02:34 GMT +323 October 2019
Listen Live
    Opinion

    Operation Countenance, the British-Soviet invasion of Iran

    Opinion
    Get short URL
    0 20
    Subscribe

    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military correspondent Ilya Kramnik) - Current Iranian developments, including the recent murder of prominent nuclear physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran or an ultimatum that the West must accept Iranian terms regarding the country's nuclear program by late January, show that Tehran now equates foreign-policy with domestic-policy issues.

    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military correspondent Ilya Kramnik) - Current Iranian developments, including the recent murder of prominent nuclear physics professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran or an ultimatum that the West must accept Iranian terms regarding the country's nuclear program by late January, show that Tehran now equates foreign-policy with domestic-policy issues.

    Any actions in this respect are part of a domestic struggle which is obviously sliding toward civil war.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent demand that the World War II Allies reimburse Tehran for the country's occupation during the war should probably be viewed from a similar context.

    Known as Operation Countenance, the British-Soviet invasion of Iran was conducted between August 25 and September 17 in 1941.

    Moscow and London strove to guarantee safe war-materiel supplies to the Soviet Union via the southern route under the Lend Lease Act, to prevent Nazi Germany from seizing Iranian oilfields and to rule out Iran's possible alliance with the Axis powers.

    Moreover, the deployment of Allied forces in Iran was called on to parry a hypothetical threat from pro-Axis Turkey and to outflank the Turkish army.

    The United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R. invaded Iran after Reza Shah Pahlavi (1878-1944) refused to allow them to deploy their troops on Iranian territory, although Moscow had the right to station its forces there, if Soviet borders were threatened, under the 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty.

    Consequently, the Allies were forced to conduct a full-scale military operation involving three Soviet armies advancing from the north, as well as three British divisions, two brigades and one independent (detached) regiment. They were opposed by only five Iranian divisions.

    Despite their numerical advantage, the Allies sustained casualties in the first few days of the fighting. In all, 50 Soviet soldiers were killed and over 4,000 were either wounded or became sick.

    British forces, which encountered much smaller Iranian units, suffered 22 killed and just over 40 wounded and sick.

    Hostilities did not last long because the new Iranian government ordered the army to cease fighting. Iranian forces surrendered to the British and the Soviets on August 29-30. By that time, the Allies had advanced deep into Iranian territory.

    An agreement on the deployment of Allied forces in Iran was signed on September 8, 1941 and entered into force the very next day. Reza Shah Pahlavi who refused to put up with the invasion was forced to abdicate and the Shah's son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, officially replaced his father on the throne. In 1944, Reza Shah Pahlavi died in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Under a bilateral agreement, the U.S.S.R. controlled northern Iran, Caspian ports and the Iranian-Turkish border, while the United Kingdom controlled southern Iran, Persian Gulf ports and the oilfields.

    Although Iran was not directly involved in hostilities in 1941, the regional situation remained tense. Pro-German insurrections flared up in neighboring Iraq and Syria, with Berlin supplying artillery, light equipment, aircraft and other weapons to the insurgents.

    Strong pro-German moods in Iran and Turkey implied that both countries could ally themselves with the Axis powers and forced the Allies to act accordingly.

    Iranian neutrality, facilitated by Operation Countenance, seriously influenced the outcome of World War II. The oilfields of Iran and southern Iraq played an important role in supplying Allied forces with fuel. The U.S.S.R. also received most Lend Lease assistance from the Basra seaport via Iran.

    On November 28 - December 1, 1943, Tehran hosted a meeting between Russian Premier Joseph Stalin, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who made crucial decisions affecting the final stage of World War II.

    The occupation of Iran lasted until 1946. Its end ushered in the first episodes of the Cold War. Moscow which feared possible provocation from the Allies was in no hurry to withdraw its troops. This led to a protracted diplomatic stand-off.

    The 1941 invasion of Iran was just one link in a chain of events involving Allied forces that landed in Iceland, North Africa and other regions. But no one has so far doubted the legitimacy of such actions.

    It is hard to talk about the losses incurred by Iran as a result of the Allied occupation. On the one hand, the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R. obviously violated Iranian sovereignty. However, this act was provoked by Tehran's violation of a previously signed agreement.

    On the other hand, a ramified infrastructure built by the Allies in Iran and equipment delivered to the country considerably influenced the country's subsequent development.

    At any rate, the demands for compensation are just another extravagant escapade of the Iranian leadership who have nothing in common with the Pahlavi dynasty that ruled the country from 1925 to 1979 and whose memory was painstakingly erased after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik