STRANGE MENAGERIE
The Eagle, the Peacock, the Lion, & the Bear

The Atlantic Charter as the Root of American Entanglement in Iran, &
Its Influence Upon the Development of the Policy of Containment, 1941-1946

In affixing his signature to the Atlantic Charter on August 14, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt irretrievably interwove the destiny of the United States with that of Europe, irreversibly "entangling" America's "peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, [and] Caprice." The concomitant transformation of the United States into the arsenal of democracy, therefore, abrogated the "detached and distant situation" which--for 145 years--had insulated the Republic from being involuntarily drawn into the "combinations and collisions" which embroiled the imperial powers of Europe in "frequent controversies." [citation 1]

FDR's lend-lease policy ran contrary to the tenor of American popular opinion. The dismal failure of appeasement in the face of Hitler's naked aggression was popularly discounted by the overwhelming majority of Americans--outside of immigrant communities and leftist intellectual circles--as a purely European affair, which did not affect America's vital interests. The stunning success of blitzkrieg in 1939-1940, however, left Britain the sole surviving democracy in Europe. Despite the appalling civilian death tolls the Luftwaffe's nightly bombardment of Britain reaped, the majority of Americans stubbornly clung to their isolationist somnambulism, securely separated from the madness by an ocean. Thus, although Hitler's brutal aggression caused widespread revulsion, the American populace still had to be cajoled intoextending anything more than moral support to the British.

When Roosevelt first enunciated the Four Freedoms in his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, the isolationist movement was at its zenith, attracting huge crowds (and enormous radio audiences) to rallies where "all-American" heroes, such as Charles Lindbergh, reminded Americans of "Washington's legacy". FDR had countered isolationist attacks upon his policy of economic engagement in the war effort by arguing that Europe had fallen so suddenly and completely to the forces of fascism because its leaders had blinded themselves to the implications of fascism's insidious spread, choosing the pollyana path of appeasement over the pragmatic path of preparedness. As a result, FDR warned the joint session of Congress, "the democratic way of life" was "being directly assailed in every part of the world." [citation 2]

While Hitler promised to bring to the world a "new order" at the barrel of a gun, FDR offered an alternative vision of a new order--one predicated upon hope, rather than fear, opportunity rather than enslavement, free expression rather than repression, and cooperation rather than domination. These four fundamental freedoms--which the Constitution guaranteed every American--Roosevelt now offered to the world as "the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy." [citation 3] Thus, the enduring appeal of Washington's warnings to the American public mandated that--just as Americans' individual rights were safeguarded by the Bill of Rights--in exchange for the extension of aid to England, Britain must disavow any imperial aggrandizement in a document which not only clearly enunciated the Four Freedoms as the goal of the united effort against fascism, but would protect America from inadvertently aiding the British in furthering "primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation." [citation 4] That guarantee was the Atlantic Charter. By equating the massive transfer of matèriel to Britain--a policy which isolationists condemned as a blatant violation of American neutrality--with the Four Freedoms, FDR elevated lend-lease from the material to the metaphysical plane. The Atlantic Charter, therefore, was an open avowal of America's altruistic intentions in actively aiding Britain (and later the Soviet Union) in its apocalyptic struggle against Hitler's hordes--a declaration to a "candid world" of the ideological underpinnings of the fight against fascism.

Washington fervently believed that the strength of the United States lay not merely in its geographic remoteness from the constant battlefield which was Europe, but in the philosophic gulf that separated American liberty from European despotism, tyranny, and greed. The primary interests of European powers, therefore, he argued, stemmed from their imperial and despotic ambitions and thus were not those of the United States. Thus, Washington concluded, America must restrain from alliances with any European power, lest the United States become the unwitting instrument of a foreign government's self-interest. The global conflagration which had erupted in 1939, however, was no mere territorial war, FDR countered, but an ideological struggle which struck at the very foundations of democracy itself. Therefore, FDR concluded, the US had an inherent obligation, which overrode the dictates of the deified Washington, to actively aid Britain in its struggle against fascism. FDR's calculation, however, while valid, overemphasized the ideological variable, to the detriment of the catalytic constant of European politics: the promotion and preservation of self-interest through the exercise of realpolitik. It was indeed true, as FDR fervently maintained, that the threat of fascism was not limited to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of European nations, for the grandiose schemes of the Third Reich and its Anti-Comintern allies also threatened the elaborate extra-territorial empires of the major European powers. Thus, Britain availed itself of American aid in order to protect its own interests, not to further the cause of democracy, nor--as the fifth clause of the Atlantic Charter expressly stipulated--"to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic adjustment and social security."{citation 5] In British eyes, the signing of the Atlantic Charter was merely a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Great Britain in 1941 was bloody, but unbowed. Though the British Isles shuddered under the onslaught of the Blitz, in the hearts and minds of the British people, the British empire prevailed--as it always had, and always would.

FDR was far from naive; on the contrary, he considered the Atlantic Charter as a blueprint for a new standard of international law and justice--an insurance policy against a Wilsonian fate for the post-war world. Nevertheless, he grossly under-estimated the full implication and effect which this codification of the "Four Freedoms" would have upon the international amalgam over which Europe's "great powers" of the pre-war era held sway: politically independent states whose independence was nevertheless compromised by the domination and exploitation of their economies and natural resources by Europe's "great powers;" protectorates; dependencies; and colonies. Thus, the US became the focal point of the aspirations of the "Third World", whose peoples seized upon the provisions of the Charter as an affirmation of their unalienable right to either assert or reassert their sovereignty. Nowhere did the contradictory convergence of self-interest between imperial avarice and indigenous aspirations crystalize more clearly during the war than in Iran, where the blurring of the delineation between internal and international politics--combined with the "entanglements" the United States had incurred (both consciously and unconsciously) in coordinating the international alliance for which the Atlantic Charter served as a blueprint--drew the US headlong into the morass of imperial realpolitik.


In order to understand the dynamics which shaped American policy towards Iran during the 1940s, one must briefly explore the economic dynamics which dictated Iran's international relations, as well as the socio-political development of the modern nation-state of Iran.

Persia initially derived its importance solely from its strategic location, a mountainous stretch of land pinched between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. [explanatory note 1] Even as Washington delivered his "Farewell Address," two of the most ravenous dogs of war--Great Britain and Imperial Russia--were beginning to transform Persia, the fulcrum of Eurasia, into a bone of contention. Over the course of the 19th century--almost as if to illustrate Washington's dire warnings concerning the "combinations and collisions" of European powers--the importance of the ancient Asian nation grew in direct proportion to the extraterritorial possessions and imperial ambitions of the rival empires. For the Russians, possession of Persia comprised a crucial component in the completion of the Czars' century-long campaign to encircle the "Sick Old Man of Europe". The southward extension of its Central Asian empire into Persia would assure Russia of a clear path to the Dardanelles once the crumbling Ottoman Empire finally collapsed. Penetration to the Persian Gulf would also assure the Czars access to the warm water ports which the autocracy deemed necessary for the furtherance of its Far Eastern ambitions, as well as a means of ensuring the empire's prosperity and--in the event of a prolonged European land war--its survival. The British regarded Persia as the logical ex-tension of its Indian possessions. Persia's central location--straddling the Persian Gulf and abutting Afghanistan, the key to the Khyber Pass--made it an essential link in the defense of both the sealanes and the overland routes which linked the crown jewel of the British Empire--India--to the mother country. The importance of dominating the Persian Gulf increased immensely with the establishment of the British protectorate over Egypt which guaranteed the British navy and merchant marine access to the Suez Canal.

The rise of Germany and the resultant realignment of the European balance of power at the close of the nineteenth century, however, ultimately led to a thaw in Anglo-British relations. One of the many manifestations of Anglo-Russian déntente was the easing of tensions in Persia, where several small skirmishes on the then loosely defined Russian-Persian-Afghan border had erupted between the forces of the two empires during the 1870s and 1880s. [citation 6] By the end of the century, the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Persia had become monumentally expensive in terms of men, material, and money--a situation exacerbated by a unifying wave of anti-imperialist sentiment which subsumed the ancient tribal, religious, and ethnic animosities which had hitherto acted as Persia's achilles's heel. Due to its considerable commitments in India and the Far East, Britain had been loathe to annex Persian territory outright, preferring instead to purse an active policy of divide and conquer, aimed at eclipsing the central government's authority by encouraging (as well as arming) tribal chieftains, local warlords, and other indigenous leaders (both ethnic and religious) to resist any attempt by succeeding Persian shahs to assert their authority over southern Persia. The Russians, on the other hand--while treating northern Persia as an informal extension of its empire--chose to treat central Persia, over which the Shahs of the Qajar dynasty still exercised nominal (if ineffectual) control, as a de facto protector-ate. Thus, the Russians provided the Persian autocracy with deceptively generous loans which transformed the Shahs into little more than Russian sycophants, as well as a massive program of military aid (including the training of the elite Persian Cossack Brigade, from whose ranks would rise the first Pahlavi Shah), designed to establish an indige- nous buttress against further encroachment by the British and their tribal allies upon the rump state of Persia. [explanatory note 2]

The xenophobic backlash which swept across Persia in the opening years of the 20th century, acted as a unifying force which instilled in the heterogeneous population of Persia an unquenchable thirst for autonomy. The furor of the Persian people culminated in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1907--a unified response to the impotency of the indigenous Iranian autocracy in the face of the ever-escalating imperial encroachment of both Russia and Britain--which overthrew the Qajar dynasty and abolished the monarchy. [citation 7] During the Constitutional Revolution, Russia openly allied itself with the Persian autocracy--providing the Peacock Throne with Russian officers, advisors, and arms with which to battle the Constitutional re-formists. Weakened by its own constitutional crisis, however, the only practical contribution to the Persian crisis which the Russians were able to provide was a safe haven for the deposed Qajar shah. [citation 8]

The Constitutional Revolution was inspired by the Persian peoples' aspiration for a parliamentary system. This fervor was the fruit of Constitutionalist rhetoric, which had convinced Persia's heterogeneous population that the installation of an indigenous representative government would insulate ethnic and religious minorities from repression and enforced assimilation. Furthermore, as the concrete manifestation of the unity of the Persian people, the parliament (or Majlis), would restore Persia's territorial integrity. Thus, the Constitutionalists transformed the Majlis into the cornerstone of a truly national identity--the catalyst which, the Constitutionalists argued, would ultimately free Persia from the shackles of foreign domination.

The Constitutionalists' quest to transform Persia into a modern, cohesive nation-state, however, was quickly crushed by the signing of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907. The bilateral accord--while ostensively recognizing Persia as an inde-pendent state--separated the nation into three distinct sections: two spheres of influence divided by a central neutral zone, over which the Majlis nominally retained sovereignty. Furthermore, the Agreement expressly granted the agents of either empire exclusive control over the disposition of the natural resources contained within their respective sphere. [citation 9]

Though the roots of the Anglo-Russian Agreement were legion, one in particular has a direct bearing on the future development of the East-West rivalry over Persia. Russia signed the accord from a position of weakness precipitated by its decisive defeat in the Russo-Japanese War--an event which exposed the vast overextension and even greater inefficiency of the Russian empire to an international audience. [explanatory note 3] The Agreement, therefore, became the object of Russian (later Soviet) resentment against their erstwhile allies of necessity, the British--especially in light of the lucrative concessions which the British extracted from their sphere of influence. [explanatory note 4] The Russian inability to capitalize upon the Agreement of 1907, therefore, provided the czarist autocracy's successor state--the Soviet Union--with self-granted grounds for continued agitation--aimed at winning the USSR concessions similar to those wrested under the terms of the accord by the British--within Persian (later Iranian) affairs.

The internal repercussions of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 on Persia itself was a watershed in the development of the modern state of Iran. That the Agreement--a bilateral accord concluded between foreign powers without consultation with the Persian people or their representa- tives/overlords--dictated the precise conditions under which Persia was allowed to retain a modicum of severely constrained sovereignty, was viewed by Persians of every ethnic and ideological persuasion as the tangible embodiment of Persian impotence. Thus, in the presumption--let alone the ability--of the imperial powers to arbitrarily prescribe the latitude of Persia's political and economic autonomy, the seeds of an enduring nation- alist movement--which transcended the traditional impediments posed by tribalism and regionalism--were sown. For the immediate future, however, the implementation of the Anglo-Russian Agreement shattered the fragile pan-Persian unity which the Consti- tutionalist movement had fostered. The result was a proliferation of political parties which faction-alized the Majlis along ideological and ethnic lines. Thus, although the Majlis continued to convene in Tehran, due to its internal fragmentation, it was utterly incapable of functioning as the agent of indigenous autonomy. Moreover, even when the Majlis was able to agree upon a particular policy or course of action, it was unable to implement its decisions. The Majlis not only lacked the popular support necessary to enact its decrees, but--since its control over the armed forces and the gen-darmerie was purely nominal--it lacked an effective means of enforcing them. Furthermore, the exercise of the imperial preroga- tives which the Agreement's signatories had arbitrarily appropriated, allowed Persia's traditional tribal, ethnic, and religious leaders--whose influence had been eclipsed by the surge in pan-Persian solidarity sparked by the Constitutionalist movement--to reassert their traditional (and inherently divisive) social authority over their respective peoples, as well as political control over petty demesnes in the imperial spheres of influence. Thus, the end result of the imposition of the Agreement of 1907 upon Persian politics was a return to the rule of the strongman on both a local and national level.


