Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran (1941)

U.S. Department of State (August 19, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14121: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 19, 1941 — midnight.
[Received August 19 — 3 p.m.]


The British Minister was called to the Foreign Office yesterday to receive the Iranian counterproposal to the British demands: The Iranians would deport the three principal Nazi leaders, Mayer, Gamotta, and Eilers, and would continue their program already begun of expelling about 30 Germans a month as they can be spared. Although the British Minister transmitted the proposal to London by telegraph he informed the Foreign Minister that in his opinion it would be rejected since more than a year would be required to realize the departure of an appreciable number of Germans.

I gained the distinct impression in a long conversation yesterday with the Foreign Minister that the Iranians are temporizing and parrying without realizing the seriousness of their situation. Unless they abandon their search for a magic formula and face immediately the realities of the situation they will perhaps within the next few days find it is too late.



U.S. Department of State (August 20, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14121: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran

Washington, August 20, 1941 — 8 p.m.


From your 96, August 19, midnight, it would not appear that the Department’s 64, August 16, 9 p.m., had been received at the time of your conversation with the Foreign Minister on August 18. You are requested to telegraph whether you have received the Department’s 64 as well as a full report of your conversation with Iranian officials pursuant thereto.


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U.S. Department of State (August 21, 1941)


Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs to the Secretary of State

Washington, August 21, 1941.

Mr. Secretary:

The Iranian Minister has an appointment to see you tomorrow, August 22, at 11 o’clock, when he will explain to you, under instructions from his Government, the present situation in Iran. He proposes at that time to leave with you the original of the attached aide-mémoire which has been telegraphed to him by his Government and which contains the Iranian reply to the recent British demands made upon Iran for the ostensible purpose of bringing about the expulsion of most of the German nationals now in that country.

During a call from the Iranian Minister on August 19, when he requested the present appointment to see you, he read to me the full text of a long telegram he had just received from his Government, the substance of which is contained in the attached aide-mémoire. As you will recall, I inquired of the Iranian Minister, during an earlier conversation regarding the present crisis in his country, what the attitude of his Government would be in case of a British demand to permit the passage of British troops through Iran to Russia, and also what the attitude of his Government would be in case a demand for the passage of arms and munitions through his country were made. On that occasion the Minister stated as his opinion that his Government would not Under any circumstances permit the passage of troops through his country. As for the passage of arms and munitions, he was not in a position to reply to me. During the Minister’s last call on me on August 19, he said he was now in a position to tell me, under instructions from his Government, that no passage of foreign troops through his country would be permitted under any circumstances. While the Minister did not reply specifically to my inquiry regarding the passage of arms and munitions, he pointed out that the Iranian railway was not equipped to carry heavy arms such as the tanks, et cetera.

Commenting on the possibility of an attempted occupation of the country by the British and Bolshevik troops, the Minister said he thought it was unthinkable that Britain would take any aggressive action against his country. As for the possibility of an attempted Bolshevik occupation, the Minister observed that Russia seemed to have her hands full at the present time, and that in any case Iran would put up a desperate and, he thought, successful resistance to any attempt of the Bolshevik Army to invade Iran.

The Minister again emphasized that his Government would count heavily upon American sympathy and assistance in case of any acts of aggression against his country.


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U.S. Department of State (August 22, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14278: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 21, 1941 — 4 p.m.
[Received August 22 — 9:50 p.m.]


Reference to Department’s No. 64, dated August 16, 9 p.m. The Department will undoubtedly have received the Legation’s No. 92, August 15, 8 a.m., concerning the new British and Russian demands. The Legation is indeed in close and harmonious contact with diplomatic officers and Government officials and as a result was able to obtain so promptly the information contained in its No. 92, which was in the nature of a local scoop. The Department must realize that actions of this kind originate in London and hence it is not unnatural that our diplomatic or press representatives there are able to obtain advance information.

I appreciate the Department’s position as stated in the last sentence of its telegram and will make every endeavor in the future as I have in the past to forward prompt, precise and full information.

I am in daily contact with the Prime and Foreign Ministers who make it a point to keep me informed of the Iranian viewpoint. I have called to their attention on several occasions the danger to Iran of German fifth column activities and have mentioned Iraq as a specific example. Their replies which faithfully present the Iranian viewpoint have always been that the Germans came here at Government request, that they have proper employment, that they are committing no illegal acts, that they are under close surveillance and that their movements within the country are restricted. The Foreign Minister told me yesterday, to show how close is this surveillance, that there is an agent to watch every German.

The Department must realize the difficulty of obtaining reliable information as to Nazi activities in Iran. The British Intelligence officer with whom we are working closely has been unable through his agents to obtain information as to the internal setup of the fifth column organization. The Legation has, however, obtained the following reliable facts: There are in Iran between 2,000 and 2,500 Germans including families of whom perhaps 1,000 are heads of families and of whom about 700 are in Government employ. Almost none of these are tourists or recent arrivals. Most of them have legitimate employment although a few are doing propaganda and organization work under cover of employment by German commercial concerns. Fifth column activities are directed from the German Legation. Two of the leaders are Storm Troopers Mayer and Gamotta who have responsible employment with Schenkers. Propaganda is largely directed by Eilers, an archaeologist who has lived many years in Iran and who is co-author of a tract on German propaganda in the Near East. Germans are strategically placed in the radio station, railways, and other public services and are scattered through the country as agents of commercial organizations such as Schenkers and Ferrostaal. Thus there are German agents in all important public services and in all parts of Iran. Their organization centers in a Nazi club in Tehran known as the Brown House. This club formerly went in for military drilling and target practice but this has been stopped by the Iranian authorities. The organization is said to be disciplined and efficient with each man trained as to his duties either for sabotage or as an adjunct to invading German forces. An experienced American radio expert who is installing radio equipment for the Government is convinced that the Germans at the governmental radio station have set up special equipment which they are using to direct jamming operations originating in Berlin and directed against Allied broadcasts to this entire area. The above just has been brought to the attention of the British Minister who was not previously informed.

The British propaganda campaign against Iran abetted by private individuals and newspapermen has reached an intense pitch. This has resulted in the discrimination [dissemination?] of distorted or false news as, for example, a report from Delhi that a trainload of Germans had arrived in Iran, that from Cairo as to rebellion in the Iranian Army, report of tribal uprisings and distorted news as to the activities and movements of Germans in Iran. Newspapermen have assisted the campaign by accepting such British inspired news as true. For example the American representative of the Associated Press informs me that most of the news sent by press men in Ankara comes directly from the British Legation. The Iranian side of the story has never been told.

I do not minimize the fifth column danger and have frequently called it to the attention of the Department and local officials. I am convinced, however, that the British are using it as a pretext for the eventual occupation of Iran and are deliberately exaggerating its potency as an isolated arm. I have come to the conclusion that the British and Russians will occupy Iran because of overwhelming military necessity no matter what reply the Iranians make to their demands. I must add emphatically to avoid misunderstanding that I am in full agreement with the British action and believe it to be vitally necessary for the furtherance of our common cause.

The written reply of the Iranians to the British and Russian notes has not yet been delivered. The British Minister informs me that his conversation with the Prime and Foreign Ministers make it clear that the reply will be unacceptable to the British. I am of the opinion that invasion by both the Russians and British will come within a few days.

In view of the bitter feeling among the masses against the British and the Shah and considering that the Germans may be of assistance as agitators and directors it is not unlikely that there will be civil disturbance and rioting until the British and Russians gain control. The temper of the Army is increasingly uncertain and the danger of a coup cannot be excluded. In case of necessity I will bring our citizens into the Legation compound where I have no reason to fear for their safety.

I hope to have more specific news of the British reactions to the Iranian counter-proposal and of their immediate intentions within the next 48 hours.


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740.0011 European War 1939/14394

The Iranian Legation to the Department of State

Washington, August 22, 1941.

The British Minister in Tehran has called many times during recent weeks at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has spoken of the so-called exceedingly large number of Germans in Iran and the danger which might result, and the anxiety of the British Government concerning that situation.

The Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs has explained to him the whole situation. He has asserted that, first of all, the number of Germans resident in Iran is not so great as is pretended, and it scarcely touches the figure of 700 in all Iran. No entrance visas have been accorded to German tourists. Those who are in Iran are there only for industrial and commercial purposes. Their places and occupations, and all their goings and comings are under the surveillance of the Governmental authorities. Therefore the Iranian Government feels sure that they could not foment any fifth column activities. Moreover, as the policy of the Iranian Government is to reduce the number of foreign specialists and employees and to replace them with Iranians, even the actual number now in Iran will be decreased. As a proof of this, a certain number has already left.

The Iranian Government presumes that if, in reality, the objective of the British Government is only to reduce the number of Germans in Iran, that will be realized in this way, and a careful surveillance by the Iranian authorities will remove all doubts concerning their activities. But the Iranian Government believes that the expulsion of Germans from Iran without any logical reason is against the neutrality of its country.

The Iranian Prime Minister has, personally, given every assurance about this matter to the British Minister in Tehran, but it seems that the British Government is not willing to accept the Iranian point of view, and the British Minister repeated his demands more forcibly last week.

