Iran - Soviet & US Agreements (oil)
Early in august the soviet. Invoking article six of the 1921 treaty of friendship which states “The soviet government shall have the right to send its army into Persia in order to take the necessary military steps in its own defense” the soviets sent there forces marching toward Tehran. Although tensions in the region have been mounting steadily and strong Soviet diplomatic protests had reached Tehran earlier in the month, Iranians were surprised by the attack.

The invasion carefully followed the plan laid out by several of the soviets General staff. A two pronged attack into northwest Azerbaijan province quickly enveloped Tabriz, Iran's second largest city, before progressing onward towards Zanjan, Qazvin, and ultimaly to the western approaches to Tehran.
Another two-pronged attack was launched simultaneously against Khorasan Province in the northeast. Iran's third-largest city, Mashhad, quickly fell to the Soviets. A third Soviet force, along the eastern Caspian Sea coast, complemented this effort against Mashhad and helped cut off Tehran from the east. All told, 40,000 Soviet troops participated in the initial attack, with the occupation force quickly swelling to nearly 100,000 combat troops.
Soviet air forces supported the advancing ground armies and also conducted a highly effective, largely unchallenged air campaign of terror against virtually all major major northern Iranian towns and cities, including Tehran itself. These indiscriminate air attacks added to the atmosphere of panic and intimidation. In the face of this swift and powerful ground and air onslaught, Iranian resistance caved in.
Within a week, the major northern cities were under Soviet control. Within two weeks, Tehran was effectively cut off from both east and west and the Iranian Majlis was urging the central government to accept Soviet terms. Within three weeks, as Soviet troops reached the out- skirts of Tehran, Iran's senior leadership prepared to flee the country and leave behind a new regime--one willing to accept Soviet domination over northern Iran.
The year was 1941. In August, the British and the Soviets---concerned over the Shah's pro-Nazi leanings and in need of a secure supply corridor to assist the Soviet war effort against Germany--had given Iran's monarch, Reza Shah Pahlavi, an ultimatum to evict all Ger- man nationals from Iran. The Shah, convinced that the British would never invade and that the Soviets were too preoccupied resisting German advances to open another front, refused. 1
The rest is history. On 25 August, Soviet forces attacked from the north while British forces in- vaded from the south. By 30 August, both were sufficiently entrenched to begin delivering new ultimatums to Tehran. By 9 September, the Majlis was willing to accept Moscow's and London's terms, even though Reza Shah remained defiant. On 15 September, Soviet forces advanced on Tehran from the east and west while British troops moved up from the south. The next day, Reza Shah abdicated in favor of his son Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (who remained on the Peacock Throne for the next 38 years).
In announcing his country's invasion to the Iranian Prime Minister on 25 August 1941, the Soviet Ambassador to Iran assured the Iranians in writing that the USSR respected Iran's sovereignty:
The military measures now undertaken by the Soviet govern- ment are directed exclusively against the danger produced by alien activity in lran. As soon as the dangers threatening the interests of Iran and the U.S.S.R. have been averted, the Soviet government will, in accordance with the undertakings given in the Soviet-Iranian Agreement of 1921, immediately withdraw its troops from the boundaries of Iran.2
The Treaty of Alliance between the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and Iran, commonly known has the Tri-Partite Treaty, signed in Tehran on 29 January 1942, further assured Iran's independence after the war. Article One states that all parties "respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Iran," while Article Five pledges,
"the forces of the Allied Powers shall be withdrawn from Iranian territory not later than six months after all hostilities between the Allied Powers and Germany and her associates have been suspended.''
The United States formally endorsed this commitment through the "Declaration of the Three Powers Regarding Iran," signed in Tehran by Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt on l December 1943:
The Governments of the United States, the U.S.S.R., 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.
As the war began to draw to a close, it quickly became apparent that the Soviets did not intend to keep their end of the bargain. In late August of 1945--more than three months after Germany surrendered and a week before the Japanese armistice was signed--the Soviet-backed Azerbaijani Tudeh Party seized control of Tabriz. The Soviets immediately con- timed local Iranian military units to their barracks and blocked any additional Iranian forces from entering the region. Behind the Soviets' military shield, the Autonomous Republic of Azer Baijan was proclaimed on 12 December 1945; three days later, the Kurdish People's Republic was established.
The Soviets, after ignoring an Iranian demand that they withdraw within six months of Germany's defeat, eventually agreed to withdraw forces from certain portions of [ran by 2 March 1946--six months after the signing of the armistice with the last of Germany's "associates," Japan--but not from the Azerbaijan region. In fact, even as Soviet troops withdrew from the northeastern portion of Iran, reinforcements streamed into Azerbaijan.
Following strong pressure from the United Nations and the United States--which included a direct "ultimatum" to the Soviet leadership from President Truman6--and after securing an agreement that gave the USSR a 51 percent share in joint oil explorations in northern Iran, the Soviets finally agreed to withdraw all of their forces. On 25 May 1946, one year after Germany's surrender and almost nine months after the signing of the armistice with Japan, Iran confirmed that all Soviet forces had been withdrawn.
Without Soviet protection, the Azerbaijan and Kurdish Republics were soon brought back under the Iranian central government's control. In October 1947, the Iranian Majlis declared the USSR-Iran oil agreement null and void. Thus ended the Soviet Union's last overt attempt to expand its influence into Iran by force of arms. The Soviets had lost what some were later to call the first battle of the Cold War.
This attempted expansion is well documented and widely known. it is in the living memory of most of the leaders currently ruling Moscow and Tehran. Less well known is that this incursion marked no less than the sixth time in the last three centuries, and the second time in the brief history of the USSR, that the Kremlin had sent its forces into Iran underscoring a time-honored Russian quest to expand its influence and borders southward.
Does this desire to expand southward persist today? Is Iran still a “strategic jewel” for the Kremlin’s crown? or have Soviet objectives toward Iran changed? these are the major questions this study addresses. To answer them requires some understanding of historical Russian and soviet interests and actions regarding Iran and the rest of the south west
From the tie the Mongo; Yoke was loosened from Moscows neck in the sixteenth century to the Bolshevik Revolution 400 years later, the Russian empire grew from 15,000 square miles Dutch to the largest nation on earth, encompassing over 8.5 million square miles. during this period, and especially since the beginning of the nineteenth century, large segments of what was once the Persian empire have fallen under Moscows control sometimes temporarily, other times permanently.
A comprehensive history of Russian and Soviet expansion is, of course, far beyond our scope here. But a generalized sketch of Russia's growth to its current borders, along with an analysis of past Russian and Soviet penetrations into the territory of modern-day Iran, is most instructive. The emphasis here will be on Moscow's motives and on the identification of those factors that may have prompted both the entry into and the subsequent withdrawal from Iran.
The first significant expansion of the Dutch of Moscow occurred during the reign of Ivan the terrible, who became Grand Duke of Moscow in 1533 and was crowned “Tsar of all the Russians” in 1547. Under Ivan 4 Russia expanded both to the east and to the south to satisfy a desire for more territory. The reason for the direction of Ivan's expansion was simple: given the power of the Swedes, Germans, and Poles to the west, he simply choose the paths of least resistance. Ivan's southern expansion followed the Volga River. His objectives were to gain control of the fertile grain- producing areas in the Volga basin and to open up secure trade routes linking Moscow to Persian, Caucasus, and Central Asian markets. By 1560, Muscovite forces had reached the northern approaches to the Caspian Sea. By 1598, under Ivan's son Theodore, the Volga basin had been largely pacified and colonized; the Empire had virtually doubled in size.