The geo-strategic importance of Persia to the British Empire escalated exponentially in 1908, with the discovery of vast petroleum deposits within the English sphere of influence. [citation 10] A consortium of British entrepreneurs immediately founded the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or AIOC)--a monopolistic conglomerate expressly designed to take advantage of the provision of the Anglo-Russian Agreement which guaranteed the subjects of the partitioning powers the unrestricted right to exploit whatever resources were contained within their parent country's sphere of influence. The AIOC quickly secured an extremely inequitable concession from the Persian government in Tehran, which granted it the exclusive right to explore, extract, produce, and refine Persian oil. [explanatory note 5] As remuneration, the Persian government received only a 16% royalty on the company's profits per annum. [citation 11}

The discovery of vast petroleum deposits in Britain's sphere of influ- ence transformed Persia from a mere connecting cog in the engine of empire into the very catalyst which fueled it. Not only was the AIOC's concession in Persia the largest oil field to have hitherto been discovered, but its discovery coincided with the launching of an ambitious maritime moderniza- tion program under the aegis of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. [citation 12] The refurbishment of the British navy was precipitated by the contemporaneous construction and deployment of an oil-driven Imperial German fleet, the range and scope of which posed a direct threat to Britain's international strategic--and hence economic--supremacy. The thrust of Churchill's program, therefore, was to avoid the eclipse of England's hitherto unquestioned naval superiority through the conversion of its maritime forces from coal to oil. The advantages of oil over coal were myriad--its extraction from the earth was less labor intensive, and hence cheaper; it was a far more efficient fuel (not only insofar as the rate of kinetic conversion, but also in terms of tonnage), thus vastly increasing the cruising range of Britain's flotillas; and the discovery of oil in the British sphere of influence in Persia ensured the British navy of a convenient depot from which to fuel their Indian Ocean and Far Eastern fleets. [explanatory note 6]

Shortly before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the British government--recognizing the sagacity of Churchill's insistence that a measure of governmental control be imposed over the production of Persian petroleum so as to ensure Britain's armed forces of a steady supply of oil--purchased a 51% share in AIOC. [citation 13] World War I provided the British government with a practical demonstration of the importance of Persian oil to Britain's security--both domestic and imperial--assuring Persia (or Iran, as it was now designated by its denizens) a position of primacy in British foreign policy. The presence of British civil servants on AIOC's Board of Directors, therefore, assured Britain of an inexpensive--and seemingly inexhaust-ible--supply of refined petrol. Furthermore, the strategic location of AIOC's refineries, reassured the Foreign Office in London that Britain's maritime supremacy over the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and the Far Eastern Seas would remain unquestioned as long as Persian oil continued to flow.


The key to understanding the growth of Iran as a modern nation-state, lies in a brief analysis of the tenure of Reza Mizra Khan, who--in transforming himself into Reza Pahlavi, Shahanshah of Iran--transformed the fabric of Iranian society.

The repercussions of the Russian withdrawal from World War I were keenly felt in Persia. The ensuing Civil War temporarily diverted Russian attention away from the former Czarist Empire's periphery, allowing the British to assert an even greater level of influence over Persia. [explanatory note 7] Several ethnic groups--such as the Kurds and Azeris--as well as opportunistic warlords and tribal chieftains took advantage of the sudden vacuum of power created by the Russia withdrawal from northern Persia to assert their sovereignty and autonomy.

Once the Bolsheviks consolidated their control over the European portion of the former Russian empire, they turned their attention to the preservation of as much of the Czar's Asian possessions as the strength of the Red Army would allow. Chief amongst the priorities of the nascent workers' state was the retention of the extensive Baku oil fields--the nation's primary source of petroleum--located on the northern shore of the Caspian Sea in Russian Azerbaijan. The massive military installations which the Soviets constructed as a means of safeguarding their access to the Baku oil fields were perceived by the British as a direct threat to northern Persia. The situation was exacerbated by the establishment of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, which quickly became the object of Persian Azeri yearnings for a unified Azeri homeland. The craving for a unified Azerbaijan was effectively exploited by peripatetic Soviet propagandists and agents provocateurs who were instrumental in spreading separatist sentiment throughout northern Persia. [explanatory note 8]

The inherent enmity between capitalism and communism manifested itself in a tense stand-off between the Soviet Union, the British, and the newly rechristened nation of Iran, over which the Tehran-based Majlis ostensively exercised control. A reflection of the international paranoia which the triumph of the Red Army fostered in the capitalist capitals of Europe (as well as the US) was the British Foreign Office's unshakable conviction that the unstable Iranian state afforded the Bolsheviks with an irresistible opportunity to initiate the oft-threatened export of world revolution. Thus, Iran became the site of a British policy of proto-containment, the object of which was to confine the self-proclaimed workers' state to the truncated borders to which the treaty of Brest-Litvok and the ability of the Red Army had restricted it. The success of this policy, however, hinged upon an effective and cohesive Iranian state, capable of mounting a credible defense against increas-ingly militant separatist factions in the north, which the Soviets were utilizing as foils with which to reassert Russian influence over Iranian affairs. The threat of Soviet expansion in the early 1920s, therefore, led the British to abandon the policy of "divide and exploit" in favor of a policy which would enable the Iranian government--over which Reza Mizra Khan, Minister of War and commander-in-chief of the Iranian armed forces and national gendarmerie, exercised dictatorial control--to assert Iranian hegemony over the area which formerly comprised the Russian sphere of influence. [citation 14]

Reza Khan responded to the British initiative with great alacrity and vigor. Tribal, clan, and ethnic chieftains had swiftly filled the vacuum of power which the Russian Revolution had created in the Czar's sphere of influence, and quickly reasserted their dominion over vast swathes of northern Iran. These petty warlords--several of whom supplied with arms by both Red and White Russian forces--fielded armies which not only insulated them from reprisals from the Tehran government (at least until Reza Khan's assumption of dictatorial power), but which allowed them to extract taxes and tribute from the peoples over whom they exercised immediate authority. The infusion of matèriel from Britain allowed the Iranian army--under Reza Khan's per-sonal command--to successfully invade and occupy the former Russian sphere of influence. Reza Khan mercilessly wielded a mailed fist to suppress ethnic and tribal separatism, thus reasserting the Tehran government's authority over northern Iran. Having thus consolidated his power in central and northern Iran, Reza Mizra Khan--who had declared himself Prime Minister of Iran on October 28, 1923--finally dropped all pretense of constitutional rule, and had himself crowned Shah of Iran on December 13, 1925, thus establishing the Pahlavi dynasty. [citation 15]

Though the Constitutionalist experiment had collapsed under the crushing weight of imperial exploitation, territorial diminution, and separatist strivings, the Majlis itself--though utterly impotent--survived. If the imposition of the Agreement of 1907 had severely constrained the capacity of the Majlis to govern Iran, then the usurpation of internal authority by the army under Reza Khan completely emasculated it. Yet, the Majlis was allowed to continue to function--albeit as a mere shadow of a parliament, whose mild debates were but sound and fury signifying nothing and affecting even less--for one of Reza Shah's primary diplomatic objectives was the international acceptance of Iran into the community of nations; recognition which would both strengthen his sovereignty and Iran's territorial integrity. Though stripped of its authority by Reza Khan, and reduced to the status of a rubber-stamp, the Majlis nevertheless served as the agar in which a horde of political parties was nurtured. Though the majority of the representatives which served in the Majlis from 1926 to 1941 were Pahlavi sycophants, a radical fringe of nationalists and republicans managed to retain those seats which had been apportioned to certain ethnic, religious, and socio-economic factions in order to induce them--and by extension their followers--into participation in the Constitutional experiment of representative government.

Under the omnipresent threat of the mailed fist of Reza Shah, these factions remained outwardly silent, passive, and cooper-ative. Covertly, they--along with the outlawed Marxists--utilized coffee houses, the Univer- sity of Tehran, the mosque, and the marketplace to recruit new adherents to their clandestine causes. The most important of these factions were the communists, the nationalists, and the republicans. The Communist Party of Persia/Iran was known as Tudeh, which--literally translated--means "Masses". Tudeh had been officially banned by Reza Shah in the 1920s and vigorously suppressed on the grounds that it was a subversive organization controlled by foreign interests--namely the Comintern. [citation 16] Since most of the Tudeh activists and leaders who escaped imprisonment sought refuge in the Soviet Union, the party remained closely linked, and--at least in the estim-ation of the Iranian and western governments--manipulated by Moscow. [explanatory note 9] During Reza Shah's tenure, the nationalists did not constitute a formal party, [explanatory note 10] but rather a faction, whose unity derived from adherence to a single tenet: that all of Iran's in-ternal ills could be directly attributed to the manipulation of the Iranian economy by foreign companies--in particular, AIOC. The third faction, the republicans, was also the most amorphous, as it was composed of individuals of every ideological ilk and affiliation who yearned to resume the Constitutionalist experiment by restoring control over Iran to a viable legisla-tive body.


The aim of Reza Pahlavi's rule was to modernize Iran's economy and centralize all political power in his person (of which a strong, disciplined gendarmerie, secret police, and army were considered extensions), thus reducing Iran's dependence on the UK and its vulnerability to the subversive tactics of the Comintern. [explanatory note 11] Reza Pahlavi was as astute as he was ruthless. He knew only too well that every attempt by previous Iranian regimes to assert their hegemony--political and/or economic--in either sphere of influence, had invariably backfired. Thus, for nearly 200 years, Iran had been little more than a chessboard upon which the British, Russians, and their indigenous pawns constantly engaged in a callous struggle for supremacy.

The root of Iran's inability to resist foreign domination was twofold. First, geo-physical forces had conspired to render Iran inherently economically anemic. Persia is an arid and mountainous wasteland, infrequently interspersed by fertile river valleys and forests. Historically (that is, before the application of petroleum to industry) Persia's most important asset was its geographic position at the fulcrum of Eurasia. For millennia, Persia's prosperity was based upon its function as the land-bridge of the ancient Silk Road which was traversed by the merchants who plied the East-West trade in silks, spices, and precious metals. Even the ancient Persian empire which had threatened the city- states of Hellenistic Greece with extinction, had derived its puissance from trade, rather than the natural resources of the Persian plateau. The river valleys which punctuate the central Persian plateau--which is inhabited by the majority of the country's population (of which the majority are ethnic Persians)--did produce some exportable crops--mainly sugar, tea, and later tobacco, while the most conspicuous exports produced in the country's mountainous northern regions (populated mostly by Iran's ethnic minorities--Kurds, Azeris, Turks, Pathans, etc) were rugs. [explanatory note 12] [citation 17] Once these commodities had been produced, however, they were immediately exported--in most cases by foreign concerns and contractors, to whom the profits accrued.

Given this historical perspective, the Iranian oil industry was merely a magnification of the economic ills which had rendered Iran unable to assert its autonomy. The monopoly which the AIOC enjoyed over every aspect of the petroleum industry left Iranian laborers to toil under the direction of British managers, technicians, surveyors, engineers, and executives. Furthermore, the British government owned 51% of AIOC. Thus, not only did the lion's share of the profits generated by the extraction and refining of oil in Iran accrue directly to the British government, but--to add insult to imperial injury--under the provisions of the Concession Agreement of 1933 (which replaced the egregiously unfair original concession outlined earlier), the British government received more revenue from the taxes it levied upon AIOC's annual sales than the Iranian government received in royalties. [citation 18]

By the beginning of the 1930s, Reza Shah had succeeded in imposing a sheen of modernity over Iran. He had fostered the growth of indigenous industries by improving the Iranian infrastructure--including the completion of the Trans-Iranian Railroad, which by 1931 connected the urban centers of Tehran, Tabriz, and Esfahan, in central Iran, to the Persian gulf ports of the south and the rural agricultural settlements which ringed the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. [citation 19] The improvements in infrastructure encouraged the growth of indigenous industry, and from 1926 to 1941, Reza shah granted monopolies over the production of such basic commodities as textiles, matches, cigarettes, sugar refining, and tea processing to over 150 Iranian-owned companies. [citation 20] The combined impact of Reza Shah's economic and infrastructural reforms rendered Iran self-sufficient in several basic consumer industries, [explanatory note 13] and endowed it with an extensive self-generated and self-supervised transportation system, as well as a series of extensive and ambitious state-sponsored public works programs.

In the social sphere, Reza Shah--as had his contemporary in neighboring Turkey, Kemal Atatürk--sought to demolish the traditionally divisive barriers of ethnicity, as well as to undermine the ubiquitous role of Islamic clerics in Iranian society, by suppressing the mullahs pervasive (and, in Reza Shah's opinion, pernicious) influence over the Iranian people. To this end, Reza outlawed traditional ethnic garb and--in violation of Koranic law--banned women from wearing the veil. These progressive measures were furthered by the establishment of a secular curriculum in state-funded schools. Prior to the modernist reforms of Reza shah, Iran's Shi'a mullahs had served as the sole source of education, instructing (or, in Reza Shah's opinion, indoctrinating) their pupils in Islamic law as embodied in the Koran. Since the mullahs were also the final arbiters of the interpretation of Islamic law, under their aegis, the imparting of knowledge was not an end unto itself, nor a means of economic advancement (the emphasis of the state curriculum), but a self-proclaimed means of "purifying" Iranian society from modernist pollution. The mullahs, therefore, posed a tangible threat to the assertion of absolute power by the Shah. The Pahlavi Shahs understood the power which the Islamic clergy exerted over the minds of the faithful as analogous to that which the Shah exerted over the lives of his subjects--absolute, unquestionable, and unyielding. Therefore, in the Pahlavis' perception, the mullahs yielded an unacceptable level of socio-political power which they derived from their cynical manipulation of the central tenet of Shi'a, which holds that the pious Moslem recognizes only one authority--that of the Holy Koran--which the mullahs claimed the exclusive, divinely sanctioned authority to interpret. Thus, by extension, according to Shi'a tradition, the proclamations of the mullahs took precedence over the dictates of the Shah--an untenable situation for a nascent dynasty which was attempting to fuse a country rent by ancient tribal, class, and ethnic divisions into a cohesive, consolidated, and centralized political unit. Thus, both Reza and his son and successor, Mohammed Shah, attempted to keep a tight muzzle upon the mullahs by any means necessary, in order to assert the supremacy of secular law--embodied in the person of the Shah. The exertion of the Shah's personal power was, to the Pahlavis, synonymous with the imposition of a rule of law which would speed Iran's modernization and acceptance into the community of nations, while consolidating all political power in the person of the Shah himself. This is an important--albeit generally overlooked--factor in the history of American-Iranian relations, as the preservation and promotion of the power of the Peacock Throne guided Mohammed Shah in his dealings with the United States, even when--in the eyes of most American observers and experts--the young Shah appeared only to be the timid and insecure figurehead of a truncated Third World state.

The second barrier to Iranian sovereignty stemmed from a recurring phenomenon perhaps best described as the "imperial knee-jerk". Historically, any diminution in the effectiveness of one power to exercise its imperial prerogatives, led not to an increase in Iranian autonomy, but to an increased level of imperial engagement in Iranian affairs by its rival. In order to escape from these Sisyphisian cycles, Reza Pahlavi sought to establish close economic ties with a third party state which was strong enough economically to act as an effective counterbalance to the inordinate influence Russian (now Soviet) and British interests exerted upon the Iranian economy. Foreign investment and trade, Reza reasoned, would not only provide his government with a steady source of specie, but with an influx of advisors who--unlike the minions of the imperial powers--would impart their technological expertise to Iranian citizens. Reza was astute enough to realize that the invitation of a third party into Iran was a calculated risk, but if the third party were strong enough--and the level of its economic and techno-logical exchange with Iran was high enough--the very presence of an actively engaged third party might prompt the British and Russians to offer his government better terms on their pre-existing (and in Iranian eyes, inequitable) contracts and concessions.

Unfortunately for his personal future and the sovereignty of Iran, Reza Shah chose the newly ressuscent Germany of the Third Reich as Iran's third party savior. Nazi Germany was not Reza Shah's first choice--he would have preferred the United States, whose "detached and distant situation" would have considerably shortened the odds on the calculated risk he was taking with his country's solvency and sovereignty. [explanatory note 14] The Hoover administration, however--which interpreted thick skein of international intrigue and engagement in Iran as a concrete manifestation of the "frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns" of which Washington had warned--and declined to become engaged in Iran on an official level. [citation 21]

The Nazis, on the other hand, were more than eager to accept Reza Shah's invitation to invest in Iran. Engagement in Iran provided Germany with the opportunity to deploy engineers, technicians, and military advisors in a country whose unique geo-strategic location and immense oil-deposits made it an object of German desire and designs: the crucial catalytic link in the Eurasian-African empire to which the Reich aspired. Through the exten- sion of abundant technical aid and extensive economic en-gagement with Iran's indigenous industries, the Reich ingratiated itself with Reza Shah, gaining a firm foothold in a region of immense geo-strategic importance. Germany--whose limited access to oil was a major source of its acute sense of strategic insecurity--was keenly conscious of the immense level of oil production which the AIOC conducted in its southeastern Iranian concession. Through economic engagement in Iran, therefore, Germany hoped to gain concessions of its own. Even should it fail to gain its own concessions, the German presence in Iran would--should a European war erupt--facilitate not only the seizure of the AIOC's Abadan refinery--the largest in the world--but serve as the springboard for a preemptive strike at the oil fields of Soviet Azerbaijan, thus inhibiting the USSR's ability to respond to an overland invasion of its east European border. To the Third Reich, however, Iran's allure was not merely economic or strategic--the land itself held a central place in Nazi cosmology, for the Persian plateau was believed to have been the original Aryan homeland. Nazi propagandists thus made much of the "natural affinity" of the two nations--an affinity which extended to a common etymology for the words "Aryan" and "Iran". [explanatory note 15]


With the onset of war in 1939, the presence of German nationals in Iran became a source of extensive British sabre rattling. The UK's animosity towards the Iranian autocracy, however, did not stem solely from the Shah's obstinant refusal to comply with the Foreign Office's increasingly belligerent demands that the Iranian autocracy expel every German citizen from its borders, but from the steady diminution of English influence over Iranian affairs. The decline in British leverage over Iran had been precipitated by Reza Shah's transformation of Iran from a truncated imperial appendage into a cohesive nation-state. What rendered Reza Shah's current refusal to acquiesce to English ultimatums particularly galling to the British, therefore, was the fact his rise to power had been facilitated by the Foreign Office's own policy of arming Iran against the Bolshevik threat in the early 1920s. Added evidence of the Shah's untenable impudence--as well as a source of added ammunition in the British diplomatic arsenal--was that Germany had supplanted Britain not only as Iran's main trading partner, but as its leading supplier of armaments. [citation 22]

Reza Shah was the consummate pragmatist. The free exercise of Iran's sovereignty, he realized, would forever be compromis-ed as long as foreign- ers controlled the extraction, refining, and retailing of the nation's most lucrative commodity. More ominously, Britain not only controlled Iranian oil production, but utilized its concession as the strategic cornerstone which safeguarded its extensive Asian and African possessions and protec- torates. Thus, as the war progressed, the British military presence in the Persian Gulf increased, posing an inherent and imminent threat to Iran's sovereignty, security, and survival, despite its prompt proclamation of neutrality.

Given the geo-political realities which confronted his nation, Reza Shah realized that Iran would only be able to retain--let alone increase--the hegemony and territorial integrity which he had been able to assert if it achieved international acceptance by the community of nations as a sover- eign equal insofar as the application of international law was concerned. Since Iran had proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of the war, Britain's bellicose ultimatums constituted a blatant violation of Iran's neutral rights. Under international law, the British had no right to threaten Iran with military action, save the self-serving trump card of diplomacy--national security. The British claimed that the presence of German nationals in Iran endangered the AIOC's refineries on the Persian Gulf, and hence the security of Britain, its sovereign possessions, and its dependencies. Yet this was a tenuous trump at best, as the AIOC's concession was just that--a concession; its extra-territorial rights had been abrogated by the Concession Agreement of 1933, and hence the land covered by the concession fell under the purview of Iranian sovereignty, not British. Therefore, the impunity with which the British threatened Iran with invasion unless it complied with the Foreign Office's ultimatums, was but a tangible manifestation of the UK's utter dis-regard for Iranian sovereignty. The rhetoric with which Roosevelt elevated his lend-lease policies into the defense of democracy, sovereign rights, national self-determination, and the Four Freedoms, therefore, exerted an irresistible appeal upon Reza Shah.

With the proclamation of the Atlantic Charter, Reza Shah--to echo the document's own phrase--based his "hopes for a better future" for Iran on the altruistic intentions outlined therein--especially the Charter's explicit avowal that "no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers." [citation 23 Thus, in Reza Shah's eyes, the Charter had transformed the United States into the international guardian "of all States" against the arbitrary exercise of self- assumed imperial prerogatives. Thus, he in-structed his ambassador in Washington to appeal to Secretary of State Cordell Hull for preemptive protection against English aggression.

That the Iranian ambassador's appeal was prompted by the Roosevelt administration's wartime rhetoric is underscored by the ambassador's entreaty as detailed by Hull in a memorandum of their conversation. After presenting Hull with a copy of a diplomatic cable from the British Foreign Office which threatened Iran with invasion, the ambassador "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." [citation 24] Hull reminded the minister that "the British military authorities, of course, plan all of their strategy without any consultation or discussion with any official of this Government," adding that in the US' estimation, the British were "only striving to defend themselves successfully against German invasion." The US, therefore, declined to intervene. Nevertheless, Hull noted, as he prepared to adjourn their meeting, he was informed by the Iranian minister that "if this Government would say but one word to the British, he believed that they would not invade Iran." [citation 25]

The Iranian ambassador's entreaty was a manifestation of Reza Shah's conviction that the mere existence of the Atlantic Charter was an unmistakable indication that the Americans--under whose aegis it had been formulated--were capable of exerting a moderating influence upon the British. Hull's disinclination to become involved in the Anglo-Iranian impasse, however, underscores the peculiar nature of Anglo-American relations before the US' entry into the war as a combatant. The US--as Hull's memorandum illustrates--was acutely aware that while the British were sustaining an incredible loss of life "struggling desperately to prevent the Hitler conquest from reaching Great Britain and thereby most seriously endangering the Western Hemisphere," the US' losses were limited merely to money and matèriel. As the "arsenal of democracy", therefore--Britain's passive partner in the fight against fascism--the US was loathe to interfere in any action which the British undertook in the name of "national security" or "self-defense". Thus, the British argued that an armed presence in the Persian Gulf--and even an outright invasion of Iran--was not merely justified, but mandated by the strategic importance of the country itself and its petroleum products to the anti-fascist war effort. Furthermore, the British had made it clear to the Roosevelt administration that an unimpeded flow of Iranian oil was needed not only to fuel its defense of the home islands and North Africa, but to safeguard its Far Eastern possessions against a common threat to Anglo-American interests in the Far East--Japan.


The immediate impetus behind the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran was the initial success of Operation Barbarossa, for in August of 1941, Hitler had not yet diverted the southern flank of the invasion from its relentless surge towards the USSR's Transcaucasian oil fields. Concurrently, Rommel's Afrika Korps threatened to flush the English from Egypt, thereby wresting control of Suez Canal for the Reich. The Germans' rapid advance across the eastern Soviet Union quickly convinced Churchill that Iran was the soft underbelly of Asia, and as such was highly vulnerable to a circular conver- gence of the whermacht--an opinion heartily seconded by Stalin.

The Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, therefore, was a credible response to the two nations' critical strategic concerns. Chief amongst these was the British desire to safeguard its refinery at Abadan. Equally as important--indeed, crucial to the preservation of the Anglo-Soviet alliance--was the seizure of the Trans-Iranian Railroad for use as the conduit for a massive infusion of desperately needed lend-lease aid into the USSR. The consummation of the latter objective was particularly urgent since--by the end of August--heavy ice flows and the development of the costal ice cap was rapidly rendering the Murmansk convoy route through the Arctic Ocean to Archangel impassable.

The invasion and occupation of Iran was executed with great ease and alacrity. The Iranian army was quickly overwhelmed and neutralized by swiftly advancing columns of Soviet tanks and infantry, which--in conjunc- tion with a similar thrust northward from the Persian Gulf--"brusquely and without previous notice" converged upon Tehran. [citation 26] To Reza Shah, the Anglo-Soviet invasion of August 25, 1941 was but the consummation of the bilateral dismemberment of Iran which had begun centuries before and which had been codified in 1907. While Reza Shah realized that the temporary depravation of Iranian sovereignty was an irreversible fait accompli, he wished to secure for his son--as it was clear that in Soviet and British eyes the Shah's close ties to the Third Reich demanded his deposition--international assurance that Iran's sovereignty would be restored. Faced with the imminent extinction of Iranian independence, Reza Shah appealed directly to FDR:

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. I beg Your Excellency to take efficacious and urgent humanitarian steps to put an end to these acts of aggression.

"This incident," Reza Shah concluded, "brings into war a neutral and pacific country which has had no other care than the safeguarding of tranquility and the reform of the country." [citation 27]

Although Reza Shah had carefully couched his appeal in the terminology of the Atlantic Charter and the "Four Freedoms", FDR's reply was brusquely preemptory.

Viewing the question in its entirety involves not only the vital questions to which Your Imperial Majesty refers, but other basic considerations arising from Hitler's ambition of world conquest. It is certain that movements of conquest by Germany will continue and will extend beyond Europe to Asia, Africa, and even to the Americas, unless they are stopped by military force. It is equally certain that those countries which desire to maintain their independence must engage in a great common effort if they are not to be engulfed one by one as has already happened to a large number of countries in Europe. In recognition of these truths, the Government and people of the United States of America, as is well known, are not only building up the defenses of this country with all possible speed, but they have also entered upon a very extensive program of material assistance to those countries which are actively engaged in resisting German ambition for world domination. [explanatory note 16]

Thus, FDR argued, the fight against an unmitigated evil--which had repeatedly invaded "quiet and neutral" countries and reduced them to "a state of serfdom or semi-slavery"--necessitated the temporary sublimation of the promises of the Atlantic Charter in order that its provisions might ultimately be instituted upon the destruction of the Nazi threat. What was necessary, Roosevelt reiterated, was that the "peace-loving" nations of the world unite in a common effort to overcome the threat to international security which fascism posed. After noting "the statements to the Iranian Government by the British and Soviet Governments that they have no designs on the independence or territorial integrity of Iran," FDR reassured the Shah that the US had already "suggested to them the advisability of a public statement to all free peoples of the world reiterating the assurances already given to Your Majesty's Government." [citation 28]

Within a week of receiving FDR's reply to his urgent appeal, Reza Shah was deposed in favor of his 21 year old son Mohammed. It was not the Iranian people who decided what form the national government which emerged from the rubble of Reza Shah's regime took, but the occupying powers. The main priority of both the Soviets and the Britons was that the national government not interfere with their free exercise of power in their respective occupation zones. Thus, when addressing national concerns, the British and Soviets chose to deal exclusively with the Shah. The only other alternative was the Majlis, but to have dealt with the parliament would have undermined the occupying powers' complete psychological control over Iran by reinvesting the Majlis with the air of authority and legitimacy which it had lost under the rule of Reza Shah. Since the reconstituted government headed by Mohammed Shah owed its power solely to the support of the occupying forces, therefore, it was completely dependent upon them, and incapable of denying them the fulfillment of their ulterior motives--the reestablishment of their respective spheres of influence.

The dismemberment of Reza Shah's extensive autocracy and secret police rejuvenated the nation's political parties. Since the representatives of the USSR and UK preferred to deal exclusively with the Shah, the Majlis remained impotent. [explanatory note 17] Yet, despite the fact that it wielded no real power, Iran's political parties busied themselves passing legislation which invested the Majlis with substantial paper power--reserving for itself rights and privileges which its delegates hoped to exercise once the foreign powers had withdrawn from Iran.

Freed from the stultifying shackles of silence, Iran's multitudinous political parties immediately began to jockey not only for control over the Majlis, but for popular support in the marketplaces of cities and towns across Iran. The net result of the rejuvenation of political dialogue amongst the common man in Iran, therefore, was continual anti-Shah agitation. Each political party embarked upon a vigorous rhetorical campaign against the Shah, designed to win for its sponsor popular support and sympathy for its particular cause. The main thrust of the rhetoric, however--despite its source or ultimate end--was that since he owed his position entirely to the intervention of the occupying powers, the occupant of the Peacock Throne was a mere figurehead--the perfect foil for foreign ambitions. Furthermore, politicians from every portion of the political spectrum argued that it had been the draconian rule of Reza Shah which had precipitated the invasion. Therefore, the only hope for a truly independent Iran was a representative/parliamentary system of government. Thus, any physical depravation which the Iranian people suffered under the occupation was immediately portrayed as irrefutable evidence of the young Shah's incompetence and the callous manipulation of the monarchy by foreigners.

This brand of rhetoric was particularly potent when directed against the English, as the British were already bitterly resented by the Iranian populace as the despoilers of the nation's natural resources. The AIOC's vastly inequitable con-cession made Britain the most conspicuous and egregious exploiter of Iran. The strongly anti-British thrust of Iranian political rhetoric before 1944 was also a product of the Soviet practice of expelling all Iranian administrators--from civil officials to the operators of the state-owned infrastructural system--from its zone of occupation. Whereas the American minister viewed this practice with alarm--as evidence of the USSR's intent to establish a permanent presence in northern Iran--it proved to be an overwhelmingly popular act, as the administrators who were thus deprived of their positions were widely viewed--at least by Iran's politicians--as the agents of Reza Shah's dictatorial and repressive policies. [citation 29]


Although Great Britain and the Soviet Union cited the implicit threat which the presence of German nationals in Iran posed to their "national security" as justification for their violation of that country's neutrality, a host of unstated aims provided additional impetus to invade. While the ends of the two allies' unstated objectives were mutually exclusive--the unhindered exercise of unilateral influence over Iran--the means were identical--the dismemberment of the Iranian autocracy and the diminution of indigenous sovereignty. The UK's main priority in compromising the free exercise of Iranian sovereignty was to safeguard the AIOC's concession--not only to ensure the expeditious effusion of oil to its armadas and armies, but as the agent of both domestic and imperial reconstruction and renewal. The Soviet agenda in occupied Iran differed little from that pursued by its czarist predecessor. While the Soviets craved an oil concession commensurate with that which the AIOC enjoyed, an even more compelling imperative was continued and unimpeded access to the Persian Gulf.

The suspension of Iranian sovereignty in the aftermath of the Anglo-Soviet invasion had a profound impact upon American public opinion. Under Roosevelt's gentle fireside prodding, the US had only recently awakened from its isolationist somnambulism. The Anglo-Soviet invasion of neutral Iran, however, threatened to rekindle Americans' ingrained isolationism. Thus, even as FDR notified Reza Shah that he must place his implicit faith in the good intentions of the Allies, the State Department began an extensive re-evaluation of America's best course of action--or inaction--in response to the bilateral invasion.

In the opinion of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, British involvement in the invasion of a neutral country--whilst a valid response to its national security concerns--presented the US with a "a red-hot iron." [citation 30] The US had insisted upon the promulgation of the Atlantic Charter in order to reassure the American public that American involvement in the war effort would not contribute to imperial aggrandizement. Britain's violation of Iran's sovereignty, however, had "aroused nationwide attention and discussion"--particularly since it was executed in conjunction with the Soviet Union. In American public opinion, the USSR bore a conspicuous mark of Cain--the enduring legacy of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Thus, Hull worried that unless the British could convince the Soviets into an open declaration (such as that alluded to in FDR's letter to Reza Shah) that their invasion of Iran had been executed solely "in order to protect Iran against Nazi aggression," the "situation" would remain "a delicate one politically" for the US. [citation 31]

What most worried Hull and the State Department's Division of Near Eastern Affairs were the continuing--and increasingly clamorous--claims of the Iranian government "that at no time has the British Government approached the Iranian Government with a view to obtaining its friendly collaboration in this matter [the security of the AIOC concession] or to suggest an Anglo-Iranian alliance in the common cause." If the Iranian claim were indeed true, then the British had clearly violated the spirit--if not the actual provisions--of the Atlantic Charter. Further cause for alarm stemmed from the possibility that if the US failed to reassure the Iranian government that it was making every possible effort to secure from the British government "assurances as to the safeguarding of its integrity and sovereignty," then details of Britain's disdain for Iran's sovereignty--such as copies of the threatening telegrams which the Iranian ambassador had previously shown Hull--would be leaked to the press. [citation 32] In such a contingency, the US would be hard pressed to explain to the American public how the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran differed from Nazi aggression.

Therefore, Hull advised FDR "the larger aspects of this question" compelled the US to ascertain "the intentions of the British and Soviet Governments with regard to the extent of occupation of Iranian territory." In particular, Hull--after extensive consultation with members of the Near Eastern Division--suggested that the US question the British as to "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?" Such assurances, the Division concluded, were essential to "our being able to reassure American public opinion as to all phases of the present operation." [citation 33]

Though Roosevelt privately brought pressure to bear upon the British to formulate an open statement of the purpose and duration of the Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran, FDR declined to become an after-signer to any such agreement. His refusal can be directly attributed to the embarrassing Anglo-Soviet incarnation of the strange and alien "combinations" of which Washington had warned. While FDR realized that the danger posed by Hitler and his Anti-Comintern allies necessitated the alliance of convenience with the USSR, there was still a strong stigma attached to the Soviets, by virtue of their recent collusion with the Nazis and their brutal suppres- sion of the Baltic States and Finland. Moreover, as the concerns of Cordell Hull outlined above amply illustrate, even while the US was supplying the Soviet Union with lend-lease aid, it still harbored an acute fear of Soviet expansionism--both through overt aggression and covert infiltration. The injection of the Soviet Union into the anti-fascist equation, therefore, was as problematic as it was essential. The USSR was the ultimate variable- -completely unpredictable, and, most ominously, as yet unbound by Roose- velt's vision of a post-war world unified by the equitable application of the new standard of international justice enunciated in the Atlantic Charter. The Soviets were--and would remain, despite Roosevelt's concerted efforts to integrate them into the post-war fabric he was attempting to weave--purely allies of convenience.

Despite the politically compromising position in which the British government had placed the US by invading an avowedly neutral country, since the AIOC's concession predated the occupation, early American assessments of the UK's administration of its occupation zone glossed over British interference in the independent functioning of the Iranian government and its appendages as "defensive," rather than "aggressive"--a term almost exclusively reserved for Soviet actions, despite the fact that the pattern of occupation and the usurpation of power in both zones were almost identical. The main difference in the administration of the zones was that the British were shrewd enough to depoliticize their usurpation of power on the local and regional level by investing local or tribal authorities with titular and/or daily administrative control over the state-owned infrastructural network, whereas the Soviets replaced Iranian functionaries with Tudeh party members and even Soviet Azeris. [citation 34] Furthermore, the categorization had an acute ideological edge--the British were the cosigners of the Atlantic Charter, whereas the Soviets were the expositors of international revolution and the cosigners of the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact. The young Mohammed Shah was astute enough to grasp this subtle, unstated distinction. [explanatory note 18] Thus, in deference to the special relationship between the US and the UK, when the Shah instructed his minions to continue to lobby for direct US engagement in Iran as the guarantor of its territorial integrity against the long-term threat to its sovereignty posed by the Anglo-Soviet invasion, he ordered that they emphasize the danger posed by the Soviet presence: "the [Iranian] Government's situation is precarious because of widespread dissatisfaction created by Russian occupation," the Iranian Prime Minister cautioned the American minister in Tehran, Louis Dreyfus in December 1941. "He stated that Soviet propaganda, political activity and interference continue and that Russians seem to feel they have a sphere of influence in Iran." [citation 35]

The primary objective of 21 year old Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Shah was to preserve for himself the prerogatives and privileges with which his father had invested the Peacock Throne. The young Shah was acutely aware that the British and Soviets had placed him in a precarious position--that of complete dependency--which threatened to undermine the monarchy's continued existence. His right to rule Iran had been further compromised by the dismantling of his father's extensive security apparatus--including the complete disbanding the national gendarmerie and the secret police, as well as the disarming of all Iranian army divisions in the Soviet zone of occupation. Thus, even had his exercise of authority not been contingent upon the approval of the occupying powers, he lacked the means with which to safeguard Iran's territorial integrity by reasserting Tehran's control over the fractious ethnic minorities in the country's hinterlands. As had his father nearly two decades earlier, Mohammed Shah concluded that if Iran was to have any chance whatsoever at retaining its sovereignty, it could only do so if it enjoyed the counterbalancing protection of a third party which was powerful enough to hold the British and Russians at bay, both economically and, if necessary, militarily. That power was the United States of America. As it had with his father, the Atlantic Charter exerted an irresistible appeal upon Mohammed Shah. One need look no further than the following provisions of that document to understand why:

   FOURTH, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
   FIFTH, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic adjustment and social security; [citation 36

In Mohammed Shah's view, oil was not the only substance which could be extracted from Iran's earth--so could economic autonomy.

Whereas his father had been admonished by Roosevelt for remaining neutral in the face of obvious evil, Mohammed hoped to solidify Iran's position as a member of the United Nations by signing a treaty of alliance with the British and the Russians--the Tripartite Treaty. Although the Tripartite Treaty ostensively recognized Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Shah placed little trust in the solemn pledges of the Russians and Britons, for not only did he rule in the physical shadow of their armies, but in the psychological shadow of nearly 200 years of imperial exploitation. Furthermore, his father's deposition had taught him a harsh lesson in realpolitik--that self-interest overruled such diplomatic niceties as international law. If Britain had felt no compunction in violating the Atlantic Charter by the use of aggression to accomplish its self-proclaimed "right" to protect the AIOC's concession against a hypothetical threat, what guarantee had he that Britain would feel compelled to observe Article Five of the Tripartite Treaty--which stipulated that all Allied forces would be withdrawn from Iran "not more than six months after the cessation of hostilities" [citation 37]-- when it would indubitably need to ensure a steady flow of oil to facilitate its reconstruction? What guarantee had he that the Soviets would also abide by Article Five? None.

Thus, the Shah repeatedly, yet vainly, attempted to persuade Roosevelt to attach an after-signature to the Tripartite Treaty. [explanatory note 19] While he realized that US engagement in Iran would eventually carry a compromising price, the Shah and his advisors considered American diplomats and political leaders naive, and their designs upon Iran far more benign than those of either the British or the Soviets. Thus, realpolitik perversely dictated that in order for Iran to survive as a distinct political entity-- let alone exert a modicum of autonomy--Iran would have to shelter in the shadow of a benefactor strong enough militarily to defend it from Soviet aggression and economically capable of counterbalancing Britain's parasitic petroleum policies.


In January of 1942, the Shah wrote to FDR to inform him that:

my Government, taking into consideration the principles of the Atlantic Charter with which we are in complete agree-ment and of which we desire to benefit on a footing of equality with the other nations of the world, have signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain and the USSR. In appending our signature to this document we rely upon the goodwill and the friendship which binds the United States to Iran and feel confident that your traditional attitude towards the basic principles involved will ensure the fulfillment of the pledges given and reserving for my country and people a brighter future of peaceful development within our borders. [citation 38]

This letter reveals the political astuteness and diplomatic deftness of the young Shah. The underlying message of the letter was that although the Roosevelt administration had declined to cosign the Tripartite Treaty, it had signed a proclamation of principles--the Atlantic Charter--with one of the treaty's signatories--the UK--in which the two nations had not only forsworn "aggrandizement, territorial or other," but had pledged to "see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them." Thus, the Shah's letter was not merely an official notification of the signing of the Tripartite Treaty, but a subtle, yet unmistakable, reminder that--while the Roosevelt administration had declined to cosign the treaty--by signing the Atlantic Charter, the US had announced to a candid world its assumption of the role of international guarantor of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of "all States, great or small, victor or vanquished"--a pledge which the Shah fully intended the US to honor in Iran. Furthermore, the Shah's explicit allusion to the "principles" of the Atlantic Charter distinctly--albeit indirectly--alerted the US that his government considered the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran as a forcible depravation of that country's sovereign rights--an act which clearly contradicted the Atlantic Charter's condemnation of such acts.

Like the Shah, the senior American minister in Iran, Louis Dreyfus, had little faith in either occupying power's intention to honor the provisions and pledges which comprised the Tripartite Treaty and continued to agitate for an increased level of US engagement in Iran. His direct observation of the Iranian situation convinced him that the occupying powers were utilizing the authority they had usurped not merely to "safeguard" Iran against Nazi aggression nor solely for use as a conduit for lend-lease aid to the USSR, but as a means of ensuring their post-war influence over the country.In Dreyfus' view, the joint UK-USSR occupation of Iran was far from benign, and--given the occupying forces' history of intervention in Iranian affairs--the possibility that the joint occupation was devolving into an informal resurrection of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 could not be discounted. While Dreyfus heartily seconded the Iranian Prime Ministers' assessment of Soviet intentions, his mistrust of English intentions explicitly amplified the Shah's subtlety stated reservations. "I have [the] impression that [the] British Legation is playing again [the] game of divide and rule," he warned Secretary of State Hull. Even if Great Britain intended to observe the declaration of principles outlined in the Atlantic Charter and incorporated into the United Nations Charter in January 1942, "at any rate," Dreyfus dryly noted, "British policy here seems to me to lack comprehension and vision." Accordingly, Dreyfus urged the administration to increase American engagement in Iran as a means of safeguarding Iranian sovereignty, as well as a means of keeping Iranian xenophobia from errupting into violence and/or sabotage. [citation 39]

Dreyfus' arguments were incalculably augmented by the reports which he dispatched to his superiors at the State Department which detailed and documented the occupying powers' blatant disregard for the authority which the Iranian government ostensively retained under the terms of the Tripartite Treaty. Given these routine violations, Dreyfus contended that it would be criminally naive for the US to expect that the occupying powers would respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of Iran, upon the cessation of hostilities, as the Tripartite Treaty dictated. To do so would be to ignore not only the bountiful historical precedent of the past 200 years, but--given Iran's geo-strategic importance and its vast petroleum deposits--to callously ignore the dictates of realpolitik as well. Therefore, Dreyfus concluded, if American involvement in the war was predicated on the principles outlined by the Atlantic Charter, then the continuation of the US' laissez-faire approach to the Iranian occupation was untenable.

Dreyfus' incessant agitation was infused with an increased sense of urgency when a chronic shortage of foodstuffs in Iran's major population centers spawned an exponential increase in popular discontent. [explanatory note 20] The disaffection which hunger bred had been effectively exploited by anti- government political activists--in particular the Tudeh Party--which had been quick to transform the shortage of food into an effective political tool. Dreyfus feared that an increase in anti-government agitation-- especially on the part of Tudeh--would spark a rash of food riots which would topple the Shah's government. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that--outside of lend-lease--the only readily available source of grain in the region was Soviet Azerbaijan. Since the Iranian people had no conception of how hard pressed the Soviets themselves were to feed their own population, the possibility of grain relief from the USSR could be used by the Tudeh Party, American officials feared, as the proverbial--and in this case literal--carrot on a stick. Cordell Hull was quick to calculate the full implication of the exploitation of food shortages for political gain. The collapse of the Pahlavi regime, he warned, would necessitate the "establishment of a puppet Government at Tehran... [which] would necessitate diversion of troops from the fighting fronts... [and] would also have unfortunate repercussions in the other Moslem nations and territories." [citation 40] Lend-lease aid was extended to Iran on March 10, 1942.


By the time Americans actively began their participation in WW II, the USSR and the British had almost completely dismantled the Iranian state--dividing it roughly along the same lines which had been demarcated by the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907. Both enjoyed the support of sycophants and allies whose support they had bought--through investment, bribes, armaments, etc. In order to further insure that the Majlis remained fractured, the occupying powers had supplied many of Iran's myriad political parties with varying degrees of support--both overt and covert; material, financial, and political. In the Anglo-Soviet view, the indigenous Iranian political, ideological, and ethnic factions were to be cultivated and manipulated into indigenous agents who would--once hostilities ceased--execute the bidding of their sponsors should they ever be able to wrest any real power from the Shah. Americans realized that while they would be unable to wean these divisive forces which only the iron hand of Reza Shah had kept subsumed, it could bolster the nominally independent rump state of Iran centered in Tehran. As a result, the US chose to make the Shah the focal point of its Iranian policies. Thus, while the United State's aims in its post-war intervention in Iranian affairs were far from completely altruistic, the impetus behind America's initial intervention in Iran--as an impartial arbitrator and guarantor of Iran's sovereignty--allowed succeeding American administrations to assume vastly higher moral ground in later disputes than either the British or the Soviets.

By August 1942, the level of American engagement in Iran was so great that FDR's Adviser on Political Relations, Wallace Murray (who formerly had served as in the State Department as Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs) noted in a memorandum to the president that: "It seems to me that the present political crisis in Iran... is of such vital concern to us that we cannot ignore it. The obvious fact is that we shall soon be in the position of actually 'running' Iran through an impressive body of American advisers eagerly sought by the Iranian Government and urgently recommended by the British Government." [explanatory note 21] Murray's memorandum reveals the extent of the American presence in Iran: American officers had assumed "full control" of the Iranian Army; had begun to "organize and run the gendarmerie of the country which will guarantee internal security;" and the former commander of the New Jersey State Police, Norman H Schwarzkopf, had been dispatched in order to "to re-organize the police forces of Iran." [citation 41] By the end of 1943, more than 70 other American advisors--both military and non-military--were in Iran, coordinating and/or overseeing the ministries of Finance, Treasury, Food and Price Stabilization, as well as the national bank and the customs service. [citation 42]

As 1943 dawned, the State Department began to reevaluate the depth and breadth of American interests in Iran in order to gauge the extent to which the US should become directly engaged in Iran. The most revealing (and extensive) review of America's options, obligations, and priorities vis á vis Iran was a January 1943 report entitled "American Policy in Iran," compiled by the State Department's special advisor on Middle Eastern affairs, John Jernegan. While Jernegan conceded that Iran's primary importance stemmed from was "its value as a supply route to Russia, its strategic location, and its vast production of petroleum products"--all of which comprised "ample justification for the attitude we have adopted [i.e. active engagement]"--Jernegan proposed that:

I should like to suggest that Iran constitutes a test case for the good faith of the United Nations and their ability to work out among themselves an adjustment of ambitions, rights and interests which will be fair not only to the Great Powers of our coalition but also to the small nations associated with us or brought into our sphere by circum- stances. Certainly, nowhere else in the Middle East is there to be found so clearcut a conflict of interests between two of the United Nations, so ancient a tradition of rivalry, and so great a temptation for the Great Powers concerned to give precedence to their own selfish interests over the high principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter. [citation 43]

The flood of reports which the State Department was receiving from newly-arrived American advisors supplemented the ample evidence of the occupying powers' disregard for the individual rights of individual Iranians, as well as their contemptuous scorn for the sovereignty which the Iranian government had ostensively retained under the Tripartite Treaty which members of the American Mission in Iran had been compiling since Reza Shah's deposition. Thus, Jernegan concluded that "although Russian policy had been fundamentally aggressive and British policy fundamentally defensive in character, the result in both cases has been interference with the internal affairs of Iran, amounting at times to a virtually complete negation of Iranian sovereignty and independence." This state of affairs "created an ingrained distrust of both powers in the Iranian people." It would be in the best interest of the alliance, therefore, Jernegan concluded, for the United States to assume direct and exclusive control over the transmissal of aid to the Soviet Union. The US, Jernegan suggested, could soften this blow to the two powers' imperial egos by arguing that in accepting this task, the US was merely freeing the British and Soviet to redirect the troops which were currently engaged in the occupation of Iran to the front for utilization in their respective country's self-defense. While "it is true that their presence is made necessary by imperative considerations of military expediency and that their withdrawal at the conclusion of the war has been solemnly promised," Jernegan counseled:

I need not recall the hundreds of instances in which the forces of a Great Power have entered the territory of a weaker nation for one purpose and have remained, indefinitely, for other purposes. Largely because of this occupation of Iranian territory, the governmental machinery of Iran, and its economic structure, have been seriously weakened. This has become both a reason and an excuse for direct intervention by the Russian and British authorities in Iranian political matters. At the present moment, no Iranian Cabinet can survive without the direct support of the Allied powers. While it is obvious that the United Nations could not permit a hostile government to function at Tehran, it is equally obvious that the Iranian political and economic organization must be strengthened to a point at which it will be able to function efficiently by itself, if Iran is to survive as an independent nation. It is unnecessary to point out that a political vacuum is as impossible as a physical vacuum; if Iran falls into a state of anarchy, some power must assume responsibility for its government, and it may be assumed that the first to offer themselves for this task would be one or both of the present occupying powers. [citation 44]

As the above analysis--as well as those emanating from the American mission in Iran--reveals, the Near Eastern Division of the State Department considered Britain, despite its status as a cosigner of the Atlantic Charter, as great a potential threat to the post-war peace as the Soviets. The British threat, it was assumed, would be primarily economic, rather than the ideological/military threat posed by the USSR. Thus, England could no more be allowed to wield unlimited authority in Iran than could the USSR, for to allow the UK to reimpose its maritime monopoly over the Persian Gulf would not only compromise American economic interests in the region, but the more altruistic aims of the Atlantic Charter, as manifested in the accords and conventions--i.e., Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks--associated with the United Nations.

In January 1943--in an attempt to defuse an increasingly tense situation--the US established the Persian Gulf Command (PGC). By April 1943, the PGC had assumed full control over the delivery of lend-lease supplies to the USSR through Iran from the British. The PGC consisted of 30,000 Americans in uniform--officers, advisors, soldiers, and engineers--whose mission was to restore a semblance of stability and sovereignty to Iran. In order to further safeguard Iranian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and prepare it for the assumption of full control over the country upon the Allies withdrawal, the Shah signed an agreement whereby the US would train and equip Iran's national police force, the gendarmerie. [citation 45]

A sophisticated appraisal of the implications of the extensive American advisor program was transmitted to the Secretary of State on April 14, 1943, by Louis Dreyfus. The report had been commissioned by the Department as part of its preparations for the upcoming Tehran Conference. [citation 46] In his report, Dreyfus candidly outlined "some of the obstacles in the way of the attainment of our Iranian objectives"--in particular, the extension of the protections of the Atlantic Charter to Iran. In Dreyfus' estimation, the obstacles were four in number: the Soviets, the Iranians, the British, and the potential mishandling of the situation by the American advisors and/or diplomats and bureaucrats, both in Iran and in Washington. The Soviets, Dreyfus reported, were "ensconcing" themselves through "a policy consisting of a strange mixture of kindness and strong arm methods." While it was difficult to gauge what transpired behind Soviet lines, the Dreyfus' overall assessment of Soviet policy was "aggressive"--both territorially, in the north, and politically, in Tehran, through its agent, Tudeh.

"The Iranians themselves are perhaps the greatest possible source of danger to our position in Iran," Dreyfus maintained. He bolstered this claim by citing "evidence of a concerted and deeprooted campaign against our advisers" which was "undoubtedly" sponsored by "corrupt and selfish political elements in the Majlis"--especially those which enjoyed the support of either the British or the Soviets--as American support for the Shah would cause a diminution in their own and/or their manipulators' power. "I have suggested to the Department the necessity of adopting a strong line in dealing with the Iranians in this matter"--namely the consolidation of the Shah as head of state through the agency of the American advisory missions. "Unless we can require that our advisers be supported and given powers," Dreyfus warned, "their efforts will fail and the whole program will fall to the ground. The result of such failure would be not only to let down the Iranians but as well to cripple our own prestige. Our policy should be firm but kind, forceful but friendly, insistent but considerate."

Dreyfus next turned to a topic which had pervaded his reports since August 1941: the inherent threat which British policy posed to the fulfill- ment of the Atlantic Charter:

At the risk of seeming to be an alarmist who sees a burglar behind every tree, I venture the opinion that the British have had two factors in mind in supporting our program--first, that if given enough rope we might hang ourselves in Iran by making a failure of the adviser program and second, to use us, as do the Iranians, as a buffer to counter the growing menace of Soviet domination of the country. [citation 47]

Finally, Dreyfus warned Hull, in dealing with Iran, all Americans must remember--as he himself had been reminded upon numerous occasions by Iranian officials--that "foreigners are apt to forget that Iran is an oriental country and that things here are not done in a day. This is a statement of fact which is too often overlooked by foreigners who think of Iranians as westerners simply because they have adopted western clothing and strive to emulate us in things material." Thus, Dreyfus concluded:

We must not be discouraged. The Iranians oscillate politically between dictatorship, democracy and chaos in almost perfect keeping with Plato's theory. They have remarkable resiliency, powers of recovery and ability to throw off foreign invasion, conditions which are apt to keep them going when States considered stronger and more modern have succumbed. [citation 48]

Dreyfus' candid assessment forms the basis America's future policy towards Iran. It was upon this assessment--as well as his previous body of reports, as well as the extensive analysis to which the Near Eastern Division subjected them--that Hull based his preparatory report on American policy in Iran--past, present, and proposed--to FDR. The lines of influence are clear when one compares the following quotation with the precis of Dreyfus' report above and the quotation from the "Declaration on Iran" signed by "the Big Three" at the Tehran Conference in December 1943.

While noting that "the historic ambitions of Great Britain and Russia in Iran have made that country a diplomatic battle-ground for more than a century," Hull declared that:

The geographical, political and economic bases of those ambitions remain unchanged, and the present attitudes of the British and Soviet Governments and their representatives in Iran give strong reason to fear that their rivalry will break out again as soon as the military situation permits. This danger is greatly increased by the existing economic and political weakness of the Iranian Government and the presence on Iranian soil of British and Soviet armed forces.