The Government of Iran has worked for a long time with assiduity to create and maintain safety in the interior of its country, and has provided means of living peacefully in the country to the Iranians themselves as well as to foreigners. Iran believes that this great work which has been accomplished should be admired and respected by her neighbors. Unfortunately, however, it seems that they wish to disturb that tranquility. They make harmful propaganda, and try to terrify the Iranians by their pressure.

Relying upon the spirit of international justice and equity of the United States Government, and especially in view of the sentiments which the United States shows toward the British Government and the British people during their present struggle, the Iranian Government would like to keep the United States Government informed of this situation.

It is perhaps useful to make known to the United States Government that Iran has always pursued the good neighbor policy, and even in the present situation, she is willing to make every effort to create an atmosphere of mutual confidence and understanding, but such an effort will be limited to the extent which will not be against her prestige and sovereignty.

The Iranians remember with sorrow the great misfortunes of the last war, the unbelievable number of the population which died as a result of famine and epidemics caused by foreign interference in Iran. A repetition of those tragic scenes will never be permitted.

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740.0011 European War 1939/14394

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Washington, August 22, 1941.

The Minister of Iran called at his request. He handed to me the attached memorandum relative to serious differences between his Government and the Government of Great Britain. The Minister then proceeded orally to refer to this threatened invasion by the British and requested my views as to what the attitude of this Government would be in the event of such invasion. He dwelt at length upon the principles governing normal peaceful international relations which I and other officials of this Government often refer to and proclaim, and he concluded his statement with an inquiry as to what this Government would be disposed to do in the way of preventing the threatened British invasion.

I replied that the British military authorities, of course, plan all of their strategy without any consultation or discussion with any official of this Government, that there seems to be a possibility of invasion of that general area of the world by the Germans and of the necessity of defensive activities to be taken against them by the British. I then said that no one could tell when or just where such invasion would finally develop if it should develop, and that, of course, this Government could not define any new policy, if it should have in mind any such policy in a contingent way, upon a purely theoretical military situation to which the Minister referred. I said that our two countries are on thoroughly friendly relations and we feel most kindly towards the people of Iran, but that I think the Minister must realize that I am not in a position to discuss contingent or theoretical cases in advance. I added that while Iran is neutral, as the Minister states, the Germans have no respect whatever for neutrality, but counsel a neutral nation to remain perfectly quiet and neutral until Hitler gets well ready to invade and conquer it in short order and throw it into a state of serfdom or semi-slavery; and that the British aided by us and others are struggling desperately to prevent the Hitler conquest from reaching Great Britain and thereby most seriously endangering the Western Hemisphere.

The Minister repeatedly talked as though his country would fight if the British undertake by force to occupy it for any purpose. I indicated that the British, of course, have nothing against Iran, but on the contrary have extensive trading relations with them. They are only striving to defend themselves successfully against German invasion. The Minister did not press further for a promise on the part of this Government to interfere, except to say that if this Government would say but one word to the British, he believed that they would not invade Iran.


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

740.0011 European War 1939/14280: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 22, 1941 — 10 a.m.
[Received August 23 — 10:30 a.m.]


Reference Department’s No. 67, August 20, 8 p.m., Department’s No. 64 was received after my 96 was sent and information requested therein as to fifth column was given in No. 99, August 21. Telegrams from Washington are taking from 2 to 3 days to reach Tehran. I have just had another conversation with the Prime Minister during which I again called to his attention the fifth column danger. His reply was almost identical with the Iranian viewpoint outlined in paragraph 3 of my No. 99 and I called his attention particularly to the danger to them of agitation from Germans employed there and informed him of the jamming operations mentioned in my 99. He expressed surprise at this information and promised to take action. I further mentioned the danger to the railways to which he replied that he has an agent watching each bridge and strategic point. My opinion previously expressed in No. 67 is that the Iranians are doing everything they can to control fifth column activity but that their action is too weak and desultory to offer effective check to the efficient Germans.

The official Iranian viewpoint in the present crisis as frankly given to me by the Foreign and Prime Ministers is that while the Iranians will agree to expel Germans gradually from Iran they deeply resent the peremptory nature of the demands and do not at all like “being pushed around by the British”. Further they are resentful of the campaign of false and distorted news being waged against them by the British and Russians. The Prime Minister told me in strictest confidence that he feels the British are not basing their action on the merits of the case but rather are seeking a pretext to occupy the north of Iran because of the military necessity of making contact with the Russians. The Foreign Minister informed me that the British have proceeded in a high-handed rather than a friendly way never having approached Iran to suggest closer cooperation or the forming of an alliance. In short the Iranians are willing to cooperate in what they consider a reasonable program for the expulsion of Germans but refuse to be cowed into accepting the arbitrary British-Russian demands.

The Iranian answer to the British and Russian notes was delivered last night. In almost identical terms to both the answer consisted of nine points couched in general and vague language. It was notable in omitting any reference to the word German using instead the term foreigner. The first four points are of little importance being confined largely to profession of friendship and other formalities. The fifth declares it to be the policy of the Government to discharge all foreigners when their services can be spared while the sixth states this policy is being accelerated due to present conditions so that large numbers of foreigners will soon leave. The seventh is to the effect that Iran alone will determine which foreigners will leave, while the eighth states there will be equal treatment for all foreigners. The ninth declares that the Government, while it is willing to carry out any plan to help a neighbor is unwilling to do anything [omission?]. Both the Russian and British envoys told me they consider the answer as wholly unsatisfactory.

It is considered almost certain in well-informed circles here that the British and Russians will invade Iran. The only speculation is as to whether an ultimatum will first be delivered.


740.0011 European War 1939/13803: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Iran

Washington, August 23, 1941 — 5 p.m.


A United Press despatch from London was received in this country on August 21 stating that the President “has approved whatever action Great Britain and Russia deem necessary to purge Iran of Nazi influences.” It is further stated in this despatch that the question of Iran was dealt with thoroughly at the conference between the President and the British Prime Minister.

You should inform the Foreign Office without delay that the President has denied the accuracy of the despatch above mentioned. The Secretary has informed the Iranian Minister that the despatch is untrue.


740.0011 European War 1939/13803: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom

Washington, August 23, 1941 — 5 p.m.


A United Press despatch from London was received in this country on August 21 and has been given publicity stating that according to “an authoritative source” the President “has approved whatever action Great Britain and Russia deem necessary to purge Iran of Nazi influences.” It is further stated in this despatch that the question of Iran was dealt with thoroughly at the conference between the President and the British Prime Minister.

You are requested to ascertain if possible the identity of the source above mentioned and to report by telegraph.

The President and I have both denied the accuracy of the despatch in question. You should so inform the Foreign Office and voice the regret of this Government that such a report should have been circulated. You should also state that there has been no change in the position of this Government in the matter of Iran from that indicated in the Department’s 3182, August 16, 7 p.m.


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740.0011 European War 1939/13803: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Turkey

Washington, August 23, 1941 — 5 p.m.


  1. On August 8, the British Foreign Secretary informed our Ambassador at London that the British and Soviet representatives at Tehran would deliver parallel notes to the Iranian Government on August 16 insisting that most of the Germans in Iran be expelled from that country without further delay. Mr. Eden stated to our Ambassador that it would be of great help if the American Minister at Tehran were to be authorized to say to the Iranian Government that in his opinion the British and Russian point of view is a right and necessary one and that it should be met by the Government of Iran. The British Foreign Secretary also expressed the hope that our Ambassador at Ankara might be authorized to express approval of the move as necessary and one which is not designed to impair the political status of Iran.

  2. The Department thereupon instructed the Minister at Tehran on August 16 not to associate himself with the representations of his British and Soviet colleagues, in the absence of instructions to do so, but to express to the Iranian Government the earnest hope of this Government that all necessary measures were being taken to avoid a spread into Iran of Nazi activities which could not fail to result disastrously for that country. The Minister was authorized to cite the examples of Iraq and Syria in that connection.

  3. On the same date our Ambassador at London was authorized to inform Mr. Eden that we do not wish our Minister to take part in the joint representations being made in Tehran, but that in his conversations on the subject with the Iranian Government he would bear them in mind.

  4. A United Press despatch from London was received in this country on August 21 and has been given publicity stating that the President approved whatever action may be considered necessary by Great Britain and Russia to purge Iran of Nazi influences. It was further stated in this despatch that the question of Iran was dealt with thoroughly at the conference between the President and the British Prime Minister.

  5. The President and I have both denied the accuracy of the press despatch above mentioned.

  6. You are authorized to make free use of the foregoing information in your conversations with Turkish officials.


740.0011 European War 1939/14275: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 23, 1941 — midnight.
[Received August 23 — 8:20 p.m.]


Personal for the Secretary of State.

This morning I talked with Mr. Eden. He wanted you to know how seriously they view the German agents in Iran. The British are certain that their negotiations with the Iran Government are being directed by the Germans. I felt Mr. Eden was simply asking for a sympathetic understanding of their problem.


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

740.0011 European War 1939/14298: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 24, 1941 — 5 p.m.
[Received 6:45 p.m.]


Your 3352, August 23, reached me this morning. I have just been able to get in touch with Mr. Eden. He knew nothing of the United Press despatch from London and asked me to state his very real regret that such a report had come out of England.

I do not think the statement appeared in the British press.

I reread to him the Department’s 3182, August 16, which he told me he had had in mind and which he had appreciated some days ago.

He also told me he had been disturbed by other releases from London that have either appeared in the press in England or elsewhere.

He will immediately investigate and report to me on his findings. He also is going to take action to prevent the repetition of similar situations.

The man who collects this information for the United Press is Fred Kuh. He came in to see me on the 18th to discuss the Allied Economic Conference. He asked me if I was free to give him information on the subject and I told him no, I was not. He then said he would have no trouble getting it and would like to come back and discuss it at a later date. On leaving my office lie made some reference to Iran and the British and Russian notes but we had no conversation on the subject beyond his saying that he hoped England would be hard-boiled in taking action if necessary.

On the 22nd he returned ostensibly to discuss the Allied Economic Council business and had in the interim gotten complete information on the subject. His object in coming, however, was to discuss Iran. I told him I had very little information on the subject beyond what he had already told me and which was generally known here, namely, that the Iran Government had made an unfavorable reply to the British. He then said that he thought it would be a great mistake if troops were sent into Iran and that he had hoped that the United States might offer to replace the German technicians there. I made no comment but felt that he had come to plant this idea. I was curious because of his reversal of opinion within 3 days as he is intelligent and too well informed. These conversations only lasted a few minutes.

When I saw Eden that evening on another matter I asked him if there had been any suggestion about American technicians going into Iran. He told me yes the Turkish Ambassador had made that suggestion that afternoon. Eden plainly gave it no weight.

In the light of your message I feel that the report may have been sent as a deliberate effort to confuse the situation. Where the alleged statement as quoted in your message to me came from I do not know. I am making further investigation.


740.0011 European War 1939/14281: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 24, 1941 — 9 a.m.
[Received 8:55 p.m.]


The Shah last night sent the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs to the British Legation to assure the British Minister that the Germans in Iran will be expelled with accelerated tempo. The assurance was immediately sent to London. The growing willingness on the part of the Iranians to expel appreciable numbers of Germans from the country has been evident in the conversations between British and Russian envoys and high Iranian officials. The attitude is, however, at variance with the written and formal record, for example, with the unbending tone of the written reply to the notes, the tenor of the Shah’s speech reported in my No. 98 and with the tone of last night’s editorial in Etapent [Ettelaat?], which in referring to the Shah’s speech called the people to action and sacrifice to save their honor. Thus the Iranians while maintaining a defiant attitude for face-saving purposes and for the record are in fact willing to make concessions. The first general expulsion order was, it is reliably reported, given yesterday when 16 Germans, mostly barbers and unimportant persons, were directed to leave Iran within 2 weeks. It is understood that the German Legation has protested against the order.

There are no other local developments of importance. The situation this morning may be described as one of marking time awaiting the next British-Russian move.


740.0011 European War 1939/14306: Telegram

The Ambassador in Turkey to the Secretary of State

Ankara, August 24, 1941 — noon.
[Received 9 p.m.]


I learn that some days ago Iranian Ambassador requested advice of Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs as to course which his Government should pursue in face of demands of British and Russians that it expel alleged German fifth columnists. He said his Government was in fact getting rid of a number of them but that demands were so exigent as to suggest ulterior motives. While stating that he could not undertake to answer on behalf of Turkey until he had consulted with his governmental colleagues Saraçoglu recalled that in making to him formal communication as to intentions of their Governments (my 305, August 20, 7 p.m.) British and Soviet Ambassadors had given assurances that they would fully respect independence and integrity of Iran and said that for his own part he had complete confidence in that assurance.

I understand that after few days temporizing he received Ambassador and informed him that while Turkish Government had no concrete suggestions to offer it nevertheless hoped that Iranian Government might find amicable means of settling difficulty.

I construe this as a somewhat guarded intimation that Turkey would prefer to have Iran yield to demands. Such attitude would accord with Turkish desire to avoid occasion for Russian occupation of adjacent Persian territory. But it is to be noted that Turkish press is in general hostile to idea of coercing Iran in this matter.

Repeated to Tehran.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 24, 1941)


If Persia breaks with Allies, Germans may move in Near East

London, Aug. 23 (UP) –
Informed observers said tonight that tension between Great Britain and Iran had reached a critical point and simultaneously predicted Axis military intervention should the tension reach the breaking point.

Germany has recently been massing up to 200,000 troops in Bulgaria, on the Turkish border leading to the Near East, as Britain and Russia demanded that Iran oust several thousand Nazi fifth columnists from the back door to the Russian oil fields.

Iran has refused to oust the Germans and reportedly called up army reserves.

Axis airmen active

British sources did not give specific reasons for believing the Germans would challenge a British-Russian military move against Iran other than to say that there were increased Axis air activity on the Mediterranean front, flanking the Near East.

The Tehran government’s reply to the Anglo-Soviet demand that “German technicians” posing as tourists be ejected from Iran was described as “unsatisfactory.”

Intensified activity in North Africa and on the Mediterranean, meanwhile, was interpreted here as an indication that Germany and Italy would create a diversion on Britain’s western flank on the Mediterranean front in the event of an Anglo-Russian move against Iran.

War may flare in Libya

The African “battle season” is at hand when the Libyan front probably will come alive again, it was pointed out, and the Axis is in a position to undertake a long-distance flanking attack on the British.

Recent German successes in the Ukraine have not helped the Allied position in the Near East where, it was said, “volatile” governments are more likely to be impressed by military achievements than by diplomatic pleas, promises or threats.

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U.S. Department of State (August 25, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14282: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 24, 1941 — 10 p.m.
[Received August 25 — 2:55 a.m.]


The British Minister informs me that he will hand to the Iranian Government at 8 a.m., Monday morning, a note which will (1) express disappointment that the Iranians have not heeded the British requests, (2) express regret that the British are now forced to take matters into their own hands to protect their interests, (3) reiterate that they have no designs against Iran’s integrity or sovereignty, and (4) express the hope that Iran will not resist since the British have no desire to cause harm to the country or its citizens.

Verbally the Minister will state that as soon as the British have taken steps to safeguard their interests they will wish to continue full cooperation with Iran.

I learn from the British Military Attaché that British troops will cross the Iranian frontier at dawn tomorrow. British planes will drop leaflets over the principal Iranian towns explaining the British position.


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740.0011 European War 1939/14299: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union to the Secretary of State

Moscow, August 24, 1941 — 2 p.m.
[Received August 25 — 9:20 a.m.]


For the President, the Secretary and Under Secretary.

In a conversation with the Iranian Ambassador yesterday he said that his Government had replied to the Soviet and British notes demanding the expulsion of all Germans with a flat rejection on the grounds that the subject was distinctly the internal affair of the Iranian Government and that the demand constituted an infringement of the sovereignty of Iran. He described the Soviet and British notes as “impertinent.” He said that notwithstanding the formal rejection the Soviet and British Governments had been orally informed that the Iranian Government was taking measures to expel the Germans.

The Ambassador then went on to state: (1) that Soviet participation in the joint demand had been at British “instigation;” (2) that after castigating Germany for having sacrificed the Baltic States in 1939 in order to curry favor with the Soviet Union, Britain was about to sacrifice Iran in order to curry favor with the Soviet Union; (3) that the present attitude of the British Government towards Iran was a poor reward for having sided with Britain and safeguarded its interests during the past 2 years; (4) that Iran would defend itself as best it could against any attempted violation of its sovereignty by either the Soviet Union or Britain or both; (5) that the Soviet-British demand to immediately expel all Germans from Iran was a poorly concealed pretext for occupying Iran inasmuch as the expulsion of all Germans, and transit rights through Iran if desired, “could have been amicably discussed and arranged” without offending the amour propre of the Iranian Government and people.

The Ambassador concluded his remarks, after referring to “blundering diplomacy,” with the comment:

We have been the loyal friends of the British for many, many years. If what they wanted was the expulsion of all Germans from Iran, the fullest transit rights and a military base of operations from which to protect the Soviet oil fields and the Caucasus, why did they not propose an open formal military alliance between the Soviet Union, Britain, and Iran? Even now it may not be too late although my Government has been seriously offended.

In view of the Ambassador’s influence in Tehran and his pronounced pro-British sympathies of which I have had personal knowledge for over 2 years I attach considerable importance to the views expressed by him.


740.0011 European War 1939/14327: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 25, 1941 — 9 a.m.
[Received August 25 — 4 p.m.]


The British note mentioned in my No. 103 and a similar note from the Russian Government were delivered to the Prime Minister at 4 a.m. today. The hour of delivery was advanced in view of the instructions of the Soviet Ambassador to deliver his note without delay.

The Shah has asked to see the Russian and British Envoys at […] a.m. this morning. I shall report the results of their conversation immediately thereafter.

All is quiet in Tehran this morning.


740.0011 European War 1939/14282

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State

Washington, August 25, 1941.

The Minister of Iran called to see me this morning at his request.

The Minister was not acting under instructions and had not as yet heard of the fact that British and Russian forces had actually entered Iran.

The Minister spoke for a very considerable time of the past history of Iran and the difficulties experienced by the country as a result of Russian pressure in the North and British pressure in the South, of its desire to maintain its neutrality, et cetera.

The Minister stated specifically that there were less than 700 Germans in Iran and that in view of the willingness expressed by the Iranian Government to get rid of these Germans over a period of a relatively short time, it was obvious that the presence of these Germans in Iran was merely a pretext for the desire of Great Britain and Russia to occupy the country.

The Minister expressed the particular hope that the President would be kept fully informed of developments. I said that the President was personally following very closely the whole course of events but that, as I knew the Minister realized, this Government was committed within the limits of its announced policy to do what it could to assist in the defeat of the Hitlerite Government of Germany and that, bearing fully in mind the traditional friendship between our two countries, I trusted that, whatever situation might develop in Iran, the outcome would be the eventual maintenance intact of the independence and integrity of Iran and the avoidance of any danger that Germany might, directly or indirectly, extend its influence over Iran. I said I felt sure that the policy of the British Government. would be one of eventual restoration of the liberties of the Iranian people, no matter what temporary measures might be undertaken, whereas if Germany acquired any form of domination over Iran, that domination would never be relinquished were Germany to find herself in a position of world domination.


740.0011 European War 1939/14282

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

Washington, August 25, 1941.

The Turkish Ambassador called on me at his request this afternoon and expressed his deep concern over the developments leading to the invasion of Iran by British and Bolshevist troops. The Ambassador said he had received no instructions from his Government in this matter and was speaking only personally but he was convinced that this action would have grave repercussions in the Moslem world and even among “atheistic” Turks, to say nothing of the pious ones.

The Ambassador seemed deeply depressed and disillusioned. He said he was sure his Government would be greatly perturbed over an extension of the Soviet frontier along the eastern frontier of Turkey, which was not fortified, and purposely so because of the friendly relations existing between Turkey and Iran as symbolized by the Saadabad Pact. The Ambassador added he had no confidence in British promises and feared that the whole of Iran and perhaps even Turkey would be turned over to Soviet Russia as a price of continued Soviet resistance.

Continuing in a pessimistic and rather cynical strain, the Ambassador said he was disappointed in the Eight Points evolved at the Atlantic Conference and felt they were not a proper basis for future peace. He also added that he was somewhat disappointed at the manner in which this Government was following British leadership rather than itself assuming leadership in these perilous times.

I tried to reassure the Ambassador that the situation was not as bad as he seemed to believe and that the moral authority of this Government would make itself felt more and more as time went on, but he only replied that he feared the mistakes committed after the last war would again be repeated after the present war, with equally disastrous results. “You blamed the Kaiser then for everything and now you blame Hitler. The troubles go much deeper than the actions of any one man.”

I was somewhat surprised at this state of mind of the Ambassador as I had not experienced it before. He has in the past repeatedly emphasized his belief that the only hope of the world lay in the moral leadership of this country which he felt sure would be brought to bear at an appropriate moment. Today, however, he seemed obsessed with the idea that our Government is only endeavoring to rescue the British Empire without regard for the welfare of other countries and to preserve the ruling caste of England, for which he said he had only contempt because of their utter selfishness and readiness at all times to sacrifice others for their own interests.

While the above remarks of the Ambassador may be only indicative of his present depressed state of mind, it may on the other hand possibly indicate a renewed disposition on the part of the Turkish Government to withdraw further into its present seclusion, if not actually to adjust itself to a policy of collaboration with Germany.


740.0011 European War 1939/14641: Telegram

The Shah of Iran to President Roosevelt


Tehran, August 25, 1941 — [10 p.m.?]
[Received August 25 — 10:51 p.m.]

Your Excellency has surely been informed that the Russian and British forces have crossed brusquely and without previous notice the boundaries of this country occupying certain localities and bombarding a considerable number of cities which were open and without defense. The old pretext which the Russian and English Governments raised consisted in the concern which those countries claimed to feel because of the sojourn of certain Germans in Iran, despite the assurances given by my Government that those Germans will soon leave Iran. No subject for concern could longer exist and I no longer can see for what reason they have proceeded to those acts of aggression and to bombarding without reason our cities. I consider it my duty, on the basis of the declarations which Your Excellency has made several times regarding the necessity of defending principles of international justice and the right of peoples to liberty, to request Your Excellency to be good enough to interest yourself in this incident, which brings into war a neutral and pacific country which has had no other care than the safeguarding of tranquillity and the reform of the country. I beg Your Excellency to take efficacious and urgent humanitarian steps to put an end to these acts of aggression. Being assured of the sentiments of good will of Your Excellency, I renew to you the assurance of my sincere friendship.


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The Pittsburgh Press (August 25, 1941)


British meet resistance in invasion of Iran

By Edward W. Beattie, United Press staff writer

Soviet_troops_are_crossing_the_border_with_Iran V (Norman)
Soviet troops crossing the Iranian border.

Screenshot (716)
Routes of entry into Iran – The British and Russians moved into Iran today from the directions shown by arrows on the map above. The Red Army moved down along both sides of the Caspian Sea as the British marched in from India and Iraq. The British landed troops by sea at Abadan and seized the railroad linking the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. If Germany seeks to send armies into Iran, they must move from Bulgaria through Turkey or from the Ukraine around the Black Sea.

London, Aug. 25 –
British and Russian armed forced struck into Iran without warning today and were reported meeting resistance in their campaign to oust German agents and protect the Red Army’s oil fields and supply lines.

Authoritative British sources said that the Imperial forces, consisting of troops from the British Isles and India, had encountered opposition in the first stage of the invasion, which included the landing of forces from British ships at the head of the Persian Gulf.

According to the statement made here:

Resistance has been encountered but it is not known where or how serious it is.

The forces landed from ships in the Bandar Shahpur sector of the Persian Gulf were said to be advancing but it was not known how far they had penetrated from the coast.

Bandar Shahpur is the gulf terminus of the railroad to Ahvaz and Tehran.

The British sea landing at Bandar Shahpur as well as the mechanized land advance from Iraq were designed to move quickly into Iranian oil centers, as well as to secure the main railroad line over which supplies from America and elsewhere might be sent to Russia.

An advance of around 100 miles would put the British in control of the main oil centers. Russian forces moving down from the Caspian and other British units from India supplemented the main attack.

Authorities said the entire Iranian Army probably did not exceed 150,000 men, including one armored brigade with tanks (apparently of Czech origin) and two or three well-trained and well-equipped infantry divisions.

Through the Foreign Office at Moscow, Iran was informed that the Russian and British forces were moving in and was given assurances that they had no designs on Iran and would get out as soon as the danger of a German coup had been removed.

In Moscow, it was reported officially that the Red Army marched down the shores of the Caspian Sea into Iran as the British marched from Iraq and India.

Announcement of the first big joint Russo-British military operation of the war, a little more than two months after Germany attacked Russia June 22, was made by the Moscow radio, in a broadcast picked up here by the United Press listening post, and was later confirmed by the British government.

British troops marched into southern Iran under the supreme command of General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of India, it was said authoritatively.

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov of Russia and Sir Stafford Cripps, British Ambassador to Russia, handed the Iranian Ambassador at Moscow similar notes announcing it and justifying it on the ground that German agents, who had filtered into almost every key communication and industrial enterprises, constituted a grave danger to Russia, to Britain and to the Iranian government itself.

Simultaneously, the Russian Ambassador and the British Minister at Tehran handed the Iranian Foreign Office copies of the notes presented to the Iranian Ambassador at Moscow.

The Russo-British action had been expected.

Turkey had reported British troops waiting to cross the west-central part of the Iranian frontier from the Khanaqin area, from Basra in the Persian Gulf, and from the Balochistan frontier of India. There had been reports that four Indian divisions, possibly as many as 60,000 troops, were concentrated on the Balochistan frontier as a striking force.

Dispatches from Tehran said members of the German legation had spent the weekend preparing to evacuate their families. Americans and Britons had been warned to assemble at the American and British legations, in the suburbs, on short notice of rioting broke out in Tehran.

The dispatches reported Tehran calm but said truck columns and troop trains were moving from the city, mostly to the south, with reinforcements of troops and materials for the frontier area. Cairo reported recruiting going on everywhere.

Britain and Russia had left no doubt that they regarded the presence of thousands of German agents in Iran an urgent danger, especially in view of the possibility of a German march through the Ukraine to and beyond the Don Basin and of a German demand on Turkey for troop facilities to attack the Russian Caucasus oil fields. Turkey, nominally allied with Britain, had given increasing indications that it would not fight even to resist a German attack.

Of vital importance to Russia was the railroad which crosses Iran to link the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, held by the British fleet. The railroad was important to Britain as the link with the British-controlled Anglo-Persian oil field, largest single field in the world. The British and Russians want to take the railroad intact and it was believed they had used airborne troops to do so.

The Foreign Office, announcing Britain’s own action, said:

The reply of the Iranian government to communications addressed to them Aug. 16 shows that they were not prepared to give adequate satisfaction to the recommendations of His Majesty’s Government and the Soviet government.

