdad, July 28, 1941 — 4 p.m.
[Received July 29 — 5:15 a.m.]


British Chief [of?] Staff informed me this morning that British have in effect sent ultimatum to Iranian Government to deport all German tourists, numbering it is estimated 2,500. He says that British Army otherwise intends to move into Iran during first week of August and to occupy primarily Abadan and neighboring oil fields and perhaps bomb Tehran. Similar action against Afghanistan contemplated because of their acceptance as Minister of Von Hentig, Germans’ Colonel Lawrence of Persia during last war. Ennis requests inform War Department.

Sent to Tehran.


740.0011 European War 1939/13523: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, July 29, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received 11:50 p.m.]


Reference Baghdad’s No. 215, July 28, 4 p.m. While I have definite information that the British Minister and Soviet Ambassador are putting joint pressure on the Iranian Government to obtain the deportation of Germans in Iran, I have obtained no substantiation of the allegation that anything resembling an ultimatum backed by either military of [or] economic threats has been delivered. The British Minister, who is cooperating fully with me, denies the report but informs me in confidence that he and the Soviet Ambassador are exerting strong pressure on the Iranians to effect the deportation of four-fifths of the Germans in Iran although he does not hope to accomplish this full goal. Although the Prime Minister informed me personally that to accede to the British demands would be in his opinion unneutral, the British Minister informed me today that he has already obtained the promise of the departure of 13 German nationals at once and 11 next week including those employed in the radio station. Rumors are current of imminent British attack on Iran and while I do not consider this out of the realm of possibility, I am convinced that nothing in the form of an ultimatum has been given.

Referring to the Department’s No. 58, July 24, 7 p.m., neither this Legation nor the British Legation intelligence officer has obtained information that a skeleton general staff exists in the German Legation and the Prime Minister believes it does not.

It is known that storm troopers Gamotta and Mayer, who are ostensibly employed by Schenkers Transport Company, head an efficient Nazi party organization with branches throughout the country and with members strategically placed and instructed as to their part when the day of action arrives. However, the view is held by the Turkish Ambassador and some other well-informed observers that the size and strength of German fifth column organization have been exaggerated through propaganda. The Prime Minister places the number of Germans in Iran as 700, the British at 2 to 3 thousand and some others at 1200 to 1500. Many of them are honestly employed by the Government or business concerns while others have ostensible employment in various German companies: few if any are strictly speaking tourists.

The Prime Minister assures me that the danger of fifth column work has been brought repeatedly to his attention and that the police are keeping Germans under strict surveillance, restricting their movements within the country and examining closely new applications for admission. He added that any persons found to be engaged in illegal activities would be immediately deported.

Copy sent to Baghdad.



Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Washington, July 29, 1941.

Mr. Nevile Butler, Minister-Counselor of British Embassy.
Mr. Murray
Mr. Alling

Mr. Butler said that a few days ago Mr. Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador at London, suggested to Mr. Eden that the British and Soviet Governments make joint representations to the Iranian Government urging it to get rid of between 5,000 and 10,000 German agents operating in Iran. Mr. Butler said that Mr. Eden had agreed to this proposal and that the joint representations had been made in Tehran a day or two ago. He said that the Iranian reply was noncommittal.


U.S. Department of State (August 2, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13630: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 1, 1941 — noon.
[Received August 2 — 8 p.m.]


The official Iranian news agency issued a statement yesterday in answer to foreign press and radio reports concerning the danger to Iran from Germans residing in this country. The statement says that such reports are not based on fact and exaggerate the number of Germans in Iran, that the Government has a list of all foreigners and keeps surveillance over them, that the actions by and with foreigners are known and none will be permitted to commit illegal acts and that the Government is still guardian of the legal rights of the inhabitants.

This statement is much milder and more conciliatory than former strong and bellicose statements that Iran will defend her neutrality at all costs against any foreign power. Iran’s policy of strict neutrality has been made difficult as a result of the new combination of Great Britain and Russia. There are growing indications in the last few days that Iran is being forced into closer cooperation with the British. As indicated in the Legation’s number 82, the British have obtained the promise of the departure of 24 Germans and there is widespread rumor that many more are preparing to leave.

It is probable that the British warning to Iran is part of a war of nerves as a prelude to continued stronger measures if Iranian cooperation is not obtained. The local situation is confused and further reports will be made as clarifying developments occur.



U.S. Department of State (August 3, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13645: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 2, 1941 — noon.
[Received August 3 — 3:53 p.m.]


Referring to the Legation’s No. 84 dated Aug. 1, noon, I had last evening an extended and frank conversation with the Prime Minister who began by saying that he is most anxious to make the Iranian viewpoint clear to the American Government and hence will keep me informed of developments. He confirmed that strong pressure is being exerted by both the Russians and the British to require the expulsion from Iran of 80% of the Germans. This pressure he said is strong but formal and not backed by military or economic threat although he added that he fears it is the prelude to greater demands. The Iranian Government cannot he declared in view of its policy of strict neutrality and its desire to be faithful to its treaty with Germany accede to this extraordinary request. He characterized the demand which he thought originated solely with the British as extremely unfair and unjust. He informed the British and Russian envoys that he could not accede to their demand but that he would expel any German from Iran upon submission of evidence of his having engaged in illegal activities. The Germans, he states, have threatened to break off relations with Iran if the British demands are complied with.

Although the Prime Minister is bitter and obdurate there are signs that he is weakening. For example, he stated that in an endeavor to find a solution he has promised the British that he will gradually get rid of Government employed Germans whose services can be spared. It is doubtful if the Iranians can withstand further strong pressure by their two powerful neighbors. Whether the country will submit gracefully or offer a gesture of resistance was declared a matter of conjecture.

The Ettela’at of yesterday carried a leading editorial denouncing the Free French news agency in bitter terms for its false news as to the activities of Germans in Iran and its endeavor to embroil a peaceful country in war. The Prime Minister who was probably responsible for the article expressed the same sentiments to me in his conversation.



U.S. Department of State (August 8, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13803: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 8, 1941 — 10 p.m.
[Received August 8 — 9:55 p.m.]


For the Secretary and the Under Secretary.

Mr. Eden asked me to see him this afternoon and gave me the text of a message which is being sent to the British Minister at Tehran instructing him on August 16 to present to the Iranian Government a lengthy memorandum dealing with the presence of Germans in Iran and the urgent necessity for their removal from the country. The British Minister is also requested to hand a copy at the same time if possible to the Shah66 himself or at least to insure that the Shah receives a copy without delay.

The text of the memorandum to be presented to the Iranian Government after references to continued affirmation on the part of the Iranian Government of its desire to maintain an attitude of neutrality and to remain outside the zone of hostilities in the present war, points out that this desire had been equally felt by other states who have since been attached or overrun by German armed forces. In light of this incontestable fact the British Government feels it is obliged to put forward in the most friendly spirit certain observations to which the Iranian Government’s most serious attention is invited.

The British Government emphasizes the fact that it accepts and endorses the Iranian Government’s policy of neutrality and declares that it has no designs against Iran’s political independence. It points out that with the development of the war, however, a serious danger to both Iran and to British interests has become manifest. It recalls that as long ago as January last the British Government brought to the notice of the Iranian authorities its grave concern in regard to excessively large numbers of German nationals who had been permitted to reside in Iran. This concern of the British Government has on subsequent occasions been reaffirmed to the Iranian Government. The Iranian Government appears to have recognized the wisdom of the advice given by the British Government that the number of Germans should be drastically reduced and has indicated that it is taking steps to insure that Germans whose residence permits have expired, whose conduct is suspected or who can be replaced by Iranians should leave the country as soon as possible. The Iranian Government has also admitted its obligation to keep the activities of such Germans as remain under strict control. The number of Germans who have in fact left the country is, however, very small and the British Government observes that the Iranian Government has still failed to realize the urgency of the problem and the gravity with which it is regarded by the British Government. In these circumstances the British Government repeats in the most formal and emphatic manner its recommendation that the German community in Iran should be required without further delay to leave the country. If the Iranian Government should wish to retain temporarily a few German technicians now engaged on important work in connection with Iranian industry it is requested that a complete list of the names of these technicians whom it is desired to retain and the exact nature of the work on which they are employed should be communicated to the British Minister at Tehran. The British Government would expect this list to be kept as small as possible. None of the German technicians to be so retained should be employed on work connected with the Iranian system of communications, railroads, roads, telegraphs, telephones, wireless or where their harmful activities during a period of crisis might paralyze the national life of Iran. It is requested that similar steps be taken to control the activities of refugees who fled from Iraq and it is pointed out that the Iranian Government is under clear obligation to take effective measures to prevent the use of Iranian territory by these refugees for intrigues directed against Iraq and its allies.