If events are allowed to run their course unchecked, it seems likely that either Russia or Great Britain, or both, will be led to take action which will seriously abridge, if not destroy, effective Iranian independence. That such action would be contrary to the principles of the Atlantic Charter is obvious. Its effect upon other peoples of the Near East, and elsewhere, might well be disastrous to our hopes for an equitable and lasting post-war settlement. [citation 49]

In view of the potential threat to post-war peace, Hull recommended a policy of "strengthening Iran to a point at which she will be able to stand on her own feet," through support of a central government headed by the Shah--"specifically through providing American advisers and technicians and financial and other material support." While Hull solemnly noted that such a policy might entail the issuance of brusque reminders to "our associates, when necessary, to respect their general commit-ments under the Atlantic Charter and their specific commitments to Iran under the Treaty of Alliance of 1942," the US was not only "the only nation in a position to render effective aid to Iran," but "the only nation in a position to exercise a restraining influence upon the two great powers directly concerned." Hull's final recommendation, therefore, was:

Since this country has a vital interest in the fulfillment of the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the establishment of founda- tions for a lasting peace throughout the world, it is to the advantage of the United States to exert itself to see that Iran's integrity and independence are maintained and that she becomes prosperous and stable. Likewise, from a more directly selfish point of view, it is to our interest that no great power be established on the Persian Gulf opposite the important American petroleum development in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the United States should adopt a policy of positive action in Iran, with a view to facilitating not only the war operations of the United Nations in that country but also a sound post-war develop- ment. We should take the lead wherever possible, in remedying internal difficulties, working as much as possible through American administra- tors freely employed by the Iranian Government. We should further endeavor to lend timely diplomatic support to Iran, to prevent the development of a situation in which an open threat to Iranian integri- ty might be presented. In carrying out this policy, we should enlist the support of all branches of the American Government. [citation 50]

On December 1, 1943, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed their names to the following state-ment of policy:

With respect to the post-war period, the Governments of the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom are in accord with the Government of Iran that any economic problems confronting Iran at close of hostilities should receive full consideration, along with those of other members of the United Nations, by conferences or international agencies held or created to deal with international economic matters.

The Governments of the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom are at one with the Government of Iran in their desire for the maintenance of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iran. They count upon the participation of Iran, together with all the peace-loving nations, in the establishment of international peace, security and prosperity after the war, in accordance with the princi- ples of the Atlantic Charter, to which all four Governments have subscribed. [citation 51]

Tangible cracks in the Alliance began to appear in Iran in the autumn of 1944, when the Shah's ministers began to make overtures to American oil companies to negotiate for possible concessions in the north. {citation 52] In attempting to implicate private American investors in Iran, Mohammed Shah was emulating his father's example of entangling a counterweight to Iran's trad-itional imperial overlords. Unlike any other power with which Iranians had dealt, the Americans seemed to the Shah to be sincerely committed in extending to Iran the protections of the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter, and the Tehran Declaration, and not merely in self-aggrandizement. Of course, in extending such invitations, the Shah also counted on the natural greed of American businessmen--especially since the prewar distribution of oil concessions had been monopolized by a European cartel known as "the Seven Sisters." [citation 53]

The Soviets reacted hostilely to such overtures, as they not only considered the north their unique sphere of influence, but since every past attempt by the USSR to negotiate an oil concessions from Reza Shah had been repulsed. [citation 54] To complicate matters further, at the present moment, the north of Iran was a de facto Soviet possession, as the Soviets had expelled the sole effective agent of Tehran's control over the fractious north, the Iranian Army, from the region in 1941. The Soviets, therefore, demanded an oil concession in the north under terms equal to those which governed the AIOC's concession in the south.

According to subsequent OSS assessment, "it appears that a crucial point in Russian penetration is at hand, and it is quite well established that the Russians are going to follow through by whatever means are necessary," both within their occupation zone and by meddling in the volatile mix of political activists and agitators in Tehran. The OSS report warned that Soviet attempts to impose its will on the Tehran government might include an increase in Soviet/Tudeh propaganda campaigns, labor strikes, and--most destabilizing of all--the restriction of food shipments from the agricultural region of northern Iran to the cities, which the OSS warned could possibly create massive disturbances which the Soviets could invoke as necessitating armed intervention. {citation 55]

Although the Iranian Prime Minister, Saed, sagely defused the situation by deferring all negotiations for new concessions until the cessation of hostilities, the Soviet's hostile stance and threatening attitude cast an ominous cloud over the future via-bility of the Alliance. The imbroglio also served to reinforce the State Department's commitment to consolidating power in the person of the Shah. "A primary consideration in our policy toward Iran is a desire to strengthen that country so that it can maintain internal security and avoid the dissensions and weaknesses which breed interference and aggression. A corner-stone of this policy should be the building up of Iran's security forces," Acting Secretary of State Stettin- ius cabled the American ambassador in Iran. Stettinius authorized the ambassador to notify the Shah that, in compliance with his wishes, the American military mission which had been charged with reconstituting Iran's army and gendarmerie would remain in Iran until these organs had been sufficiently strengthened "to the point where they can maintain internal security after the withdrawal of foreign forces." As Stettinius noted, "the withdrawal of the mission against Iranian desires at the very time when the Iranian Army will have to meet its crucial test might have unfortunate psychological and political repercussions." [citation 56]


The new world which dawned in 1945 presented Americans with novel and pressing problems which demanded both immediate action and long-term solutions. The destruction "total war" had unleashed upon Europe, had left a dangerous physical, emotional, and philosophic vacuum in its wake. The historical and geo-strategic verities of the preceding four centuries--namely European hegemony--had, in six short years, been ripped to shreds, leaving gaping holes in the international matrix.

The end of the war, however, little affected Iran's status as a fragile political entity. Neither the British nor the Soviets lost any time in reengaging themselves in Iranian affairs. Although Britain's economic reengagement in Iran would prove the more insidious intervention, it did not present the immediate threat to Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity that the continuing Soviet occupation of northern Iran posed. While the US and USSR eyed each other warily--and prepared for the distinct possibility of an armed conflict--the British were quietly reasserting their economic dominance over Iran. The AIOC's complex of refineries in southwestern Iran were the largest in the world, and the British sought both to quietly--yet firmly--reassert their tarnished prestige by increasing oil production in Iran. [explanatory note 22] Such an increase would not only reap the AIOC massive profits, but help Britain rebuild its shattered infrastructure: both imperial and domestic. Therefore, the British boosted oil production in Iran to "19,190,000 tons in 1946, more than half the total production of oil in the Middle East." {citation 57]

The presence of Soviet troops in the north left the Iranian government with a stark choice: either capitulate to the USSR's demands or to rely upon the protection of the United States. Instead of withdrawing its troops, in compliance with the Declaration on Iran, American military intelligence reported that the Soviets were instead reenforcing their military in-stallations in northern Iran. When, in November 24, 1945, the Iranian Ambassador to the US, Hussein Ala, met with Harry S. Truman to apprise him of the establishment of a self-declared 'independent' Azeri regime in northern Iran under Soviet auspices, he told the president: "In this critical situation, I earnestly beg you, Mr President, to continue to stand up for the rights of Iran, whose independence and integrity are being tramp]ed under foot. Your country alone can save us." {citation 58]

At the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers in December of 1945, Secretary of State Byrnes informed the USSR that the US expected Soviet troops to be withdrawn from Iran no later than the begining of February, as agreed at Tehran, in 1943. When the USSR balked at this prospect, Byrnes did not press the matter further, nor did he broach the subject of the puppet Azeri state, known as the Peshvari regime, after its leader. "I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of the problem. But I am not discouraged. I hope that the exchange of views may leave to further consideration of the grave issues involved and out of such consideration a solution may be found," Byrnes reported. [citation 59]

When spring came, the Soviet troops remained in northern Iran, and the issue of a Soviet oil concession had resurfaced. The issue first resurfaced in Washington, where the Iranian ambassador petitioned Secretary of State Byrnes on March 5, 1946:

to request that the United States Government, which is a signatory of the Declaration of Teheran and of the United Nations Charter, be good enough to protest in Moscow against the breach of faith of the Soviet Government in failing to withdraw their forces from the whole of the North of Iran by the second of March 1946--the ultimate date fixed by the Tripartite Treaty of Alliance of January 29, 1942. ... I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that in accordance with information received from well-informed quarters the Soviet Government are making the evacuation of Iran depend upon the acceptance by the Persian Government of certain very important demands whereas the withdrawal of foreign allied forces at the end of the war has always been considered unconditional.
May I venture to ask Your Excellency to use the great influence of the American Government to obtain the unconditional evacuation of Iran by the Soviet forces? {citation 60]

This request was almost immediately invested with a new sense of urgency when Iranian Prime Minister, Qavam es-Sultanah (who had replaced the former Prime Minister, who had resigned after the first oil concession crisis in 1944), returned from an emergency mission to Moscow, where he had sought to secure a Soviet withdrawl from Iran. As the Ambassador in Iran reported to Byrnes, Qavam had informed him that "both Stalin and Molotov separately had raised question of oil concession to Russia. Molotov had insisted upon discrimination shown in making grant to Britain [explanatory note 23] and refusing anything to USSR." [citation 61]

The Iranian Prime Minister had extricated himself from this delicate situation with a display of great diplomatic dexterity. Qavam "refused to discuss question because of Majlis law prohibiting oil negotiations with foreign countries. He had pointed out that present Majlis would never repeal law and only hope of reopening question lay in election of new Majlis which was impossible so long as Russian troops remained in Iran." What is so spectacular about Qavam's response is that while the Majlis had in fact passed such a law, it was not considered--at least by the real seat of authority in Iran, the Peacock Throne--as binding. During the concession crisis of 1944, the former Prime Minister had deferred negotiations until the cessation of hostilities. The leader of a nationalist faction in the Majlis, known as "the National Front," Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq--whom the American Charge d'Affaires in Tehran had categorized in 1944 as "a very popular man in Iran, and his words carry a great deal of weight"--had one-upped Saed by introducing legislation that empowered the Majlis with the exclusive right to grant concessions. Furthermore, Mossadeq's legislation prohibitted the resumption of negotiations on any new concessions until after all foreign forces had been withdrawn from Iranian soil. [citation 62] Though enacted, the Majlis had neither the authority nor the means of enforcing it. Thus, Qavam employed an empty threat to great effect in bridging the immediate impasse into which he had been thrust.

What Qavam failed to realize, however, was that in utilizing the Majlis as an excuse, he had invested it with a degree of legitimacy and authority which it would never have otherwise achieved. Qavam compounded his uncon- scious compromising of the central government's authority by expressly citing Mossadeq's legislation, Qavam thus unwittingly renewed Mossadeq's popular-ity and strengthened the nationalist's resolve to further affirm the Majlis' authority--which he would later do in 1950, precipitating the nation-alization crisis which led to the CIA-organized "countercoup" known as "Operation Ajax" in 1953.

Although Qavam avoided the indignity of acceding to Soviet demands, he was unnerved by Soviet threats. Ambassador Murray reported that Qavam had informed him that "Stalin had stressed necessity for social reforms in Iran saying that if England had made reforms in America she would not have lost us and if she did not make reforms in India she would lose India. Even in England itself reforms were essential." {citation 63] Such statements--even in the form of hearsay whose source was an official of a country which was desperate to curry favor, succor, and shelter from American government--fueled a steadily increasing fear of what would shortly become known as "red fascism."

Murray had suggested that Qavam submit a detailed account of these encounters to the United Nations, but since "Qavam's attitude did not seem entirely clear as regards UNO action I arranged audience with Shah this morning." Murray suspected that Qavam might either be caving in to Soviet pressure or attempting to assert a measure of individual political autonomy by utilizing the crisis to make himself indispensable. Murray appealed to the Shah to stress to his Prime Minister that viability of the Atlantic Charter and the Tehran Declaration--both of which safeguarded Iran's sovereignty and integrity--relied upon Iran's appeal to the Security Council. The import of Murray's appeal was that Iran would be the first test of the viability of the United Nations as an impartial arbitrator of international economic impasses and territorial disputes--an incarnation of Jernegan's 1943 suggestion, which had been heartily seconded by Dreyfus, and condoned by Hull. "I am quite sure," Murray reported, that the Shah "is completely clear" on the "vital importance of Iranian action." [citation 64]

After listening to Murray's appeal, the Shah indulged in some fear- mongering of his own:

His Majesty expressed grave concern over rumors of possible Soviet Putsch in Tehran to seize capital and gain control of Government. He pointed out that if this should happen Soviets could dictate instruc- tions to [ambassador to US] Ala, prevent Iranian appeal to UNO and so make parallel Irano-American action impossible. He suggested that in such a case US and Britain could nevertheless act on own initiative on basis their obligations and voice true Iranian sentiments. [citation 65]

Four days later, Murray's worst fears about Qavam seemed to have been made manifest. As he reported in a cable to Secretary Byrnes, Qavam told him that "Soviet Chargé called on Prime Minister yesterday and said Soviet Government had heard he planned to make complaint to Security Council. Chargé said this would be regarded as unfriendly and hostile act and would have unfortunate results for Iran. He therefore advised Qavam not to take any such step." In a parenthetical aside, Murray noted that "(Qavam asks that no reference ever be made to this conversation with Charge whether in Security Council or elsewhere.)" [citation 66] Clearly, the viability of the United Nations was being severely tested by the Soviet reliance on such strong-arm tactics.

