Status Quo Side: Iran
Non-Status Quo Side: Soviet Union
Region: Middle East
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Governance, Resources, Strategic, Territory
Russian Middle East strategy traditionally aroused Persian suspicions. A 1921 treaty gave Russia the right to sent troops across the border into Iran if danger threatened from a third party. The 1941 British and Soviet wartime occupation treaty provided for troop withdrawal from Iran within 6 months of the war's end. The USSR joined the UK and US in the 1943 Teheran Declaration affirming Iran's independence.
When World War II ended the Soviets withdrew only token units and sponsored rebellious outbreaks, particularly in Iran's northern province of Azerbaijan where the leftist Tudeh party was Communist-dominated.
The Tudeh, with Soviet help, took temporary control of the Kurdish area oil center of Tabriz, and on December 12 proclaimed an autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan. Soviet troops obstructed Iranian moves against the rebels, encouraged Kurdish nationalism, and intimidated the population while officially professing innocence.
Military activity ceased. Soviet premier Josef Stalin invoked the 1921 and 1943 treaties to justify continued Soviet presence despite UK and US compliance with the 1941 agreement, and, in the new UN's first crisis, a UNSC call for negotiations. UNSC debate and US unilateral pressures to comply, including an implied ultimatum, followed a Soviet build-up in Azerbaijan and on the Turkish border. On April 4 Iran and the USSR agreed on withdrawal and oil rights. The appointment of 3 Tudeh Cabinet members under Soviet pressure brought the return of British troops and sympathetic uprisings followed. Calm followed their purge from the Cabinet.
Hostilities recurred as Iran reestablished control over Azerbaijan prior to elections.
The Majlis, the Iranian parliament, did not ratify the Soviet oil agreement. Following elections that supported the government, the parliament in October 1947 nullified the Soviet oil agreement and in 1949 outlawed the Tudeh party.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton