Iran as a Gateway to Russia

Courtesy Reuters

THE alleged reason for the Russian and British invasion of Iran last August was the refusal of the Iranian Government to expel an unknown number of Germans who, it was feared, were paving the way for a German coup d'état. A second purpose, stressed in the press and alluded to by Winston Churchill in his speech of September 9, 1941, was to open a road for the transport of war supplies to Soviet Russia. Back of both reasons was doubtless a British desire to strengthen the defenses of India against eventual German attack.

No official statement has yet revealed the exact number of persons who were interned after the Russian and British occupation as dangerous to the Allied cause. Reports spoke of 700 Germans being in Teheran alone, and there probably was a somewhat smaller number than that outside the capital. Groups totalling more than 400 have been, in fact, evacuated via Turkey. It is doubtful if more than a thousand men capable of bearing arms were actually interned, though it is true that most of these had held important industrial and technical positions.

Shah Riza Pahlevi always was fearful for his throne, and for the past fifteen years he kept over 60,000 troops -- half of the total army of Iran -- camped around Teheran. This half, moreover, possessed practically all of the army's effective equipment, including all its airplanes, heavy artillery and armored cars (about 20 in number). Only skirmishing forces were left on the borders, which largely accounts for the poor showing made by the Irani army when in August the British suddenly entered the country from the south and west and the Russians from the north. Probably a desire to intern German agents was less of a factor with the British and Russians than the need to counteract the strong pro-German feeling prevailing at the Court and among many leading Iranians. In this respect the situation in Iran was similar to that which had prevailed a few months earlier in 'Iraq, when

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