A separate telegram sent to the British Minister at Tehran following the foregoing informs him that in discussing with Iranian Government the suggestion that certain German technicians be allowed to remain in Iran he should keep clearly in mind that the British object is to obtain reduction of Germans by four-fifths; It is pointed out that no time limit has been inserted in the memorandum as it is not desired to give it the character of an ultimatum. The British Minister is told, however, that he should make it clear in conversation that the British Government hopes for an immediate assurance from the Iranian Government that the reduction of 80% will have been made by August 31.

Mr. Eden informed me that the Soviet representative at Tehran is being instructed to make the same representations, and he said that it would be of great help if the American Minister at Tehran might be authorized to say to the Government that in his opinion the British and the Russian point of view is a right and necessary one and that the Iranian Government should meet it. He said that both the British and the Russians are going to emphasize that they have no territorial ambitions whatever in Iran and he said the Russian Government had recently given clear assurances to the British Government that they have no territorial ambitions whatever in Iran — they simply want to get the Germans out.

The Turks have been informed of this move in Iran and Mr. Eden says that they do not like it because of their apparent suspicion of Russian aims in Iran. He hopes that our Ambassador at Ankara may be authorized to express approval of the move as a necessary one and one not designed to impair the political status of Iran.

In order to further allay if possible Turkish suspicions of Russia the British and Russian Governments have agreed to make a unilateral secret declaration to the Turkish Government which goes a very long way for Russia, as it disclaims any aggressive intentions or claims to the Straits.

They think here that the Russian declaration may be given greater weight at Ankara by the fact that it is to be paralleled by a similar British declaration, as the Turks do not suspect Great Britain of any ulterior designs on the Straits.

The following is the English text of the proposed Soviet Government’s declaration to Turkey which was given me by Mr. Eden:

The Soviet Government confirm their loyalty to the Montreux Convention and assure the Turkish Government that they have no aggressive intentions or claims whatever with regard to the Straits. The Soviet Government as also his Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are prepared scrupulously to observe the territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic.

While fully appreciating the desire of the Turkish Government not to be involved in war the Soviet Government, as also his Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, would be prepared to render Turkey every help and assistance in the event of her being attacked by any European [power?].

Eden says that his Government hopes above all that it will not be necessary to take direct action in Iran, they must envisage the possibility, however, that the Germans may reach the Caucasus and the borders of Iran and cannot allow the dangerous nucleus of German technicians and political agents now in Iran to remain there. I gather from him that the Russians share these views.

If the Department should feel it can go any way to meet Mr. Eden’s desire for American action at Tehran and Ankara, I would appreciate being advised by telegraph.

Full text of memorandum will be forwarded by next airmail pouch.


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The Pittsburgh Press (August 8, 1941)


Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 8 (UP) –
An authoritative diplomatic source said today that the German minister to Iran, W. von Etter, had warned the Iranian government that Germany would break off diplomatic relations if any more Germans were expelled from the country under British pressure.

British sources at Ankara said Germans were active in Iran and Afghanistan and that there was danger of an attempt at a coup d’état.

Berlin, Aug. 8 –
Nazi informants said today they had no information of a reported warning to Iran.

London, Aug. 8 –
Great Britain and Russia will continue to urge the departure of German nationals from Iran, it was reported in authoritative quarters today.

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U.S. Department of State (August 9, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13821: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 9, 1941 — 5 p.m.
[Received August 9 — 11:10 a.m.]


For the Secretary and the Under Secretary.

Mr. Eden informs me that the date of August 16th mentioned in first paragraph has been changed to August 14th.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 9, 1941)


Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 9 (UP) –
Diplomatic sources predicted today that the British-German diplomatic battle concerning Turkey and Iran would reach its climax before the end of August, possibly with both countries becoming a new battlefield.

A German courier plane which arrived at Istanbul Tuesday from Berlin brought one of the highest-ranking officials of the German Secret Service and his assistant, authoritative sources said. Both agents were said to be en route to Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Axis sources charge the British are concentrating forces in northeastern Iraq, preparing to enter northwestern Iran. They point out that such a move would enable the British to make a useful connection with the Russians and would put them in position to help destroy the important oil centers at Batumi and Baku, Russia, in event of a Soviet collapse.

German propagandists were said to have hinted broadly that the Batumi and Baku regions might be given to Turkey if Russia is defeated and Britain forced to make peace.

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U.S. Department of State (August 11, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13858: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 11, 1941 — 8 p.m.
[Received August 11 — 3:55 p.m.]


Mr. Eden informed me today that at the time the British memorandum is delivered to the Iranian Government on August 14 a separate communication will also be handed over in which the British Government undertakes to guarantee the territorial integrity of Iran. This guarantee will, of course, be in addition to the declaration contained in the memorandum that Great Britain has no designs against Iran’s political independence. Mr. Eden stated that he has suggested to the Russians that they also accompany their parallel representations at Tehran with a guarantee of Iran’s territorial integrity along the line of the British action. No word has been received from Moscow but Mr. Eden believes the Russians should accept his suggestion.


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740.0011 European War 1939/13857: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 11, 1941 — 5 p.m.
[Received August 11 — 4 p.m.]


Reference English text of proposed Soviet Government’s declaration to Turkey. Mr. Eden gave me today the following text of a declaration which has been made by the British Government to the Turkish Government:

(Oral preamble) In view of anti-Russian propaganda by the Germans, His Majesty’s Government and the Soviet Government have considered it right to reaffirm categorically their attitude towards Turkey in order that the Turkish Government may be under no delusion in the formation of their policies towards Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

(Written declaration) His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom affirm their fidelity to the Montreux Convention and assure the Turkish Government that they have no aggressive intentions or claims with regard to the Straits. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, as also the Soviet Government, are prepared scrupulously to observe the territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic.

While fully appreciating the desire of the Turkish Government not to be involved in war, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, as also the Soviet Government, would nevertheless be prepared to render Turkey every help and assistance in the event of her being attacked by any European power.

His Majesty’s Ambassador has at the same time addressed a note to the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs stating that, as far as His Majesty’s Government are concerned, the proposed declaration is intended to be merely a repetition of our undertaking towards Turkey as set out in Article 1 of the Anglo-Turkish treaty of the 19th October, 1939. The declaration does not in any way modify, extend or detract from the Anglo-Turkish treaty.

Following is text given me by Mr. Eden of the declaration made by the Soviet Government to the Turkish Government.

(Oral preamble) As late as March 1941, that is to say during the period of well-known treaty relations between the U.S.S.R. and Germany, the Soviet Government exchanged assurances with the Government of the Turkish Republic in connection with reports that were then being spread to the effect that if Turkey were compelled to enter the war Russia would take advantage of Turkey’s difficulties to attack her. It will be recalled that the Soviet Government for their part considered it necessary at that time to declare that such reports in no way corresponded to the attitude of the U.S.S.R. and that if Turkey were in fact attacked and compelled to enter the war for the defence of her territory she could count on full understanding and neutrality of the U.S.S.R. on the basis of the non-aggression pact between the two countries.

It is known that after the treacherous attack of Nazi Germany on the U.S.S.R., the Germans conducted and are still conducting a malicious propaganda against the U.S.S.R. intended inter alia to bring about discord between the U.S.S.R. and Turkey.

In view of the fact that this propaganda, which is being intensively conducted by the German Government, has become even stronger at present and considering that in the present international situation it is opportune that an exchange of views should take place between the Soviet Government and the Turkish Government on the subject of relations between the U.S.S.R., Turkey and Great Britain, the Soviet Government have instructed me, M. le Ministre, to make to Your Excellency the following declaration.

(Written declaration) The Soviet Government confirm their fidelity to the Montreux Convention and assure the Turkish Government that they have no aggressive intentions or claims with regard to the Straits. The Soviet Government, as also His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, are prepared scrupulously to observe the territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic.

While fully appreciating the desire of the Turkish Government not to be involved in war the Soviet Government, as also His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, would nevertheless be prepared to render Turkey every help and assistance in the event of her being attacked by any European power.

When he gave me these two papers Mr. Eden said they had not hoped here for so quick a response from Russia to the suggestion that a Russian declaration be made to Ankara and that they are much gratified by the quick action. The British Ambassador in Ankara has reported that the Turkish Government is greatly pleased by the Soviet declaration and has expressed the wish that both the British and the Soviet declarations be made public. The British agree and Mr. Eden believes that the Russians will also although no reply to the request has yet been received.


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Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Washington, August 11, 1941.

The Iranian Minister called on me by appointment this afternoon and discussed at some length what he regards as the critical situation of his country as a result of the pressure now being brought upon Iran by both London and Moscow because of the alleged presence in Iran of several thousand German nationals suspected of seditious activities. Mr. Shayesteh seemed to be deeply troubled and declared that the present developments had an ominous resemblance both to the situation leading up to the partition of Persia in 1907 between Czarist Russia and Great Britain and to the callous disregard of Persia’s declared neutrality during the last World War by the same two countries.

Insisting that the number of Germans now in Iran was grossly exaggerated, the Minister went on to explain that the Iranian Government, as the Department must be aware, has during recent years exercised the greatest precaution in granting visas to any foreigners entering that country. He reminded me that the Iranian Legation in Washington had to refer to Tehran, and receive its approval, any requests for visas, even for American Consular officers proceeding to Iran. Such being the case, the Minister said he was convinced that the present accusations leveled at Iran by Moscow and London were merely a pretext preparatory to aggressive measures against his country — Iran was cast for the role of the lamb in Aesop’s fable of “The Wolf and the Lamb.”

The Minister said he greatly feared that a situation was developing in which Iran might become a victim of British and Soviet aggression and he added that, in such an eventuality, his country would certainly expect to receive moral support and even material assistance from this country. The Minister then launched into a recital of the tragic history of Iran during the past century or more, when she had been subject to constant threats and menaces of both Russia and Britain, rivals for a position of supremacy in the ancient kingdom. This struggle had led to the practical extinction of Iran as a sovereign power in 1907 and the total disappearance of Iran was only avoided by the defeat of Czarist Russia in 1917 and the new orientation in the foreign policy of the Soviet Union assumed in the Soviet-Persian Treaty of 1921. The Minister felt that the Shah had really been divinely sent to rescue Iran from her hopeless situation and that his accomplishments during the last twenty years in providing Iran with self-respect and reestablishing her position in the society of nations had been little short of miraculous. All of this would be threatened with destruction if the present developments continued.

I asked the Minister whether he believed the Shah would consent to a request from either Great Britain or Russia for the passage of troops across his territory. The Minister said the Shah’s pride and character was such that he would be incapable of accepting any such demand, even though a refusal might mean disastrous defeat. When I questioned the Minister as to whether he believed the Shah would permit the passage of arms and munitions over the new Iranian railroad from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, he said he was not able to answer that question.

Returning again to the question of the alleged thousands of “tourists” and agents in Iran, I asked the Minister whether he had any precise figures in that regard. He said his impression was that there were not more than six or seven hundred in all. I then suggested that it might be helpful if he would obtain exact information from his Government on that subject. I also expressed an interest in being informed of the substance of the recent communications exchanged between Tehran and London and Tehran and Moscow on this subject. The Minister said he would not fail to acquaint himself with the facts without delay.

In departing the Minister said he was hoping and praying that this present crisis might be alleviated at an early moment but that, if this did not occur, he contemplated seeking an occasion to present the viewpoint of his Government on this subject to the Secretary of State.

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U.S. Department of State (August 12, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13883: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 12, 1941 — 11 a.m.
[Received August 12 — 8:53 a.m.]


The statement in sixth paragraph of my 3511 that the Turks have been already advised of the Anglo-Russian démarche to be made at Tehran on August 14, due to a misunderstanding is incorrect. Sir Orme Sargent informed me yesterday afternoon that Mr. Eden has been discussing with the Soviet Ambassador the manner and time of informing the Turkish Government of this move. Following a talk today with M. Maisky, Mr. Eden has telegraphed the British Ambassador at Ankara along the following lines:

Mr. Eden is discussing with the Soviet Government the proposal that the two Ambassadors should inform the Turkish Government on August 14 of the substance of the memorandum which is to be addressed to the Iranian Government on that date and that when doing so they should give the Turkish authorities, mutatis mutandis, assurances in the following terms:

‘H. M. Government (the Soviet Government), as they have informed the Iranian Government, fully accept and endorse the Iranian policy of neutrality. They have themselves no designs against Iran’s political independence or territorial integrity. It is their sincere desire to maintain that policy of friendship and cooperation with Iran which they believe to be in the best interests of both Iran and the British Empire (Soviet Union).

Mr. Eden has asked Ambassador Knatchbull-Hugessen to arrange with his Soviet colleague how best to make their communications to the Turkish Government, assuming that the Soviet Government agrees. The British Ambassador has been told that Mr. Eden sees no objection to the communication being made jointly if he and his Soviet colleague think this would be the best procedure.