It is now clear that further friendly representations to the Iranian government along the same lines as hitherto would serve no useful purpose and that His Majesty’s Government must have recourse to other measures to safeguard essential interests.

These measures will in no way be directed against the Iranian people: His Majesty’s Government have no designs on the independence or territorial integrity of Iran and any measures they may take will be directed solely against attempts of the Axis powers to establish their control of Iran.

The Foreign Office said Iran had been reluctant to offend the German government:

…even in defense of their own vital interests.

The Foreign Office disclosed that as a last resort Britain and Russia had proposed that Iran retain temporarily a few German technicians engaged in especially important work while Britain and Russia aided Iran by finding suitable experts to replace ousted German technicians.

The Moscow radio, announcing Foreign Commissar Molotov’s note to the Iranian Ambassador said:

The Soviet government has undertaken the necessary steps in conformity with Article VI of the Russo-Iranian Treaty of 1921, which the Soviet government is now justified in invoking for its self-defense.

This treaty was that of Feb. 26, 1921, under which Russian troops are given the right to enter Iran if Iranian territory is used as a base for the preparation of hostile action by a third power.

Molotov’s note said:

The Soviet government had ordered its troops to march into Iran. This measure is not directed against the Iranian people and the Soviet Union has no claims which reflect on the integrity and independence of Iran.

Russian military measures are directed against the danger created by German agents. As soon as the danger which is threatening the interests of Iran and Soviet Russia has been eliminated, Soviet troops in accordance with the obligations of the Treaty of 1921 will immediately be withdrawn beyond the frontiers of Iran.

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The Iranian gunboat Babr sunk at Khorramshahr, Iran. She was shelled and sunk by the Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra.

U.S. Department of State (August 26, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14326: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 25, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received August 26 — 6:20 a.m.]


The Director General of the Iranian Foreign Office just called personally to urge the Legation to communicate to the Department of State the official request of the Iranian Government that the President of the United States use his good offices with the British and Russian Governments to bring about the immediate cessation of hostilities looking to an amicable settlement of […] dispute. He stated that the Iranians are willing to give assurances that most of the Germans in Iran will be expelled. In this connection please see my No. 105.


740.0011 European War 1939/14344: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 25, 1941 — 2 p.m.
[Received August 26 — 9:10 a.m.]


In continuation of my No. 104 the British and Russian envoys have just finished their conversation with the Shah. The British Minister informs me that the Shah, calm and collected, began the conversation somewhat as follows:

What is this? I have given my assurance that most of the Germans will be expelled from Iran. I find this morning that you have attacked both the north and south of my country and have seized 8 Axis ships in the Gulf. It seems that the Germans want to take all of Europe and now the Russians and British want to take Iran.

The British Minister explained to the Shah the background of the affair and stressed the necessity of the present action since the Iranian Government had in fact failed to give adequate assurances that the Germans in Iran would be expelled. The Shah then gave unequivocal assurance that all of the Germans in Iran except a number of technicians whose services are urgently required would be expelled from the country within 1 week. He further promised to furnish the list which officials have hitherto refused to give of the Germans who would remain in Iran. He urged the two envoys to endeavor on the basis of these assurances to obtain an immediate cessation of hostilities and inquired pointedly as to what Russia and Britain would offer in return. The Shah’s proposal was immediately transmitted to London and Moscow and answers are expected before tomorrow morning.

The British Minister gained the distinct impression that the Shah had been kept badly informed by his ministers as to the status of negotiations with the Russians and British.

Although it is known that British troops crossed the frontier this morning there is as yet no reliable news of the fighting. Six British planes flew over Tehran a few minutes ago dropping leaflets.

Calm prevails in Tehran with business and comparatively normal life continuing. Most of the British colony and some Allied nationals have taken refuge in the British Legation as previously arranged. Several Czechs and others have requested refuge in this Legation but I have not consented thereto since there are no signs of disorder or peril at the moment. I am watching the situation closely in collaboration with our citizens and will not hesitate to take them into the compound should the situation require.


740.0011 European War 1939/14326

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Washington, August 26, 1941.

At the conference in the Secretary’s office this morning, the rush telegram no. 106 of August 25, 6 p.m. from Tehran was discussed. This telegram contains the official request of the Iranian Government that:

…the President of the United States use his good offices with the British and Russian Governments to bring about the immediate cessation of hostilities, looking to an amicable settlement of the present dispute.

There was a diversity of opinions as to the best procedure to follow in this matter in the realization, as the Secretary put it, that we are handling “a red-hot iron.” I strongly advanced the viewpoint that even at this late hour we should make every endeavor to induce the British to negotiate with the Iranians with a view to obtaining their friendly collaboration and, if possible, to make an alliance with them for the common defense of their territory. I emphasized that it would be far better for the British in a situation of this kind to be surrounded by a friendly, cooperative Iranian people than to have to face dogged opposition, sabotage and, perhaps, guerrilla warfare.

Mr. Welles took what was perhaps the most extreme view, that we should avoid at all costs using our good offices in this matter and that we should confine ourselves to informing the British Government of the present Iranian request, and inquiring of the British Government whether we could be helpful in any way to the British in this matter.

After considerable further discussion it seemed to be agreed that it might be well to do three things,

  1. to reply to the Iranian Government suggesting that they make every effort to come to an amicable settlement with the British Government in this matter, and adding that we on our part would keep in close touch with the British with a view to being as helpful as possible to the Iranians;

  2. to notify the British Government at once without comment in a separate telegram that we have received the present request from the Iranian Government; and

  3. to take up separately with the British Government the larger aspects of this question. In this telegram we would point out that the present Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran has aroused nation-wide attention and discussion in this country; that the situation is a delicate one politically; and that we desire to be informed by the British Government without delay along the following lines:

(a) The Iranian Government has complained bitterly that the British and Soviet demands upon that Government were based entirely on the alleged presence in Iran of subversive German agents. The Iranian Government furthermore maintains that at no time has the British Government approached the Iranian Government with a view to obtaining its friendly collaboration in this matter or to suggest an Anglo-Iranian alliance in the common cause. This Government desires to be informed at once as to the accuracy of the Iranian claims in this matter.

(b) While this Government is informed that the British Government has given the Iranian Government assurances as to the safeguarding of its integrity and sovereignty, we are not informed of the precise measures envisaged by the British Government in order to give effect to these assurances. What guarantees, for instance, are the British preparing to give the Iranians in order to protect Iran against Nazi aggression that may result from the present Anglo-Soviet invasion? What assurances furthermore have been given the Iranians as to indemnification for damages and losses that may be suffered as a result of this occupation?

© What are the intentions of the British and Soviet Governments with regard to the extent of occupation of Iranian territory?

(d) What assurances are the British in a position to give the Iranians that in the territory occupied by the Soviets there may not be widespread oppression, persecution and purge of upper-class Iranians, and confiscation of their property?

(e) In case the Iranians show the disposition to meet all the demands of the British and are willing even to negotiate an alliance with Britain, would the British be in a position to take over such occupation of the country as may be necessary for their purposes and to bring about a withdrawal of Soviet forces?

The British will doubtless bear in mind in replying to these questions the importance of our being able to reassure American public opinion as to all phases of the present operation.

740.0011 European War 1939/14326

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs to the Secretary of State

Washington, August 26, 1941.

Mr. Secretary:

The Iranian Minister came to see me urgently this morning without appointment and told me that he has been instructed by his Government to deliver an important message to you this afternoon, I have spoken with your office and they are to let me know whether you will be able to see the Minister after your return from lunch. During my visit with the Minister this morning he informed me that his Government urgently hopes that the President will communicate with the British, Soviet, and Iranian Governments urgently requesting them to cease hostilities at once and to engage in conversations looking towards a settlement of the present dispute. I assume that this communication is identical with that which we received this morning from Mr. Dreyfus and which we discussed in your office earlier in the day.

In discussing the present démarche of his Government the Minister said that in his opinion the request was both in the interest of Iran as well as of the United States. In explanation of this statement he emphasized that on every previous occasion of aggression in the world this Government had raised its voice in violent condemnation and protest. The world had come to regard the conscience and idealism of America as an established fact and expected that our voice would be raised on every such occasion regardless of the offender. If, in the present case of British and Soviet aggression, we sit passively by, and by our silence appear to condone these acts, the Minister feels that we will suffer a great loss in moral authority in the world.

Without commenting on the above observations of the Minister, I told him that I wanted to offer a purely personal suggestion. I was not in a position to advise him officially as to what his Government should do in this matter, but that in my own entirely personal opinion it would be advisable to face the present situation realistically. Nazi aggression is of course a fact and the British are quite naturally afraid of its spread into Iran and other parts of the Near East in the same manner as it spread earlier into Iraq and Syria. Such a situation would of course constitute a grave danger for British interests in that part of the world. Iran could not of course alone defend herself against Nazi aggression in case the Germans reached the Caucasus. Such being the case and with the reality of British and Soviet troops starting to occupy the country it seemed to me that it would be in the best interest of Iran to initiate forthwith negotiations direct with the British with a view to working out some system of collaboration for the common defense of the country. Such collaboration might even partake of the nature of an alliance as had been the case in the collaboration between the Turks and the British.