Byrnes notified Murray that, in the opinion of the current administra- tion:

any indication of willingness on [Prime Minister Qavam's] part to have the Iranian case dropped from the agenda of the Security Council would be likely to create an impression on world opinion and among members of the Council that Iran wished to have the Council act merely to help it in its negotiations and not because it believed as it stated, that the presence of troops of another Govt threatened international peace. Furthermore, a feeling might be engender-ed that the members of the Security Council should not be expected to engage in protracted and at times acrimonious discussions for the purpose of endeavoring to uphold the integrity and independence of a country which is unwilling to maintain a firm stand on its own behalf. ... The most friendly and sincere advice that I can give to the Prime Min, in the interests of Iran and of developing a United Nations strong enough to maintain peace, is that he take the attitude that the question whether the Iranian case should be dropped or remain on the agenda is one entirely for the Security Council to decide. The Council and not Iran placed it on the agenda and did it by a unanimous vote. [citation 67]

Thus, in the Truman administration's view, the issue transcended the immediate concerns of Iran. The Soviets' actions had forced a decisive test case in which the viability of the UN to successfully arbitrate international disputes would be con-clusively tried. The US and the UK had co-signed the Atlantic Charter, to which the Soviets had subscribed when it was incorporated into the United Nations Charter in January 1942. The USSR, the UK, and the Iranians had signed the Tripartite Treaty, which bound the Allies to withdraw from Iran "no later than six months" after the cessation of hostilities. The US, the UK, and the USSR had signed the Tehran Declaration--a solemn vow which bound the signatories not only to recognize Iran's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but explicitly stated that "any economic problems confronting Iran at close of hostilities should receive full consideration, along with those of other members of the United Nations, by conferences or international agencies held or created to deal with international economic matters." [citation 68] The Soviets had signed all these internationally binding agreements on the dotted line. Now, they were forcibly--and literally--attempting to redraw the line in the sand. The battle lines were clearly drawn. The import of Byrnes' message is clear--If the Iranians wished to receive any further aid from the US, they must persevere and let the struggle run its course. There were only two possible outcomes--either the Soviets recognized the binding authority of international law, or the diplomatic battle lines would be replaced by real battle lines.

In his response to Byrnes' instructions, Murray reported that Qavam was "still uncertain as to his best course and extremely reluctant to risk offending Soviets." The danger lay in the consequences of spurning the Soviet request for a concession--the Soviets, Qavam argued, "could withdraw Soviet troops from Iran as agreed but supply arms to Azerbaijanis and encourage them resist. Tehran Govt would be forced send troops and precipitate fighting, whereupon Russians could assert right to intervene to protect security their frontiers." [citation 69]

As Byrnes' instructions had made clear, however, the Truman administra- tion had already decided to utilize the Soviet-Iranian impasse as a test of the viability of the UN to fulfill its mission as a peaceful arbiter of international disputes. This attitude was indicative of the growing mistrust with which a number of leading State Department officials--particularly those 'in the field'-- viewed every Soviet action. Jernegan--(who, it must be remembered, had argued as early as 1943 that Iran be utilized as a test case for the viability of the United Nations concept) who was currently in Tehran as a supplement-ary advisor to the American mission--personally reminded Qavam that acquiescence to Soviet demands did not necessarily guar-antee future Soviet cooperation. If Iran were to withdraw its complaint from the Security Council purely on the basis of a Soviet pledge of goodwill, "Iran would be left completely defenseless." The UN, Jernegan told the Iranian Prime Minister, was the sole guarantor of Iran's sovereignty and independence-- "in long run Iran would face fewer dangers if she relied on UNO and made it possible for that organization to become real force for security." [citation 70] Jernegan's arguments, Murray reported, convinced Qavam, who "ultimately, with evident misgivings... decided he would direct Ambassador that, if called upon by Security Council to make statement, he should say only that Iran left matter entirely in hands of Council for whatever decision it might choose to take." {citation 71]

Thus, the stage was set for the first real test of the Security Council's authority. "If the matter of interference comes up on Council's agenda," the US' UN delegate, Stettinius, was instructed, "we should advocate that procedure in Council follow past practice under which Iranian Govt would first be asked to appear before Council and make statement in support of complaint of interference, and that Soviet Govt be given an opportunity to reply." [citation 72]

At the last moment, the Soviet Union blinked, and averted a Security Council showdown--announcing the same week that the above quoted cable was received that it had ordered the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Iranian soil. On June 5, the US Consul in Tabriz reported that not only had the Soviet troops indeed left Iranian territory, but:

All reports, supported by analysis of recent public pronouncements, indicate that Soviet Union has instructed Azerbaijan Govt to come to terms with Tehran. Both Azerbaijan Govt and Soviet Union appear to have adopted a definitely defensive policy now with respect to Azerbaijan problem. Timing of this shift of policy together with reports of explanations from within party and Azerbaijan Govt, and press attacks against US, show plainly that it resulted from strong American stand at Security Council coupled with strong attitude of world press. Everyone here gives US full credit for this weakening of Azerbaijan Soviet policy, and bitterness of party and government hierarchy against US has accordingly increased. [citation 73]

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Prime Minister Qavam began to finesse the newly arrived American Ambassador, George V. Allen. By this time, Qavam had learned how to galvanize Americans into taking action--by catering to their fear of "creeping Communism". Qavam first told the US ambassador that "he realized that policy of conciliation towards Azerbaijan had not yielded favorable results and had merely encouraged other sections of country to make impossible demands. Qavam said he was contemplating sharp change of policy, based on strong insistence upon Iranian sovereignty throughout country." Such a stance, however, Qavam noted, would cause "serious internal difficulties." With a touch of melodrama, Qavam told Allen that the "city of Tehran would even be in danger from almost certain Tudeh Party disturbances." Qavam followed this apocalyptic vision--the seeming fulfillment of the arguments which Jernegan had utilized only a few months previously to convince Qavam not to back down to Soviet threats--with the following request. Qavam told Allen that for the Shah's government "to reestablish Iran as a nation and create conditions which would have some permanence, Iran needed immediate assistance along two major lines, military supplies and substantial financial credits. Iran could only look to United States for these. Before he undertakes new policy he would welcome assurance that United States would render assistance." [citation 74]

Upon receipt of Allen's report of Qavam's resolutions and requests, the Acting Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, submitted Allen's cable for comment to both the OSS and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both--in a perfect consummation of Hull's 1943 recommendation that "in carrying out this policy [of asserting Iranian sovereignty through aid and the UN], we should enlist the support of all branches of the American Government"--both the intelligence and military community gave the green light of 'national security' to the idea of granting Qavam the assistance he had requested. [citation 75] After receiving these recommendations and Truman's approval, Acheson cabled Allen: "we attach great importance to Iranian problem, not only in terms Iran-US relations but also in terms UN principles supporting independence small countries and US strategic interests Middle Eastern area as a whole." Acheson instructed Allen to inform "appropriate" officials of the "genuine interest US in independence Iran and assure them this Govt is prepared, so long as Govt Iran sincerely desires independence and demonstrates willingness stand up for its sovereignty against external pressure, support independence Iran not only by words but also by appropriate acts." [citation 76]

These "appropriate acts" included "reasonable quantities [of] nonaggression military material to assist Iran in maintaining internal order" and the "earnest attempt" of the Department to secure Iran a generous loan from the World Bank. "In bringing these measures attention Iran authorities," Acheson concluded his instructions, "you should make clear US assistance Iran is based on assumption Govt Iran is working in true interests people Iran and to this end will endeavor steadfastly preserve Iranian sovereignty and independence." [citation 77]

Upon receiving these reassurances, Qavam notified Allen of Iran's intent to dispatch its security forces into Azerbaijan, "notwithstanding a message delivered to him by Soviet Amb on behalf of Soviet Govt to effect that if Central Govt forces are sent to Azerbaijan there will be disturbances in that province and along the Soviet border." Allen further reported that "Qavam realized [UN] troops could probably not be sent to aid Iran but he felt Iran must bring to Council's attention situation which threatened peace and leave it to Council to determine what assistance it would render. He hoped members of Council would at least show their approval of Iranian Govt's efforts to maintain its sovereignty." To this summation, Allen added the following rider: "Since we have been urging Iran and other UN members to base their policy on UN, I hope Department will again feel in position to support Iran's case strongly if presented." [citation 78]

In responding to Allen's cable detailing Qavam's proposed dispatch of Iranian troops to Azerbaijan, Acting Secretary of State Acheson not only outlined the particular line of policy which the US would follow in the present situation, but clearly articulated the policy which would later become widely known as "containment"

If Qavam should refrain from taking appropriate measures to restore authority of Central Govt in Azerbaijan merely because of pressure brought to bear upon him by Soviet Amb, he will be adding to difficulties which we have been encountering in carrying out our policy of supporting integrity and independence of Iran. If on other hand following dispatch by Qavam of troops into Azerbaijan he should have reason to believe that Soviet Govt is interfering in Iranian affairs by giving support to Azerbaijan movement and he should bring this matter to attention of Security Council, American Govt will be prepared to pursue matter energetically. You can assure Qavam that this Govt will give its unqualified support to Iran or to any other power the integrity and independence of which may be threatened by external forces, provided that power shows courage and determination to maintain its own independence and freedom of action and provided it is willing to make its position clear to world. {citation 79]

Faced with personal as well as political threats, Qavam adroitly chose to notify the Security Council of the Iranian government's decision to reassert its sovereignty over Azerbaijan as a precautionary measure before dispatching Iranian troops to the separatist province. Accordingly, on December 12, 1946, Iranian Army troops entered into the province of Azerbaijan. Surprisingly, "for some inexplicable reason," Ambassador Allen cabled Acheson, despite the dire warnings and threats of both the Soviet ambassador and the Pishvari regime, they met "very little resistance." [citation 80]

Allen offered a simple explanation to this enigma:

Soviets are said to have let Azerbaijans know that USSR could furnish them little more than moral support, which was not enough in face of determined nearby Central Govt forces. Qavam's notification to Security Council seems to have been well-timed. In view of Soviet Ambassador's strenuous efforts to prevent sending of Tehran forces to Azerbaijan and his frequent declarations to Shah and Qavam that USSR would not remain indifferent if those forces proceeded, people are asking why Soviets failed to give Azerbaijan any significant material assistance. Practically every Iranian, including notably the Shah, thinks answer lies primarily in fact that Soviets were finally convinced that US was not bluffing and would support any United Nations member threatened by aggression.

... At an informal social gathering last night Shah made a fulsome and even embarrassing tribute to our help. Azerbaijan was referred to by others present as the "Stalingrad of the western democracies" and the "turn of the tides against Soviet aggression throughout the world." I emphasized that Iranians themselves had regained Azerbaijan and that any credit for enabling Iran to accomplish this free from outside interference, was due to existence of a world organization which could mobilize opinion against such interference. [citation 81]

In understanding the role which American engagement in Iran played in the development of the policy of containment, therefore, it is essential to note that the decision to make Iran the test case by which the true inten- tions of the Soviet Union could be judged was made in 1943--three years before the receipt and circulation of George Kennan's famous "Long Telegram". Kennan's explication of the siege- mentality of the Soviets--coupled with American impotence as Stalin's minion's extended his exclusive control over the shadow empire which the Red Army had carved out of Eastern Europe--merely stiffened the resolve of the Truman administration to see the Azeri-Iranian-Soviet crisis through to the bitter end. Soviet actions in Iran--as they would do shortly in Greece and Turkey--had already prompted the State Department to actively advocate a policy of strict containment. Given that Iranian appeals to the Security Council were--as the above excerpt clearly illustrates--credited by American officials with moderating the USSR's aggressiveness, UN became the agent by which a moderating influence--backed, of course, by the implicit threat of force (most ominously, the use of "the bomb")--could be exerted upon the USSR. In American eyes, the UN would retain this status despite the Soviet detonation of an A-bomb in 1949--due in no small part to the boycott of Security Council deliberations by the USSR over the issue of UN recognition of the People's Republic of China--until the emergence of the non-aligned bloc as a result of the exposure of this policy through the US' polarizing prosecution of the Korean War under the guise of a UN mandate.

Sub-Index
1. Bibliography
2. Explanatory Notes
3. Citations
4. Copyright & Permissions Policy
5. return to the top of Strange Menagerie

Bibliography

Acheson, Dean. Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department. New York: WW Norton & Company, 1969.

Alexander, Yonah & Names, Allan, eds. The United States & Iran: A Documentary History. University Publications of America: Fredrick, Maryland, 1980.

Forbis, William H. The Fall of the Peacock Throne: The Story of Iran. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Heikal, Mohamed. Iran: The Untold Story. Pantheon Books: New York, 1982.

Hofstadter, Richard, ed. Great Issues in American History, Volume III: From Reconstruction to the Present Day, 1864-1969. New York: Vintage Books, 1969.

Iran: A Country Study. Area Handbook Series, Department of the Army: Washington, DC, 1989.

Ravitch, Diane, ed. The American Reader. New York: Harper-Collins, 1990.

Rubin, Barry. Paved With Good Intentions: The American Experience in Iran. Oxford University Press: New York, 1980.

Saikal, Amin. The Rise & Fall of the Shah. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1980.

Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Sub-Index
1. Explanatory Notes
2. Citations
3. Copyright & Permissions Policy
4. return to the top of Strange Menagerie

Explanatory Notes

Explanatory Note 1: The following historical precis--except where explicitly noted--was distilled from my reading on Iran, Britain, Russia, and the era. Note that this includes information absorbed from past research and general reading, as well as from the books cited in the bibliography.
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Explanatory Note 2: Russian reluctance to choose the path of divide and conquer is attributable to the multi-ethnic nature of their own Eurasian empire, which was held together with the mortar of Russian bureaucrats and the military.
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Explanatory Note 3: Included in this international audience were the peoples of northern Persia (Kurds, Azeris, etc.), as well as Persian nationalists in central Persia, who -- emboldened by the ensuing domestic instability in Russia -- attempted to assert their sovereignty over their respective portions of Persian territory.
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Explanatory Note 4: This resentment would later be transferred to, and projected toward, the inheritor of Britain's position as the Soviet's main Western rival--the United States.
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Explanatory Note 5: This concession also granted AIOC an exclusive monopoly over the manufacture, maintenance, and operation of any infrastructure necessary to support its operations and explorations in Southern Iran.
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Explanatory Note 6: The reasons enumerated above were also of prime importance to the Allied war effort during World War II--and, as will be discussed later--the realpolitik foundation for America's post-war engagement in Iran.
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Explanatory Note 7: In an ironic foreshadowing of future events, the British Foreign Office briefly utilized Persia as a conduit through which aid was funneled to White Russian forces.
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Explanatory Note 8: This pattern of Soviet provocation in Persia/Iran during the era of the USSR's international quarantine would be repeated in the aftermath of the Second World War.
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Explanatory Note 9: This image was reinforced not merely by the freeing of Tudeh leaders from prison by the advancing Soviet troops in August of 1941, but by the sudden reappearance in Tehran--and subsequently in the Majlis--of Tudeh party members, as well as a deluge of pro-Soviet propaganda and radio broadcasts issued under Tudeh's name. (State Department Cable #517; Dreyfus to Hull; April 14, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 101-102)
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Explanatory Note 10: The nationalists would not coalesce into a formal party--the National Front-- until after Reza Shah's deposition by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of 1941. Under the leadership of Mohammed Mossadeq the nationalists spearheaded the resurrection of the Majlis as a viable political entity.
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Explanatory Note 11: Ironically, Reza Shah received his military training from the Russians--he had risen to the rank of captain in the Persian Cossack Brigade before the withdrawal of its Russian commanders from Iran in 1918; shortly thereafter, he assumed command of the brigade. Moreover, the Iranian armed forces which he commanded--and which catapulted him to absolute power--had been armed and equipped by the British.
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Explanatory Note 12: The region abutting the Caspian Sea did play an important role in the domestic economy as the nation's breadbasket--Persia's main source of grain.
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Explanatory Note 13: As a means of furthering the autocracy's control over Iranian society, the Iranian industrial belt was centered around Tehran, although several industries were--as a matter of practicality and convenience--located at the site of the source of their requisite raw materials.
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Explanatory Note 14: The implementation of Reza Shah's third-party plan was considerably compromised by poor timing--no sooner had he consolidated his power and begun his attempt to reassert Iranian autonomy than the global economy was beset by the world-wide depression of the late 1920s and 1930s, thus sharply reducing the pool of possible third-party candidates.
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Explanatory Note 15: Adolf Hitler's effusive embrace of his fellow autocrat was due--in no small part--to the fact that it had been Reza Shah's personal decision to rechristen Persia Iran in the 1920s.
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Explanatory Note 16: Simply by substituting the terms "Stalin" for "Hitler" and "Soviet" for "German," Roosevelt's letter can be viewed as a blueprint for the Cold War strategy of containment pursued by his immediate successors.
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Explanatory Note 17: A measure of the Majlis' impotence is that in the communiqu‚s between the State Department and the American mission in Iran during the years from 1940-1944, that body is referred to not as the Iranian parliament, but as an "Advisory Council".
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Explanatory Note 18: Mohammed Shah benefitted immeasurably not only from the tutelage in international affairs he had received from his father, but from the miscalculations which had led to his father's downfall.
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Explanatory Note 19: The object of the Iranian Prime Minister's visit to Louis Dreyfus in which he warned the American minister of Soviet usurpations, quoted above, was to request that FDR cosign the Tripartite Treaty.
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Explanatory Note 20: Dreyfus believed that the food shortage was artificially induced--the product of Anglo-Soviet indifference and avarice.
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Explanatory Note 21: The omnipresence of American advisors, combined with the American Mission's practice of dealing directly and exclusively with the Shah and his ministers thereby excluding the Majlis from its counsels and transactions with the Iranian government, quickly made them the target of nationalist furor.(cf State Dept cable #393; June 2, 1944; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 118-119) This snub would later seriously complicate American-Iranian relations.
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Explanatory Note 22: America's immediate post-war obsession with the threat of Soviet expansionism blinded it to Britain's blatant violations of the Atlantic Charter, thereby allowing the British to reimpose effective control not only over the area of AIOC's concession, but most of Iran's southern coast. This would be one of the root causes of further--and far more infamous-- US involvement in Iran's internal affairs during the nationalism crisis of 1950-1953.
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Explanatory Note 23: Molotov's reference to the British grant, refers to the original AIOC concession and its subsequent renewal in 1933. The Soviets had long maintained that since 51% of its stock was owned by the British government, the AIOC was not a private company, but merely an appendage of the British government.
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Sub-Index
1. Bibliography
2. Citations
3. Copyright & Permissions Policy
4. return to the top of Strange Menagerie

Citations

NOTE: Many of the quotations cited in this inquiry were drawn from the transcript of diplomatic cables and interdepartmental memos. These documents are subject to great variation insofar as the correct spelling of names and places are concerned, as well as personalized abbreviations. In addition, the diplomatic cables and teletype transmissions, in particular, are subject to linguistic compression. Rather than clutter the quotations with intrusive brackets, these quotations have been reproduced as they appear in the transcripts.

Citation 1: All quotations from Washington's "Farewell Address" are taken from the transcript reprinted in Ravitch, Diane, ed. The American Reader. (New York: Harper-Collins, 1990), pp. 37-41.
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Citation 2: Roosevelt, Franklin. "State of the Union Address." January 6, 1941. reprinted in Hofstadter, Richard, ed. Great Issues in American History, Volume III: From Reconstruction to the Present Day, 1864-1969. (New York: Vintage Books, 1969), pp. 349-399.
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Citation 3: Ibid.
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Citation 4: Washington, George. "Farewell Address".
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Citation 5: "Atlantic Charter," reprinted in Hofstadter, pp. 407-409.
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Citation 6: Forbis, William H. The Fall of the Peacock Throne: The Story of Iran. (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 39.
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Citation 7: Heikal, Mohamed. Iran: The Untold Story. (Pantheon Books: New York, 1982), pp. 29-31.
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Citation 8: Forbis, pp. 39- 40.
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Citation 9: Heikal, pp. 31- 32.
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Citation 10: Forbis, p. 221.
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Citation 11: Ibid, p. 222.
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Citation 12: Rubin, p. 12.
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Citation 13: Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), p. 453.
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Citation 14: Iran: A Country Study. (Area Handbook Series, Department of the Army: Wahington, DC, 1989), p. 4; c.f. Forbis, pp. 43-44 & Heikal, pp. 31-32.
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Citation 15: Country Study, p. 4.
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Citation 16: Central Intelligence Agency Report. "The Tudeh Party: Vehicle of Communism in Iran." July 18, 1949; reprinted in Alexander, Yonah & Names, Allan, eds. The United States & Iran: A Documentary History. (University Publications of America: Fredrick, Maryland, 1980), pp. 199-201.
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Citation 17: Country Study: for economic overview, pp. 139-140; for population data, pp. 142-143.
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Citation 18: Forbis, pp. 219-220.
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Citation 19: Country Study, pp. 175-176.
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Citation 20: Ibid, pp. 143- 144.
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Citation 21: For details of correspondence between the governments of the United States and Iran see Alexander & Names, chapter 2, especially the exchange of letters between Reza Pahlavi Shah (and his ministers) and Herbert Hoover (and the State Department).
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Citation 22: Forbis, pp. 48-49.
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Citation 23: "Atlantic Charter," reprinted in Hofstadter, p. 408.
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Citation 24: Memorandum of Cordell Hull; August 22, 1941; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 77.
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Citation 25: Ibid.
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Citation 26: Letter of Reza Shah to FDR; August 25, 1941; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 77.
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Citation 27: Ibid; pp. 77- 78.
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Citation 28: Letter of FDR to Reza Pahlavi Shah; Washington, September 2, 1941; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 80.
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Citation 29: State Department Cable #517; Dreyfus to Hull; April 14, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp 101-102.
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Citation 30: "Memorandum by the ChIef of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray);" August 26, 1941; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 78- 79.
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Citation 31: Ibid, p. 78.
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Citation 32: Ibid.
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Citation 33: Ibid, p. 79.
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Citation 34: State Department Cable #517; Dreyfus to Hull; April 14, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 101-102.
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Citation 35: State Department Cable #261, Dreyfus to Secretary of State Hull; December 20, 1941; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 81.
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Citation 36: Reprinted in Hofstadter, p. 408.
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Citation 37: Quoted in Rubin, p. 19.
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Citation 38: Letter of Mohammed Reza Shah to FDR; Tehran, January 31, 1942; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 81-82.
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Citation 39: State Department Cable #327, the Minister in Iran (Dreyfus) to the Secretary of State; Tehran, October 17, 1942; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 88.
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Citation 40: Memorandum from the Secretary of State to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; November 19, 1942; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 90.
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Citation 41: Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations; August 3, 1942; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 109-110.
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Citation 42: State Department Cable #386; Dreyfus to Hull; Tehran, April 14, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 113-114.
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Citation 43: Jernegan, John. "American Policy in Iran." January 23, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 94-99.
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Citation 44: Ibid, p. 96.
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Citation 45: "Memorandum of Conversation btw Iranian Minister, Mr Alling, & Mr Jernegan," prepared by Jernegan; Washington, May 8, 1942; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 108-109.
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Citation 46: The full text of his analysis, "The Present Situation in Iran," (State Department Cable #517; Dreyfus to Hull; Tehran, April 14, 1943) from which the following quotations are drawn, is reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 101-105.
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Citation 47: Ibid, p. 104.
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Citation 48: Ibid, p. 105.
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Citation 49: "American Policy in Iran: A Summary Statement" prepared by Secretary of State Cordell Hull; submitted to FDR August 16, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 105-108.
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Citation 50: Ibid, pp. 105- 106.
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Citation 51: Reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 142-143.
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Citation 52: Yergin, p. 450.
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Citation 53: Forbis, p. 222.
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Citation 54: "Oil Policy in Prewar Iran." OSS Report, October 1944; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 117-118.
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Citation 55: OSS Report; October 17, 1944; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 119.
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Citation 56: State Department Cable #634; Stettinius to Ambassador Morris; Washington, October 25, 1944; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 120-121.
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Citation 57: Heikal, p. 52.
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Citation 58: Quoted in Heikal, p. 47.
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Citation 59: "Report by Secretary of State Byrnes on the Moscow Meeting," December 30, 1945; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 144-145.
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Citation 60: The Iranian Ambassador (Ala) to the Secretary of State; International tele #2936; Washington, March 5, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 161-162.
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Citation 61: "Report of Ambassador Murray to Secretary of State;" March 11, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 164-165.
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Citation 62: State Department Cable #922; Ford to Secretary of State, April 25, 1944; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 116.
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Citation 63: Ambassador in Iran (Murray) to Secretary, Tehran, March 11, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 164.
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Citation 64: Ibid, p. 165.
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Citation 65: Ibid.
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Citation 66: State Department Cable #343; Murray to Secretary Byrnes; March 15, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 166.
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Citation 67: State Department Cable #308; Byrnes to Murray; April 12, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 170-171.
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Citation 68: "Tehran Declaration: The Declaration on Iran," reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 143.
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Citation 69: State Department Cable #515; Ambassador in Iran to Secretary of State; April 13, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 171.
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Citation 70: State Department Cable #515; ibid, p. 171.
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Citation 71: Ibid, p. 171-172.
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Citation 72: State Department Cable #58; Acting Secretary of State to US Representative at the UN; Washington, May 13, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 176-177.
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Citation 73: State Department Cable #183: "Report on Present Situation;" Consul in Tabriz to Secretary of State; June 5, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 178.
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Citation 74: State Department Cable #1293; Ambassador Allen to Secretary of State; September 30, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 178-179.
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Citation 75: "American Policy in Iran: A Summary Statement" prepared by Secretary of State Cordell Hull; submitted to FDR August 16, 1943; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 105-108.
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Citation 76: State Department Cable #976; Acheson to Allen; Washington, November 22, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 182.
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Citation 77: Ibid.
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Citation 78: State Department Cable #1517; Allen to Acheson; November 24, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 183.
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Citation 79: Letter of Acting Secretary of State Acheson to the American Ambassador in Iran (Allen), December 2, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 183-185.
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Citation 80: State Department Cable #1582; Allen to Acheson; December 12, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, p. 187.
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Citation 81: State Department Cable #1597; The Ambassador in Iran (Allen) to the Secretary of State; Tehran, December 17, 1946; reprinted in Alexander & Names, pp. 188-189.
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3. Copyright & Permissions Policy
4. return to the top of Strange Menagerie

Copyright Notice & Permissions Policy

This essay is copyright 1994 by Gregory J. Rosmaita. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction of this essay in any form, format, or media without explicit written permission is prohibited.

Permission to quote this essay for the purposes of review or as secondary source material is freely granted. Attribution should be noted as follows:

Rosmaita, Gregory J. (essay, 1994) "Strange Menagerie: The Atlantic Charter as the Root of American Entanglement in Iran, & Its Influence Upon the Development of the Policy of Containment, 1941-1946" Retrieved May 25, 1999 from the World Wide Web:
http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/us_iran.html

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