Sargent said that Mr. Eden hopes (my 3511, August 8, sixth paragraph) Mr. MacMurray may be authorized to express approval of the Iranian move with a view to facilitating Turkish acceptance and realization that Anglo-Russian aims are not directed at the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iran. Mr. Eden hopes also that Mr. MacMurray may if the Department approves of the foregoing be authorized to discuss the matter with both the British and Russian Ambassadors before he determines way of approach to the question.

Maisky has not received word from Moscow of approval for this action at Ankara on August 14 but Mr. Eden thinks there is no doubt it will come as the Russians have shown every indication of a sincere and enthusiastic desire to calm Turkish anxiety and suspicions. It was on Russian initiative that the declarations to the Turkish Government reported in my 3550, August 11, 5 p.m. were made.



U.S. Department of State (August 13, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/13915: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 12, 1941 — 10 a.m.
[Received August 13 — 7 a.m.]


The British Minister has informed me that British troops in Iraq have taken up positions nearer the Iran frontier. He also stated that the Foreign Minister told him yesterday that the Iran Government was aware of such troop movements.

The war of nerves continues with increasing force in the form of daily broadcasts from Ankara, Baku, and other stations. Baku, the Prime Minister informs me, has been particularly objectionable in broadcasting false news of intensified German activity and sabotage in Iran. I have been able to obtain no confirmation of a broadcast yesterday from Boston regarding disturbances and arrests in the Iran Army. The Iran Government is maintaining an admittedly stubborn attitude concerning the deportation of Germans but there are signs that the war of nerves is having an effect. For example the Foreign Minister yesterday asked the British Minister informally whether the deportation of Mayer and Gamotta mentioned in the Legation’s No. 82 of July 29, 6 p.m., would satisfy the British. In spite of widespread rumors of the impending departure of large numbers of Germans the Turkish Ambassador informs me that no more than a normal number have been obtaining visas for transit through Turkey which is the only possible exit.

It is considered not unlikely that the situation here will soon enter a more critical stage.


740.0011 European War 1939/13916: Telegram

The Minister Resident in Iraq to the Secretary of State

Baghdad, August 13, 1941 — 1 p.m.
[Received 6:50 p.m.]


British Ambassador informs me that acting under instructions, he has urged Iraq Government to make representation to Iranian Government, invoking Saadabad Pact, to take action against German tourists and Iraqi political refugees who are using Iran as a base of political intrigues against Iraq. He has warned Iraq Government that those German tourists and Iraqi refugees are undoubtedly trying to do in Iran what they endeavored to do in Iraq, namely, to bring about a coup d’état which would put a pro-Axis group in power and thus become a menace to Iraq. Rumors of such coup d’état actually having taken place are circulating in Baghdad but are unconfirmed.

I gather that British will continue to use pressure to gain their point with the Iranians and that they are prepared to use force if necessary — British military dispositions are actually in progress in Iraq with that object in view. Baker requests inform War Department.



U.S. Department of State (August 16, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14005: Telegram

The Minister in Iran (Dreyfus) to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 15, 1941 — 8 a.m.
[Received August 16 — 5 a.m.]


The British Minister informs me that he and the Soviet Ambassador will deliver parallel notes to the Iranian Government tomorrow afternoon. These notes will express the dissatisfaction of the two Governments that Iran has not seen fit to heed the warning given a month ago as to the danger to this country from Germans residing here and will make further insistent demands that a large part of them be expelled. The Iranians will be asked to furnish a list of Germans whom they wish to retain because their services are indispensable and the two Governments will offer their assistance in replacing them with nationals of other countries. They will stress that Great Britain and Russia have no designs against the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Iran.

Verbally on the occasion of the presentation of the notes the Iranian Government will be told that about four-fifths of all the Germans in Iran should be expelled by the end of August but certainly not later than the middle of September and that an answer to the notes will be expected within 3 days.

The verbal demands and the implied threat of military action make the notes a virtual ultimatum although the British Minister stresses that they are not intended as such. The British Minister left no doubt in my mind that unless the demands are complied with the Russians will occupy the north of Iran and the British the remainder.

My British colleague believes that the British in case of invasion will have the situation so soon in hand that the question of representation of British interests by this Legation will not arise.