The next and by far the most dramatic and far reaching period of significant expansion occurred between 1682 and 1725 under Peter I (the Great). Peter's main thrust was to the east and southeast, in search of mineral resources and easy routes to China and India. Faced with little or no resistance, the Russian Empire under Peter I spread rapidly through Siberia and Kamchatka to the Arctic and North Pacific coasts, and southeast to the greater part of what is today the Sino-Soviet border.
After experiencing only limited success in his efforts to expand to the north and west against Swedish and Turkish resistance, Peter turned southward. In a brief but highly suc- cessful campaign in 1722-1723, near the end of his reign, Peter expanded Russian control to the western and southern shores of the Caspian Sea. This marked the first significant Russian penetration of both the Persian Empire and the territory of modern-day Iran.
The Russian occupation came at a time when the Persians were most vulnerable, having been attacked by Afghanistan the previous year. In fact, as Russian forces moved into Persia in 1722, Peter a proclamation declaring that he had "no designs of territorial aggrandizement, but merely wished to rescue the Shah from the tyranny of the Afghans." A year later, following the Russian occupation of Baku and Rasht, the Persians agreed to cede the Caspian Sea littoral as far east as Astrabad to the Russians in return for Peter's pledge to help expel the Afghans; no such help was provided.
When Peter died in 1725, he left behind his infamous will calling for the further expansion of his empire on all fronts:
My successors will make Russia a great sea destined to fertilize impoverished Europe, and if my descendants know how to direct the waters, her waves will break through any opposition banks. It is just for this reason i leave the following instructions, and i recommend them to the attention and constant observation of my descendants. To approach as near as possible to Constantinople and India. Whoever governs there will be the true sovereign of the world. Consequently excite continual wars, not only in turkey, but in Persia, and in the decadence of Persia, penetrate as far as the Persian gulf.

Peter's immediate successors elected instead to consolidate his gains. Faced with political uncertainty at home(the throne was to change hands three times in the decade following Peter's death) and realizing that Russia's overextended forces could not effectively control the newly-acquired Persian territory given an ongoing war with Poland and the fear (which prov- ed accurate) that a resumption of hostilities with the Turks was imminent--the Russians decided to withdraw. In 1735, through the Treaty of Rasht, the Persians regained control over virtually all of their former territory. In return, the Russians secured their southern border and received a pledge of Persian aid (or at least non-involvement) in Russia's impending war with Turkey.
This period of Russian retrenchment ended abruptly when Catherine 2 came to power in 1762. She quickly earned the mantle of "Catherine the great" through her attempts to direct the waters of the great Russian sea outward along the paths charted by Peter's will. Catherine's rule (1762-1769) was distinguished primarily by her expansion west into Poland and southwest toward the Black Sea. However, Catherine 2 was also responsible for a major expansion along the southern periphery into the Caucasus and Central Asia. This thrust southward was part of her not-to-be-realized "Oriental Project' a plan that
Called for Russian occupation of the Caucasus to obtain positions from which to attack Persia to the east, to establish a direct link with India and Turkey, and to provide an avenue to attack Constantinople through Turkey.

Catherine's son and successor, Paul, shelved this plan upon his accession in 1796, announcing that he "could not take any active operations, since Russia had been at war 'without a break' since 1756 and was needing a rest." As a result, he chose not to prosecute Russia's second war with Persia, initiated by his mother a year before her death
Sustained Russian expansion into Persia and Central Asia resumed in earnest in the early 1800s. The move south began under Alexander I (1801-1825) when Georgia, fearing a Persian invasion, sought Russian protection and was subsequently annexed by Alexander. Part of Russia's willingness to protect Georgia was ideological, a reflection of Russia's "natural desire" as the self-professed "third Rome" to protect oppressed Christians from Muslim domination.But, as several Oxford historians have noted, "racial and religious sympathies were backed up by, and usually served to cover, a much more com- pelting motive--the need for an outlet in this direction.... [since] between the Black Sea and the Caspian lay the only practical land route to the East."
Twentieth-Century Russian and Soviet Penetrations of Iran
The twentieth century has thus far seen four penetrations of Iran by the Kremlin's forces, twice during the twilight years of the Russian Empire and twice since Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's assumption of power. The seeds of the first penetration, sown in the late nineteenth century, reflected Nicholas II's desires to bring all of Persia within Russia's sphere of influence. The countervailing force posed by the British Empire represented the major stumbling block. England had long since established itself in India and considered itself to be the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf and Gulf coastal region. Although not eager to directly confront the Russians in Southwest Asia, the British, well aware of Russian aspirations toward Iran (and ultimately India), were prepared to protect their own interests from Russian expansionism.
In order to reduce the likelihood of direct confrontation with the Russians, the British in the late 1800s proposed a buffer zone in Iran and Afghanistan between the De Facto Russian and British spheres of influence proposal that the Tsar's advisors successfully argued against:

The north of Persia is in Russian hands anyway, and is completely inaccessible to foreigners; by officially acknowledging England's right to act unilaterally in the south . . . we thereby. voluntarily block any further movement by us beyond the limits of Persia's northern provinces.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the Russians were intent on expanding their influence throughout Persia. Their principal aim, according to Russia's Foreign Minister, Count V. N. Lansdorf, was "gradually to subject Persia to our domestic influence," the central task at hand being "to make Persia politically obedient and useful, i.e., a sufficiently powerful instrument in our hand.''
Although circumstances (and Foreign Ministers) had changed by 1907, Russian desires remained the same. The new Russian Foreign Minister, A. P. Izvolsky, in commenting on British proposals to create Russian and British spheres of influence in Iran said,

Until now that idea has not received much understanding from Russian public opinion. In leading circles the conviction prevailed that Persia must fall entirely under Russian influence and that we must aim for a free exit to the Persian Gulf, building a railroad across Persia and establishing a fortified point on the Gulf. Events of the last years have, however, made clear the infeasibility of such a plan.

The events that lzvolsky was referring to included Russia's defeat by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), domestic instability as manifested by the unsuccessful 1905 revolution, and fear (shared by Great Britain) of the rising power of imperial Germany. The Russians therefore finally agreed, under the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, to partition Iran into British and Russian spheres of influence, with a neutral zone recognized in central Iran where both "undertook reciprocally not to seek any kind of concessions. ''
Although the 1907 Convention placed limits on Russia's ability to expand its control over all of Iran, it also gave them carte clanche to increase their domination over northern Iran. The Convention also contributed to domestic turmoil within Iran, creating a situation favorable for Russian intervention. The Russians were quick to capitalize on their opportunity. in order to consolidate their control over northern Iran, Russian forces occupied Tabriz in 1908 and ultimately marched as far south as Qazvin in the west and Mashhad in the east. With Tehran and most of the major centers of power falling within their sphere, the Russians enjoyed a great deal of influence over the central government.
Russian influence was especially great before 1909, since Iran's leader, Muhammad Ali Shah, closely aligned himself with his powerful neighbor to the north and looked to the Russians--and to the Russian-trained and -led Persian Cos- sacks, who served as his Palace Guards--for support against various revolutionary factions.25 Even after the Shah was forced to abdicate his throne and flee to Russia in search of asylum, Russian forces stayed in Iran and did not hesitate to flex their military muscle to demonstrate displeasure with, and to effectively intimidate, subsequent Iranian governments. Not until the outbreak of World War I were Russian forces, more desperately,needed to face internal and external challenges elsewhere, withdrawn from Iran.
The next (and most benign) Russian penetration of Iranian territory came during World War I, following the Turkish invasion of the Transcaucasus and Iranian Azerbaijan. After forcing the Turks out of Russia and securing the Russo-Turkish border, the Russians in 1915 once again marched into Iranian territory, as far south as Bakhtaran and Arak. Events within Russia made this occupation short-lived, however. By 1917, Tsarist control over the Russian Empire was crumbling from within. Russian forces were in the process of being withdrawn at the time Lenin came to power.

As the communists sought to consolidate their control over their internal rivals, they not only temporarily abandoned any hope of maintaining control over Iran but felt compelled to cede large portions of the Russian Empire to the Turks and Germans under the 1918 Treaty of Brest Litovsk. 26 Following the defeat of Germany, however, Lenin annulled the Treaty and slowly began regaining control over the Transcaucasus and Central Asian regions, while Turkey and Britain tried to persuade those regions to break away from Mother Russia. By the end of 1919, the Bolsheviks had reestablished control in the south and once again secured the border with Iran.
During this embryonic 1918-1919 period, the Bolsheviks extended numerous olive branches to Tehran. Soviet Russia's first emissary to Iran brought with him, in January of 1918, this message from Lenin:

The Workers and Peasants Government is prepared to repair the injustice done by the former Government of the Russian Tzar by repudiating all Tzarist privileges and agreements that are contrary to the sovereignty of Persia.