The Minister seemed much shocked and disappointed with my suggestion and said he had expected a more sympathetic attitude from me. I replied that we were not dealing with a situation in which an ideal solution was easy to find but were dealing with hard facts and endeavoring to bring about a solution that would cause the Iranian people the least harm. In making the above observations to the Iranian Minister I made it clear that I was not speaking for the Department but was merely voicing my own personal suggestion.

During the further course of our conversation I made reference to the possibility of Turkey acting as a friendly intermediary in this matter between the Iranians, the British, and the Soviets. The Turks were, I suggested, in a favorable position to assist all parties concerned in view of their treaty of alliance with Great Britain.

The Minister returned again and again to the point that this Government could not and should not allow a brutal act of aggression such as the present one to go by without some expression of condemnation or some effort to stop it. I tried to make clear to the Minister that we regard the British cause as our cause and that in the common effort to put down aggression we necessarily had to take account of the undoubted dangers of aggression spreading into areas of the Near East vital to the defense of the British Empire.


740.0011 European War 1939/14306: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Turkey

Washington, August 26, 1941 — 7 p.m.


Please keep Department promptly informed on Turkish reaction to Anglo-Russian invasion of Iran, and what effect, if any, this is likely to have on Turkey’s future attitude toward Britain and the Axis.


740.0011 European War 1939/14384: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom to the Secretary of State

London, August 26, 1941 — midnight.
[Received August 26 [?] — 7:50 p.m.]


Personal for the Secretary of State.

This morning Mr. Eden telephoned me to thank you for your statement in the press yesterday. He wanted you to know that the military operations had been successful and without serious incident. The word he got from the Shah led him to believe that he would try to negotiate before attempting serious hostilities. The British Minister reported that it was the opinion […] the marketplace of the Capital that the show of opposition was for effect and that the entire business had been pre-arranged with the Shah’s knowledge and consent.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 26, 1941)


By Edward W. Beattie, United Press staff writer

London, Aug. 26 –
British Indian troops, striking in blitzkrieg tempo into western Iran, have captured the port of Bandar Shahpur with seven Axis ships and the important oil station of Naft Shahr while British airborne troops have landed to protect British families in the oil fields, it was announced today.

The British troops met resistance at Abadan, near Bandar Shahpur, and in the Naft Shahr and Qasr-e Shirin areas, it was admitted authoritatively, and the British forces continue to meet “slight” resistance everywhere during their advance.

Berlin reported that Shah Reza Pahlavi had ordered his armies to fight the Russian and British invaders everywhere.

Reds nearing Tabriz

Russian troops, moving down the towering mountains from Armenia in a rapid sweep, were believed to be nearing Tabriz, Iran’s second city, and the British moved in from the west.

Britain’s first commmuniqué of the Iranian campaign, disclosing a dramatic landing by British airborne troops in the oil fields where the families of employees of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. had been isolated, came from headquarters of General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief in India and of the British part of the Iranian campaign, at Simla.

Though it was admitted that the Iranians were resisting, General Wavell’s communiqué said the British operation had proceeded with such rapidity that only minimum losses had been suffered by Iranian troops.

A Moscow communiqué announced that Russian troops had covered 25 of the 70 miles toward Tabriz on the first morning of their march after striking out from their base at Nakhchivan, said by tradition to have been founded by Noah after his ark had landed at Mount Ararat, to the northwest.

A second Russian column was marching south near the west shore of the Caspian Sea on Ardabil, 250 miles northwest of Tehran.

The British landing at Bandar Shahpur was believed to presage a drive on Bushehr, Iran’s big western port, 145 miles down the east shore of the Gulf. Indian troops marched into southeast Iran from Balochistan.

British planes flew over Tehran and other Iranian towns, dropping leaflets explaining the reason for the invasion and emphasizing that Britain had no quarrel with the Iranian people and no designs on their independence or territory, the communiqué said.

German and Italian reports said British planes had bombed Tehran and other towns. Berlin and Rome also reported a Russian raid on Tabriz.

Indications were that Turkey and Afghanistan resented the Anglo-Russian march and felt increasingly anxious over their own situation.

The British government is still willing to negotiate with Iran if German agents are to be ousted.

Britons were immensely cheered by the move into Iran.

The Daily Mail said:

The occupation marks the welcome beginning of the “no nonsense” phase of British policy.


Bern, Aug. 26 –
England’s and Russia’s joint move into Iran has catapulted Turkey again into the forefront of interest and pressure in the Axis capitals.

The Berlin correspondent of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (of Zurich) says there is no doubt in Nazi circles that once Iran is under Allied dominance, Turkey will be the next focus of English efforts.

Adolf Hitler’s forces now appear to be thoroughly occupied elsewhere, but there are some observers who feel that a Nazi move into Turkey, perhaps only far enough to take the small European portion and secure the strategic Dardanelles is entirely possible. The Zurich newspapers reports from Berlin that the “measures” made necessary in the Axis view by the Russo-British move are being taken in “full accord.”

U.S. Department of State (August 27, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/14375: Telegram

The Minister in Iran to the Secretary of State

Tehran, August 26, 1941 — 8 a.m.
[Received August 27 — 5:25 a.m.]


In continuation of my No. 106 the Foreign Minister has just called personally to see me again to urge the American Government to endeavor to stop hostilities. He said that the Iranian Government in its anxiety to arrive at a settlement is willing not only to deport the Germans but to meet any reasonable British request such as possible Cabinet changes. While I was moved to pity the Foreign Minister in his agitation and dejection I cannot but remark that the Iranians have arrived at this predicament by their failure to recognize and face realities. They now awaken to find the perennial bogey of Russian invasion has become a terrible reality.

The Prime Minister in a speech to the Majlis yesterday afternoon requested the deputies to refrain from making statements and asked the people to be calm and dignified. In reviewing the situation he called attention to Iran’s honest policy of neutrality and stressed that there was no danger to her neighbors from Germans here. He declared that in spite of Iranian assurances and actual action taken to reduce the number of Germans the British and Russians have invaded the country. He added that measures were being taken (he referred obviously to the Shah’s proposal mentioned in my No. 105) and that clarification was expected soon.

News of military action are meager. The Prime Minister stated that the British attacked Bandar Shahpur and Khoramshahr and took over Iranian ships; that bombs were dropped on Ahvaz and that British mechanized forces were approaching Kermanshah. Invading forces are being resisted he said wherever encountered. The Foreign Minister told me that the Russians have bombed many open towns in the north including Pahlavi, Ardabil, Astara, Maku and Shapur. Neither the Russian nor British Diplomatic Missions here have news of actual operations.

Although the situation in Tehran remains outwardly calm this morning a food shortage has developed because of hoarding and the already serious wheat shortage is resulting in a bread crisis. This situation is potentially dangerous and may well result in disorder and rioting if there is the slightest breakdown in police control. Automobiles are being requisitioned but there has as yet been no general mobilization.

The leaflets dropped yesterday warned the people in the Persian language of the danger from Germans and informed them the British and Russians were coming as friends to save them from this danger.


740.0011 European War 1939/14388: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany to the Secretary of State

Berlin, August 26, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received August 27 — 7:55 a.m.]


The German press and radio today profess, as expected, moral indignation at what they call the unprovoked aggression against Iran and represent most of Europe and particularly Turkey as sharing this feeling. While it is now stated that the main purpose of the British and Soviet action is to establish communications through Iran and to safeguard the oil fields, the main weight of German criticism is still directed against British “hypocrisy” rather than “Bolshevist imperialism.” Emphasis is placed on reports of the determination of Iran to resist. The semi-official Dienst Aus Deutschland while still refraining from commenting on the consequences for Germany, points out that diplomatic contacts still exist between Berlin and Tehran, but states that the German Government refuses to confirm or deny what it calls the trial balloon put out by London to the effect that Germany has given certain assurances to the Iranian Government in case of effective resistance by it. It expresses interest in the “excitement as well as criticism aroused in the Turkish public by the action of the two powers” but denies that Papen has either been recalled to Berlin or been instructed “to take any special steps” in Ankara.


740.0011 European War 1939/14389: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy to the Secretary of State

Rome, August 26, 1941.
[Received August 27 — 9:30 a.m.]


Following lead of German propagandists Italian press strongly condemns Anglo-Russian entry into Iran. British objectives are described as occupation of Persian oil fields and creation of Anglo-Russian Caucasus front but there is no discussion of possible repercussions on Axis strategy.

Together with England and Russia the United States is generally held jointly responsible for “this typical case of unjustified aggression.” The Balkan correspondent of Stampa says “American diplomats, agents and businessmen headed by Roosevelt’s enterprising representative in Cairo” are seconding Anglo-Russian maneuvers in Ankara as well as move against Iran. Number of writers present Anglo-Russian move as second concrete application of Atlantic Declaration, the first having allegedly been “Roosevelt’s partnership with Stalin”. Describing recent American statements on Iran as merely for domestic consumption press affirms that present move is unmistakable evidence of what Anglo-Saxons mean by freedom and sovereignty of nations.