Although predictions are dangerous it would seem likely that the demands will be refused, that the country will be invaded and that the Iranians will put up a weak gesture of resistance. Iranian troops and equipment have for some time been moving to the north and more recently to the south. The Shah is reported to be near the Turkish frontier inspecting troops.

I consider it not unlikely that if invasion comes the Shah will lose his throne.…

I have laid up supplies of necessary articles and have taken all possible precautions for the protection of our citizens in case of necessity.



740.0011 European War 1939/13803: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom

Washington, August 16, 1941 — 7 p.m.


Please inform Mr. Eden that this Government appreciates being informed of the nature of the memorandum to be delivered to the Iranian Government, and that our Minister in Tehran has been informed of this action.

You may say to Mr. Eden that while we do not wish our Minister to participate in the joint representations being made in Tehran, he will bear them in mind in his conversations on this subject with the Iranian Government.



740.0011 European War 1939/13883: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran

Washington, August 16, 1941 — 9 p.m.


The American Embassy in London has been advised by the Foreign Office that the Governments of Great Britain and the Soviet Union are about to make formal demands upon Iran for the expulsion of four fifths of the Germans in that country. Reports of this step are figuring prominently in the American press which is engaged in speculation as to possible further action which may be taken against Iran by Great Britain and the Soviet Union in case a satisfactory answer is not returned to the joint demands.

You should, of course, keep in close touch with your interested colleagues and with the competent Iranian authorities in order that you may keep the Department promptly and fully informed of developments in the present situation.

You should also seek an early occasion to discuss the situation with high Iranian officials, and, without associating yourself with the present representations of your British and Soviet colleagues, unless the Department later instructs you to do so, express the earnest hope of this Government that the Iranian Government is taking all necessary measures to avoid a spread into Iran of Nazi activities which could not fail to result disastrously for that country. The examples of Iraq and Syria are, of course, pertinent in this connection and might be cited in support of the above observation.

Meanwhile, in order that the Department may be in a position to evaluate properly all phases of the situation, it is necessary that we should be provided as soon as possible with specific and reliable data regarding the character and extent of any Nazi activities in Iran. In reporting on these subjects please be precise in your statements, differentiating between fact and rumor, and, unless you consider it harmful, you should indicate the sources of information. As you probably realize the information thus far received from your Legation on this subject has been somewhat vague and contradictory and insufficient for the needs of the Department in the present situation.



U.S. Department of State (August 18, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14116

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 18, 1941 — 1 p.m.
[Received 8 p.m.]


The British and Russian notes, referred to in the Legation’s No. 92, were delivered Saturday. Other than a fresh surge of rumors and increasing nervousness among foreigners there are no important developments to report. There is no indication yet as to any new Iranian Government order. The British Minister’s impression is that the Iranians are still seeking a magic formula which will satisfy parties. Developments are expected soon.



The Pittsburgh Press (August 18, 1941)

Virtual ultimatum –

Britain, Russia have armies ready to enforce edict

By Frederick Kuh, United Press staff writer

London, Aug. 18 –
Great Britain and Russia have determined to force thousands of German agents out of Iran and the polite wording of a note they have delivered to the Iranian government is merely sugarcoating to make the semi-ultimative demand more palatable, it was understood today.

The presence of some 4,000 Germans in Iran, many of them in key positions in the Iranian railroad, radio, telegraph and telephone systems, is regarded as a danger to both Britain and Russia.

Iran is understood to be well aware that both British and Russia have strong military forces in position for action, if action is necessary, to safeguard their interests against the German danger.

Authoritative sources made it known yesterday that Britain and Russia, through their envoys at Tehran, had requested the Iranian government to take “effective action” to end what is called a menace.

An informant said:

Concern is felt by the two governments in regard to the effectively large number of Germans in Iran. It is feared that the Iranian government has not appreciated the urgency of the problem and Sir Reader Bullard, the British Minister, and Andrey A. Smirnov, the Russian Ambassador, have repeated their recommendations that effective measures should be taken at an early date if the potential means arising from the activities of these Germans is to be removed.

Britain and Russia want at least 80% of the Germans sent home and they have offered to replace all German technicians whose services Iranian needs.

The longer the Germans continue to attack Russia, especially along the Black Sea coast, the more important Iran’s position becomes. The Iranian coast, in the British and Russian view, provides a potentially dangerous base for German raids across the Caspian Sea on the Caucasus oil fields. Iran is now the only serious danger spot in the Near East.

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