Later that month an official note from Trotsky aimed at "dispersing any doubt in regard to the Soviet government's attitude to the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907." Trotsky acknowledged that the 1907 Convention was "directed against the freedom and independence of the Persian People" and was therefore "annulled once and for all.''28 Both Lenin and Trot- sky repeatedly assured Tehran that the Bolsheviks had no designs on Iran and, unlike the tsarist re#me they had over- thrown, respected and would honor Iranian sovereignty.
Despite these Soviet promises and gestures, in May 1920 Soviet forces penetrated into Iranian territory, ostensibly in pursuit of the remnants of the White Russian Army. Fear of the British provided another justification for the invasion. As the commander of the Red Fleet, F. F. Raskolnikov, observed at the time, Soviet Russia "could not be sure that the British would not make a new attack on Baku from Enzeli" (a British outpost in Iranian territory on the Caspian Sea coast). The invasion was therefore aimed, in part, at "depriving the British [of] their mainstay on the Caspian Sea.''
It soon became apparent that Moscow's aspirations exceeded merely neutralizing the White Russian and British threats. By the end of the year, Soviet forces had gained control over Iranian Azerbaijan and almost the entire Caspian Sea coast. Although the nature of the regime in the Kremlin had changed, the desire to dominate Iran, as expressed by one of Lenin's colleagues, Bolshevik writer K. M. Troyanovsky, remained constant:

The importance of Persia for the creation of the Oriental International is considerable. . . . A propitious terrain for the outbreak of the revolution has long been prepared. The imperialists of England, Russia, France and Germany have labored there. All that is needed is an impulse from the out- side...This impulse, this initiative, this resoluteness, can come from our Russian revolutionaries through the intermediaries of the Russian Muslims.

Persia is the Suez Canal of the revolution. If we shift the political center of gravity of the revolutionary movement to Persia, The Suez Canal loses its strategic value and importance. For the success of the oriental revolution Persia is the first nation that must be conquered by the soviets. This precious key to the uprising of the orient must be in the hands of Bolshevism, cost what it may. Persia must be ours, Persia must belong to the revolution.
To this end, the soviets had been providing support for an Iranian revolutionary leader, Kuckik Khan, whose movement was dedicated to the overthrow of the central government and to the radical social change. Although more a Muslim nationalist than a true Marxist believer, Khan realized that an alliance with Lenin's forces provided the best means of success for his movement. Within days of the Soviet invasion, therefore, Khan sent a telegram to "Comrade Lenin" in which he proclaimed the formation of the "Persian Socialist Soviet Republic" more commonly referred to as the Gilan Socialist Republic, since Khan at the time maintained considerable control over Gilan Province. From then until the time of their eventual pullout, soviet forces were to fight side by side with Khans followers.
By 1921, the pragmatic Lenin came to grips with reality. Weakened by seven years of international and civil war, faced with serious economic challenges at home, and concerned over further confrontation with the British in Iran, the Bolsheviks elected to seek accommodation with Tehran and trade their newly acquired territory for secure borders and diplomatic recognition. In addition, the Gilan leadership by this time had become seriously factionalized, and many of Lenin's advisors were of the opinion that Iran was simply "not ready for Marxism."
The centerpiece of the new Soviet-Iranian relationship was the 1921 Treaty of Friendship between Perisa and the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, signed in Moscow on 26 February 1921. In Article 1, the Soviets renounced all past Russian claims to Iranian territory and declared that all past agreements between Persia and tsarist Russia that "impaired the rights of the people of Persia" were null and void. Also annulled, in Article 2, were all agreements between tsarist Russia and third powers that "were injurious" to Persia-and obvious reference to the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention.
Although the Treaty of Friendship pledged mutual respect for one an other's sovereignty and focused on the abandonment of tsarist territorial (and economic) claims against Persia, it also included two clauses that seemed to limit Perisan sovereignty while giving Moscow extraterritorial rights. Article 5 prohibited the "formation or residence" in either country of any group, organization,or individual persons "whose intention may be to fight against Persia or Russia." It also prohibited either side from permitting any potential adversaries "to import into, or transit through, its territory anything that may be used against the other." The infamous Article VI added teeth to Article V, at least as far as Moscow was concerned, by reserving for the Soviet government "the right to send its army into Persia in order to take the necessary military steps in its own defense.'' Nothing was said about similar Iranian rights to violate Soviet sovereignty.
The Soviets cited these clauses and a continued presence of British forces in Iran in refusing to pull their forces out of Iran after the 1921 Treaty was signed. This stance (and, for that matter, the Treaty itself) added to the international and domestic pressure on Britain that led to the withdrawal, three months later, of the last British forces from Iran. Even then Soviet forces did not withdraw, but instead supported Kuchik Khan's abortive march on Tehran in June of 1921.
At this point, with the British gone and the Iranians loudly protesting the Soviet violation of their newly concluded treaty, the call for withdrawal of Moscow's forces became, in the words of historian George Lenczowski, "the ultimate test of the sincerity of the Soviet-Iranian Treaty" and, by extension, of the Bolshevik government itself. Lenczowski explained Lenin's options as follows:
If the treaty was conceived mainly as a propaganda instrument for the Bolsheviks--and we know that this was so, because of the wide distribution of the text all over the Orient by Soviet agents--then it was wiser not to provoke an open breach with Iran. Russia had to choose between two methods: either the cultivation of good relations with the central government and the gradual infiltration of Iran with Communist propaganda through the Soviet Embassy in Tehran or highhanded direct action aiming at the sovietization and detachment of several Iranian provinces in connivance with discontented elements of Iran. By the autumn of 1921 Moscow apparently came to the conclusion that the first method would better suit its purposes.

In September of 1921, six months after the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, the Red Army finally withdrew from Iran. Left behind were Kuckhik Khan's Gilan Socialist Republic, which fell one month later at the hands of Iran's new energetic army commander-in-chief, Reza Khan, and the Iranian Communist Party, which had been established during a July 1920 Congress of Iranian communist at Enzeli, two months after the Soviet occupation had begun. Comprised primarily of communists of Persian nationality who had been brought in by the Soviets from Baku and Turkestan, the Communist Party proved more enduring than the Gilan Republic.

The most recent Soviet military invasion of Iran took place in 1941. Plotting began in November 1940, when the Soviets secretly negotiated with Germany, Italy, and Japan to divide the Third World according to each nation's territorial aspirations. One of the conditions of the draft Four Power Pact endorsed by Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov was the proviso, "The area south of Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf is recognized as the centre of the aspirations of the Soviet Union.'' The Pact was never finalized and, seven months later, Hitler's Operation Barbarossa brought an abrupt end to Nazi-Soviet cooperation.
Nonetheless, two months after the German attack on the USSR, Soviet troops--in coordination with their new British allies--were marching toward Tehran. Their allies changed but their aspirations endured. Although the Soviets had identified Iran as the center of their
expansionist aspirations, their invasion was primarily for security purposes--namely, to eradicate German influence and to open up a vital supply corridor to the West. Nonetheless, the end of the war brought with it the rebirth of their aspirations for control over at least the northern portion of Iran, as witnessed by their refusal to withdraw their forces from northwestern Iran despite their written pledge to depart within six months after the termination of hostilities. It took intense Western pressure, which reportedly included a direct ultimatum from President Truman, to convince the Soviets to leave.
Given their devastating losses in World War II and their need to consolidate their control over Eastern Europe, the Soviets were in no position to challenge the West and attempt to retain control over Iran. For the sixth time since Peter the Great, the Kremlin reluctantly withdrew its forces from Iranian territory. With the Soviets gone, the socialist republics they helped create were quickly brought back under Tehran's control.