740.0011 European War 1939/14412: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union to the Secretary of State

Moscow, August 26, 1941 — 5 p.m.
[Received August 27 — 12:26 p.m.]


The Moscow newspapers today publish the full text of the note handed by Molotov to the Iranian Ambassador in Moscow on the morning of August 25 announcing that by virtue of Article 6 of the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921, Soviet troops were temporarily entering the territory of Iran for the purpose of self-defense. It is presumed that the full text of this lengthy note has been published in the American newspapers or has otherwise been brought to the Department’s attention.

A brief TASS despatch from Tiflis is also published stating that on the morning of August 25 Soviet troops crossed the frontier and advanced 40 miles toward Ardabil and Tabriz and that the advance was continuing. No reference was made in the dispatch to opposition by Iranian forces.


740.0011 European War 1939/14417: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union to the Secretary of State

Moscow, August 27, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received 9 p.m.]

For the President, the Secretary and Under Secretary.

The Turkish Ambassador called on me this afternoon and, at the request of the Iranian Ambassador, whom he had just left, delivered to me a copy of a note which the Iranian Ambassador sent to Molotov this morning.

The Ambassador stated that he had called on the British Ambassador yesterday to discuss the occupation of Iran by Soviet and British troops and that in the course of their conversation Cripps had said that if the Germans were at once expelled from Iran the British and Soviet Governments would stop the advance of their troops and withdraw them. To his inquiry as to whether Cripps was authorized to make this suggestion the Ambassador said Cripps had replied that while he had not been specifically authorized by his Government to make the suggestion he was “sure” that the British Government would approve.

The Turkish Ambassador reported his conversation with Cripps to the Iranian Ambassador who thereupon on his own initiative prepared the note to Molotov and filed a telegram to his Government setting forth this action.

On learning that the Soviet authorities had failed to transmit his telegram to Tehran the Iranian Ambassador requested the Turkish Ambassador to see Cripps again last night and to seek his advice. The Turkish Ambassador states that after reading the proposed note to Molotov, Cripps had found it “entirely satisfactory” and had advised the Turkish Ambassador to send the text to Ankara with the request that it be repeated immediately to the Iranian Government in Tehran which he had thereupon done.

The Turkish Ambassador added that in addition to transmitting the text of the note to Ankara for repetition to the Iranian Government he had also transmitted the recommendation of the Iranian Ambassador to his Government that it seek the good offices of Turkey and the United States in an endeavor to carry out Cripps’ suggestion.

A translation of the note delivered by the Iranian Ambassador to Molotov follows as Embassy’s 1587, August 27, 7 p.m.


740.0011 European War 1939/14413: Telegram

The Ambassador in Turkey to the Secretary of State

Ankara, August 27, 1941 — 1 p.m.
[Received 11:55 p.m.]


Foreign Minister informs me Turkish Government regrets that Russo-British action makes it impossible for friendly neighbor Iran to remain outside war but it has no alternative but to accept situation and maintain its own neutrality.

  1. He has just been requested by Iranian Ambassador to use his good offices with British and Russians to effect their withdrawal upon Iran’s undertaking to expel Germans in question. While undertaking to use his best endeavors he has frankly informed Ambassador he has little if any hope of success as he personally considers that real reason for Russo-British action was strategic one of effecting junction of their forces rather than any question of German agents in Iran.

  2. In response to question he indicated feeling that situation in Iran did not increase but would perhaps even tend to diminish any danger of German action against Turkey.

Repeated to Tehran.


740.0011 European War 1939/14585

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Washington, August 27, 1941.

The Minister of Iran called at his request. He said he desired to get before me the contention of his Government to the effect that in the present war going on in Europe his country is neutral; that it is entitled to live peacefully, free from outside interference or intervention with respect to the autonomy, the liberty and the independence of his country; that despite this right to so live, British and Soviet forces for the purpose of aggression and in pursuit of that policy have recently invaded Iran; that in doing so the Soviet forces have bombed some undefended cities and towns and have killed some of the civilian population where there was no military establishment of any kind; and that, therefore, they appeal to this country to carry out its preachments of the eight principles underlying peaceful and free nations and to take any possible steps to aid Iran in securing relief from military occupation.

I replied that I had nothing to say now except that I was assembling the pertinent facts relating to the entire matter, including the opposing viewpoints, in part at least, of the Government of Iran on the one side and of the British and the Soviet Governments on the other; that it would not be possible to discuss the matter intelligently until such facts were assembled; that I commenced to assemble them as soon as I was notified of the incident referred to and that my Government in this case did not have the pertinent and relevant facts in its possession prior to the occupation of Iran by military forces during the past few days. Then I said that it would have been much better from his standpoint if his Government had come to us many days ago and stated to us that Europe, of course, was being overrun by Hitler, and his movements of conquest will continue until some military force stops him and that certain countries such as Great Britain and Russia were defending themselves against attacks by Hitler in pursuance of his movements and plans of military conquest and destruction generally; that either of these opposing military forces may seek to prevent the other from overrunning peaceful neutral countries in connection with the general fighting that is going on, and, therefore, they desire to confer with third countries in sufficient time in advance of any possible military occupation to have the whole situation dealt with to the best possible advantage from the standpoint of the Government of Iran and that of other interested governments. This was no criticism but merely illustrates the extreme importance of every country visualizing the entire breadth and depth of what is happening in Europe, especially in a military way, so that every possible precaution can be taken by innocent neutral countries against being seized and destroyed by an aggressor as, for example, Hitler in his seizure and destruction largely of some fifteen sovereign independent nations in Europe. I said it was evident that he will occupy all of the European and other continents of the world unless he is stopped by military force and that it was well for all to recognize this fact in looking out for their own protection from outside conquest; that everyone knows that Hitler is bent on the conquest of the world and the control of the high seas; that it will be as suicidal as it was for Belgium, Holland and other countries that have been swallowed up by Hitler not to take into view and into consideration this whole movement of conquest and destruction in almost every way known to savagery and barbarism.

The Minister sought to come back each time to the ex parte or unilateral view of himself and presumably of his Government that, without regard to whether they recognized the broad situation and took steps in ample time to deal adequately with it from the standpoint of preserving their sovereignty and independence, they had been interfered with by the British and the Soviet forces and that this Government, as a champion of the rights and sovereignty of small nations and of the principles which underlie world order under law, should have something done about the matter without delay.

I frequently reiterated to the Minister that this Government as an ancient friend of Iran was deeply sorry to learn about their present difficulties; that we are spending thirty to fifty billions of dollars just as one item in our broad movement of direct military aid to nations both large and small that have been attacked by the worst despot and human fiend within the history of the human race and that even though all other countries may fail or fall by the wayside, this country will be found to the very end dedicating all of its strength and its resources in defense of the basic principles of liberty, independence, nonintervention, law, justice and morality, wherever any aggressor like Hitler continues to conquer and destroy them. I again repeated that I had nothing to say at present about the situation in Iran except that we were getting the facts.

The Minister became more quiet and composed and expressed more appreciation of the broader view which I had sought to get before him. I said to the Minister that my Government recognizes the broad view of the situation and the significance of Hitler’s movement to conquer all of Europe and seize persons and property; that this would include Iran particularly on account of her oil supply as much as it did Belgium or Norway, as well as the remaining free countries in the continents of Asia and Europe, and that I hoped his country would take the same broad view in appraising the situation. I said that I must be frank to say that my country has no notion of sitting still and listening to the siren voice of Hitler discussing the merits of neutrality while he conquers all other areas and gets around to the point of attacking us just as he has some fifteen countries in Europe. I said I must warn Iran against Hitler’s stealthy approach, which is always based on a pledge of his supposed honor that he would not for the world attack a neutral country.


740.0011 European War 1939/14716

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs

Washington, August 27, 1941.

I called Mr. Johnson at noon today and informed him I had just come from talking with the Secretary and wanted to point out that our moral support of the British position in Iran was constantly being raised here and, in this connection, of course full information was necessary. To date this had not been received. The Department desires information not only as to factual data from the British but a full statement of their purposes. I then stated the Secretary was seeing the Russian Ambassador and the British Chargé d’Affaires today and would raise with them the question of their respective Governments issuing a statement to all peaceful nations resisting aggression that while these Governments’ action in Iran was necessary to meet the menace of Hitler across Europe, they had no intention of permanently infringing the sovereignty of Iran and that as soon as the necessity for the occupation had passed their Governments would unconditionally withdraw all occupying forces from Iranian territories. Mr. Johnson replied that some statement in this sense had already been made which he was reporting to us by air mail. I said that, unfortunately, this was not at hand — would he look into it and see that the information was made immediately available together with some light on how far the British had attempted preliminary negotiations with Iran to obtain their cooperation or support under British guarantees, should they throw in their lot with the British and Soviet effort.

I then went on to point out that today, of course, the occupation of Iran was not a purely British affair and this again, without due information, was bound to cause some speculation in this country, particularly since reports were reaching here already of bombings and destruction in and about Tabriz. I then asked Mr. Johnson if the statement issued by the British, to which he referred to above as having been dispatched to us by air mail, did not cover details of any Soviet-British agreement, that we would be very interested in having specific information as to what mutual arrangement or agreement had been made between the British and Soviet Governments not only as to the present but also as to the future of Iran and Iranian integrity. I then continued to stress the importance of this whole situation and that we should be kept informed by London. Johnson said that they would raise the question with the British and that he would report my conversation with him to Ambassador Winant.



Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation With the Soviet Ambassador


Washington, August 27, 1941.
. . . . . .

I then referred to the military occupation of Iran by the Russian and British forces during the past few days and particularly to the assurances given by these two Governments to the Government of Iran that they were in that country solely on account of the war with Hitler and that they had no purpose to infringe on their sovereignty in any other sense and only to this extent so long as the military necessity existed. I said to the Ambassador that Soviet Russia and Great Britain should repeat this same assurance to all peaceful nations and all other nations opposed to aggression. I stated that such a statement would have a very healthy and wholesome effect on the entire Moslem world as it would be stimulating to the peoples of small countries everywhere. He seemed very much interested in the idea and said he would send it to his Government at once. I said that I expected today to bring this same idea to the attention of Great Britain.


740.0011 European War 1939/14632

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Washington, August 27, 1941.

The British Chargé d’affaires called at his request and I brought up the same question I had brought up with the Russian Ambassador this morning to the effect that Great Britain and Soviet Russia could well make a joint statement about the temporary occupation of Iran and their purpose to abandon such occupation as soon as war conditions permit and address it to all peaceful nations and other nations opposing or opposed to aggression. He seemed to receive this very favorably and said he would take it up with his Government.

I said to the Chargé that we had been unable to get anything like the full facts relating to the occupation of Iran, that I did hope that we might be able to secure the essential facts and points in the situation, and that we are undertaking to do this and would welcome any cooperation on the part of his Government. He said he knew exceedingly little about the situation, and he seemed to take no special interest in the matter.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 27, 1941)

May halt invasion –

Allied troops push on pending outcome of negotiations

By Edward W. Beattie Jr., United Press staff writer

London, Aug. 27 –
Negotiations are progressing with Iran for a concrete guarantee that would expel Germans from the Near Eastern kingdom and halt the invasion of British and Russian forces, an authoritative source said tonight, but proposals from Tehran so far have been unsatisfactory.

The informant indicated that mere promises to expel Germans from the country would not be acceptable. British Imperial and Russian troops continued to sweep into Iran from the south, west and north.

He re-emphasized that Britain and Russia were not demanding the expulsion of every German. He indicated they would be agreeable to certain technicians remaining under “proper supervision,” if they could not be replaced.

Red occupy four towns

Dispatches from Simla indicated that the next Allied move might be directed toward capture of the Iranian Navy.

According to Jane’s Fighting Ships, the Iranian Navy consists of six gunboats, two escort ships, three patrol boats, one tug and one imperial yacht.

Russia reported the occupation of Tabriz, Iran’s second city; Ardabil, near the Caspian Sea; Lisar, a short distance down the coast, and the important town of Salmas at the northwest side of Lake Urmia, only about 20 miles from the Turkish frontier and 80 miles from Iraq, whence British forces had moved into Iran from the Mosul oil fields.

Key points seized

British forces marching in from west and southwest, after seizing key ports and oil installations, were believed to be advancing again after consolidating their guns.

A British general headquarters communiqué issued at Simla, India, said that in clearing the Iranians out of the oil installations in the Abadan area at the top of the Persian Gulf, Indian troops took two field guns, three armored cars and 350 prisoners.

Authoritative informants, describing the general situation on the Iranian fronts, said British forces up to noon yesterday had penetrated about 40 miles into two areas, one at the top of the Gulf, the other in the western Khanaqin area.

Slught resistance met

The Russians were believed to have advanced about the same distance from the north.

Khanaqin was the center of a 40-mile radius of British penetration, informants said.

As did the Simla communiqué, informants said here that only slight resistance was being met.

In western Iran, British forces took Mared, Gilan and Sarpol-e Zahab and advanced on the fortified Pataq Pass, the communiqué said. Six Iranian planes have been destroyed and several damaged in aerial operations, it was said.

Iranian force 'liquidated’

A dispatch from Baghdad, Iraq, said that British units “liquidated” Iranian forces who sharply counterattacked them near the oil town of Khorramshahr at the top of the Persian Gulf. It also said that, of the six Iranian gunboats, two had been sunk and two captured.

It was emphasized that military operations were being conducted by the British and Russian High Commands without regard to any diplomatic activity.

For the moment, however, all reports indicated that the Allied forces were meeting with little more than token resistance and this increased the belief in diplomatic quarters that the campaign might end within a few days in a Russian-British-Iranian agreement.

It was asserted that Sir Reader Bullard, British Minister, and Andrei A. Smirnov, Russian Ambassador, were in constant communication with Reza Shah Pahlavi in hope of reaching an agreement.

Authoritative informants said the Shah expressed himself as puzzled by their explanations of the Russo-British march and a spokesman commented:

One can only trust that the Shah will see the way to come to terms.

Turkey was reported to be seeking to mediate, and all United Press dispatches from Ankara noted that Turkey hoped some agreement might be reached soon.

A Daily Mail dispatch reported from Beirut, Lebanon, that the British command at Jerusalem had held an important conference to consider and make arrangements against any German drive into Turkey.

According to this dispatch, Germany has suddenly renewed diplomatic pressure on Turkey, coupled with its massing of troops in Bulgaria and Italo-German activity in the Aegean Islands off the Turkish coast.

Von Papen in action

The Daily Mail said Baron Franz von Papen, German Ambassador to Turkey, was arranging a conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Şükrü Saracoğlu and quoted reports that the Turkish Ambassador at Berlin had been summoned suddenly to Adolf Hitler’s headquarters on the Eastern front.

Military experts here, on the basis of meager reports from Iran, expressed belief that the British forces might occupy all southern Iran and an area of about 100 miles in depth fronting the Iraqi frontier, leaving Russia responsible for the rest.

It was forecast that most of the Iranian oil centers would be in Allied hands by tonight and that additional airborne troops might be landed at key points to eliminate danger of sabotage.

Denny’s column –

U.S. more deeply involved than is shown by official explanations

By Ludwell Denny, Scripps-Howard staff writer

Washington, Aug. 27–
America is more deeply involved in the Iranian war than indicated by official Anglo-Soviet explanations regarding Nazi agents or by aloof statements of Washington officials.

Though Iran’s failure to deal with fifth columnists is the occasion of the war, the basic cause is the need for a safer all-weather supply route for American aid to Russia.

Washington officials denied that the Anglo-Soviet ultimatum to Iran was made with American knowledge and support. The pressure was applied immediately after the Roosevelt-Churchill conference. The actual military invasion began within a few hours of the Churchill broadcast reaffirming the Anglo-American united front.

Reds weakening defense

The secondary importance of the fifth column dispute is stated frankly by Lord Beaverbrook’s London Daily Express. After admitting that the expulsion of Germans from Iran is “a subsidiary object,” it says the primary objects are:

First, to close the last gap in the land boom against any eastward drive of Hitler; and second, to keep a carriageway open for British-American aid to our fighting Russian allies.

To bar Hitler from marching into Iran is a long-range objective but not an immediate need, because his closest forces are far away in Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Indeed, the Russians are weakening their defensive strength against Hitler in the Ukraine, where it is so urgently required, to furnish the men and materials for an Iranian campaign.

And the British, instead of opening a new front against Hitler, or even striking at the German armies in Africa and the Balkans, are turning away to start a sideshow in distant Iran.

Becomes No. 1 priority

Such strange Anglo-Soviet strategy, which would be suicidal on any other grounds, is of course explained by the dire military and political need for a good American supply line to Russia. For Russia cannot hold out indefinitely, cannot replace huge losses of planes and other equipment, without American supplies and American machine-tools to manufacture her own.

Thus material aid to Russia had become the No. 1 priority in Churchill-Roosevelt strategy. That aid is of two kinds – both American.

The more important, because it is the only aid that can reach the European front quickly, is the supply of American planes, tanks, trucks, and munitions already in England and the Near East. The second included the small amount of supplies now being shipped from the United States, and the much larger amount still in production or on order.

Siberian route inadequate

In both cases, the Iranian route is the key to delivery. Except for a few bomber and transport planes flown directly from England to Russia, and the blockaded Arctic route soon to be closed by ice, the two possibilities are Siberia and Iran. The Siberian route is inadequate by itself; because American ships must pass through Japanese-controlled waters, because Vladivostok is ice-bound in winter, and because the Siberian transport system is a long bottleneck.

Iran, however, can complete several safer routes. First, for the American planes, tanks and other supplies which have been piling up in Egypt for months. Secondly, for new American shipments via the Atlantic and the safer South Pacific. Thirdly, for the speeded-up American plane ferry service via Brazil–South Atlantic–Central Africa–Near East.

One Iranian route is the railway connecting the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The other is by Iraqi caravan routes to that major railway, and to the second railway at Tabriz connecting with the Russian-Caucasian railway. Planes can be flown from Iraq as soon as a 150-mile line is opened across the northern neck of Iran, presumably within a few days.