Nazi ax hangs above Turkey (5-6-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 6, 1941)


’Tourists’ in Persia aim to encircle Ankara

By Edgar Ansel Mowrer

Washington, May 6 –
The coup d’état and anti-British outburst of Rashid Ali al-Gailani of Iraq threatened, it is believed here, to take the world’s attention from Adolf Hitler’s next real objective.

That objective, unless the signs are misleading, is Turkey.

The clue to Hitler’s ambition is given partly by Rashid’s tempestuous zeal, but more by events in Iran. These events boil down, more or less, to one event: The arrival in Iran, and tolerance by the Shah, of from 3,000 to 6,000 German “tourists.”

Remembering the role played by similar German tourists in the assassination of Norway, Holland, Romania and Yugoslavia, it is not hard to imagine what they are now up to in Iran. Their purpose obviously is to transform Iran – by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary – into a German instrument. Iran is important to Germany for two reasons, one ultimate and one immediate:

  1. The ultimate reason is that Iran produced in 1939 more than 10 million tons of oil, or to 2.5 times the production of Iraq.

  2. The immediate reason is that, with the Germans in control of Iran, the hostile circle about Turkey virtually will be complete.

Look at your map. Forget Turkey in Europe. Turkey today means Turkey in Asia. Turkey in Asia is bounded, on the north, by the Black Sea; on the east and south, by Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria; on the west, by the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean.

Ignore Russian 'might’

With the occupation of Bulgaria right up to the Turkish borders, Germany all but controls the Black Sea, its dominion being still feebly disputed only by Russia, an influence that the Nazis feel can be – indeed, has been – neutralized.

It is felt for certain, in Berlin, that whatever happens to Turkey, that poor country, another victims of Germany’s skill in hypnotizing its victims one at a time, never will receive armed assistance from the blustering Soviets.

Syria is believed to be an easy victim for the Germans, its once splendid army paralyzed by the will of Vichy, and perversely anti-British.

Eastward is Iraq, whose frame of mind after Hitler’s smash victories is revealed by Rashid Ali’s attack on the British air force.

With Syria hostile and Iraq hellbent on breaking the 1930 mutual defense treaty with the British, Britain can hope to keep contact with Turkey only through the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, or by way of Persia.

With the occupation of several Greek islands, the Germans have more or less made themselves master of the Aegean. By taking over control of Iran, they could hope to reduce Anglo-Turkish contact virtually to the single Mediterranean port of Alexandria.

Can isolate Turks

Turkey, in other words, would be all but isolated. Once this condition was virtually achieved, the moment would have come for Berlin to talk to Ankara.

One can imagine Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Baron Franz von Papen, saying:

Once more, your English friends have shown their impotence. Today Turkey cannot be assisted from the outside.

The conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece in three weeks demonstrate what our invincible Nazi army can do. Do you imagine that Turkish valor, however great, can make up for your lack of modern war material and modern methods?

’What would you reply?'

The alternatives for you Turks are simply, resistance to and conquest by Germany in a very brief time, or submission and friendship.

If you choose the first, your country will be ruined. If you choose the second, Germany, which has no direct aims against Turkish independence and no claims on Turkish territory, will ask nothing but the right of passage through Turkey in order to get at the Suez Canal and assist our friends in Iraq and in Iran.

This will not injure Turkey and it will enable our Führer, Adolf Hitler, to seize the oil necessary to so great an empire as ours, and incidentally to drive the cowardly English into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

So, which will it be: Peaceful transit of German troops, or war?

If you were a Turkish statesman, what would your answer be?